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Monday, October 14, 2013

In praise of student-assembled reading lists for law school seminars

I am using this space to promote and praise a law school teaching technique that I keep using to good effect in my "hot topic" seminars.  Starting this week, the students in my Marijuana Law, Policy and Reform seminar are "taking over" the class and classroom by selecting topics of special interest to them and assembling readings to provide the basis for our classroom discussions of these topics.  I am posting these student-assembled readings over at Marijuana Law, Policy and Reform, and the first set of readings covers tax issues.

I had students assemble readings for a death penalty seminar to great effect a few years ago, and I was moved by the first collection assembled in my marijuana seminar to do this post of praise.  I am finding, yet again, that law students are consistently able to find lots of on-line, user-friendly readings on law and policy topics (and, wonderfully, often draw on primary materials other than SCOTUS cases and on secondary materials other than law review articles). 

Cross-posted at SL&P

Posted by Douglas A. Berman on October 14, 2013 at 10:15 AM in Blogging, Teaching Law | Permalink


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Ooh, I did this for the first time last spring, in a Private Governance reading group. It was fantastic! Not just the readings they assembled, but also what I saw them learn through the assembly process; I was impressed with how much they thought about figuring out what would be of reasonable (length) to assign, what would be reasonably balanced, informative, etc--all that stuff we struggle with. They seemed to come away with not only a broader look at the subject matter, but also a greater appreciation for how hard it is to compile course materials! :)

Posted by: Steph Tai | Oct 15, 2013 3:29:06 PM

Do students do a better job of assembling course materials than a professor does?

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Oct 16, 2013 1:49:50 AM

"Do students do a better job of assembling course materials than a professor does?"

That's an interesting question. I chose to let them assemble the readings because the reading group I organized had to be categorized as "independent research" in order to give them course credit. So I thought this would be a decent way of incorporating the research element into what was intended as an informal reading group.

But I've done student-driven seminars both ways. For another seminar, I allowed students to pick and vote on relevant topics, and I assembled the readings for each day. I think the difference was the context: that seminar was in an area in which I already specialize (agricultural and food systems law), whereas the reading group was in an area that I myself was also exploring. For the latter area, I'm not sure it would have made as significant a difference in terms of who assembled the readings than for the former area.

Posted by: steph tai | Oct 29, 2013 7:17:53 PM

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