The Forgetting Curve

By: Professor Steve Friedland, Elon Law School

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My first teaching opportunity arose less than a year after graduating from law school when I was asked to teach Evidence to approximately 70 upper level law students at a law school in South Florida. Without training or guidance, I did what many people probably would have done under similar circumstances — essentially replicate what I had seen as a student. I covered assignments day-by-day and waded through the traditional doctrinal topics contained in the traditional casebook I had chosen. For me, it was all about segmented coverage of material.  From a student’s perspective, though, I am sure the class felt very different, more like a grueling teen tour through Europe — 13 countries in three days.

By framing my class as an educational assembly line, I thought I had done my job – cover doctrinal material and foster critical analysis. Now it was the students’ job to learn and apply the substantive doctrines on their own for the exam. Yet if I knew then what I know now, my teaching approach would have been dramatically different.

In the past two decades, scientists using advanced technology have learned so much about the brain, including more about how learning takes place. Scientists have studied what happens to information that is communicated to learners in a class.  Do students immediately store that information in brain files like computers do for ready and easy access whenever the information is needed? Does the process of note-taking mean students can access what they have learned at any time?  Does multi-tasking affect the learning process? If yes, then how?

The scientific answers to these questions are both nuanced and complex.  They tell us that teaching does not equate to learning, especially long-term retention and recall.  If the goal is to become a self-directed and effective learner, what first counts is paying attention, focusing on information, and then engaging in useful retrieval practices to make that information stick. Continue reading “The Forgetting Curve”

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Of Books and Pen: Steinbeck’s Advice and Mine on Writing Your First Book

By: Professor Abigail L. Perdue

The profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.

John Steinbeck

I first dreamed of writing a book when I was nine years old. A precocious fourth grader with a vivid imagination, I had always been an avid reader, going off on grand adventures from the comfort of my father’s study. The walls of that tiny room – not much larger than a closet – were covered from floor to ceiling with books on every topic imaginable. I would crawl on his chair and reach for the classics on the highest shelves. That’s where I first met Alcott, Austen, Hardy, and a host of other beloved childhood companions. I lost myself in his library, but perhaps I found myself too.

Like many insatiable readers, I soon discovered that I enjoyed creating stories almost as much as reading them. In the fourth grade, my teacher entered my short story – The Eagle’s Eye[1] – into a writing competition. Much to my surprise, I won, and my first story was published. That unique experience reinforced two burgeoning desires – my passion for writing and my dream to one day publish a book.[2]

Fast forward several decades later, and I’ve published two books and am currently waist-deep in a third. All the while, Steinbeck’s ghost has been whispering in my ear while I revisit his Depression-era classic – The Grapes of Wrath. So here are a few things I wish I’d known before naively embarking on my first book-writing journey: Continue reading “Of Books and Pen: Steinbeck’s Advice and Mine on Writing Your First Book”

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A Letter to my 1L Self

By: Eimile Stokes (JD ’20)
Image result for eimile stokesDear 1L self,

This year will be harder than you think it’s going to be. It’s very different than things you’ve done before. But the good news is, YOU SURVIVE, and you’re a better, smarter, stronger, and more motivated person because of it.

The fact that everyone is telling you how hard law school is may be intimidating. After all, it’s frustrating to do the very best you can all while people are constantly telling you how much harder things will get. However, instead of being discouraged by their kind warnings, be empowered, be confident, and be ready.

That positive outlook will help you overcome challenges, celebrate successes, and see failures simply as areas where you have room to grow. There is so much growing to be had this year, and if you don’t accept that you can grow, you will fall behind as everyone else moves forward. Continue reading “A Letter to my 1L Self”

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Everything is Fine

By: Eleanor (“Nell”) Tebbetts (JD ’21)  with a Preface and Afterword by Professor Abigail L. Perdue

Preface: Each spring during our final session, I invite my first-year Legal Writing students to complete an ungraded reflection exercise. I provide several prompts, one of which encourages each student to write a short letter to the person he or she was on the first day of law school. Nell’s funny and candid letter is reprinted below with her permission.

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Dear August 2018 Nell,

So here are the two things that really matter:

  1. Yes, you can do this…
  2. but you’re not always going to be the best anymore. Continue reading “Everything is Fine”
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