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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Crawl, walk, run

I recently read Linda Edwards' article, "The Trouble with Categories: What Theory Can Teach Us about the Doctrine-Skills Divide", 64 J. Legal Educ. 181 (2014).  There, she argues that the label "doctrine" (and related labels like casebook, normal, podium, traditional, Socratic, theoretical, substantive) and the label "skills" (also, experiential, lawyering, practice) do not reflect characteristics that are useful for defining category memberships. 

She offers a different set of labels: foundation, bridge, and capstone.  The distinction between the categories "is not the particular doctrine to be taught but rather the teaching methods and goals to be used."  Foundation courses include those we traditionally think of as first-year courses (to include legal writing) but could also include other "foundational" upper-division courses.  Bridge courses build on the foundational courses, or are on more complex areas of law, or introduce new legal skills (trial advocacy, negotiations, etc.).  These courses also prepare students for capstone courses, like seminars, clinics, field placements, or specialty classes.

I agree with her, but my readiness to agree may come from my Army background.   In the Army, this is called, "crawl, walk, run," and most teaching is organized based on this model.  This model is also consistent with Bloom's taxonomy.

Interestingly, the old ABA Standard 302 did a better job reflecting that model than the new ABA Standard 303 does.  In the old Standard 302, courses that focused on bridging skills, like trial and appellate advocacy, ADR, interviewing, negotiating, etc., fell under 302(a), along with other foundational courses.  Real-client work and seminars (i.e., capstones) fell under 302(b).  With a little clean-up in aisle 302(a), the crawl/walk/run model would have been pretty clear.

In the new Standard 303, the ABA mixes simulation courses with real-client courses (and gives them -- oh no! -- a new label, "experiential") and otherwise obscures the model.  I guess Edwards got there too late!  Realistically, the simplicity of the model could not override the fiscal need to expand the category of courses that would fall under the new six-unit "experiential" requirement.

Anyhow, this is a "foundational" post.  I have a couple of more thoughts related to this model that I'll get up in the next couple of days.

Posted by Eric Carpenter on March 12, 2015 at 10:19 AM in Teaching Law | Permalink

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