Teaching Better Research Skills by Teaching Metacognitive Ability

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Perspectives: Teaching Legal Research and Writing


metacognition, legal education, legal research


Most of us have heard the grumblings from law firm partners and librarians that law students graduate without learning how to do efficient and effective research. While the purpose of this article is not to debate whether or not these grumblings are based in fact, I think many legal writing and research faculty would agree that the majority of our students' skills are not at the level we would like.What is the cause? Clearly, law schools are attempting to teach these skills. In fact, many law schools have engaged in lengthy evaluations and reforms of legal writing and research programs in an effort to address complaints from the legal community. And, I believe that many of us would acknowledge that most of our students are putting some effort toward trying to learn these skills.For many students, a disconnect occurs between completing coursework and transitioning those skills to the “real world.” What can we do to both improve skills in the classroom and help students transition those skills in to their careers? Teaching metacognitive abilities should help students perform at a higher level and convert their classroom experiences to situations they will face in practice. Some of us already teach in ways that might promote metacognition. However, I believe we need to be explicit and transparent about teaching metacognition.