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Monday, October 25, 2010

Flip Teaching

...is all the rage: upload your lectures at night and have the kids apply the concepts in class during the day.

Posted by Orly Lobel on October 25, 2010 at 11:34 AM | Permalink


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thanks Adam - really interesting approaches!

Posted by: Orly Lobel | Oct 29, 2010 6:18:10 PM


I know I'm late to the game in posting, but thank you for this. I've been experimenting with a similar approach in my Torts class, which is a large lecture course of 100 students. Every class involves a project, where students are required to apply the cases that they've read for the day, to a modern tort cases -- like those involving the handguns, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, and even advanced torts, like Snyder v. Phelps. It's a tremendous amount of work, designing just the right project to properly incorporate the day's readings, and it's very logistically complicated trying to involve and monitor the progress of small groups in such a large forum. But the payoff has been wonderful. For example, last week, in a class devoted to causation, I gave students snippets from expert transcripts in the Vioxx litigation (Ernst. v. Merck). I told them we were retrying the case and to think of the questions they would ask on direct and cross examination in light of our cases involving "general" and "specific causation." In the lecture, we discussed the cases by talking about the students' questions and preparing for a cross. I then surprised them by streaming in Dr. Egilman through Skype. The class concluded by exploring the difficulties of "but-for" and "substantial factor" tests in modern tort cases.

The biggest challenge -- a challenge for any lecture format, but particularly in a project-centered approach -- has been finding ways to ensure that students are able to see the projects, the cases, as well as the theory and policies behind them, as part of a bigger picture. The projects are build to do raise questions, kind of like a hyper-realistic Socratic method. But I also generally tried to accommodate my students by providing a written "daily recap"--much like the "flip approach" described in the above referenced article--in addition to a period at the end and beginning of each class that reflected upon the lessons of each project. Students still approached me half-way through the semester to tell me that my class was their most difficult course, and that they were drowning, because I expected them to not only understand their cases, but immediately apply them to another even-more complicated project. They also complained that note-taking in such a forum was extremely difficult.

After some thought, I've adapted by providing a short, mini-lecture at the beginning of each class, as well as offering my own notes for students to build upon. These modifications mean rethinking what work I expect from the students in terms of note-taking, synthesis, and application. However, I think it's worth it, and that this approach can be applied with modifications to any course. Anyone interested in using one of the projects should feel free to reach out to me. I'd love to hear how others, applying these kinds of methods, are doing.


Posted by: Adam Zimmerman | Oct 29, 2010 11:28:22 AM

I think it's course specific, but mostly I agree that the "lecture" itself in law school is the interactive component. I do think though that there is much more that could be done by way of group exercises, projects, and interactive learning even in the big classes.
ps, on a personal note ted, i can help review your teaching individually offline :)

Posted by: Orly Lobel | Oct 26, 2010 7:43:04 PM

I like this idea, Orly, but how would one apply this approach to teaching doctrine? I e-mail my lecture notes to my students each evening before my morning patent law class, but I don't think many read them. Maybe the "flip" approach would work well in project-oriented courses, like negotiation or pre-trial advocacy. To use it for doctrinal courses, I think we'd need to radically change the structure of how we taught them--but it seems a worthy experiment.

Posted by: Ted Sichelman | Oct 25, 2010 5:58:23 PM

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