Tuesday, August 11, 2020

ICYMI: Ten (No, Make that Nineteen) Tips for New Law Professors

I wrote these tips a few years ago and reviewed them before reposting for anyone who is interested.

1.  Begin a little more strictly than you mean to go on.  If you start out strict and stern, you have room to lighten up. If you start out lax, you will pay a real price if you need to impose order later on.

2.  If you put a policy in the syllabus, stick to it even if you think you might have been wrong.  I learned this the hard way.  The first time I taught Professional Responsibility, I stated in the syllabus and in class that the exam would be a two-hour exam.  After I wrote it, I decided it was a bit too hard and I would be "nice" and give them an extra hour to complete it.  I had a young woman in my office 30 minute before the exam so angry I thought she would spit on me. I told her she was welcome to finish in two hours instead of three, but that didn't placate her. I finally told her she'd have to take it up with the associate dean, and I'll be damned if she didn't march down there and do just that.  Thankfully, he backed me up, but I never again made a major policy shift midstream.  She wasn't the only disgruntled student that day, either.

3. Put everything you can think of in the syllabus, even things that should go without saying.  For example, if you are teaching a seminar, you should consider a policy stating that plagiarism is a ground for failing the course, and you should have an extended explanation in the syllabus explaining what plagiarism is.  You might think that everyone accepted to law school already knows what plagiarism is, but you would be wrong.  More importantly, by explaining what plagiarism is in the syllabus, you deprive the student of the ARGUMENT that s/he didn't know s/he was committing plagiarism.  Another example of something you might want to put in the syllabus is a statement that it is rude and disruptive to come late to class, to come and go during class, or to leave class early without notifying the professor beforehand.  Frankly, I'm not sure I realized how distracting these habits are before I started teaching, and many of your students won't, either.

4. "Don't be moody." 

This is a piece of advice I received early on from a relatively new law teacher, and it has always stuck in my head. The person who gave me the advice was male, and he evidently had gotten burned  by violating it.  What the advice boils down to, I think, is that students desperately need you to be predictable. It is comforting to them when they know roughly what to expect each day. I think of this advice a lot as dean, too. The Dean's "mood" affects the whole institution, and it is important to remain predictably but not Pollyanna-ishly optimistic no matter what comes along. As an aside, I think this is important as a parent, too. My motto: We'll deal!

5. Students decide very, very quickly whether you're on their side or not. If they decide you are, they will forgive a multitude of mistakes. If they decide you're not, nothing you do will be right.  I've been teaching for 25 years, and I only had one class that hated me.  They decided early on that I was mean, and everything I did provided confirmation.  They even hated how I started the class and what I wore. (I'd given birth the month before the class started, and my wardrobe was limited). Frankly, I grew to dislike most of them, too.  However, in telling this story, I'm violating the next tip in my list.

6. Be careful about generalizing how "the class" feels.  A communications researcher would probably insist that, in fact, there is no such thing as a "class." (See Ien Ang).  Instead, a "class" is a collection of individuals with disparate needs and interests and judgments about the classroom experience.  That said, it is easy to assume that outspoken students represent the feelings of the entire group.  It so happens that what I think of as "the class that hated me" (discussed above) included two especially delightful students, who took one of the most fun Media Law classes I ever taught. I still keep in touch with them even though they graduated more than a decade ago.

7. Watch out for group dynamics.  Let's say you have a student who is engaging in disruptive behavior. You may be tempted to call the student out for his or her behavior in front of the whole class, but this is usually a bad idea.  Even if other students started out being annoyed at the disruptive student, they may turn on you if you come down too harshly on the student or make him lose face. What should you do instead? I use what I call "class regulation by raised eyebrow."  For example, if a student is late, I may visibly lose my train of thought and stare at him with a completely blank expression on my face for a few seconds--just long enough to be socially awkward.  That does the trick 99 percent of the time.  If you try informal means of "discipline" and they don't work, however, the next step is to call the student into your office. The student won't lose face, and you won't run the risk of having the entire class turn against you for being "mean."

8. Try not to project insecurity. In other words, fake it until you make it.  Although you may be tempted to reveal to the class that you are brand new or are learning the material for the first time, you certainly don't have to and some would argue you shouldn't.  Remember that the students are lucky to have a teacher who is energetic and curious and enthusiastic and can reach them at their level.  Also remember that as little as you think you know, you still can read a case far better than even your brightest student.  So project confidence, but . . . [see next rule.]

9. When you make mistakes, fix them.  When I first taught Torts, I slept with the Prosser & Keeton hornbook by my bedside.  I would wake up in the middle of the night thinking "what if they ask me X?" I would then flip through Prosser & Keeton, read it, perhaps even take notes, and then go back to sleep.  I realize now that every first-time teacher makes mistakes; it is just a question of how you handle them.  Sometimes you will just have to say, "I don't know. Let me research that and get back to you tomorrow." [But make sure you have the answer when you promised it.]   One classic dodge is to say:  "Hold that question. We'll get to that later in the class (or tomorrow or next week)." [Make sure you research the answer and come back to it when you said you would.]  If you realize you didn't explain something well or your explanation was misleading, one way to handle it is to say at the start of next class:  "I'd like to begin by clarifying X that we were discussing yesterday." [Then give your 5-10 minute summary/totally correct explanation.]  Occasionally, you will realize that you said something completely wrong and you will just have to apologize and fix it. As consolation, remember that you are modelling for them how to handle mistakes, and it may be one of the most valuable lessons you can teach future lawyers.  Law is a complicated business, and we all make mistakes from time to time no matter how hard we try or how smart we are.

10.  Trade-offs are inevitable.  More depth or more coverage? Encourage participation and intellectual curiosity, or hew to an organizational scheme?  Stick to your syllabus, or spend more time on the things the class seems interested in or doesn't understand readily? There are lots of other trade-offs of this sort that you'll have to make and then re-make when you realize you've tilted the balance too far toward one value at the expense of another. 

11. Make ideas "sticky." Try to come up with ways to make the material you teach memorable.  Silly is sticky.  Graphics (pictures, drawings on the board) are sticky. Funny is sticky. Music is sticky. Videos can be sticky. My Trusts and Estates professor even danced on the table to reinforce a principle, and I remember it (the dancing) 28 years later.  The principle had something to do with whether separate property acquired after the marriage becomes community property or not.  Okay, so the idea wasn't that sticky, but my point still holds.

12. Use the board more than you think you need to. It helps keep the class structured, and it helps the visual learners in the class.   Conversely, use Power Point less than you think you need to.   Power Point is good for pictures and videos, and it can be used to examine closely the text of a rule or to convey highly detailed and technical material through lecture.  Do NOT put giant blocks of text on Power Point and then simply read to the class from the slides. EVER.  [I used the whiteboard feature in zoom this summer as a replacement for the board. It worked better than powerpoint in prompting interaction.]

13. It's not about you; it's about the students. Try to keep their needs foremost, instead of your own desire for ego gratification or anything else. This is probably the most important piece of advice on this list. It happens to be good advice for deans, too!

14. Keep a degree of formal distance between you and your students.  You can treat them like future colleagues, but you cannot be friends with students until they have left your class.  Your role requires you to sit in judgment of your students when you grade them, and that role can be compromised if you don't maintain formal distance.

15. Never use the same exam twice!!  Violate this rule at your extreme peril.

16. Ask colleagues for advice, but remember you don't have to take all the advice you receive.

17. You will teach a class best the third time you teach it.

18. If you are teaching a large class and don't feel that voice projection is one of your gifts, consider wearing a microphone. This tip was shared by my anonymous source. I've never had this problem, but I've heard plenty of complaints from students about being unable to hear some of my colleagues. It is impossible to be an effective teacher if the students cannot hear you.

19. Consider wearing a suit when you're new. Even if you don't plan to wear it forever, it may help as a crutch for faking it until you make it and can help you maintain some formal distance from the students. This tip also came from my anonymous source, but I fully concur. I don't wear a suit every single day now (I do as dean!), but I believe in signalling I take the endeavor seriously by dressing professionally.

Finally, if you're new and you'd like to talk about any of the subjects I teach (mostly Torts, Media Law, Advanced Torts, First Amendment Law), I'd be happy to share any materials I have.

Posted by Lyrissa Lidsky on August 11, 2020 at 05:08 PM in Lyrissa Lidsky, Teaching Law, Things You Oughta Know if You Teach X | Permalink | Comments (12)

Building Connections Among Your Students -- Preparing for Fall Teaching in Physically Distanced, Hybrid, or Remote Courses

This post is part of a series on preparing to teach in the fall.  For the other posts in the series, see here and for the  five step approach that I am using, see here.  This post and other recent posts focus on the third step—building connections and community in our physically distanced, remote, or hybrid courses.

In a prior post, I discussed this importance of building connections and community in our courses this fall.  According to the community of inquiry model, if we want to design an effective learning environment, we should consider three types of interaction—(1) how students interact with the material, (2) how they interact with us, and (3) how they interact with each other.  My last post focused on how students can connect with us in these new learning elements, while this post will focus on how we can provide opportunities for students to interact with each other. 

Prioritize Group Assessments & Activities.  We are all rethinking how we will assess and engage students this semester, and with all of the challenges, it can be tempting to simplify and do more lecturing or individual assessments, especially if you are teaching in a physically distanced classroom where group work is far more difficult.  But the cost of choosing more individual assessments is that students will feel even more disconnected from each other.  We need to figure out how to get students talking to each other, even in physically distanced classrooms.  As I’ve talked about previously, it should still work to have students work in groups of two or three even in a physically distanced classroom, and it’s worth the effort even if it feels complicated to get students to work together while in masks.  You might even hold events outside of class that are more informal, like discussions of current events related to the class or a movie watching party.

