Ideas from the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning Conference

“Implementing Best Practices & Educating Lawyers:  Teaching Skills and Professionalism Across the Curriculum (POST 1)

Two  Favorite Teaching Techniques:  The Letter Exercise & Hess’s 3R’s”.

Here I am at Gonzaga U, in beautiful Spokane, Washington amidst a group of over 100 thoughtful and experienced law teachers and administrators who truly care about teaching, have studied what works and are committed to sharing that knowledge.  For those of you who can’t be here with me, I will blog about some of the major highlights over the next two days.   

Directors of the Institute, Professors Michael Schwartz and Gerry Hess, started the conference with  two quick favorite teaching techniques for introducing and emphasizing professional identity issues in the first year.  Professor Schwartz observed that there comes a time in the first semester of first year when 1Ls start to lose the big picture and are getting “grade crazy” and tense.  At this point in the semester, Professor Schwartz engages in THE LETTER EXERCISE in which he asks students to write a letter to themselves a few years down the road describing characteristics in the profession for which they would want to be known.  The students are then able to engage in a continual assessment of  their own goals and professional development.  After graduation,  Professor Shwartz mails students their letters.

 Professor Gerry Hess uses “The 3Rs:  Respect, Responsibility and Reputation” as a theme throughout the semester in his first year Civil Procedure course as a way to have students integrate professional identity development as they are learning a particular area of the law.  In addition to identifying the substantive doctrine in a case, students identify any issues in the assigned cases which touch on any of the 3Rs.

 For information about design and delivery of courses that focus on teaching professional skills and values, see Gerst & Hess, 43 Valporaiso U. Law Rev. 513 ( 2009).   Next post will be about 10 Interactive Instructional Strategies!!!

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