By: Professor Kenneth Swift (University of Houston)
As law professors transition to an online format in response to COVID-19, one concern for some professors is whether an online course can still provide an active learning experience. I have taught law school courses asynchronously for over ten years and believe that a well-constructed asynchronous course can provide an active learning environment that in some ways exceeds the live classroom. Using this format, I have developed both an Employment Law course and a general drafting course. I also addressed active learning in my article: The Seven Principles of Good Practice in (Asynchronous Online) Legal Education,44 Mitchell Hamline L. Rev. 105 (2018). In the article, I took principles developed through a series of highly influential articles authored by seven different law professors in the late 1990s, which helped shape modern law school teaching. Then I applied those principles to asynchronous online teaching.
“I feel the need . . . the need for speed.” – Top Gun
Apparently fictional fighter pilots and forward-thinking Jewish rabbis have that in common. The widespread modern phenomenon of speed dating purportedly began in the late nineties when an innovative Jewish rabbi organized the first speed dating event as an efficacious way for busy Jewish young professionals to meet and mingle (Kennedy 2013).
Speed dating soon became so popular that its model was exported to the business world. Speed mentoring events sprang up across the country, and after attending a particularly impactful one, I brainstormed how to implement “speed editing” in my writing classes. Speed editing simultaneously achieves multiple learning goals from encouraging collaboration to demonstrating how to work effectively under tight time constraints. It teaches students how to thoughtfully give and receive constructive feedback and further hones their editing and oral communication skills. Here’s how it works.
As our time on an assignment module draws to a close, I provide a brief overview of the effective editing techniques we have already discussed and then dedicate the remainder of our 1.5 hour session to speed editing. This generally occurs in one of two ways, each of which I will discuss below. Continue reading “Speed Editing”
There are stranger things than using a Halloween-themed exercise to engage your students, particularly during this stressful point in the semester. After a weekend of binge-watching Season Two of the Netflix phenomenon, Stranger Things, I reconfigured my Halloween lesson to include items that every respectable professor needs to tame little monsters, brain-drained zombies, and every other ghoul in school:
Build suspense with an email inspired by Stranger Things or another Halloween favorite: I sent the following email to my students the day before our Halloween class:
Tomorrow we’re taking a “Curiosity Voyage.” Don’t forget to bring your oars — hard copies of your two cases. However, as you read them, especially the dissenting opinion in the appellate case, don’t get turned Upside Down by the various arguments regarding how to use statistical evidence in a disparate impact case. The way that statistics would be used is not particularly relevant to the Salon at this point (although the case mentions three primary approaches to using statistics, not Eight or Eleven.) It would be highly relevant if the Salon were already facing litigation, but here, we are in a counseling posture. (Trust me on this; friends don’t lie.) Use your unique mental powers to focus primarily on each case’s implications, if any, for Memo Three. There’s nothing stranger than me asking you to bring your laptops to class tomorrow, but please do. Bring your Bluebook, too. You’ll be doing an “eerie exercise” in honor of Halloween and one with a party. (Let’s hope it includes a zoomer and mage lest your mind get flayed!)
“While we teach, we learn.” – Roman philosopher Seneca
As a quiet but thoughtful student in high school, I was especially invested in my senior English class with Mr. B. He had the ability to make 19th century literature riveting and relevant. He was excellent with words and used them to captivate us and to make us care about each literary work and author. This was his gift, or so I thought. Continue reading “Challenging Law Students to Become Active Learners”