Teaching Methods


Learning in law school is essentially self-directed. Most of your learning will happen outside of the classroom and independently of myself or any other professor. In fact, many professors, (myself included) will test you on significantly more than can ever be covered in class. My role is to structure my course in such a way as to facilitate your self-directed learning. I do that through the following: detailed syllabus, assigned readings and problems and problem-based and collaborative learning. 


 A. Detailed Syllabus

The syllabus for this course consist of this web page and connected web pages. The syllabus is an important study tool. It provides you with specific guidelines as to my expectations regarding what you should learn, what skills and understanding I value and how I organize the content of the course.  However, the syllabus is not a contract and I retain the right to modify it at my discretion.   

I do not generally engage in strict lecturing - if this is your preferred method of learning you will be unhappy in this course.  If you prefer lecturing please consider taking this course from another professor.


B. Assignments 

Assignments consist of both readings and problems.

The assigned reading provides you with the opportunity not only to obtain rule and process information. The problems provide you with the opportunity to develop your analytical and problem-solving skills. The assigned readings serve as a basis for solving problems. The problems will form the basis for classroom instruction. It is my expectation that you will be thoroughly familiar with the assignment and completely prepared for class participation.  C. Classroom Instruction Using Problem-Based Learning, Cooperative Learning

My classroom instruction is both similar to and different from traditional law school teaching. It is similar in that I use large group discussion and questioning to explore the problems. However, unlike other class the discussion is focused on problem-solving not on case analysis. Of course, we will be reading cases but cases are only one tool for problem solving.


Problem-Based Learning

Problem-based learning (PBL), at its most fundamental level, is an instructional method  use of "real world" problems as a context for you to learn critical thinking and problem solving skills, and acquire knowledge of the essential concepts of the course.   You will be presented with a problem, you will develop a outline answer and then, cooperative learning groups you will  discuss your ideas and knowledge related to the problem, and you will attempt to define the broad nature of the problem. 

Problem-based learning (PBL) is a total approach to education. PBL is both a curriculum and a process. The curriculum consists of carefully selected and designed problems that demand from you acquisition of critical knowledge, problem solving proficiency, self-directed learning strategies, and team participation skills. The process replicates the commonly used systemic approach to resolving problems or meeting challenges that are encountered in life and career.

In problem-based learning, the traditional teacher and student roles change. You assume increasing responsibility for your  learning.  My role, as faculty, is as a resource, tutor, and evaluator, guiding you in your problem solving efforts.

Research has shown that students involved in problem-based learning acquire knowledge and become proficient in problem solving, self-directed learning, and team participation. Studies show that PBL prepares students as well as traditional methods. PBL students do as well as their counterparts from traditional classrooms on national exams, but are in fact better practitioners of their professions.


Cooperative Learning

The primary teaching technique in this class is cooperative problem-solving. In this class, cooperative learning will be used to: teach specific content, ensure active cognitive processing during class and   provide long-term support and assistance for academic progress. During the past 90 years over 600 research studies have been conducted comparing the effectiveness of cooperative, competitive and individualistic efforts. These studies have been conducted by a wide variety of researchers in different decades with different age subjects, in different subject areas and in different settings. More is known about the efficacy of cooperative learning than about the so- called "Socratic method" or lecturing.  

From this research you may expect that the more you work in cooperative learning groups the more you will learn, the better you will understand what you are learning, the easier it will be to remember what you learn, and the better you will feel about yourself, the class, and your classmates.