Create group camaraderie.  Stealing an idea from Harry Potter, consider putting the students into groups and give them opportunities to earn points for their group.  The groups can compete against each other to gain the most points.  The two groups in my class will be the “Pennoyers” and the “International Shoes” (try to guess what class I am teaching…).  If I were teaching Business Associations, I’d break them into houses named after Delaware Court of Chancery judges.  Clearly, my motto is “if you’re going to geek out, geek all the way out.”  I may hold trivia contests or Jeopardy contests related to the course material as a review or just for fun, with the winning house getting points. 

The groups could also serve as a support system for the members.  For example, you could encourage them to share phone numbers, so they can reach out to each other if they are having tech issues.  If you are teaching a hybrid class with only some students in-person each class, you might assign them to the same in-class days, so they get to know each other in-person as well. 

Assign students to study groups.  In a regular semester, study groups can develop naturally.  It is harder for students to connect with each other remotely or in a physically distanced classroom, so you might create study groups early on.  You can give the groups a few assignments that they turn in for a completion grade to create incentives for them to meet as a group.  Not all of the groups will work well together, and I certainly wouldn’t force them to stay together beyond these early assignments, but it could help some students form connections.

Use fun icebreakers.  Consider icebreakers throughout the semester.  We typically use icebreakers on the first day of class and then assume the students will get to know each other organically throughout the rest of the semester.  In physically distanced or remote courses, however, we may have to work harder to introduce (and re-introduce!) the students to each other.  You might pick a theme each week, asking students to send you pictures or tidbits about themselves that relate to the theme. 

Here's what I’m planning.  I’m doing one “just for fun” prompt a week – they’ll be totally optional, but I plan to hype them up so students hopefully put in the few minutes it will take to do them.  I’ll also share my own answers with them so they get to know me a bit better.  If they choose to respond, they will put their responses in their pre-class Google Docs or Flipgrid video assignments, which I talked about here.  (As an aside, if you want sample instructions for either of these technologies, just email me!).  I’ll let the students know that I plan to share a few each class, so they can learn more about each other. 

Here are some sample prompts from my syllabus:

  • At the start of many movies, there is a song that plays when the hero makes their first appearance. This song (often called a “walkout song”) symbolizes the hero’s journey and what is to come.  You have just made your first appearance in law school.  What is your walkout song?  You can include the song title in your Google Doc if you would like.  And if you can’t think of a song that fits, you can include a meme or gif instead.  I stole this prompt from Professor Molly Brady at Harvard, and I love the idea.
  • Do you have a pet? If so, I’d love to see a picture! 
  • Share one thing that has surprised you about law school so far.
  • What TV series have you watched over the last six months that you have really liked?
  • Share your cutest or craziest baby pictures!
  • What’s your favorite board game or card game? What do you love about it?
  • If you could design your perfect career, what would it be?
  • What’s your favorite place to go in [the town where your law school is located]?
  • What’s your favorite holiday and what do you love about it?
  • What has been your favorite part of law school so far? What’s one thing about law school you wish you could change? 
  • If you could go anywhere in the world during winter break, where would you go? Since this is your fantasy, it can be any season you’d like as well. 

Simulate Unstructured Classroom Time. In an in-person class, students will often arrive a bit early and chat with their classmates, or they will stay after class to ask you a question.  You can provide similar opportunities in an online class.  Let the students know that you will open up the Zoom class ten minutes early, but will mute your own mic and speakers, so they can talk to each other.  You can also tell them that you will stay after class for 10 minutes for their questions.

Build fun moments into class.  If you are teaching remotely, you might screenshare word searches or crossword puzzles before class or during the break.  Students can work on them together using the annotation tool in Zoom. I bought an account to wordmint, which allows you to create all kinds of customized games and puzzles.  The account was cheap, and now I can create personalized puzzles for my students.  I might create one for personal jurisdiction, for example, that includes all the new terminology they have learned, from “long-arm statute” to “minimum contacts.” 

Combine fun and attendance:  My colleague Kristen Osenga has a good idea for using our polling software – PollEverywhere -- to take attendance in a fun way.  She asks a question in the first 2 minutes of class like “What’s your favorite decade?,”  “What’s your favorite type of candy?,” and “What are your plans for spring break?”.   The options will usually be multiple choice, and she’ll share her own thoughts as well.  She says that it gets the class talking from the beginning about something not class related, and gives the students a chance to know each other and her.

 Collaborative Start-Stop-Continue: In a start-stop-continue exercise, students work in pairs or small groups to provide their thoughts about what they’d like their instructor to start doing, stop doing, and keep doing in class. The groups can submit their responses to you using a Google Form email, or a free online bulletin board (e.g., Padlet, Lino). You can follow up by summarizing the results and discussing you will or won’t change and why.  This can be a good way for students to collaborate in a low-stakes way and learn how they are each experiencing the class. 

Allow Extra Credit Group Projects.  Consider giving students the option to form groups and do a fun extra credit project.  You might let them research the background of a case, come up with a video explaining a rule to a non-lawyer, or even make a fun hand washing poster that goes with the class:

Handwashing(Full disclosure -- I would love to give credit to whoever created it, but I don't know who that is!  If you know, email me and I'll edit this post.)

I’d love any other tips you have in the comments, or you can join the conversation on Twitter here.

Posted by Jessica Erickson on August 11, 2020 at 03:14 PM in Remote & Physically Distanced Teaching, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (5)

Friday, August 07, 2020

Building a Rapport With Your Students -- Preparing for Fall Teaching in Physically Distanced, Hybrid, or Remote Courses

This post is part of a series on preparing to teach in the fall.  For the other posts in the series, see here and for the  five step approach that I am using, see here.  This post and other recent posts focus on the third step—building connections and community in our physically distanced, remote, or hybrid courses.

 In my last post, I discussed this importance of building connections and community in our courses this fall.  According to the community of inquiry model, if we want to design an effective learning environment, we should consider three types of interaction—(1) how students interact with the material, (2) how they interact with us, and (3) how they interact with each other.  This post will focus on second element, or how students interact with us.  It will be an adjustment for sure, but even if our students are behind masks or a video screen, there are a number of things we can try to build meaningful connections with them. 

Welcome Videos:  Record a short video of yourself to introduce yourself to your students.  Make it fun.  Show your kids, your pets, whatever!  Let them see you as a person rather than just the teacher behind the mask at the front of the room.  You might also talk about what makes the course important/relevant/fun and how they can succeed in it.  Here’s a good example of a script for this sort of video.  You might also have students record short videos of themselves in the first week of class.  You can use your learning management system or a tool like Flipgrid to do this.  You might ask them to give their name, their hometown, and a fun fact about themselves.  Or you can tie it into the course content.  If you teach Civil Procedure, for example, you might style the welcome video as a chance for them explain their citizenship for subject-matter jurisdiction purposes.  You learn a lot about someone by hearing about where they intend to remain indefinitely and why!  Encourage the students to have fun with the videos and then make them all accessible to the whole class, so they can get to know each other a bit better.  

Learn their names quickly.  Try to learn every student’s name, ideally in the first week of class.  Your learning management system may have photographs of the students in your classes.  Our tech team here has used these photographs to create a matching game that professors can use to quiz themselves on your students’ names, but you can just study the photographs as well.  In larger in-person classes, consider having them use name tents for a few weeks.

Get to know them personally.  It will be harder to get to know students when they are behind a mask or screen, so you will have to be more deliberate about making these personal connections.  Consider setting up Zoom coffee dates with individual students in the first few weeks of the semester or with small groups of students if you are teaching larger classes.  You can also ask students to fill out a Google Form at the start of the semester that asks a whole host of information about their background, why they came to law school, and their broader interests.  In your later communications with them, try to refer back to things you know about them from these more personal meetings.  

Use Video Assignments Where Possible.  I’ve talked before about the pre-class assignments my Civil Procedure students do in Google Docs.  This semester, I’m going to make some of these assignments video assignments instead so I can see students without masks on and get to know their personalities a bit better.  My learning management system allows video assignments, but I think I’m going to use Flipgrid this fall­­—its interface is more personal and frankly fun, and it seems like a better platform if your goal is to build connections.  In these videos, you might ask them to summarize a key point of law from the assigned reading or give a hypothetical client advice based on the reading.  You might also ask for their personal views on the reading—i.e., do they think the court got it right?  why or why not?

Record periodic videos yourself.  If you get a few questions from students on the same point, you might record a brief video clarifying the point and send it out to your students.  Especially if you are teaching in a physically distanced classroom this fall, these videos could be a good opportunity for your students to see you without your mask on.  Make these videos a little more personal and engaging than you might in a normal semester. 

Make office hours more inviting.  I don’t know about you, but my office hours aren’t typically the most popular events.  I’ll sit in my office for a few hours, and maybe one or two students will stop by, at least until we get a few weeks out from exams.  This semester, I am going to work harder to get students to attend.  I’m renaming them “student hours” based on recommendations suggesting that some students (especially first-generation students) may not know the purpose of office hours, and I plan to regularly encourage students in my classes to attend.  When students do attend, I will make a special effort to get to know them personally.  Logistically, office hours are pretty easy to hold in Zoom—just enable your personal waiting room, and admit students one-by-one in the order in which they arrived in the room.  I may also hold some communal office hour sessions that function more like review sessions at the end of different units, so students can have more opportunities to interact with each other.      

Hold optional events outside of class.  A few times during the semester, you might hold an optional event related to the course.  For example, you can invite them to read a few chapters of a book related to the course or send out a shorter article or video, and then meet one evening on Zoom (or even physically distanced in your backyard or on campus) to discuss.  You might also hold an optional session to talk about course content in the news.  If you teach a business related course, you might talk about what the heck happened at WeWork.  If you teach Civil Procedure, you might talk about the oral argument in the Ford personal jurisdiction case that will be argued in October.  The goal here would be to bring together a smaller group in a less formal setting.  If you are teaching in a physically distanced class where everyone is wearing masks, you might hold these smaller sessions over Zoom so people can see each other without masks on.

