The second panel of today’s UM conference focused on “Redevelopment of the Law School Curriculum.”  Professors Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez, Todd Rakoff, and Larry Marshall described longstanding or new curricular ideas which meet at least some of the goals of Best Practices enthusiasts. 

Larry Marshall began the session on the positive note that  we’ve reached a moment where   it is no longer the case that  legal educators stand up at conferences and declare that the “best way to teach students” is to have students “repeatedly go to classes” over and over for three years in which they are taught by the Case Dialogue method and be assessed at the end of each course by a one-shot exam.  Yet, he observes,  THAT IS STILL THE  DOMINANT METHOD FOR MANY CLASSES AT MANY SCHOOLS.  That is why he urges all of us to engage in the kind of widespread curricular reform efforts encouraged in the LEARN report ( see my previous post ) which he describes as an exercise in incremental pragmatism.  

Harvard’s faculty are experimenting with a first year required PROBLEM SOLVING course.  In a large 80 student class, Todd Rakoff will be teaching an integrated course which will is intended to teach students “to think like a lawyer” through the integration of problems, skills exploration and analysis of substantive law and legal theory critique.  He will use local expert practitioners for feedback and will have the use of an administrator for organizational purposes.  Notably, New Mexico already offers this kind of class in first year practicums while Stanford offers integrated Ethics courses along the same lines (Antoinette and Larry – please expound on these).  

Antoinette describes the seamless way curriculum and teaching reform occurs in a school like New Mexico where there is no false dichotomy between “podium teachers” and “experiential teachers” – each faculty member prides herself on an integrated pedagogy of teaching. 

Next panel description coming soon!

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