How Thaler’s Misbehaving Grades Helped Me Teach Law Better

By: Steve Garland, Wake Forest University School of Law

The professor that had the most important effect on my teaching just won a Nobel Prize. Out of full disclosure, I’ve never met him or taken a class from him. Still, Richard Thaler taught me that sometimes you may have to use psychological tricks to insure that your students focus on what matters most.

As we all know, in teaching legal writing and reasoning, leading the students to focus on the learning rather than the grade can be a challenge, particularly since our grades are most often the first grades the students receive. From my own experience in law school, I recalled that the grades we received in Legal Writing (at the time the only grades prior to the end of first semester exams) often had a disproportionate effect on our confidence going forward. This anecdotal intuition was reinforced by a study that my colleagues at Wake Forest University School of Law – Professors Laura Graham and Miki Felsenburg – undertook. They found that high-achieving college graduates lose confidence when they find that their hard-won skills in college may not immediately translate to their new law school community.
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The Fall 2017 Issue of The Second Draft Explores Innovative Ways to Teach Legal Research

One of the best ways to teach law better is to learn about the creative approaches that our seasoned colleagues are using with success across the globe and then to implement those great ideas in our own classrooms. That’s why I encourage you to check out the Fall 2017 issue of The Second Draft, a biennial publication of The Legal Writing Institute. The issue — Rethinking Researchshowcases exciting, new approaches to teaching legal research and features thoughtful articles from expert teachers like Professors Kathy Vinson, Kristen Murray, Ellie Margolis, Sarah MorathSabrina DeFabritiis, Liz Johnson, and many more!

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Screens Off, Brains On

By: Professor Meghan Boone, Wake Forest University School of Law

I often teach in the dreaded mid-afternoon time slot. It’s a hard time to teach at the start of the semester, when the lingering summertime air warms the classroom and suggests that perhaps a nap is in order. But it is truly difficult towards the end of the semester, as the light that filters in through the windows is already fading towards dusk, causing everyone’s mind to drift towards a hearty dinner and a cozy armchair from which to take in an episode of their favorite reality television show. It is difficult to marshal my own energy at this time of the day, much less expect my Civil Procedure students to stay engaged.
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Getting to Know You: Using Pop Culture Pedagogy to Connect with Students

By: Professor Abigail L. Perdue, Wake Forest University School of Law

As a teacher I’ve been learning.
You’ll forgive me if I boast.
And I’ve now become an expert
On the subject I like most.
Getting to know you,
Getting to know all about you.
Getting to like you.
Getting to hope you like me.”

– Rodgers & Hammerstein, from Getting to Know You in The King and I

As a child, I was mildly obsessed with Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals. The King and I was my absolute favorite! I still remember the first time I saw the confident and commanding (albeit quite sexist) King of Siam twirling lithe Anna Leonowens all over the ballroom. The musical, which was inspired by true events, recounts the magical story of a British woman who travels halfway around the world to serve as governess to the King of Siam’s royal children.
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Reprogramming Your Writing Intuition


By: Professor Joe Regalia

When I ask judges what frustrates them most about lawyers, the conversation often turns to writing. I hear things like: “attorneys can’t write concisely,” and “why don’t law schools teach law students how to write?” Perhaps these problems persist because when you try to change how you write, you are butting up against years of subconscious habit—what I call your “writing intuition.” And just like making changes to other deep-seated habits in your life, changing your writing intuition takes significant work.
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