Notice positive contributions.  Send students a personal email when they have a good contribution in class, a discussion board, or an assignment.  Keep track of who has received emails, and see if you can send at least one or two emails to every student during the semester. 

Humanize your tech.  We will likely be using technology a lot more this semester, but the default interfaces can feel really impersonal.  I’m going to make my Blackboard course page and my slides more human and interesting this semester.  In your learning management system, consider adding your own profile picture and/or adding images in your posts (here are directions -- go down to “add images in the editor”).  In PowerPoint, trade the black-on-white slides for slide templates that are a bit more engaging.  You might also add pictures, videos, etc. to text-filled slides.  It’s a little thing, but the world already feels impersonal enough right now without our tech choices adding to it.

Embrace imperfections.  New online teachers often have a desire to make their class sessions perfect. I was definitely guilty of this in the spring.  When I recorded asynchronous videos, for example, I would keep re-recording them until I could get a take without any stumbles or other issues.  But experts in online pedagogy say that stumbles help personalize online courses.  Students don’t necessarily want the Coursera version of a law school course.  They want to see their professor as a real person and that means seeing the version of the video where your kid interrupted your recording or where you momentarily  forgot what you were going to say.   This spring, my students had many laughs at the “cloffice” (i.e., closet/office) where I hid from my kids during our class sessions, and I think it helped bring humor to the class in a way that a perfect Zoom background would not have. 

I’d love your suggestions as well – feel free to post other ideas in the comments.  In my next post, I’ll talk about ways to connect students with each other this fall. 

Posted by Jessica Erickson on August 7, 2020 at 06:45 AM in Remote & Physically Distanced Teaching, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

The Importance of Building Connections and Community -- Preparing for Fall Teaching in Physically Distanced, Hybrid, or Remote Courses

This post is part of a series on preparing to teach in the fall.  For the other posts in the series, see here and for the  five step approach that I am using, see here

My posts so far in this series have focused on the first two steps of my five step approach to redesigning your courses to be physically distanced or remote— (1) identifying your learning objectives and (2) deciding on your assessment and engagement techniques.  This post will introduce the third step, which focuses on building connections and community in these new learning environments.  

We may think of connections and community as things that are nice to have, but they are actually essential to student learning.  Research shows that a sense of community at school is associated with increased motivation, greater enjoyment of their classes, and more effective learning.  The research also suggests that building this sense of community is much harder in online or hybrid courses.  Students in online environments struggle with feeling isolated (as do many professors!).

Most of the empirical data on this topic comes from undergraduates, but data from the Law Student Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE) shows that a sense of belonging matters to law students as well.  LSSSE data has been used to examine both the inputs and outputs of law students’ sense of belonging.  In other words, using the LSSSE data, we can gain insight into what causes law students to feel a sense of belonging (the inputs) and the impact that a sense of belonging has on law students’ performance in law school and their career more generally (the outputs).

Starting with the inputs, LSSSE’s 2018 report Relationships Matter surveyed more than 18,000 students at 72 different law schools.  They conclude:  “Relationships with faculty, administrators, and peers are among the most influential aspects of the law student experience. These connections deepen students’ sense of belonging and enhance their understanding of class work and the profession.”  Connections, in other words, are key when it comes to fostering law students’ sense of belonging.  That’s not surprising.  Think back to your most meaningful learning experiences in law school.  They probably didn’t happen when you were passively listening in class.  For me at least, they came through study groups and conversations with faculty—i.e., those times in law school when my learning combined with meaningful relationships.

When it comes to the outputs, we can look at research summarized here by Professor Victor D. Quintanilla, who was one of the researchers who conducted a key study using LSSSE data.  They found that a sense of belonging significantly predicted three key outputs – (1) students’ overall experience in law school, (2) whether they would choose to go to law school again, and (3) their academic success (i.e., law school GPA).  Moreover, not only does a student’s sense of belonging help predict their academic performance, but the impact was even greater than other commonly used predictors such as undergraduate GPA and LSAT scores.  This means that, even if students come to law school with different academic backgrounds, we can help close this gap by fostering our students’ sense of belonging. 

Professor Quintanilla depicts the inputs and outputs of law students’ sense of belonging as follows:

Inputs
The takeaways from this research are clear.  We cannot just focus on the content of our courses.  If we want our students to succeed, we also need to help foster key connections between our students and between our students, faculty, and staff.  In traditional classes, these connections develop fairly naturally.  Students talk casually with the professor and each other before and after class, and they bolster these connections through interactions outside of class—stopping by a professor’s office, running into their classmates in the hallways or the library, etc.  There are also personal bonds that develop in class when we can see people’s faces and expressions.  These connections will be much harder in physically distanced or remote classrooms, so this fall we will have to be much more intentional about developing a sense of connection and community among our students.

So how do we do it?  The theory on building community in online courses is built around the community of inquiry model.  The model has been represented as follows:

Framework

Social presence refers to the development of an online environment in which participants feel socially and emotionally connected with each other.  Cognitive presence describes the extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse.  Teaching presence is defined as the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the realization of meaningful learning.

This can feel a little abstract, but the main idea is that you need to think intentionally about how students will interact with the content, how they will interact with you, and how they will interact with each other.  I’ve talked about how students interact with the content in my prior posts on assessment and engagement techniques.  In my next two posts, I’ll discuss the other components, starting with how to foster connections between you and your students.  

Posted by Jessica Erickson on August 5, 2020 at 06:49 AM in Remote & Physically Distanced Teaching, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, August 03, 2020

Metacognition and Learning How to Learn Online – Preparing for Fall Teaching in Physically Distanced, Hybrid, or Remote Courses

This post is part of a series on preparing to teach in the fall.  For the other posts in the series, see here and for the  five step approach that I am using, see here.  This post and other recent posts focus on the second step, which is designing assessment & engagement techniques for these new learning environments. 

So far I’ve talked about a variety of techniques to assess and engage students from comprehension checks to group work, discussions, and community-based learning.  In my last post on the topic of assessment & engagement, I want to talk about techniques that help students reflect on their learning.  Even in non-COVID times, we could all probably do a better job teaching students how to succeed in law school courses, but this instruction is especially important as we ask students to suddenly transition to an entirely new way of learning.  This transition also comes at a time when their personal lives and professional goals may in flux.  Simply dumping students into remote or physically distanced courses without some guidance on how to succeed in these courses seems like a failure in our job as educators.

So how can we help students learn effectively in their fall courses?  First, we need to offer them guidance on what we know about successful learning in these new environments.  There are a lot of resources out there on how students can prepare to learn online.  Here’s a great list compiled by Professor Cat Moon at Vanderbilt Law School.  As professors, it’s worth becoming familiar with these resources ourselves and talking with our students and advisees about how they can thrive in their remote courses.

A lot of this advice is common sense--i.e., create a dedicated work space, minimize distractions, and create a regular work schedule.  That said, students will still benefit from clear guidance on these topics as well as conversations about how to implement this guidance in their own lives.   For example, I often recommend that students try the Freedom app, which blocks specific website so you don’t find yourself mindlessly spending hours on social media or ranting at the news sites (not that I’ve ever done that…).  It’s also worth reminding students that everything they’ve learned about growth mindsets applies here too.  I’ve heard lots of students say that they “just don’t learn well online.”  That may well be true, but they are also probably pretty new at it.  Like anything, it may take practice and some trial and error before they find out what works for them.  As an aside, the same is probably true for all of the faculty who say that their teaching style just doesn’t work online.

Even if we think we have all of the answers, we know we shouldn’t just stand at the front of our physically distanced classrooms or on Zoom and lecture at students on how to learn effectively in these spaces.  Going back to basic pedagogy concepts, we need active learning to help these concepts sink in.  And of course, we don’t have all of the answers.  Our students are in very different situations, especially now, so they need to figure out what works best for them given their own course loads, living situations, and other challenges.

I’ve decided that I am going to build short opportunities for reflection at least every other week into my fall courses.  Some of these opportunities will be through pre-class assignments (I’ve talked here about the Google Doc assignments my students complete before class), and others will be during class or at the end of class. 

Here I need to give credit where credit is most definitely due.  I watched a webinar this summer where Professor April Dawson at North Carolina Central University School of Law highlighted a reflection exercise she does at the end of her classes that asks students to provide 1-2 takeaways from the class session and provides a space for their questions that she can then answer during the next class period.  She recommends using a QR code that students can open with their phone that links to a short form.  She uses airtable (here’s a short video she created to show how to set up a similar form yourself), but you could do the same thing through Google Forms.  I love this idea, and it would also work for professors who are trying to figure out how to take attendance in these new spaces. 

Here’s a form that I created based on her template.  Just open the camera on your phone, aim it at the QR code, and then click on the link that comes up.  If students do not have a cell phone, you can provide them with the web link.

QR code
Here are some specific metacognition prompts that you can also use, either through polling software or reflection that students do on their own:

  • What helped you learn in the spring when classes went online?  What practices or strategies do wish you had adopted?
  • If you were to do [name specific assignment] again, what would you do differently?  What would you do in the same way?
  • Think about today’s class.  What strategies did you use to prepare?  How do you think they worked?  What other strategies would you like to try?
  • What does fully preparing for class include for you?  Create a list of the things you want to do on your own to understand the material before coming to class. 
  • If you were to spend 30 minutes after class reflecting on what we learned today, what specific things would you do during this time? 
  • What are your goals for this course in light of your larger motivation in coming to law school?  What have you done so far this semester that has helped you to achieve these goals?  What specific strategies could you try to help you achieve these goals?

