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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Sponsored Post: Promoting active learning

The following post is by Ellen Murphy, Assistant Dean for Instructional Technologies and Design at Wake Forest University School of Law. She can be reached at [email protected]

As an instructional designer and law professor, one of the most frequent questions I am asked about teaching law today is “what can I do to help my students become active instead of passive learners?”Now, these are not necessarily the words my friends and colleagues use; instead, they say things like:“how do I keep my students attention;” “how do I engage my students;” or if they’re reading teaching and learning blogs, “how do I flip my classroom?” But they’re saying the same thing: how do I get my students to engage with the material – and with one another – during class

And I tell them this: creating an active learning environment does not require abandoning that which we know works and with which you likely are comfortable: the case method. In fact, an optimal way to incorporate active learning, as well as practical, real‐world skills, is to create in‐class exercises based on the primary cases that drive your course. In much the same way our best exam questions and
hypotheticals frequently come from actual cases, so do the best active learning exercises. For example, I teach Professional Responsibility. When I teach the famous Buried Bodies case, I have my students draft a release of the attorney‐client privilege (which would have resulted in a very different outcome for Attorneys Belge and Armani!). When I teach the recent Sheppard Mullin case involving the waiver of future conflicts of interest, I have students role play obtaining “informed” consent from a client. When I teach the disciplinary decision of Duke Lacrosse prosecutor Mike Nifong, I have students prepare a media policy for a prosecutor’s office. I spend very little time lecturing, and my students are engaged (and certainly not passive), while simultaneously developing a range of lawyering and professionalism skills.

For our new book, Legal Ethics for the Real World: Building Skills Through Case Study, my co‐author Renee Knake and I developed a set of seven case studies just for this purpose – creating an active learning classroom for a course that many students don’t want to take, and some professors don’t want to teach. Each case study combines critical thinking with practical skills based on real‐world ethical dilemmas. We cover the most pressing issues in modern legal ethics, including social media use, lawyer substance abuse and wellbeing, client confidentiality, wrongful convictions, advance conflicts waivers, prosecutorial discretion, and advertising with new media. These exercises serve as a model for all subjects and courses in the law school curriculum in how to promote active learning, while giving students practical skills experience – without reinventing the wheel.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 29, 2018 at 03:41 PM in Sponsored Announcements | Permalink


Sounds great, I look forward to seeing the book you and Renee are authoring.

Posted by: Tigran Eldred | Mar 30, 2018 10:45:18 AM

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