|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
problem-based and collaborative learning.
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.
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.
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 (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
The primary teaching technique in this
class is cooperative problem-solving. In this class, cooperative
learning will be used to:
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.
- teach specific content,
- ensure active cognitive processing
during class and
- provide long-term support and
assistance for academic progress.
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.