I’ll end by acknowledging that students won’t necessarily want to reflect on these questions.  Students often want us to focus on the black letter law and other information they will need for the exam.  Fair enough, but their overall success as lawyers depends on them learning this broader set of skills.  Just as education is changing, the practice of law is changing as well, and our students will have to bring these same metacognition skills to their practice.  So as you’re overhauling your courses this summer, consider building in a few metacognition exercises and explaining to students why it’s important to stop and reflect every once in a while.

Posted by Jessica Erickson on August 3, 2020 at 08:58 AM in Remote & Physically Distanced Teaching, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, July 31, 2020

Preparing for Fall Teaching – Community-Based Learning in Physically Distanced, Hybrid, and Remote Courses

This post is part of a series on preparing to teach in the fall.  For the other posts in the series, see here and for the  five step approach that I am using, see here.  This post and other recent posts focus on the second step, which is designing assessment & engagement techniques for these new learning environments. 

One of the best parts of teaching in a law school is creating opportunities for students to take their learning out into the world.  We can bring speakers into our class, we can take students to visit a court or administrative agency to see the law in practice, and we can have our students meet up with real clients who may need their help. I even have a colleague who has her Criminal Procedure students do a ride along with the local police department.  Yet none of this will be possible this fall, at least not the way we’ve done it in the past—we certainly can’t put students on a bus and drive up to the Supreme Court, for example.  We could just scrap community-based learning entirely, but I’d love to explore ways to bring the community to our students, even if they are on Zoom.

Bring in speakers remotely.  This option is obvious, but I want to encourage professors to dream big on the speakers they invite into their remote courses.  Pre-COVID, it was hard to get big name speakers into our courses – virtual presentations were rare, and people often didn’t want to travel to talk to a handful of law students.  Now that we all work over Zoom, it’s so much easier to get someone to participate in a 30 minute virtual visit with a class.  So make a list of your dream speakers and invite them to your class.

Record a brief interview with a practicing lawyer about the material.  As asynchronous videos become more common, we might explore using them to introduce practicing lawyers’ views about the material we cover in class.  I’ll give one example here.  As any business law professor knows, the law on corporate boards’ oversight liability is in flux right now.  Rather than just letting my students hear from me on how the law is changing, I’m considering calling up 2-3 lawyers and asking them to record a brief interview with me on the impact of recent cases on traditional doctrine. These interviews will give my students a broader perspective on the law, while also letting them know that the cases they are reading in class actually matter to lawyers out in the world.

Ask lawyers to record their thoughts on assigned problems.  Like many professors, I often assign problem sets at the end of course units, and we go over the problems in class.  This year, I’m contemplating a new approach.  We’ll still talk about the problems as a class, but then I’ll show a video of a practicing lawyers working through the same problem.  I’ve never tried this approach, but my guess is that the lawyer will have a broader perspective on the problems than our in-class discussion, looking beyond the formal rules to the practicalities of pursuing various claims. 

Show law working remotely.  The legal profession has experienced tremendous upheaval over the last few months as hearings, trials, and mediations have all moved online.  It’s worth exploring whether our students can witness this upheaval for themselves.  If you’ve previously required students to visit your local court and attend a hearing, maybe they can attend a virtual hearing this semester.  The great thing about this option is that you don’t need to limit your class to local hearings.  Even if the courts around you are operating in-person, you may be able to find a locality somewhere in the country where courts are still virtual.

Use podcasts to provide broader context.  I’ve oriented my entire Business Associations course around podcasts.  At the start of each unit, I require students to listen to a podcast describing a business.  I then feature this business in all of the hypotheticals for this business, and then we end each unit with a lengthier case study relating to that business.  If you want my podcast list, just email me!  Sometimes I even reach out to the business to ask the founders for their thoughts on what they wanted from their lawyers in starting the business.  This approach helps students see the human side of business law, but a similar approach could work in other classes as well.  I won’t pretend that I know the podcasts options in all of the different areas of law, but there are enough out there that I’m sure we can all find some interesting options.    

Try a Community Interest Journal.  This idea comes from the Cross Academy, and they have more information about it here.  The basic idea is simple.  You have students create a journal or even just a single essay in which they connect real-world events to material from class.  I could imagine asking students to find an example of fiduciary duties in the news for my Business Associations course or class actions in the news for my Civil Procedure class.  I like the idea because it gives students some choice in how they engage with the material, which we know is important in fostering motivation.

My plan is to have one more post on assessment & engagement, focusing on metacognition strategies in the new learning environments.  I’ll then turn to ideas for building community and connection in our courses.

 

Posted by Jessica Erickson on July 31, 2020 at 10:55 AM in Remote & Physically Distanced Teaching, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Preparing for Fall Teaching – Group Work in Physically Distanced, Hybrid, and Remote Courses

This post is part of a series on preparing to teach in the fall.  For the other posts in the series, see here and for the  five step approach that I am using, see here.  Recent posts have focused on the second step, which is designing assessment & engagement techniques for these new learning environments. 

One of the biggest challenges in law school classrooms this fall will be figuring out how to have our students do collaborative work in class.  No matter what your teaching situation is, it will be difficult.  If you are teaching in a physically distanced classroom with students in masks and 6 feet away from each other, you will need to figure out how to get students to work together without shouting from across the room.  If you are teaching remotely, you need to figure out how to use breakout groups effectively.  These are very different challenges, but I know they are on people’s minds these days.  Here are some tips for doing group work in these two classroom settings.

Group Work in a Physically Distanced Classroom

Group work will definitely be challenging in physically distanced classes.  There aren’t any easy ways to allow five students to work together in class when they can’t get within six feet of each other.  Yet, it would be a shame if we abandoned group work entirely this fall.  With all of the new health requirements, we already feel more distant from each other, so we need to find ways to connect in our classes, and group work is a good way to do that.

So how do we do it?  I’ve been in a fair number of physically distanced classrooms lately (one of the “perks” of being an associate dean…), and I think think-pair-share will still work.  Even at six feet apart, students can still talk to the person next to them fairly easily and then share their thoughts with the whole class.  If the groups get bigger than two students though, it gets harder, especially as everyone raises their voices to be heard across the six foot distances.  So we can do group work in class as long as we limit the groups to two or perhaps three people. 

Alternatively, we can try group annotation.  I was skeptical of this option at first – I’ve seen too many online learning books that suggest having students “talk” to each other in a chat box or google doc, which just seems weird, at least if the expectation is that they will engage in complex work through these techniques.  But I think it feels less forced if students are working collaboratively to edit or comment on a single document.  So, for example, you might give groups of three or four students a copy of an operating agreement or complaint and let them edit it together, through comment boxes or redlining.  I wouldn’t overuse this technique, but I could see it being helpful for a 10-15 minute exercise. 

Finally, we can move the group work outside of class.  This approach is admittedly contrary to the idea of in-person classes, but it also reflects the reality that physically distanced classrooms are just different from traditional classrooms and we need to adapt to that.  Perhaps you lecture a bit more in class and then move the group exercise to a set time out of class.  Or you put students in assigned groups and let them come up with their own time to meet.  If you do that, you need to adjust the other work they are supposed to do outside of class so you’re not overwhelming them, but it could work for those group exercises where you really want them to talk with each other.

Now what may not work -- I don’t think we can do Zoom breakout groups while everyone is in the same physical classroom.  I originally thought this was the perfect solution.  Just have everyone log into Zoom while in class (perhaps wearing headphones) and then you can send them all into breakout groups to talk to each before resuming an in-person discussion with the full class.  But we tried it in our classrooms here, and the feedback from all of the mics on all of the computers was loud and drowned out everything else.  That said, I’ve heard from professors at other schools who have been told by their tech team that this option can work.  If you’ve tried it successfully, let me know your secret -- I'd love to try it in my classes!  Either way, though, if this is your plan, you definitely want to test it ahead of time.

Group Work in Remote Courses

This is one area where remote courses are definitely superior to physically distanced ones.  Group work is just a lot easier on Zoom or a similar platform where you can send the students into breakout rooms.  But as many of us learned this year, it is hard to keep students on task in breakout rooms.  It’s easy for them to start talking about their weekend rather than the assignment.  So how can we design breakout groups to enhance student learning? 

Discuss shared norms.  Breakout rooms are new for all of us, so students may not know how to work in them productively.  It’s worth having a discussion about the group’s shared norms at the start of the semester.  Discuss ways that groups can get off track and how to address them.

Clear deliverables.  This one is key.  Don’t send students into breakout groups to “discuss” a topic.  Instead give them an assignment with a clear deliverable that they have to turn in at the end.  For example, you might have a specific question they need to answer when they return to the full discussion.  Or you can have ask them for their top three thoughts on a given topic.  I have used Google Forms in the past where students need to fill in their takeaways and then submit it in the assigned time. 

Assign students different roles.  Another way to add structure to the breakout groups is to assign students to play specific roles in the breakout groups.  One student is the moderator who is tasked with getting the discussion going and keeping it on task.  Another student is the reporter who will have to share the group’s output with the rest of the class.  I also assign students to be the devil’s advocate to ask hard questions and push the discussion deeper. 

Make the prompts visible.  I’ve been in too many breakout groups where the first five minutes are consumed with questions about what exactly we are supposed to be doing.  Make the task clear, and give them a written summary that they can refer back to when they are in the breakout rooms.  The easiest way to do this is to cut and paste the prompt into the chat.  I’ll often have a word document ready to go with the specific text I plan to paste into the chat.  Alternatively, if you want them to refer to slides in their groups, you can have an email to the class set to go with just the relevant slides or you can post them in your learning management system perhaps in a section called “Materials for Today’s Class.”  Either way, remember that any slides you have screenshared before sending students into breakout groups won’t be visible in the groups, so you can’t just rely on screen sharing to share the prompt.

