LOYOLA UNIVERSITY CHICAGO SCHOOL of LAW (2016 Winter Magazine) - page 8-9

New science expands approaches to teaching law
transmission and retention of
information. “We know from the
latest brain research that people
don’t learn in a vacuum; they learn
in the context of relationships. In the
case of law school, that’s with peers,
faculty members, administration,
and staff,” Kaufman says. “So the
learning culture is critical: we need
a community in which people are
encouraged to develop meaningful
relationships from which knowledge,
values, and skills are constructed.”
These relationships can be
formed in both small and large
groups, but an extremely effective
way to achieve the goal is to focus on
group- or team-based exercises and
projects. While business schools have
been approaching education this
way for decades, legal education has
mostly emphasized group learning
in a clinical setting. That’s changing,
Kaufman says, as more Loyola law
professors emphasize team learning
in their non-clinical courses.
In his Civil Procedure course,
for example, Kaufman uses the
“think, pair, share” approach of
providing the class with a fact
pattern behind a question, teaming
each student with a neighbor, asking
the students to share their answers
with their partners, then having the
pairs share their reflections with the
larger group.
“I also use a lot of role playing,
an incredibly effective device,”
Kaufman says. “We know from
research that when people take
on different roles, it stretches their
brains and makes their thinking fluid.
We’ve always done one-on-one role
playing, but now I like to make it a
collaborative exercise.”
Teaching outside the box
Larry Singer, associate dean
of online learning at Loyola, and
director of the Beazley Institute
for Health Law and Policy, uses
collaborative learning in tandem
with out-of-the-box assignments. In
his Health Care Business and Finance
course, Singer asks some of his
students to create videotaped “TED
talks,” show the videos in class, and
answer their classmates’ questions.
Other student teams create posters
New science about
learning informs the ways
Loyola is teaching law.
he Socratic meth-
od of teaching—
asking students a
series of questions
to stimulate crit-
ical thinking and
illuminate ideas—is the traditional
approach to teaching law. But is it
really the only way to help developing
lawyers learn?
Ongoing developments in
neuroscience and educational
psychology stress that individuals
learn in different ways: a small
minority does well with the passive
lecture format, for instance, but
many more people absorb and retain
information effectively when they’re
involved in a form of active learning.
When it comes to learning styles,
“We now understand that, in general,
talking trumps listening, images
trump words, writing trumps reading,
movement trumps sitting, shorter
trumps longer, different trumps same,
and insight trumps knowledge,” says
Teresa Frisbie (JD ’86), director of
Loyola’s Dispute Resolution Program,
paraphrasing trainer Sharon Bowman
Six Trumps: The Brain Science That
Makes Training Stick
To improve the learning
process—and at the same time
make students more practice-ready
at graduation—Loyola University
Chicago School of Law has
significantly expanded its menu
of teaching styles to include more
active, participatory learning
approaches like team projects,
collaborative exercises, and
immersion courses.
A team approach
“The Socratic method is a good
strategy for approaching legal
problems, but any time you choose
just one approach to learning, you’re
going to miss reaching the majority
of students,” says Associate Dean for
Academic Affairs Michael Kaufman,
an expert in educational psychology.
“Our professors are incorporating best
practices and changing the way we
deliver information.”
As the law school focuses on
more active learning, the center
of the change is a new emphasis
on how community affects the
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