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Instructional Check-Ins To Surmount Trials And Tribulations Of The Pandemic In The Era Of Meta Connection

Instructional Check-Ins To Surmount Trials And Tribulations Of The Pandemic In The Era Of Meta Connection

By Lécia Vicente*, Henry Plauché Dart Endowed Assistant Professor of Law, LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center

The Covid-19 pandemic threw us out of our game. It obligated us to change, readjust, compromise, quit, and reinvent ourselves in a new world where connection and communication are necessarily conducted at a meta level—online. However, there was one thing I maintained -regular and structured student check-ins. I ask my students to “check-in” by meeting with me at some point of their choosing during the semester. All students would plan to meet at least once during the semester, if only to let me know how things were going. These spaces for connection, reassurance, and validation became invaluable during the pandemic.

Connection is important. At a meta level, our relations are framed by dystopia and misconception of reality. Our relations are characterized by information overload. Very little sticks after the laptop is shut down and closed. Learning behind the screen makes it difficult to express our feelings or voice our questions.

Check-ins are an effective pedagogical tool which I have used for my doctrinal courses. I believe regular check-ins with built-in student group discussions can be useful in legal research and writing courses as well. These sessions allow me to meet students where they are and surmount some of the learning tribulations and challenges that they face behind the screen. I have been holding this format of office-hours in small groups. Students sign up for the meetings through a sign-up platform online where they can choose time slots of their preference. We meet via Zoom or in person, depending on the size of the group. During check-ins, students can interact not only with me but also with each other. It almost resembles a small discussion group to which I serve as a facilitator. I ask questions such as “What makes you learn better in this course?,” “What improvements would you like to see?,” and “How is law school going?”[†]

The conversational dynamic of the group creates an opportunity for my students to explore topics they are curious about. Some questions relate to the course materials and subject-matter. Others relate to their professor’s profile and choices she made when she was in their position, pursuing her law degree. Some of their common questions are: “How did you learn to speak six languages?” “What was it like to work with multinational companies with subsidiaries in Europe?,” and “Why did you want to become a law professor?” I facilitate dialogue that is deep, humane, and relatable. This conversation allows me to understand what helps my students learn better, what they are eager to learn, what is meaningful for them, and what is needed to build a relationship beyond the meta connection that the pandemic has imposed on us.

After each meeting, I process the students’ comments, questions, and instructional concerns. The results in my business law courses have been overwhelmingly positive, despite the pandemic and the challenges inherent to it for both students and professors. Regular, structured student check-ins have become a great source of feedback. Additionally, check-ins also provide a layout for meaningful connections which are essential for excellent learning outcomes.

[*] Henry Plauché Dart Endowed Assistant Professor of Law, Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center. Research Fellow, Law & Economics Center at George Mason Antonin Scalia Law School.

[†] See Gregory S. Munro, Outcomes Assessment for Law Schools (2000). Available at: https://www.law.du.edu/documents/assessment-conference/munro-gregory-outcomesassessment2000.pdf (accessed on November 11, 2021).

Writing Case Briefs

Writing Case Briefs

By Professor Andrew Henderson, Australian National University.

Writing case briefs (or case notes as they are called in Australia) is a common form of assessment in law school, especially with first-year law students, as a way of exposing them to basic legal research, writing, and thinking skills before moving on to substantive subjects.  More importantly, the preparation of a case brief is usually the first taste first-year law students have of reading case law and identifying the holding (something that’s called the ratio decidendi in Australian law schools). It is also a common piece of legal research writing both in legal practice and in academia.

But my experience of teaching and marking case note writing, and informal discussions with students, indicate that they have consistently struggled with the case brief assessment – particularly with the identification and explanation of the holding.

A few years ago, I decided to go back to fundamentals in planning how to teach case brief writing. But rather than starting with the activity itself, I started with some basic principles of lesson design and planning.

Establishing the playing field

Unlike the United States, an LLB is the most common method of entry to the legal profession in Australia.  There are prescribed learning outcomes associated with the degree as a whole, and individual units within the degree, that are determined nationally by the Council of Australian Law Deans (the Teaching and Learning Outcomes (TLOs) for LLB students) and the Law Admissions Consultative Committee.  However, like American law schools, each unit also has learning outcomes approved by the Dean of each faculty. Some universities also have a set of graduate attributes applicable to all units offered on campus.