Monitor group progress.  Zoom allows you to visit breakout groups, but I personally think it is disruptive when the professor suddenly appears in the room.  A different approach is to have students document their work in a Google Doc that they share with you.  You might send them a link to a single google doc in the chat that includes links to other google docs named for each group (i.e., “click here to go to group 1’s workspace.”).  That’s a bit tricky to set up logistically, but once you get into a rhythm, I don’t think it will be that hard, and you can then monitor the group’s work in real time. 

Name the Groups.  Consider naming the breakout groups, as laid out here.  This name will show up in the left hand corner of the groups’ screen, so they can easily see it.  Naming the groups has a few clear benefits.  First, if the groups have different tasks, it will let them know which tasks they are responsible for, preventing a “wait, are we the plaintiffs or the defendants in this exercise?” moment.  Second, if you are using google docs to direct them to a group workspace as explained above, it will tell them which workspace is theirs.  Third, it will allow you to direct questions to specific groups when the class gets back together again. 

Pre-Assign Groups.  Zoom lets you assign students to groups manually or randomly.  I used random assignment in the spring, but this fall, I plan to put students into assigned groups that they stick with for a few class sessions, mostly to let them get to know each other a bit better.  Rather than assigning groups on the fly during class, which always feels stressful, I will use the pre-assign feature in Zoom.  Full disclosure – I’ve been using this feature this summer, and it’s really glitchy, bringing maybe 50 percent of the students into the assigned rooms – but it’s still easier to start with pre-named rooms and some of the students already assigned than to do everything during class while the students are waiting. 

Use a Timer:  Zoom has the option to set a timer for the breakout rooms that shows students how much time is left in the groups.  It is easy to enable, and it helps focus the conversation as time is running out. 

In my next post, I will talk about how to incorporate community-based learning into physically distanced, hybrid, and remote courses.

Posted by Jessica Erickson on July 29, 2020 at 12:32 PM in Remote & Physically Distanced Teaching, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Will My Law School Perish?

Higher education is facing an economically challenging time due to lost revenues brought upon by the COVID-19 pandemic. And as we saw with the closure of Concordia Law School this summer, law schools are no exception. NYU advertising professor Scott Galloway has crunched the numbers for “the immunities and comorbidities of 436 universities included in US News and World Report’s Top National College Rankings.” And he predicts about 20% of these institutions entered the pandemic on such shaky ground that COVID-19 will be the death blow to them. In short, one in five of these universities or colleges will perish.

To calculate this, he looked at a series of variables to create the following scores:

  • Credential score (US News ranking, undergrad admit rate, average monthly Google search volume)
  • Experience score (student life grade and score)
  • Education score (various return on investment measures)
  • Average undergrad tuition & fees score
  • Value-to-cost ratio
  • Vulnerability score (endowment per full time student and percentage of international students)

From these he created two main measures: Value and Vulnerability. And based on whether one was high or low on these measures, he created four quadrants of schools: Thrive, Survive, Struggle, or Perish. Thus, a university with low value and high vulnerability falls into the perish quadrant, whereas a university with high value and low vulnerability falls in the thrive quadrant. The data can be found here.

I took these institutional assessments and matched them up with the U.S. News Law School Rankings (see below). Based on Professor Galloway’s predictions, 18 law schools will perish in the near future (because their university will perish). That is 1 school in the top 50, 5 in the 51-100, 5 in the 101-147, and 7 in the unranked law schools. I have listed them below in order of ranking:

27

Fordham

53

Cardozo (Yeshiva)

62

Seton Hall

70

Loyola (Chicago)

83

Chicago-Kent

93

Drexel

102

Hofstra

111

Chapman

118

DePaul

136

Pace

141

Willamette

148-194

Campbell

148-194

Elon

148-194

New England

148-194

Nova Southeastern

148-194

Detroit Mercy

148-194

Massachusetts-Dartmouth

148-194

Pacific

Another 28 schools are predicted to struggle:

50

Baylor

93

Lewis & Clark

105

Drake

111

Catholic

111

Tulsa

118

U. St. Thomas (MN)

122

Quinnipiac

122

Maine

122

Montana

126

Loyola-New Orleans

126

Mercer

129

Belmont

129

Seattle

141

Dayton

Now, before too much panic sets in, Professor Galloway doesn’t think this is all set in stone. Things can be done to save these universities.

What is more, as the old saying goes, all models are wrong, some are useful. Just how wrong is his model? From anecdotal evidence, quite wrong at times it would seem. Take my institution, for example. Chapman is designated to perish under Prof. Galloway’s calculations. Yet Chapman is doing quite well right now--so well, that not only has it not had to lay off faculty, it hasn’t even had to cut their pay. Hardly the stuff of an institution that is about to perish. Chapman isn't even struggling, so it seems it would be better to put it in at least the Survive, if not the Thrive category. That shows how far off Galloway's model is, at least in that once instance. And there are a host of questions regarding whether these are the correct measures to include in the model, whether they have been given the right weight, and whether anything important is missing? So these predictions must be taken with a gallon of salt. Further, just because a university perishes doesn't necessarily mean that its law school will.

Still, there is no doubt the pandemic may thin the herd, so to speak, of American law schools. Just how much thinning, and which schools, remains to be seen.

US News Ranking

Law School

Galloway Categorization

1

Yale

Thrive

2

Stanford

Thrive

3

Harvard

Thrive

4

Columbia

Survive

4

Chicago

Survive

6

NYU

Survive

7

U. Penn.

Thrive

8

Virginia

Thrive

9

Northwestern

Thrive

9

UC-Berkeley

Survive

9

Michigan

Thrive

12

Duke

Thrive

13

Cornell

Thrive

14

Georgetown

Survive

15

UCLA

Survive

16

UT-Austin

Thrive

17

Wash. U.

Thrive

18

USC

Survive

18

Vanderbilt

Survive

20

Boston University

Survive

21

Minnesota

Survive

22

Notre Dame

Thrive

23

George Washington

Survive

24

Arizona State

Survive

24

Emory

Survive

24

Florida

Survive

27

Fordham

Perish

27

UC-Irvine

Survive

27

Iowa

Survive

27

North Carolina

Thrive

31

Boston College

Thrive

31

Alabama

Survive

31

Georiga

Thrive

31

Illinois

Survive

31

Washington & Lee

Thrive

31

William & Mary

Survive

37

BYU

Thrive

38

Indiana

Survive

38

Ohio State

Survive

38

UC-Davis

Survive

38

Wisconsin

Survive

42

George Mason

Survive

42

U. Washington

Survive

42

Wake Forest

Survive

45

Utah

Survive

46

Colorado

Survive

47

Pepperdine

Survive

47

Arizona 

Survive

47

Maryland

Survive

50

Baylor

Struggle

50

Florida State

Survive

50

Connecticut

Survive

53

Cardozo (Yeshiva)

Perish

54

Tulane

Thrive

54

Richmond

Thrive

56

Southern Methodist

Thrive

56

Temple

Survive

56

Houston

Survive

59

UC-Hastings

n/a

60

Penn State-University Park

Survive

60

Texas A&M

Thrive

62

Loyola Marymount

Survive

62

Penn State-Carlisle

n/a

62

Seton Hall

Perish

62

UNLV

n/a

62

Villanova

Thrive

67

Northeastern

Survive

67

Miami

Survive

67

Missouri (Columbia)

Thrive

70

Loyola (Chicago)

Perish

70

Kansas

Thrive

70

Kentucky

Thrive

70

Tennessee

n/a

74

St. Johns

n/a

74

Denver

Survive

76

American

Thrive

76

Case Western

Survive

76

Georgia State

Survive

76

Rutgers

Survive

76

Nebraska

Survive

76

Oklahoma

Survive

76

Pittsburgh

Thrive

83

Brooklyn

n/a

83

Chicago-Kent

Perish

83

Cincinnati

Thrive

83

San Diego

Thrive

83

Wayne State

Thrive

88

New Hampshire

Thrive

88

Oregon

Survive

90

Florida International

Survive

90

St. Louis

Thrive

90

Arkansas-Fayetteville

Thrive

93

Drexel

Perish

93

Lewis & Clark

Struggle

93

Michigan State

Survive

96

LSU-Baton Rouge

Thrive

96

Hawaii

Survive

96

South Carolina

Thrive

99

Buffalo-SUNY

Survive

99

Louisville

Thrive

99

New Mexico

Survive

102

Cleveland State

n/a

102

Hofstra

Perish

102

Marquette

Thrive

105

Drake

Struggle

105

Stetson

n/a

107

CUNY

Survive

107

Howard

Thrive

107

Santa Clara

Survive

107

Washburn

n/a

111

Chapman

Perish

111

Syracuse

Survive

111

Texas Tech

Survive

111

Catholic

Struggle

111

Mississippi

Thrive

111

Tulsa

Struggle

111

West Virginia

Survive

118

Albany

Survive

118

DePaul

Perish

118

Gonzaga

Survive

118

U. St. Thomas (MN)

Struggle

122

Indiana-Indianapolis

Thrive

122

Quinnipiac

Struggle

122

Maine

Struggle

122

Montana

Struggle

126

Loyola-New Orleans

Struggle

126

Mercer

Struggle

126

Baltimore

n/a

129

Belmont

Struggle

129

Duquesne

Thrive

129

New York Law School

n/a

129

Seattle

Struggle

133

Creighton

Thrive

133

Missouri-Kansas City

Survive

133

Wyoming

Thrive

136

Pace

Perish

136

Suffolk

n/a

136

Idaho

Thrive

136

Toledo

n/a

140

Illinois-Chicago

Survive

141

Mitchell Hamline

n/a

141

Akron

n/a

141

Dayton

Struggle

141

Memphis

Survive

141

South Dakota

Thrive

141

Vermont

Thrive

141

Willamette

Perish

148-194

Appalachian

n/a

148-194

Atlanta's John Marshall

n/a

148-194

Ave Maria

n/a

148-194

Barry

n/a

148-194

California Western

n/a

148-194

Campbell

Perish

148-194

Capital

n/a

148-194

Charleston

n/a

148-194

Elon

Perish

148-194

Faulkner

n/a

148-194

Florida A&M

n/a

148-194

Florida Coastal

n/a

148-194

Golden Gate

n/a

148-194

Liberty

n/a

148-194

Lincoln Memorial

Struggle

148-194

Mississippi College

n/a

148-194

New England

Perish

148-194

North Carolina Central

n/a

148-194

Northern Kentucky

n/a

148-194

Nova Southeastern

Perish

148-194

Ohio Northern

n/a

148-194

Oklahoma City

Struggle

148-194

Regent

Struggle

148-194

Roger Williams

n/a

148-194

Samford

Struggle

148-194

Southern Illinois

Struggle

148-194

Southern University

n/a

148-194

South Texas

n/a

148-194

Southwestern

Struggle

148-194

St. Mary's

n/a

148-194

St. Thomas (FL)

