AALS Steps Forward on Best Practices, Carnegie and LEARN Recommendations

The AALS’s Standing Committee on Curriculum Issues sent an e-mail to law school deans and others last Friday requesting information about “ways in which law teachers are enriching their classroom teaching by bringing in background materials that go beyond the judicial opinion.”  Noting that the e-mails need not be elaborate and just a paragraph or two would suffice, the Committee provides examples of the kinds of information desired: “the use of transcripts, documents, briefs, published narratives about a case being studied, video materials, interviews with parties and/or lawyers, among other materials.”  

The Committee will use the e-mails to collect “aggregate information” and to identify “some teachers for follow up conversations.”  E-mails should be sent by May 15, 2009 to:  akhair@aals.org. 

It is very encouraging to know that this information is being collected with an eye to aggregating it and disseminating it to law schools.   Best Practices and Carnegie (above at Resources tab) both note the need for the legal academy to support and provide resources for law teachers to transition into new types of teaching which better meet learning goals. Both documents also encourage law teachers to learn from each other.  Best Practices specifically suggests the creation of “Learning Centers” within law schools to assist faculty with teaching modification, experimentation and assessment of learning , see Chapter 4, subdivision J. The LEARN report which came out just last month (also at Resource Tab above) announced  the intention to “seek[s] support for creation of resources and employment of coordinators to help law schools, individual law teachers,and experts in other fields (such as learning theory and student assessment) make connections among themselves and learn from each other.” 

Over and over again in panel discussions and conferences, participants ask for casebooks, materials, syllabi and examples.  Here, at this Blog, in the work of the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning, and in other forums many participants in the Learning movement have attempted to provide more opportunity for cross-fertilization and support.  There is still much, much more to do.

The material and information requested from the AALS is a modest and limited step.  It does not request information about experiential learning opportunities, address issues of professional identity and purpose or focus on the most significant deficit in legal education – the limited opportunities for structured and faculty supervision of students beginning to  represent real clients.  However, this information collection is a non-threatening way to begin the information collection and to move the discourse and the cross-fertilization forward.  I look forward to hearing the results and sharing them on this Blog.

One Response

  1. If the AALS request causes faculty to share this information even within their own schools, it will have generated important conversationst that will advance teaching and learning. So often we treat our classroom doors as though they were bedroom doors.

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