Educating Teachers: On Becoming a Student Again at the Summer Institute for Clinical Teaching

I have just returned from Washington, D.C., where I spent the last week fully immersed in clinical teaching methods at the second Summer Institute for Clinical Teaching at Georgetown University Law Center. There were approximately 25 attendees, many with years of teaching experience, who came from all over the country to engage in four days of intensive learning.

One aspect of the experience that will help me the most as a teacher was putting myself back into the role of being a student.  I noticed how I felt as a learner.  As a student, I paid attention to my thoughts.  I tried to stay in my “role” but also stepped out a bit to think about the Wizard of Oz “man behind the curtain”  and why certain levers were being pulled at particular times.  Which was the point. 

“What are we doing next?”  “Are we going to get a copy of these Powerpoints?” “Do I understand the instructions for this exercise?”  The whole institute is a model for good teaching, so we were talking about techniques and experiencing their effect at the same time.   It was valuable to be a student again, and to have the space to think carefully about what kind of teaching results in learning that students can apply in other contexts.

We spent a day working with nationally recognized educator Grant Wiggins, co-author with Jay McTighe of  “Schooling by Design:  Mission, Action and Achievement.”  We studied and practiced “Backward Design,” following Wiggins and McTighe’s specific process, Understanding by Design, which is a way of thinking purposefully about curricular planning.

Planning for a class is done “backward” from the desired results.  A teacher first establishes the mission or goals of her class.  What understandings or knowledge and skill should students gain from the class?  What results are desired?  Defining mission is one of the three “M” questions that Best Practices addresses:  What is your Mission, What Method will you use, and How will you Measure results?

After defining mission, the next stage of Understanding by Design is determining the kind of evidence that will establish that the desired results have occurred.   After a teacher has carefully considered the first two stages, she can begin to develop a learning plan that will result in achievement of the desired results. 

While it is certainly easier to look at the casebook table of contents and plan a course around the topics as organized by the author, Wiggins notes that this kind of teaching may result in aimless activity, and that we should be organizing our teaching not around topics but around outcomes.

It was illuminating to be in the shoes of a student for a while, and share the experience with a group of enthusiastic learners.     It will definitely shape how I teach going forward.

3 Responses

  1. Lisa,

    Can you give us a specific example of mission, method, and measure?


  2. The labels may differ depending upon one’s point of view. “Mission” can also be viewed as one’s goal. As BP encourages, goals should be articulated in terms of desired outcomes – what result is it that you wish to have occur? Depending upon the context, goals can be either short term or long-term, defined for a particular class session or an entire program.

    One example we discussed at the institute related to teaching students how to form an effective attorney-client relationship. One aspect of that is the goal of establishing rapport. So establishing rapport would be the desired result.

    The next step is for the teacher to consider what information will be considered as evidence that the goal is met? I view this under the category of “measure” or assessment. Depending upon what is being taught, you will be able to achieve different levels of “proof”. Wiggins believes that assessment is about “judicious sampling.”

    As a group, we discussed the kinds of things that would satisfy us that the goal of establishing rapport was met: some of our ideas included client disclosure of harmful or embarrassing facts, client asking questions, frequent communication by the client, ease of conversation, body language, etc.

    Evidence that may indicate rapport was not being established might be body language, lack of self-disclosure, the lawyer’s difficulty in getting information, etc.

    The next step would be the planning the “method” – what kinds of learning experiences and instruction must be engineered to teach students how to work with clients to develop rapport. This could be a mixture of activities, including teaching an understanding of the inhibitors of client communication, role plays where students practice conversations with one another, and simulations involving the use of actors, volunteers or others.

    Of course, I am going to be developing more detailed examples this summer as I plan for some new classes in the fall, including interdisciplinary classes. I will share my progress here and hope that others will offer their ideas as well.

  3. Yak. It’s important to all as Educates the teachers about clinical aspects & to understand the problems of students with feeling as we were also students.

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