Good curriculum and instructional design mean that each of these sets of requirements should be aligned within a unit or course and reflected in assessment as a way of demonstrating that an individual law student has been assessed against accepted expectations.

If we had to picture that hierarchy in an Australian law school for a case brief assessment, it might look something like this:

Identifying the players

But just identifying the requirements isn’t enough. We also need to think about the law students that we will be working with. That is going to include things like the size of the group, their age, their educational experience so far, and their current level of confidence.

Each of these things is going to be critically important to the design of the lessons. For example, the majority of first-year law students in Australia tend to fall within what identify as a period in social and cognitive growth associated with ‘young adulthood’.  Studies of learning at this stage suggest that students at this stage struggle with ambiguity and assume that there is one right answer according to what lecturers or tutors tell them.

In writing a case brief, that’s important. There is rarely one correct version of the holding and one correct way to set out a case brief.  Explaining that there may be different ways of expressing the holding, and in fact that an important part of advocacy is to argue for a particular interpretation, is difficult and at this stage, ambiguity needs to be de-emphasized until the basic skills are established.

Planning the play

Despite case briefs being endemic to legal study, surprisingly there is no consistent or single method in how to teach or write one.  Frustratingly for students, there is no pro forma or precedent for presenting it.

However, where the skill being introduced is entirely new to the learners, there is a need to provide more active support and direction initially before providing opportunities for practice.  That means providing very structured explanations initially as a means of building – scaffolding – students to take an increasingly independent role.  Rather than just explaining what a case brief looks like, I write one in class, explaining what I am doing as I work through the decision. In a series of planned steps, I begin to hand over responsibility for the task to students, moving ultimately to getting students to work independently.

So what does it look like? My planning for the series of lessons looks like this:

Does it work?

Law students I have worked with, after stepping through this series of lessons, have generally expressed more confidence and performed well in case brief writing. Just as importantly, they have demonstrated much more confidence at the end of the process in tackling the process of reading cases.

What do you think? Is it worth a try in your law school classroom? Could it be improved?

 

Using Silent Signals to Assess and Engage the Students

Using Silent Signals to Assess and Engage the Students

By Emily Grant, Washburn University School of Law and Sandra Simpson, Gonzaga University School of Law

In a large classroom or in a zoom setting, sometimes it’s difficult to encourage two-way communication so that students can share thoughts with the professor.  Use of “silent signals” can facilitate real-time feedback and communication from students so that the professor can accurately assess the classroom climate.

First, what kind of silent signals?  You can ask for simple gestures like a thumbs up or thumbs down.  When I use this method, I have the students hold their signal close to their chests so I can see the signal but most of their colleagues can’t.  This may help the students feel more anonymous.   The same hand gestures work on zoom, or you can use the options under “reactions”—thumbs up, thumbs down, arrows, stop sign.

Next, signals in response to what?  Anything you might need feedback on.  Comprehension of the topic or the sample problem.  Pacing of the conversation.  Voting on how a hypothetical case will come out.  Expressing opinions on whether you agree with the dissent’s position. I use the thumbs up or thumbs down method to measure students’ comprehension of a concept we just covered.  The same method is a quick way to poll the students as well.

As with many teaching techniques, be careful not to overuse signals.  But in limited doses, they can be an effective way to take the temperature of a classroom.

Adapted from Elizabeth F. Barkley & Claire Howell Major, Interaction Lecturing: A Handbook for College Faculty 156-57 (2018).

Précis

Précis

This teaching idea comes to you from the directors of ILTL [1]

Précis

Précis is a French word, pronounced pray-see, that refers to a way of summarizing text to include the meaning of the original text but to be as concise as possible. It can be an effective tool to solidify understanding of a particular document, and it could be used a couple of different ways in a law school setting.

Often, in thinking about legal briefs or memos, experts talk about a topic sentence outline—making sure the topic sentence of each individual paragraph flows in a cohesive argument throughout the document.  The exercise of condensing each paragraph to just one topic sentence is a version of précis.

Students could use this technique to more deeply understand a case opinion as well.  Number the paragraphs of an assigned opinion, and have students create a précis.  Essentially, they will be writing a topic sentence for each paragraph of the judicial opinion in their own words, except when the words used by the court are terms of art, then they should use those terms of art.  The goal is to essentially create a topic sentence outline of the opinion that would allow the reader to follow the full course of reasoning.  It’s not a summary; students should write in the voice of the court.

