Update: Institute for Law Teaching and Learning 2011

Institute for Law Teaching and Learning

June 2 & 3, 2011 – hosted by New York Law School

For more information on the entire conference, click: http://lawteaching.org/conferences/2011/index.php

I am just back from a wonderful 2 days at the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning hosted by New York Law School this year.  Thanks – yet again – to the organizers for putting together a fantastic program.

This year the theme was on experiential teaching and learning (my favourite subject) and the program was rich with sessions that introduced us to self-assessment techniques, the value of portfolios for student-centred learning, simulations, games, and tools for establishing an
inclusive classroom.  It was so difficult to decide which sessions to attend, and I can only offer you the highlights from the sessions I made it to but here they are:

Self-Assessment, Metacognition and Portfolios – Olympia Duhart, Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center and Anthony Niedwiecki, The John Marshall Law School

From the website:

Because lawyers are constant learners, it is critical to improve the learning skills of our students. Engaging students in developing the metacognitive skills of self-reflection and self-assessment helps them deepen their learning and transfer it to new situations. During this presentation, participants will learn about concrete methods they can utilize to help students sharpen their learning in both doctrinal and skills-based courses. Presenters will share several tools that can empower students to plan, monitor and evaluate their learning more effectively. Participants will be actively engaged in learning about self-assessment surveys, self-assessment tools, portfolios, and feedback sessions.

This session inspired me – I loved the way this tool can be used as a way of preparing students to be life-long learners, and gives them a way of valuing their own professional development.  The presenters provided fantastic handouts with all kinds of self-assessment tools that are ready to use in a legal writing course and can be adapted for other subjects as well: http://lawteaching.org/conferences/2011/handouts/1e-TeachingforLifeLongLearning.pdf

The Sustainable Lawyer: Using Collaboration in the Law Classroom to Prepare Students for 21st Century Practice – Aliza Milner and Andrew S. Greenberg, Syracuse University College of Law (though Andrew was ill and could not make the session).

From the website:

Polyculture is an agricultural practice that maintains multiple crops in the same place, imitating the diversity of natural ecosystems. We use this concept in the classroom by creating collaborative exercises that require students of different courses to work together. Our presentation will replicate this student-classroom experience. Can we teach not just locally, but also globally? If carrots love tomatoes, could interplanting nurture our students’ growth? Learn answers to these questions and explore why individual skills are good, but fruitful collaboration is better.

This collaboration was truly inspiring.  Aliza teaches an advanced legal writing course for future clerks, and Andrew teaches a trial advocacy course.  During the semester, they have their students meet up to role play (plaintiff and defence counsel, and clerks and judges) the various stages of litigation, and the written work (pleadings, judgments, etc) relates to the same fact pattern.  Amazing!   I would love to do this in the future with courses in negotiation and legal ethics, or perhaps advanced legal research and trial advocacy.  Just sayin’ …

Using Pop Culture to Teach Legal ResearchKate Irwin-Smiler, Wake Forest School of Law; Julie Graves Krishnaswami, Vermont Law School; and Deborah Schander, Georgia State University College of Law

Handouts: http://lawteaching.org/conferences/2011/handouts/4e-YouCantHandletheTruth.pdf

From the website:

I’m Just a Bill. Marcia Clark being schooled during the OJ trial for not Shepardizing. Pop culture is full of examples of legal research both successful and not. Speakers will provide examples and demonstrate best practices for integrating video clips, songs, comics and other pop culture references into your legal research lesson. This session will address how using pop culture and humor can humanize teachers to students, encourage student participation in what many see as a “boring” class, foster collaboration among instructors and be an effective tool for peer instruction. Speakers will also discuss avoiding common pitfalls of using this technique in the classroom.

I am in the midst of preparing my program to teach legal research for the first time next year, and of course I was keen to attend a session that suggested pop culture might be used. This session was particularly helpful because the presenters provided suggestions for where to find clips, as well as resources for using the technology: inspiring AND practical.  Gotta love it.

