Tuesday, August 28, 2007

IV. Toward a kinder, gentler (and more intellectually rigorous) law school--A beginning agenda of topics for further discussion (rev'd)

Please find below my own list of topics intended to create an agenda for further discussion and debate as we move this process forward in future meetings. Others are welcome and encouraged to add to them.


>How do we achieve fuller, shared recognition that students are responsible adults training to be legal professionals? How do we determine the mutual expectations that should follow from this recognition?

> Should we establish an honor code governing student behavior, to be developed and administered, in whole or in substantial part, by students?

>Can we substantially enhance opportunities (in addition to existing clinical opportunities) for collaborative work, both among students and in combined groups of students and faculty? Can we find ways to surmount obstacles posed by existing patterns of individual grading?

>Can we provide more frequent and timely opportunities for students to receive meaningful and constructive feedback on the quality of their work, both at the end of term and while courses are still underway and improvement is possible?

>Can we find more effective and timely opportunities for students to provide meaningful and constructive feedback to faculty on the quality of their teaching, both at the end of term and while courses are still underway and improvement is possible?

>Can we enhance opportunities for students who find difficulty in speaking in class to find ways of sharing their views and perspectives with teacher and classmates through more effective use of technology (such as email lists and class e-discussion boards)? How can we more effectively help students to improve their public speaking abilities and self-confidence in speaking before groups?

>Can we provide regular opportunities for students, as individuals or in groups, to share distinctive aspects of their backgrounds and perspectives through presentations to a substantial law school audience? Such presentations, which might come from first generation professional/college students, students from rural and small town upbringings, foreign-born students, and students from working class families, as well as members of different racial, ethnic, linguistic, gender, and sexual-orientation groups, would allow all of us to reap more fully the benefits of our diverse community.

>Can we reconsider the appropriate use of laptops in the educational process? Considerations here might vary, depending on class size, the amount of lecture vs. more interactive forms of learning, the objectives and teaching style of the professor, the nature of the material being taught, and other factors. One area of concern is the amount of non-class-related web browsing, emailing and instant messaging, and other behaviors distracting to others as well as the student engaging in the activity. A second potential concern is the need for future lawyers to train their memories and learn not to rely unduly on notes. Perhaps most important is the need for full student presence, engagement and participation in class discussion, which should not be viewed as a distraction from the compilation of a complete stenographic record of the proceedings.

> Can we reconsider the impact of our grading system (noting recent reforms) on placing undue emphasis on small (and often not meaningful) distinctions across the broad middle of the class, resulting in unnecessary stress and competition and adversely affecting potentially innovative modes of teaching and evaluating student work?

I would be delighted to receive constructive additions to the topics listed above. Please post comments directly on the AGENDA-10: DISCUSSION BOARD (posted March 28 am)on this blog. Thank you.

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