Important pieces of a précis:  Who is the actor?  What is the function of the paragraph? What is the substantive content of the paragraph? And then focus on conciseness—use clear, simple language and eliminate unnecessary words.

For example, a précis of the equal protection discussion in Loving v. Virginia might look something like this:

1 The Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia upheld the constitutionality of the State’s ban against interracial marriages because (1) preserving the racial integrity of its citizens was deemed to be a legitimate governmental purpose and (2) marriage traditionally lies within the sphere of state regulation rather than federal regulation.
2 The State argues that (1) the Equal Protection Clause does not apply because it was meant only to prohibit differential punishment based on race and (2) as a result, the Court should apply deferential rational basis review to the laws.
3 The mere fact of equal application does not remove a law from equal protection scrutiny; laws containing racial classifications must meet a very heavy burden of justification.
4 The legislative history surrounding adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment does not clearly support the contention that it was meant to address only criminal laws that imposed differential punishment on the basis of race.
5 Precedent to the contrary has been repudiated.
6 Laws, like this one, that rely on distinctions based on race, must be shown to be necessary to the accomplishment of some permissible state objective other than race discrimination itself.
7 The law is supported by no overriding legitimate purpose outside of racial discrimination itself.
8 Anti-miscegenation laws also violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
9 Marriage is a fundamental right which cannot be infringed upon based on racial classifications.

[1] Hat tip: Susannah Pollvogt, Associate Dean of Student Success, University of Arkansas School of Law

How to Use Formative Assessment Data to Tailor Teaching

How to Use Formative Assessment Data to Tailor Teaching

By: Cynthia M. Ho, Professor at Loyola University School of Law

The principle of using frequent (multiple times a class and every week) formative assessment data to tailor teaching underlies Click & Learn, a Civil Procedure teaching tool that I created with Professor Angela Upchurch and Professor Susan Gilles.  However, this approach works in any doctrinal class.

How Can Formative Assessment Data Help Teachers?

Formative assessment data can help you know what students have mastered.  Saved time can focus on tougher concepts and/or permit other activities such as group exercises.

Alternatively, if there are topics that a substantial number of students did not get (i.e., at least 20-25% wrong), class time can be used to improve understanding.

What Formative Assessment Data?

Data can be derived from both “objective” (i.e. MC and T/F) data and narrative (i.e., essay answer and discussion board posts) assessments.

Data can provide trends to inform your teaching.  “Objective” data is easiest to scan.  But even narrative data can be efficiently reviewed if you review a small sample.

A Word of Caution: The Need to Focus Students on Learning

Teachers know that the point of formative assessment is to help students learn.  To reinforce this focus, students should get full credit towards class participation for all timely and “professional” submissions (i.e., doing the entire assignment in more than 30 seconds).

Three Options to Tailor Class

Here’s an overview of three options to tailor class:

Type of Formative Assessment Example How much class tailoring +/-
1. In-class only In-class polling Minimal +  easiest to incorporate;

–  least tailoring

2. Outside class only (a) “Objective”

(b) Narrative

Medium + more tailoring, no need to adjust “on the fly”

-no ability to tailor during class

3. Combo-in & outside Both of the above Maximum + maximum tailoring

– maximum prep time

In addition, here are the benefits of each type of assessment for tailoring how you teach class.

Type of Formative Assessment Example Goals
1.In-class only In-class polling -review of material just covered to ensure mastery

-emphasizes a point

– provides application practice

– changes the pace of class and maintains engagement

2. Outside class only (a) “Objective”

(b) Narrative

-Objective questions with detailed explanation provide  feedback to help ensure the entire class has mastery o

-provides application practice

3. Combo-in & outside Both of the above -all of the above, plus long-term learning benefits

Now that you know the big picture, let’s dive into the details.

  1. In-Class Only

Here’s a few examples of how to use in-class polling.

In-class polling to recap material just discussed

One way to incorporate polling is to ask a question after introducing a concept.  So, for example, after discussing what is a trade secret (TS), a polling question could ask students to apply what they know.  The left shows slides introducing the concept whereas the right shows the polling question.

In-class polling to emphasize a point in the assigned reading

A polling question can emphasize an issue since students will remember something if they get it wrong.  Here is one example that reinforces an issue students otherwise often miss without a poll:

  1. Outside Class only

Data based on formative assessment outside class can also help tailor class time.

For topics where the data shows students are struggling, these can be handled in two ways.  First, the question can be displayed again in class to solicit discussion of the right (and wrong) answer, together with reasoning.

