An Essay on Strategies for Facilitating Learning

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Teaching, Learning


This essay focuses on goals, strategies and techniques for the facilitation of student learning. It reflects a bias toward what can be called active learning in which students move beyond being passive listeners (and too often even less than that) and instead are prompted to travel along a continuum of becoming fully responsible and active participants in their own learning processes. The underlying assumption is that this increasingly participatory engagement with the learning environment - one constructed and facilitated by the teacher - offers great potential for increasing the quality and depth of students' learning. Ironically, it does the same for the teacher because it places a far heavier responsibility on the teacher to listen, interpret, guide and interact rather than merely "profess".

The analysis also begins from the belief that there is a convenient assumption among law teachers that the existing model of the American law school works effectively. This includes the conclusion that its methods and goals are not only appropriate and comprehensive but are being achieved. The reality is quite different. While law teachers have many positive attributes we tend to be amateurs from the perspective of the quality of teaching and awareness of the most effective ways to structure a curriculum, integrate course offerings and design and execute individual courses. Because most law professors have been extremely successful in their undergraduate and law school careers they may feel as if they are endowed by that experience with the knowledge and ability required to teach well, or they may understand their lack of knowledge and seek to compensate for that deficiency through denial and rationalization. In any event there is no guarantee that earlier academic success bears any direct relationship to excellence in teaching. With that criticism in mind this essay examines strategies for facilitating learning. Preliminary to that analysis, however, I thought it useful to discuss briefly the history of the Langdellian Hypothesis about the scientific nature of university legal education and academic legal research and scholarship. It is this flawed hypothesis that shaped the American law school.