n/a

148-194

Texas Southern

n/a

148-194

Touro College

n/a

148-194

Arkansas-Little Rock

n/a

148-194

Detroit Mercy

Perish

148-194

Massachusetts-Dartmouth

Perish

148-194

North Dakota

Survive

148-194

San Francisco

Survive

148-194

University of DC

n/a

148-194

Pacific

Perish

148-194

Western Michigan

Survive

148-194

Western New England

Struggle

148-194

Western State

n/a

148-194

Widener-Delaware

Struggle

148-194

Widener-Pennsylvania

Struggle

148-194

Inter-American

n/a

148-194

Pontifical Catholic

n/a

148-194

North Texas-Dallas

Survive

148-194

Puerto Rico

n/a

Posted by James Phillips on July 28, 2020 at 04:59 PM in Entry Level Hiring Report, Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (8)

Friday, July 24, 2020

Preparing for Fall Teaching: Guest Post on Combining Asynchronous and Live Online Teaching--Reasons and Strategies

This guest post is by Nina A. Kohn, David M. Levy Professor of Law and Faculty Director of Online Education, Syracuse University College of Law.  For the other posts in the series on preparing for fall teaching, see here.

My last post explored why faculty transitioning to online teaching should make live (or “synchronous”) teaching their default option.  Today’s post follows up with an explanation of why law faculty should nevertheless consider incorporating self-paced (or “asynchronous”) elements into their courses.  It also provides practical tips for faculty looking to add self-paced content to courses that are mere weeks away.

As I see it, there are three primary benefits to incorporating asynchronous elements into law courses.

Incorporating asynchronous lessons enhances live class.  Pairing live and asynchronous learning increases the likelihood that students come to live class sessions ready to engage with the material.  Students who have the opportunity to work through asynchronous lessons will tend to have a better understanding of material than they would have if they had only done assigned reading.  This is especially likely when asynchronous lessons include formative assessments that enable students to determine whether they understand the underlying material.  When students have tested their own understanding of foundational information before they join live class, faculty can use live class time more efficiently and engage in discussion of more nuanced and complex issues.

Incorporating asynchronous lessons expands formative assessment opportunities.  Law students tend to crave feedback and opportunities to assess how they are doing.  In part this is because many law school courses rely primarily on a single final exam to provide feedback, and this increases students’ anxiety about their performance and decreases their self-awareness as to their own competencies.  Asynchronous education is well-suited to addressing students’ need for feedback.  By incorporating questions or exercises into the asynchronous class—and providing students with either direct feedback or the ability to compare their answers to a model answer—faculty can help students understand their strengths and weaknesses.  Faculty who review the resulting student work—as should be the norm—can also identify students who may need extra help.

Incorporating asynchronous lessons increases flexibility for students.  Asynchronous instruction allows students to pace their learning according to their own needs and abilities.  In addition, students who would benefit from reviewing a lesson can readily do so.  The ability to review may be especially helpful during the Covid-19 pandemic as students struggle with physical and emotional health and caregiving responsibilities. 

But how can faculty capture these benefits of asynchronous education for their fall 2020 classes?  After all, as I discuss in-depth in a forthcoming article in the Journal of Legal Education, creating high-quality asynchronous courses requires incorporating substantial interactive elements—and that takes a major up-front investment of time and resources.  The answer, I believe, is to: (1) keep asynchronous instruction short, and (2) use it primarily to convey information that can serve as a springboard for live class discussions. 

As a practical matter, in most subjects, this will mean using the asynchronous class time to cover foundational doctrines or frameworks (i.e., the “black letter law”) to be explored in greater depth in live class sessions.  One way to do this is to record a short lecture on a key doctrine or concrete skill, and pair that lecture with a question, problem, or exercise.  For example, faculty members might post a video of themselves explaining a particular doctrine to their school’s learning management system, and then ask students to analyze a problem, draft a reflection, or prepare an analysis using that doctrine.  That resulting work could be shared with the professor for review, with classmates on a discussion board, or during a live class session in which the professor calls on students to share their answers.    

Asynchronous lessons built this way need not—and typically should not—be long.  As Debora Threedy and Aaron Dewald observed in a 2016 article, even a ten minute asynchronous lesson can help faculty make better use of live class time.  And, especially for faculty who lack the time or resources to create lessons with embedded questions and exercises, keeping lessons short helps reduces the likelihood that students will lose focus or stop paying attention.

In sum, law faculty teaching online in the fall should consider conducting a (short but sweet) portion of each week’s class in an asynchronous manner.  This can not only support student learning, but make teaching more satisfying for faculty.  At least in my experience, the better prepared students are to engage in lively discussion, the more fun it is to teach.

Posted by Jessica Erickson on July 24, 2020 at 01:40 PM in Remote & Physically Distanced Teaching, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Watching on-screen, working on paper

The posts from Jessica and our other guests on teaching remotely/online have been great. But here is a question on integrating tech learning with non-tech work (this arose during our remote 1L orientation session today):

I ordinarily limit students' sue of technology in class-no laptops, hand-written notes, hard-cover books. I do it out of a believe, backed by much if not unanimous science, that this is the best way to learn. Obviously, I cannot prohibit them from taking notes on a computer when they are home. But how hard should I advise (or push) them in that direction? And should I require them to purchase hard-cover books so they at least have to do that part by hand?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 23, 2020 at 07:18 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (6)

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Preparing for Fall Teaching -- Guest Post on Law School Online: Choosing Between Live and Asynchronous Teaching

This guest post is by Nina A. Kohn, David M. Levy Professor of Law and Faculty Director of Online Education, Syracuse University College of Law.  For the other posts in the series on preparing for fall teaching, see here.

Law faculty nationwide are grappling with how best to teach courses that are online for all or part of the semester.  The single most important decision most will make is what format to use. 

Should they teach synchronous (or “live”) classes, using a videoconferencing platform such as Zoom?  Should they teach asynchronous (or “self-paced”) classes, recording lectures or other content that students can interact with on a more flexible schedule?  Should they combine the two formats?

As someone who led the design and implementation of an online JD program, spent the past several months training faculty transitioning to online teaching, and has taught both a traditional, doctrinal course (Torts) and a seminar (Aging and the Law) online, my recommendation is actually very simple:  law faculty should make synchronous (live) teaching their default. 

As I explore in depth in my new article “Teaching Law Online: A Guide for Faculty” (forthcoming in the Journal of Legal Education), there are three primary reasons for making live law teaching the default even when classes are online.

Ease.  With training, reasonable class sizes, and the right technology, law professors teaching live online can employ the same teaching techniques that honed in their residential classrooms.  By comparison, unless faculty use exclusively a lecture format in their courses—and plan simply to record lectures for students to watch in lieu of live class (not recommended!)—moving to an asynchronous format requires faculty to fundamentally rethink how they teach. 

Resources.  Excellent live teaching can be accomplished with less up-front investment by schools and faculty than can excellent asynchronous teaching.  With some training and an appropriate videoconferencing application (e.g., Zoom), faculty can readily conduct high-quality live online classes without other new resources. 

By comparison, creating high-quality, self-paced lessons requires a substantial investment of time and resources.  This is because, as education experts have long agreed, high-quality education involves active learning so that students retain skills or knowledge conveyed during instruction.  In an asynchronous environment, active learning can be facilitated by incorporating questions and exercises that require students to apply what they are learning. Such integration, however, is resource-intensive. 

Faculty who do wish to develop asynchronous instruction that follows good practices, including sufficient interactivity, cannot simply rely on old teaching notes.  Rather, they must deliberately design lessons that strategically build in questions and exercises that can be completed asynchronously.  Moreover, since (as Michael Hunter Schwartz explained in a recent article) best practice is to intersperse interactivity at least every ten minutes, fully asynchronous classes should have embedded applied learning exercises.  They should not simply rely on long videos with exercises for students to do at the end.  But building this type of asynchronous classroom experience requires faculty to collaborate with professional online course builders or learn how to build interactive courses themselves.  And faculty may find that their schools lack the staff or technology resources to support either.

Quality.  The relative ease of live teaching, combined with the limited required investment of resources, means that faculty—especially those seeking to rapidly pivot their courses into an online format—are more likely to teach well live than to teach well asynchronously.  In addition, live teaching lends itself to dialogue and discussion-based teaching, which helps students build and practice the analytical, argumentative, and real-time processing skills that are core to the successful practice of law. 

