Teaching Methods


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 and to help you excel. I do that through the following: detailed syllabus, assigned readings, problems and classroom instruction.


A. Detailed Syllabus

The syllabus for this course consists 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.


B. Assignments

The assigned reading provides you with the opportunity to obtain rules and process information. It is my expectation that you will be thoroughly familiar with the assignment and completely prepared for class participation. In general, the class will not cover the reading material directly. Most of your learning is expected to be achieved through reading, discussion, and online activities. Of course, If you have questions or comments on the reading, you should raise them during the class discussion, you should raise them in class or online.


C. Problems

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 an 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 your 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.


D. Discussion

The primary teaching technique in this class is the cooperative discussion. 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, more than 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.


E. Peer and Self Assessment

Peer and self-assessment is an essential lawyering skill. Lawyers participate in the assessment process through evaluation and critique of the work of lawyers, judges, paralegals, and others. Furthermore, engaging in peer and self-assessment contributes to the development of critical thinking and communication skills. Peer assessment assesses some generic skills such as communication and teamwork. Such peer assessment takes a variety of forms, including providing feedback on the written work or oral presentations of their peers. In this course, peer assessment tasks encourage and enable you to develop the skill of critical review. You consider specified assessment criteria to distinguish between different levels of achievement, or standards; and, provide specific recommendations on how the critiqued work could be improved.

Essentially, peer assessment develops the skills necessary for effective self-assessment. Self-assessment is fundamental to your learning, including their ability to benefit from the feedback received from others. Using tools and quizzes, you test your own knowledge or skills. You make evaluative judgments about their work.