Flipped Learning for Legal Education

Hi Everyone! Mary just invited me to join this blogging community. Glad to be here.

For my first post, I’d like to think about how flipped or blended learning could be used in legal education. Flipped learning blends online and in-class instruction and has been used of late in lots of educational settings, including K-12 and undergrad. I think there is a place for it in legal education too.

The way I see it, flipping the classroom can take a lot of different forms.  I envision them along a spectrum, something like this –

At one end of the spectrum, it can be used to

1. Reinforce learning after class — professors can assign online videos for students to watch after class, to help clarify and/or reinforce the doctrinal concepts that were taught in class, and help to build students’ doctrinal knowledge.

2. Lay a foundation – professors could require students to watch videos that cover basic, foundational concepts – so classtime can start further along the learning process.

3. Supplement with different perspectives — Professors may also assign online videos (prepared by other professors) to supplement their own lectures, so that their students can hear different voices or perspectives on a particular topic or to have students hear from experts on topics beyond the professor’s own field of expertise.

4. Facilitate higher level Socratic dialogue – when professors assign videos for students to watch before class, students have time to think about and reflect on the lesson before arriving in the classroom. That way the videos may reinforce the concepts in the assigned reading and when students come into class – having heard the lesson on the reading before class — they will be ready and able to engage in a higher level of Socratic dialogue and discussion of assigned hypothetical and in-class problems.

5. Integrate essential lawyering skills — when online videos are assigned as homework, as a substitute for a professor’s own lecture — class time is freed up for more active learning exercises that incorporate some essential lawyering competencies.

6. Professor as Facilitators/Guides — Some professors may decide to use videos to help integrate practical lawyering skills in doctrinal courses. Students could be required to review videos on substantive law and on practical lawyering skills out of class. Then, classtime can be devoted to simulations or role plays in which the students use the material they learned on video to engage in essential lawyering skills – such as negotiations, interviews, or oral arguments.

In this way, the professor is moving from a position at the front of the class, to a coach who works one on one with students, or with small groups of students, during assigned classtimes. And it promotes collaboration and team building among students.

This last category would be at the other end of the spectrum and allow professors to bring more training in practical lawyering skills into each course.

What do you think?  Let me know if I’m missing something.  I am speaking about how to use technology in our teaching at the AALS Clinical Conference next week.  I’d love to hear your reaction to these ideas before then.

4 Responses

  1. Welcome Michele! You certainly seem to be nicely focusing us on the wave of the future!

  2. Great minds think alike. I blogged at the same time on the same topic (inspired by you!) – http://albanylawtech.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/can-flip-teaching-happen-in-law-school/

  3. I am a little confused here . Why the assignment of videos rather than reading.? Hasn’t the traditional law school classroom always been flipped, with students preparing by reading before class, and then class being devoted to discussion? Finally, I don’t know any professors who “lecture” as a way of delivering information in a law school classroom. What am I missing?

  4. As I see it, I don’t think the videos would replace the readings (in my view, careful reading is a cornerstone of successful lawyering) as much as supplement them. Students could watch videos to prime themselves for the readings, or after the readings to make sure they understood the key points, or even after class and/or again before finals as a refresher after they have had a rich Socratic dialogue on the readings.

    One thing we know from learning sciences is that each student learns differently; some learn certain topics better from video, others from reading, others from doing, others from listening, others from writing. So, now that video storage is cheaper and more ubiquitous and video production capabilities are accessible (one could make a video using the webcam and microphone on their own computers), I say we add video to the collection of materials available to our students.

    Those professors who do use it say that it frees up time for more classroom discussion and more problem solving or exercises. One big time saver is with clarification. One of my colleagues who assigns videos for students to view before class reports that he spends less class time clarifying points on which students are confused. He said that because the students had access to the videos outside of class, which they could watch them as many times as they needed to understand the material and came into class better primed to engage in rich Socratic dialogue and problem solving.

    If you do decide to test it out, I’d love to hear how it goes. And, if anyone wants to engage in a research project on flipped learning in legal education, be in touch. A colleague is looking for professors to join her in a study.

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