Unfortunately, although best practice is to treat live teaching as the default even when online, many universities continue to treat asynchronous education as the default form of online education.  This tendency reflects the historical roots of online education.  When online education arrived on the higher education scene, it was largely asynchronous with limited interactivity.  This approach reflected the limitations of videoconferencing software and the role that online education played at the time.  Online education was not seen as a substitute for elite education, or central to the mission most universities.  Rather, especially among elite universities, online education was used to provide bulk training and enrichment opportunities, and new revenue streams that would support core programming.  Having tenure and tenure-track faculty record lectures, but otherwise limit their involvement in the online education space, was a way to leverage faculty resources without unduly diverting faculty attention away from more central endeavors. 

As universities move core degree programs online in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important not to blindly accept the assumption that asynchronous education should be the default mode of online education – an assumption that is based on largely outdated considerations. 

Law faculty, in particular, should make live online teaching their default because live teaching is well-suited to teaching analytical and communication skills that lawyers need.  Asynchronous education should only be used in law courses when faculty are willing and able to build asynchronous content that fosters active learning.  Stay tuned for my next post where I break down some ways that faculty can build asynchronous lessons that do just that.

Posted by Jessica Erickson on July 22, 2020 at 03:27 PM in Remote & Physically Distanced Teaching, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Preparing for Fall Teaching – Discussion Boards in Physically Distanced, Hybrid, and Remote Courses

This post is part of a series on preparing to teach in the fall.  For the other posts in the series, see here and for the  five step approach that I am using, see here.  Posts this week will focus on the second step, which is designing assessment & engagement techniques for these new learning environments. 

Most assessment and engagement tools that people are talking about now are relatively familiar for most law professors.  We know how to check individual students’ comprehension in class, oversee discussions, and facilitate group work.  We just need help adapting these familiar techniques for physically distanced or remote courses.  Discussion boards, however, are different. Most law faculty have never used discussion boards, and my guess is that most of us have a pretty negative view of them.  And yet they seem quite prevalent in online courses, so I think many of us might be wondering if we should use them this fall and, if so, how we can use them effectively.

Should we use discussion boards?

I don’t claim to be an expert here, and I’ll invite anyone who has been teaching remotely for a long time to correct me, but my sense is that discussion boards are most helpful for asynchronous courses.  In asynchronous courses, it can be much more difficult to have students interact with the material and each other.  Done well (see tips below), discussion boards can be a great tool to help with these pedagogical challenges.   

I’ve been a little more skeptical of them in primarily synchronous courses, but I’m starting to wonder if they might have a role.  As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, I often have students complete a brief assignment before class to make sure that they understand the reading.  Usually these assignments are in Blackboard with a short quiz or in a Google Doc that only I can see, but perhaps there is value in having the class be able to see each other’s answers, especially once they have submitted their own answers.   Alternatively, building off an earlier tip to build in time for pre-discussion reflection, I can also imagine using discussion boards to get the students thinking about more complex issues from the reading.  Their comments in the discussion board could then serve as the foundation for later (hopefully more robust) discussions in a synchronous class session. 

How can we use discussion boards effectively?

I took an online course this summer that used discussion boards pretty effectively.  Here are some tips from that experience.

Determine the objective of each discussion thread.  Not all discussion threads are created equal.  Be thoughtful about the purpose of each thread.   There are at least four different types of discussion board threads:

  1. Introduction Do you want students to introduce themselves to each other or get to know each other better?
  2. Initial Engagement. Do you want students to engage with the material before class to ensure that they show up to class prepared?
  3. Application. Do you want students to apply what they have learned to new situations, perhaps after an initial class session or video on the material?
  4. Extension. Do you want students to take what they have learned and extend it into new areas or integrate it with other learning?

Once you know the goal of the thread, you can craft your prompt with this goal in mind.  Of course, you can switch between goals from week to week, but it’s important not to try to have a single thread do too much.

Craft prompts that require engagement.  Unless you are only looking for a short answer response, try to use prompts that require your students to engage with the material.  Avoid prompts that call for objective responses or open-ended questions that ask students “What do you think about….”  Instead try prompts that start with action verbs such as “compare,” “explain,” “identify,” or “describe.”  You can also use prompts that require students to contribute information that hasn’t been contributed yet, so they have to dig into their classmates’ posts.  For example, in a Civil Procedure class, the prompt might say, “Choose a discovery tool that has not previously been used by one of your classmates and explain how the plaintiffs could use this tool to find evidence to support their claims.”  This only works if the groups are relatively small (see below).

Be clear about your expectations.  Many of our students have not used discussions boards in their classes, so you will have to be clear about what a good discussion post looks like.  Do you expect them to include citations to the reading?  Do they need to do outside research?  If you give them credit simply for posting or hitting the required number of words, you probably won’t get the thoughtful posts you want.  Similarly, if they are responding to another student’s post, let them know what a good response looks like.  For example, let students know that simply restating and/or affirming another student’s post isn’t enough to get credit.  Instead, tell them that they will be graded on whether they advance the discussion.  If students know up front that they have to move the discussion forward to get credit for their post, they will engage more with the material.  You can also use the 3CQ approach, which requires students to include two of the following elements in their response--compliment, comment, connection, and question--with each element including supporting details.

Use separate threads.  If you have a big class, consider creating separate threads for different groups of students.  In a 70 person class, you wouldn’t expect all of the students to be able to have a single in-person discussion that includes everyone, so you probably shouldn’t expect them to have a conversation on a discussion board that includes everyone either.  Instead, create 10 different threads and assign groups of 7 students to each one.  Most learning management systems allow you to place students into groups for discussion threads pretty easily.

Stagger initial and response posts.  Professors often ask students to make an initial post and then respond to at least one other student’s post, but this can lead to a flood of posts right before the deadline.  Instead set up two different deadlines – one for the initial posts and one for the response posts.  This is such a simple switch, but it makes a real difference in the quality of the posts. 

Consider whether to allow students to view others’ responses.  Most learning management systems allow you to decide whether students can see each other’s responses before they post.  The right approach likely depends on your objective.  If you want students to get to an objectively right or wrong answer, then you probably want to hide other responses, so they can’t see how other students approached the problem before they try it.  On the other hand, if your goal is to start a discussion, you need to allow them to see each other’s responses. 

Participate, but not too much.  A discussion board is one place where the professor can interact and build connections with students, so it is important for the professor to participate by responding to student posts and pushing the discussion in new directions.  On the other hand, if the professor participates too much, they can chill the discussion and keep students from talking to each other.  So carefully consider how much engagement you want to have with students in the discussion threads. 

Advanced Tips:  If you want to get fancy, here are a few advanced tips:

  1. Use the fishbowl approach to allow a small number of students to have a discussion while other students observe the discussion, similar to what you might do in class. Most learning management systems facilitate this technique.
  2. Consider alternative forms of responding. Rather than having students write out their responses, let them get creative.  Encourage them to post video responses or create a concept map or PowerPoint.
  3. Have them respond in role. Ask them to craft a discussion post from the perspective of a client or a judge or opposing counsel. 

In my next post, I’ll talk about group work in physically distanced and remote courses.    

Posted by Jessica Erickson on July 21, 2020 at 02:58 PM in Remote & Physically Distanced Teaching, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (4)

Monday, July 20, 2020

Has the submission window moved?

Scholastica sends daily announcements about article submissions, including which journals have reopened for submissions. I have seen several such announcements the past few days, including from some top journals.

 I had thought that the already-narrow August window opened around August 10. Has it moved up? Are journals actively accepting and reviewing articles? Are scholars submitting? Would love to hear from authors and journal editors.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 20, 2020 at 10:04 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (19)

Friday, July 17, 2020

Preparing for Fall Teaching – Discussion and Socratic Dialogue in Physically Distanced, Hybrid, and Remote Courses

This post is part of a series on preparing to teach in the fall.  For the other posts in the series, see here, and for the  five step approach that I am using, see here.  Over the next two weeks, I will focus on the second step, which is designing assessment & engagement techniques for these new learning environments. 

One of the biggest challenges professors face this fall is how to spark discussion and conduct Socratic dialogue in their courses.  Anyone who taught this spring knows that it is so much harder to get students talking over Zoom than in a traditional classroom.  There’s something about staring at a bunch of faces on a screen that makes people more hesitant to join in.  I’ve never tried to hold a discussion in a physically distanced classroom with everyone in masks and six feet apart, but I can’t imagine it will be any easier.  So how can we generate meaningful discussions, especially around difficult topics, when we are distanced from one another?

I don’t have any techniques that will magically erase these challenges.  It will be hard.  But I do have some tips that may help.  The key, I think, is setting the stage for the discussion in more deliberate ways. Consider the following strategies:

Reflect on your implicit norms.  As you look to build more opportunities for discussion into your courses, you might start by reflecting on the implicit norms of discussion in your courses. This article from the Chronicle is great on fostering discussions more generally, but it also unpacks the social norms around discussions in higher ed classrooms.  The article discusses two specific norms that you may recognize from your own classes:

  1. “Civil attention. In a typical classroom, students aren’t required to ‘pay attention,’ only to pay ‘civil attention.’ What that means: So long as students appear to be listening, they can expect that the professor won’t call on them unless they signal a willingness to participate. How do students demonstrate civil attention? By nodding their heads, taking notes, chuckling at the instructor’s attempts at humor, or making brief eye contact. And by the things they don’t do: sleeping, texting, whispering to classmates. Students who are paying civil attention aren’t necessarily listening: They may, in fact, be daydreaming or deciding on their lunch plans. They may be writing a paper for another course when they appear to be taking notes. But by paying civil attention, students perceive that they have met their obligation to the course and to you, the instructor. Engage in discussion? They see that as optional.
  1. Consolidation of responsibility. Regardless of class size, only a small number of students — typically five to eight — will account for 75 to 95 percent of the comments made in a discussion. It’s easy to be deceived into thinking that you helped facilitate a great discussion when, in reality, you had a great discussion with five students, while the majority were spectators. The ‘consolidation of responsibility’ norm means that a few students assume responsibility for most of the discussion.”

