Review: Of Courtrooms and Classrooms

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By Rory Bahadur, Washburn University School of Law

Daniel Cover, Of Courtrooms and Classrooms, 27 B.U. Pub. Int. L.J. 291 (2018)

In her recently published article “Of Courtrooms and Classrooms,” professor Cover suggests ways that trial lawyers can increase the efficacy of their presentations to juries by analogizing the jurors to students in a law school classroom.  Even though the article is targeted at practicing attorneys her comparisons of jurors and law school students provide useful insight in to the hallmarks of effective pedagogy.

In her introduction, Cover points out that essentially a trial lawyer’s job is to convince jurors who have no idea going in what the case is about. She does this through a storytelling/narrative technique that captures the jurors’ attention even though many of the concepts coming at them are new and they are in a difficult environment where long days promote fatigue.  This she suggests is akin to the law professor’s job in the traditional doctrinal classroom.

She then examines the theory of how adults learn or andragogical information and concludes that some essential components of adult education are:

  1. The student rather than the subject matter is the center of the inquiry
  2. Adults learn better when they have a need or experience learning will satisfy
  3. Adults want to be self-directed in their learning
  4. Because of the various experiences acquired over the time it takes to become an adult, effective pedagogy must take into account difference in style, time, pace and place of learning.

The article goes on to describe in tangible and very useful ways law professors and trial lawyers can ensure the principles listed above are incorporated into presentations.  However, the most fascinating of these is here reference to the “disorienting moment.”

Cover explains that in the law school classroom and in trials students and jurors experience moments when their previously held beliefs and assumptions are challenged.  This she explains is a “disorienting moment.”  She suggests that these disorienting moments, when an adult’s schema are challenged, provide the most fertile ground for planting the seeds of new information. This is because challenges to schemas facilitate the incorporation of new information into the schemas and the creation of new schemas.

If you take only one useful piece of information (though the article is chocked full of useful information) form Cover’s work, then consider she suggests designing classroom presentations to deliberately include disorienting moments which facilitate significant incorporation of new knowledge into old knowledge.

Ultimately, the article is well researched and very useful.  It is a must read

 

 

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