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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Learning from the P&T Process

This year marks my first time on the other side of the promotion-and-tenure process, which means I have to visit and evaluate my junior colleagues' teaching. This has been educational in several respects.

First, I am learning substantive law. After observing a contracts class, for the first time I understand Kirksey v. Kirksey ("Dear Sister Antillico"). It is fun to get a small taste of other substantive content--especially what I should have learned back in school.

Second, and more important, it is quite helpful to see other teachers and other teaching styles. There is both a comparative component to this--"How do I compare to this?"--as well as a learning component--"What things does she do that I might incorporate?" or "What things simply cannot work for me?". I always have believed that good teaching style is largely personal--you have to be yourself; this means it is going to be varied and not always transferable. But we can adopt things that we see that might jibe with our own style. Or we may have some ideas confirmed--watching a colleague conduct (very well) a seminar while sitting the entire time confirmed that I would not do well in that environment because I cannot talk while sitting.

Third, it is interesting to see how courses are integrated across the curriculum and how important it is that students not consider each subject in the curriculum in isolation, but come into each class with at least a basic familiarity with prior subjects. For example, for a discussion of the relative merits of trials and truth-and-reconciliation commissions, students should come armed with clear conception of the idea of the trial gleaned from, e.g., civ pro, crim law, evidence, and crim pro. I wonder if we do a good-enough job showing and emphasizing those intra-curriculum connections.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 24, 2009 at 03:18 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink

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