Here’s one example where the question students previously had trouble with is on the left, with the key Civil Procedure issue of 1331 subject matter jurisdiction is on the right:

Alternatively, a new application question can be posed in class that asks students to discuss the same concept, but in a new factual setting such as the following:

Isn’t it a waste of time to review issues in class if formative assessment provided an answer?

No!  Even after students read an explanation, they may need more reinforcement.  Students say they prefer to review tougher questions in class even after reading the explanation.

How do you use data from narrative assignments?

Class discussion can also be tailored based on sampled essay data.  For example, after reviewing a few essay answers from a Civil Procedure, class a slide addressing noted issues can help organize the in-class discussion as shown below:

  1. Combo – in and outside

The best way to tailor teaching involves combining the previously discussed approaches.  Basically, conduct formative assessment outside class and then use that data to focus class time on needed issues, including in-class polling. This seems to promote long-term learning; students studying for the bar often email with delight to note that they remember concepts studied two years ago.

Tailoring can be truly maximized with a flipped law class where students learn material before  class. Click & Learn enables faculty to easily do this.

Even without using a flipped class approach, the Combo approach still provides more polling benefits. How?  Let’s explore.

A new in-class polling question may use the same facts from an outside-class “objective” question but pose new answer choices.  These choices can focus on issues underlying wrong answers students previously chose but stated slightly differently. This is shown below:

Data from narrative answers can be used to create a new in-class polling question to assess the entire class and reveal to confused students that they are not alone.  Here’s one example:

Data from narrative answers can also be used to help students compare what is and is not a strong statement to include in an essay answer.  Here’s one example with answer choices from sampled student answers:

Now what?

If you want more info, check out [How to choose a Formative Assessment Platform] and/or slides from the related Summer 2021 Conference presentation are available here.

And, of course, the best way of learning is by doing.  So, hopefully you’re now inspired to do more with your own data using some of these techniques!

Training New Lawyers to Recognize and Confront Structural Violence

Training New Lawyers to Recognize and Confront Structural Violence

By Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum, Associate Professor of Clinical Law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Director of the Benjamin B. Ferencz Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic and the Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights (CLIHHR). Continue Reading

Failure, Fun and Formative Assessment: Lessons from Click & Learn: Civil Procedure

Failure, Fun and Formative Assessment: Lessons from Click & Learn: Civil Procedure

By Cynthia Ho, Loyola University Law School, Chicago

Failure, Fun and Formative Assessment: Lessons from Click & Learn: Civil Procedure

The title is not a typo.  Rather, it describes what can happen when you blend the best of learning theory, legal education goals and technology.  Intrigued?  Keep reading!

Formative Assessment is now widely acknowledged as important to legal education as reflected in ABA standards.  This makes sense based on decades of learning theory that show active learning promotes both short and long term memory.  There seems to be great interest in promoting formative assessment based on comments I’ve seen among participants in the CALI Online Teaching Mini-Course, as well as a Civil Procedure Pedagogy & Distance Learning workshop.  Many seem to recognize that  in-class polling can provide key formative assessment.  As studies have shown, such polls close a “feedback loop” by showing whether class and/or specific students understand material, such that any gap can be remedied long before the final.  But, how to incorporate more formative assessment, and especially find questions, often seems daunting.

There is actually an easy way to incorporate more formative assessment for Civil Procedure faculty –  a new online and interactive tool:  Click & Learn:  Civil Procedure, of which I’m a co-author with Angela Upchurch and Susan Gilles  that is premised upon these principles of learning theory.  This is true whether class is entirely in person, entirely online, or some combination.  In fact, we have successfully done both.

Click & Learn can provide formative assessment throughout the course.  There are over 2000 questions at all levels of difficulty across all topics, as well as sections that cover multiple topics such as SMJ, PJ and Venue simultaneously.  These questions permit repeated formative assessment, consistent with learning theory that recommends multiple opportunities for formative assessment, as well as assessment that promptly provides feedback.  Since the tool is completely online and provides explanations to questions, including wrong answer choices, students can obtain feedback immediately and on their own pace.   Students at our three different law schools, as well as students who have adopted it on their own all tell us they found this fun and effective.  Usage outside of class can constitute ABA minutes regarding class time whether the class is designated as fully online or not.  In addition, it can even satisfy ABA requirements for distance classes by including feedback and promoting monitoring of student efforts.  The questions can also be used with small groups to promote student interactions.