A Day-in-the-Life of a Transactional Lawyer: Negotiation, Ethics & Professionalism Susan M. Chesler, Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law; and Patrick Longan and Karen J. Sneddon, Mercer Law School

Handouts: http://lawteaching.org/conferences/2011/handouts/5c-DayintheLifeTransactionalLawyer.pdf

From the website:

To engage students in a robust discussion about ethics and professionalism, the presenters have produced a series of professional quality vignettes that feature realistic interactions in the day-in-the-life of a transactional attorney. The presenters will showcase selected scenes and lead the audience through an interactive dialogue to analyze the issues, spot the potential ethical problems, and discuss appropriate lawyer responses. These scenes address a variety of issues including the attorney’s role in the negotiation process, models of negotiation, and client responsibility. Each participant will receive a digital copy of the vignette, scripts, selected discussion questions, and suggested talking points.

I can only love a session where they not only showed the film they have developed as a tool for teaching contracts, negotiation and professionalism/ethics, demonstrated its use as they taught us (I think I FINALLY might remember the difference between representations and warranties) … and then sent us all home with a copy! 

Engaging Students Through Culture, Tonya Kowalski, Washburn University School of Law

Handouts: http://lawteaching.org/conferences/2011/handouts/6e-EngagingStudentsThroughCulture.pdf

From the website:

All of the recent, groundbreaking studies on legal education identify cultural literacy as a core skill. Learning theory shows that students learn well by viewing a problem through multiple perspectives, and experience shows that crosscultural examples can serve as particularly fascinating, revealing comparative models for learning core material. Those examples can also reduce feelings of marginalization among diverse students. In this workshop, participants will share ideas for incorporating cross-cultural examples into classroom discussions and problem design. We will also discuss the dangers and rewards of raising cultural perspectives that are not our own. Participants will develop a sample lesson using a narrative or comparative example from another culture.

I think we all agreed that this session was too short.  We were a very small group, but everyone had such rich experiences to share and so many ideas and concerns about the issues that I would have liked to sit and listen for the next few days!   Hopefully, this topic will turn up again in future sessions.

Teaching Law with Online Role-Playing Simulations Ira Nathenson, St. Thomas University School of Law

Handouts: http://lawteaching.org/conferences/2011/handouts/7d-TeachingLawwithOnlineRolePlaying.pdf

From the website:

Live websites provide a dynamic “sandbox” for role-playing simulations that cast students as lawyers acting for fictional clients. Such simulations, initially crafted for a Cyberlaw class, can also be used in a wide variety of other courses. This provides a highly configurable platform for the immersive and holistic learning of knowledge, skills, and professional identity, including realistic fact-finding, advocacy, negotiation, ethical traps, and much more. The workshop will first provide background on relevant technology and methodology. We will then move to a mini role-playing exercise using the live Internet, followed by a discussion of the benefits and challenges of online simulations.

I am, at the moment, rather obsessed with role playing and simulations as a way of encouraging students to engage with the complexity and fluidity of law – so this session was exactly what I needed/wanted.  Ira did a great job of explaining how he has set up the simulation for teaching cyberlaw, and the technological tools that can be used to do the same for any course.  I learned some new substantive law even as we participated in a mini role play and learned about the advantages of simulations. 

I left New York feeling so appreciative for the generosity of all the presenters and participants.  What an extraordinary community. 


This entry was posted in Teaching/Experiential Education. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Update: Institute for Law Teaching and Learning 2011

  1. Alison Bone says:

    Thanks for this Chantal. I only heard about this conference a month ago and there wasn’t enough money in the budget to fly me over to the States – so I’m hoping to get there next year. Your selections and linked websites were a real help – if anyone wants to put more up I’d be so grateful!
    LLB Course Director
    University of Brighton

  2. Hi Everyone – my system tells me that several people have read this post so if anyone who attended the Institute is interested in updating it with their own observations of the sessions please feel free! I am happy to post for the wider communities.
    Thanks to Alison for starting things off!

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