Backwards Design, Forward Thinking

By: Abigail Perdue (Wake Forest)Black pencils and Design word

For the first time in a long time, I find myself teaching a brand new course. Not only is the course outside my discipline, but also I’m offering it virtually. And while I feel far more confident with regard to virtual teaching than I did last spring, I still consider myself a novice.

But instead of battling anxiety and fear like I did during my first semester of teaching, I feel energized, excited, and cautiously optimistic. All this “newness” is invigorating. Why? Because the events of 2020 have shown me that I grow the most when I venture outside the reassuring confines of my comfort zone, and the lessons learned from that challenging year have made me a stronger teacher and a better human being.

When I first started teaching, I had no idea how to design a course. Thankfully, I had seasoned mentors who generously shared their syllabi, course materials, and thoughtful advice with me. But in the process of pouring over how others taught the course, I risked losing my authentic self. Self-doubt sometimes led me to secondguess myself, deleting innovative ideas that seemed to contradict others’ approach. If left unchecked, eventually those doubts can cause you to unintentionally erase yourself entirely, fashioning a copycat course that doesn’t reflect your signature style or personal goals.

Backwards design is an approach to course design that enables you to emulate the best practices of your colleagues while remaining true to your pedagogical objectives and teaching style.  I first learned about backwards design at an excellent training given by Dr. Betsy Barre of Wake Forest’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching. Later, I had the good fortune of hearing this concept reinforced and endorsed by our Dean and Teacher Extraordinaire Jane Aiken. To my understanding, their remarks derived heavily from a book entitled Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe.

In this post, I’ll briefly explain my personal understanding of backwards design and then share how I recently used it to design the virtual Professional Responsibility course that I’ll be teaching for the first time this spring.[1] Continue reading “Backwards Design, Forward Thinking”

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Discussing Imposter Syndrome

By: Professor Amanda Peters (South Texas College of Law Houston)Grayscale Photo of Human Hand

Like most of my law professor colleagues, teaching online is new to me. One of the many options unique to virtual teaching is the discussion board, which has been touted as a tool to keep students engaged. While I was unsure how my online class discussions would go, I was especially pleased with the discussion board responses I recently received on the topic of imposter syndrome, which involves the belief that you do not deserve to be where you are, that you do not belong.

At the online LWI Conference this summer, one of the presenters mentioned a TED Ed talk on imposter syndrome. I heard about this syndrome for the first time on NPR many  years ago. Although I had never put a name with it before,  I immediately recognized it from my own experiences, and I knew how harmful it could be.

I remember feeling uneasy about my abilities as I began law school. Two women in my 1L study group were ranked 2nd and 4th in the class after the first semester. I remember wondering whether my good grades were a product of studying with them or whether I alone was capable of earning those grades. I questioned whether I really belonged on Law Review.

When I became a lawyer, I doubted I was talented enough to work among the best litigators in Houston or whether I was smart enough to move from litigation to appellate work. As a new law professor, I remember feeling insecure that my office neighbors went to Harvard when the diplomas that hung on my wall came from Texas Tech. In each of these situations, I would eventually come to realize that I had earned my place, but that realization took time. Continue reading “Discussing Imposter Syndrome”

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Using Padlet to Create Community

By: Professor Heather Gram (Wake Forest)

Person Gather Hand and Foot in Center

Like many educators this past summer, I found my days consumed by webinars, conferences, and virtual meetings all designed to introduce me to new technology for the fall.  While most were helpful, I still felt overwhelmed at times.  Would I be able to figure out my third Learning Management System in five years? Could I learn how to effortlessly pop into pre-designated breakout rooms without accidentally ending the session for everyone?  And if I taught online, how could I build that same rapport with students that comes naturally with face-to-face classes?

Luckily, I stumbled onto a demonstration of Padlet™ and recognized that it might be what I was looking for. According to a 2018 article, “Padlet began as a free digital bulletin-board where teachers and students could exchange ideas, materials, and comments.”  It has “a simple interface that allow[s] users to drag and drop files from their desktop and add links from the web onto a web-based canvas (called a ‘padlet’).” While  Padlet™ originally offered the unlimited creation of padlets, two years ago it capped the number of free padlets per person to five.

Padlet™ immediately reminded me of the high school locker that I shared with my best friend.  That locker had been a place where I could post notes to her about assignments (“Do you understand the reading for tomorrow’s class?”), questions (“When is our AP History test?”), and articles about movies, music, and more.  Padlet™ seemed to provide a similarly creative way to reach my students in a less formal manner than just posting announcements on Canvas™. Continue reading “Using Padlet to Create Community”

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Let’s Listen to the Quiet Ones: How Quiet Students Thrive in Remote Learning

By: Professor Heidi K. Brown (Brooklyn Law School)

A new book for introverted shy and socially anxious lawyers

Midway through pandemic lockdown in New York City, my television was tuned to CNN one Saturday morning while I exercised in my kitchen. My ears perked up at hearing an elementary school principal in Washington, D.C.—Dr. Sundai Riggins—relay in an interview how students who were not talkative in in-person classes were expressing themselves more frequently in distance learning. I thought, Wow, I wish every educator (and politician) could hear that message!

 When the law school where I teach switched to “emergency remote learning” in March, I too noticed students who rarely raised their hand in our live classroom quickly embracing online communication tools such as the “hand-raise” and “chat” features in Zoom. These electronic functions enable quiet students to signal a desire to contribute without having to interrupt their more voluble classmates or teacher to be heard. (Introverts resist interruption—to themselves and others.) This got me thinking, Are other educators across the country noticing an uptick in participation by quiet students during the pandemic? Continue reading “Let’s Listen to the Quiet Ones: How Quiet Students Thrive in Remote Learning”

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Self-Made: Introducing Avatars in the Online Law Classroom (Part Three)

By: Joy Kanwar and Kim D. Ricardo

This is the final installment in our three-part series on avatars in the classroom. In Part I, we introduced the avatar framework.  In Part II, we encouraged faculty to use avatars early in the semester to create an inclusive classroom culture, and to eventually help students build toward professional identity. Here, we provide specific details for when and how to create avatars for these purposes.

Law School Avatarification

 Although our ideas are new in a law school context, scholars in other disciplines have found it useful to consider the avatar as an extension or an agent of the individual in virtual spaces.  One study coined “avatarification” in the undergraduate classroom as the “utilization of virtual self-representations within a mediated environment in order to facilitate interactions in that environment.”  Avatars can assist in making the online classroom a space where students can express multiple, overlapping identities (or intersectional identities) and form part of a community.  As discussed in Part II, avatars allow for students to not only express the qualities of their current selves, but also as their aspirational or evolving lawyer-advocate selves. Continue reading “Self-Made: Introducing Avatars in the Online Law Classroom (Part Three)”

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