This tool is fundamentally built upon active learning principles, as well as studies that show the benefit of failing on student learning.  Although less well known among legal educators, formative assessment can include more than testing students after material is introduced.  Studies show that “failing” with a pre-test can actually improve learning.  There is a “generation effect,” which basically means that generating a guess on an answer promotes long term recall.  Perhaps counter-intuitively, studies find students learn better this way than being told the answer first.  Why?  Basically, generating a guess, students prime their brain to the concept such that they are more likely to remember it.  This means that formative assessment of law students can ideally begin in conjunction with learning material for the first time.

Click & Learn tool incorporates many questions that can be used as pre-tests to promote learning. In particular, each topic includes questions that can be used as a pre-test that studies show can enhance final exam performance.  So, for example, a student might be shown FRCP and asked what they think it relates to based on headers.  Or, alternatively, a student might be asked why they think a rule has a particular policy.

Click & Learn is designed to supplement any Civil Procedure casebook, regardless of the order in which topics are taught.  Each major topic is introduced without any assumption that students have covered other material.

Click & Learn can be flexibly used.  Students can do it on their own without any faculty involvement.  Or, faculty can adopt it to require the entire class benefit from formative assessment.  Faculty of course retain freedom in deciding how to use the formative assessment opportunities.  A faculty could require students to answer medium-level questions – in class or outside of class – to test student understanding after covering a topic in class.  Or, a faculty could assign, or at least recommend the most basic questions as a way to actively engage students in learning and gain the learning best from such a pre-test.  There are also more challenging questions that can be used in class, in office hours, or as supplemental review. In addition, faculty can assign questions to previously covered material to promote interleaving of concepts that studies show further promotes class learning.

Each topic is introduced through several interactive FAQ that students can easily revisit as well.   Here is how the beginning of 1332 looks like:

The icons under the “Q#/Level” indicate the number and difficult level of questions provided. Most of these are the easiest questions.  The section with the trophy icon is a review section with more challenging questions.  A student can do these sections in conjunction with class material.  In addition, students could return to past sections that they previously performed poorly on.  This would also be consistent with interleaving and lead to better learning outcomes.   Indeed, we found our students often repeated questions they initially got wrong even though we did not require them to do so.

To help make it easy to incorporate Click & Learn, there is a downloadable table of contents that shows all the topics, as well as questions, including difficulty level.   There is also a way to match it to casebooks.  Both of these are shown under the Support tab online:

“Matching to my Casebook” enables faculty to match Click & Learn with major textbooks including Freer & Perdue, Glannon and Yeazell.  Faculty adopters can easily cut and paste from these documents to create something like this:

Class 1:  Introduction to SMJ and Diversity
Read F&P  pp. 175 – 207
Class 2: Diversity
Read F&P  pp. 207 – 212
WEEK IN REVIEW  Complete by ____________2020

C&L Unit 3, Part 4: Diversity (& Alienage) SMJ
Required: Ch V. 1332 SMJ Synthesis 15 Qs Synthesis
Optional:   Ch II.  D. Review of “Citizenship” for SMJ  – 10 Qs Synthesis
AND Ch IV. F. Review of Amount in Controversy (AIC) 4 Qs PMP

Click & Learn is also designed to promote more student learning.  How?  It provides a unique faculty dashboard rich with data.  For example, the image below shows that question 2 is the one that most students had trouble with, as well as that choice “C” was the most common wrong answer.  Checking what choice C says (which is easily done with one click) can then indicate what issue should be reviewed.  A faculty member can thus use this information to close the feedback loop and address the issue(s) of confusion.

The Dashboard also provides information on individual students.  It highlights late submissions, and also provides the score of each student.  You can see this below with a fake class (to avoid FERPA issues).  Here, the fifth student was late.  In addition, this easily identifies students 1 and 4 as the lowest performing students – but, only to the individual faculty member.  Students see their own scores, but not those of other students.  This enables a faculty member to easily identify students who need more support and provide that support.

There is a lot more I could say about this, but it would probably be more engaging to try it out yourself!  Any faculty member interested in learning more can register for a free complimentary copy.  In addition, if you want more of an overview, check out this zoom session: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fmugIa-oUA

Make Failure Flattering:  Embracing Classroom Struggles, Creating Real World Successes

Make Failure Flattering: Embracing Classroom Struggles, Creating Real World Successes

By Maj Wolfgang S. Weber, U.S. Air Force Academy[1], Assistant Professor Of Law

To all my students, past, present, and future, please forgive me, I have something I need to get off my chest:  I enjoy seeing you fail in the classroom.   

