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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

How Much Teaching Do You Do In Your First Class?

At some point in the last few weeks, most of us have taught our first class of the semester, so I guess that now is as good a time as any to ask: How much teaching do you do in your first class? After introducing myself and the material, I do a full class session. One reason is so that students can see what the class is all about on the first day and make the decision to keep or drop the class with minimal collateral consequences. Another reason is that I don't like to test material from the last week of my classes. Most of my classes are twice a week, so not teaching during the first class would mean that 3/28 classes wouldn't have testable material. Of course, there are arguments against teaching or teaching a full class session on the first day of class. Upper level students are still shaking off the rust from the summer and might not be ready to process much of substance during the first day. For 1Ls, law school is a completely new experience, and it might make sense to ease them into law school rather than assaulting them with minimum contacts and the act requirement on the first day of law school.

So, what do you do and why? (And if you are a student or non-teaching law school graduate, what do or did you prefer?) You can respond by answering the following poll and/or leaving a comment. For purposes of the poll, assume that the class meets more than once a week.

How much do you teaching during the first class?

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-Colin Miller

Posted by Evidence ProfBlogger on September 8, 2010 at 10:38 AM | Permalink


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I do it by reputation, so it's done *before* the first class. My first class is a combination of treatise pages and articles for background material and the occasional case--all to lay out certain themes or ideas that we are going to see. And I am as questioning (I hate to say "Socratic") as in any other session. It is a full class in every sense of the term. Indeed, given that I always feel pressed for time in every one of my courses (especially Civ Pro and Fed Courts), I cannot imagine wasting even one precious meeting time.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Sep 8, 2010 10:39:52 PM

Paul, I keep enrollment down by sheer force of personality.

Posted by: Brendan Maher | Sep 8, 2010 7:37:40 PM

If you don't start in with cases on the first day, how do you expect to keep your enrollment down?

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Sep 8, 2010 2:52:39 PM

Hillel, sorry if my post was confusing. I do consider an introduction into the material and larger themes of the course to be teaching. If you spend the whole allotted time doing that, I would consider it a full class session. And if you do an introduction followed by discussion of some specific topic(s) for the allotted time, I would consider it a full class discussion. If you spend the first class doing an introduction and then end well before the allotted time, I would consider it a partial class session. And the same would apply if you do an introduction followed by a discussion of some specific topic(s) and end well before the allotted time.

Posted by: Colin Miller | Sep 8, 2010 2:24:33 PM

Why doesn't introducing the material and larger themes of the course count as teaching?

Posted by: Hillel Y. Levin | Sep 8, 2010 12:58:49 PM

I don't teach any cases the first class, but I may change that in the future. My current approach is that I give the students an overview of the subject matter and some big picture thoughts, and I engage them on both fronts. At the tail end of class, if I have time, I briefly discuss the first concept we will tackle (personal jurisdiction in Civ Pro and relevance in Evidence).

Posted by: Brendan Maher | Sep 8, 2010 11:22:21 AM

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