Using Innovative Teaching Materials


Here is a recent entry on the Law School Innovation blog dealing with teaching materials. It is a reminder of one of the barriers to implementing best practices. This is particularly relevant to encouraging newer colleagues to incorporate best practices. For many, supplementing an existing casebook with additional materials will be a less perfect, but more achievable, method:


Pro or Con- texts?

Over the past three years, I have taught over 20 classes, in six different subjects. In that time, I did not use a single traditional textbook. This wasn’t done out of some revulsion at cost or content; rather, I found that texts simply did not fit well into the practice-oriented classes I was teaching. For example, I teach a class in Appeals and Habeas, and certainly there are books that cover each of those subjects. However, I was combining Texas appellate procedure with federal and state habeas and focusing on how those systems operate, and never found a text that fit those needs.  

I’m starting to see signs, though, that the textbook industry is adjusting to the reality of practice-oriented classes. My classmate Sarah Ricks, now teaching at Rutgers-Camden, is one of those in the middle of that movement. She has developed a text to be released later this year by Carolina Academic Press entitled Current Issues in Constitutional Litigation: Roles of the Courts, Attorneys, and Administrators. Like my appeals and habeas class (and, overlapping with that class), Constitutional litigation is by its nature practice-oriented. Prof. Ricks’ book accommodates that reality by incorporating non-case material including not only simulation exercises (a device that has been used often), but appellate briefs, oral arguments, and expert reports, to focus more sharply on the role of the practitioner. Multimedia material includes the testimony of a prison guard accused of assault of a prisoner, and interviews with some prison rape victims.  

I would like to use a textbook—it is a pain in the neck to assemble new materials every time I start teaching a new class. The work of people like Prof. Ricks gives me hope that in the future there may be a textbook that fits my class and style.  

— Mark Osler
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