Well, at least initially. 

As educators, we constantly reflect upon how we can make our class an academic journey worth taking. Sure, we could lecture till we’re blue in the face; but is that really as effective (or fun) as an interactive effort that helps students recognize their own strengths and weaknesses within the material?

When I first began teaching, I meticulously walked my students through every single lesson, “If you have a question please don’t hesitate to stop me and ask!” I never wanted to leave a rock unturned; I never wanted to leave the class with lingering inquiries. I would spend countless hours thinking about exactly what I would say each lesson. I felt a need to tell them everything.

Before long, however, I quickly came to two realizations:  1) even though I was covering all the material, they weren’t fully processing it; and 2) I was boring.  

I was failing. But as you may guess, I’m glad I did.

From my own classroom failures, I reflected deeply on my deficiencies as an educator. I thought about everything I was doing step by step. I spoke at length with my more seasoned colleagues. Soon, it became clear – I was robbing my students of the opportunity to fail. 

Failure is undoubtedly one of life’s best teachers. As we can all likely attest, many of our most profitable educational lessons, both in and out of the classroom, come from failure. Even the most gifted toddler will certainly fall before she learns to walk. In an academic setting, nothing speaks quite as loudly as unmasking a student’s own deficiencies. Of course, this is far easier said than done. In Tony Wagner’s book, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, Wagner points out that many traditional academic settings penalize students for failure and discourage them to take risk. Thus, as educators, creating an academic environment that teaches students through failure can be an uphill battle. 

The best solution? We must give them permission to fail.

In all my classes, I am constantly thinking about new ways to allow my students to experience failure. In my law class, throughout the semester every student is assigned the task of creating and presenting a different hypothetical legal scenario that they must then teach the class to analyze. In my negotiations class, at some point each student must negotiate with a classmate while the rest of the class observes. In both instances, I make it a point to not teach the students the applicable material beforehand.

On the day of, the students hesitantly make their way to the front of the classroom – visibly nervous about doing or saying something incorrectly in front of their peers; but before a word ever leaves a student’s mouth, I provide a preface to the class: 

Before Sidney and Graham begin, I want to quickly tell them both … ‘thank you.’ While each of them will undoubtedly do some things correctly, they will almost certainly also do some things incorrectly … they will fail. And that’s okay. While we learn in many different ways, one of the best ways to improve is learning from our failures. The Wright brothers didn’t build a flying plane on their first attempt, and none of us, including me, are likely to conduct perfect legal analysis on our first go.  

But the important thing is that we all have the courage to make that first attempt, and that we all are open-minded, tactful, and considerate in our criticisms. Let’s thrive together from an academic environment that lauds mistakes and embraces growth. Graham, Sidney – thank you both for being vulnerable in front of all of us today and giving us this chance to learn … please proceed.

As the students proceed, the class watches eagerly. By the end of the exhibition, I ask the students to take a seat, often receiving applause from their classmates without prompting. Then, I unapologetically ask the entire class the tough questions:  What did they do right? What did they do wrong, where did they fail? What could they have done better?

On most occasions, the students burst into an array of discussion, both complimenting and critiquing their peers with little reluctance; while their peers themselves anxiously receive the feedback, often following up with further questions about their own shortfalls. From there, I jump into the academic lesson, teaching the material while interweaving it with the student presentation and subsequent dialogue.

Over years of teaching through this method, the results have remained consistent: Nine times out of ten, students fail miserably during these exhibitions. Fall flat on their face. But then, the consequent transition transforms them as they ponder all the hidden lessons that did not initially come to mind. Lightbulbs start flashing above their heads as we discuss the new material. And by the end of the class, they’re smiling. They love it. Within an hour, they have gone from defeat to success. They have experienced growth before their very eyes and they’re better for it. By the end of the semester, student feedback repeatedly reiterates these exercises as class favorites.

ather than lecturing at them, consider creating an environment in which students can readily experience and reflect on their academic weaknesses safely. Set them up for failure in the classroom. Make it an ethos in your classroom by giving them permission to fail. You may find that the only thing more enjoyable … is knowing you prepared them for real world success. 

Institute for Law Teaching and Learning