If you want to foster discussion in these new learning environments, you might start by analyzing whether these norms are present in your classes and whether you are willing to disrupt them.  If you are open to new norms, think specifically about the goals for your discussions.  What percentage of the class do you want to participate each class?  What types of participation count? 

Acknowledge the challenges.  Be candid about the difficulties with your students and discuss strategies to address them as a group. For topics that might be controversial or difficult, use class time to develop shared norms for these conversations. 

Direct the conversation more than you normally would.  In a physically distanced or remote classroom, you may need to use more direct prompts and follow-up questions.  For example, you might assign a discussion leader for each case or class.  Alternatively, you can assign panels so a group of students is officially on call for each class.  Practice active moderation by interrupting interrupters and making space for those who have not participated.  You might also try to amplify voices that may not otherwise be heard.  Professor Tiffany Atkins has a short article that provides some helpful tips on amplification in the classroom. 

Allow more pre-discussion reflection.  Give students time to think about the topic before starting the discussion.  You can do this in a number of ways.  In the simplest form, just give students a minute or two to think through their answer before asking for volunteers.  Or have them write down a few notes about the prompt first.   For deeper questions, you might give them more time to reflect on their thoughts.  For example, if you know the discussion will center on one or two specific questions, ask the students to reflect on these questions and write 1-2 paragraphs about them before class.  They can turn in these questions through Blackboard or a Google Doc.  In remote courses, you can send students into breakout groups and have them discuss the question on their own first, so they are then more comfortable then discussing the issue with the larger group.  In physically distanced courses, you might ask the students to discuss the issue with the person next to them first. 

Many professors are also worried about how to conduct Socratic dialogue in these new learning environments.  Socratic dialogue is more difficult in a physically distanced or remote classroom, although the reasons may have more to do with us than our students.  Socratic questioning can feel awkward for professors in the best of times, but it feels even more awkward when the students are behind screens or masks.  Personally, I am just more hesitant to call on students in these circumstances.  I don’t think I’m alone.  I’ve had several professors tell me that Socratic questioning “just doesn’t work” in these new settings.

But I think it can work.  We had professors here at Richmond Law who carried on their classes remotely just like they had before, calling on students and engaging in Socratic discussion over Zoom.  And in general, the students really liked it.  In evaluations, several students remarked at how much they liked the fact that class felt “normal.”  It may feel awkward to us to call on students who appear on a screen while in their apartments, but if we push through that awkwardness, we can recapture some of what we’re used to in traditional classrooms.  So I don’t think we need write off Socratic discussion entirely.

That said, we might want to think about how to use this method more effectively.  During this semester especially, we may want to soften our Socratic questioning.  Consider acknowledging the initial awkwardness, discussing with the class that it can feel a bit weird for everyone when they are called on but also explaining why you think it has pedagogical value.  You can also give students times when they know they are not on call, perhaps by assigning panels or providing clear rules on how and when students can opt out. 

I’ll end by saying that this discussion assumes that Socratic dialogue is a good thing.  As I’ve written elsewhere, I’m not sure it has as much pedagogical value as we assume.  Done right, it can lead to active learning, but we need to put in a lot of work to make sure that we are actually engaging all students using this approach.  I’ll leave that debate for another day though! 

In my next post, I will delve more into the topic of discussions in remote courses by providing some ideas on how to use discussion boards more effectively. 

Posted by Jessica Erickson on July 17, 2020 at 02:56 PM in Remote & Physically Distanced Teaching, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, July 16, 2020

2020 Law Journal Meta Rankings

From Bryce Newell.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 16, 2020 at 03:36 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Preparing for Fall Teaching – Assessment Through Comprehension Checks in Physically Distanced, Hybrid, and Remote Courses

This post is part of a series on preparing to teach in the fall.  For the other posts in the series, see here.

In an earlier post, I laid out a five step approach to redesigning your courses for a physically distanced, hybrid, or remote semester.  Over the next two weeks, I will be focusing on the second step, which is designing assessment & engagement techniques for these new learning environments.  I covered the basics of assessment theory as it relates to these new learning environments in my last post.  In this post, I will begin to talk about specific assessment techniques.

Aside from all of the other challenges of teaching in a distanced classroom, we will all have to figure out whether and how to change the ways in which we engage and assess our students.  The techniques that we’ve used in the past may not work in these new learning environments.  As we have seen, it can be much harder to get students to participate in discussions when they are participating remotely.  You can’t just put people on Zoom or in a room with masks and trust that conversation will naturally develop.  Group work is similarly a lot harder in a physically distanced classroom, as is peer editing.  You have to thoughtfully and deliberately re-engineer interaction from the traditional classroom to fit the physically distanced, hybrid, or remote space. 

Over the next two weeks, I’ll talk about six different assessment and engagement techniques – comprehension checks, Socratic dialogue, discussion, group work, community-based learning, and reflection & metacognition.  I also hope to include a few guest posts from legal analysis & writing faculty and clinical faculty on specific assessment techniques used in these classes. 

The rest of this post will focus on comprehension checks – i.e., quick assessments to make sure that students understand the material and can apply it.  I am going to break down comprehension checks into those done before class to make sure that students have completed and understood the reading and those done during class to check that students understand the class discussion and are able to apply it to new situations. 

Pre-Class Comprehension Checks 

I’ve used a number of techniques to check students’ comprehension before class, and I’m considering a few new ones this year.  The benefit of these techniques is that I can move some of the analytical work into students’ before-class preparation, leaving more class time for deeper work.  I can also easily gauge whether students understood the material, allowing me to correct common misconceptions in class.

Google Doc Assignments.  My Civil Procedure syllabus often includes a brief assignment that students must complete before each class session (see here for a few examples).  The assignments are designed to take no more than 15-20 minutes.  The logistics are pretty simple and are designed to (i) keep students from emailing their assignments to me and flooding my inbox, and (ii) make it easy for me to review and comment on students’ answers.  Each student has their own google doc for class that they share with me; they are all based on the same template that I provide them.  I grade their answers for completion (i.e., they get full credit if they made a reasonable good faith effort), flipping through them before class so I can see the common mistakes or points of confusion.  I try to comment on approximately twenty percent of the submissions before each class through comment boxes, mixing up who receives personalized feedback each week.  If you use this approach, make sure you have the students order their responses in reverse chronological order so the most recent answers are always at the top and share the document with you so that you can both view AND edit the document. 

LMS Quizzes.  In other classes, such as Business Associations, I assign short quizzes for students to complete before each class.  My law school uses Blackboard, which allows me to create quizzes right in the learning management system (LMS).  Your LMS probably has something similar.  The questions are usually objective, which Blackboard can grade for you, although I’ll occasionally include a short answer question that I grade manually.  I call these quizzes, “Are You Smarter than a 1L?” with the idea that our 1Ls are quite smart but they typically do not know business law.  I thought students would complain about the quizzes, but they don’t seem to mind them at all.  Students often comment that reading the questions ahead of time helps them pick out the relevant issues as they do the reading.    I briefly review the questions and the right answers when we get to the relevant issues in class. 

Video Assignments.  I’m contemplating a new approach this year.  The Google Doc assignments and LMS quizzes work well in a typical year, but this year I’m scheduled to teach in a physically distanced classroom where everyone is in masks.  So I’m thinking of more assessments where we can see each other without masks on.  I’ve been looking at Flipgrid, which allows instructors and students to post short videos.  So instead of having the students answer a question in a Google Doc, I might ask them to answer it through a short recorded video in Flipgrid.  Flipgrid is free for educators, and there’s an option where you can initially keep student responses hidden and then decide whether to reveal them all once all students have turned in their assignment. 

Embedded Questions in Asynchronous Videos.  I hesitated in the spring to use too many asynchronous videos to cover course content because I didn’t want to spoon feed everything to my students.  I don’t want to tell them what the case is about or what the statute says.  Instead I want them to read carefully and find these answers for themselves.  In class, I’ll frequently pause during my discussions and ask them to re-read a statute, for example, and answer a specific question about the language.  I thought I would lose that ability if I relied on asynchronous videos.  It turns out, however, that there are pretty easy ways to embed questions into these videos.  My law school uses Panopto, an online video platform, which I recently learned allows instructors to embed questions right into the video.  Here’s a tutorial.  If you don’t use Panopto or if this feature isn’t enabled at your school, you might check out edpuzzle.  Angela Upchurch at Southern Illinois University School of Law has a great video that was part of CALIcon on how to embed questions into videos uploaded to edpuzzle.  I tried it out, and it was incredibly easy, although you do need a paid account if you want to upload more than 10 videos. 

In-Class Comprehension Checks

In class, whether physically distanced or remote, you can see whether students understand the material by asking questions of individual students.  But this approach is limited—you know whether those particular students understand the material, but it’s harder to get a broader sense of the class.  There are many tools, however, that allow you check the comprehension of the entire class, and most of them work regardless of whether the class is physically distanced or remote, so they are a good choice if you may have to transition between class formats at some point this semester. 

Polling Software.  If you haven’t tried polling software before and you teach a large doctrinal course, now is the time to check it out.  Polls are a great way to see whether the class understands the material and can apply it to new sets of facts.  I embed polls into my PowerPoint slides, and students can answer them using their browser or phone.  I use PollEverywhere, but Mentimeter, iclicker, and many more companies have similar products.  Zoom also has a polling feature, but I find it very clunky and far prefer other options.  In these other options, you can require students to register so you can see which students are struggling or you can make poll questions anonymous if you want students to be able to share their thoughts without attribution.  I typically use standard multiple choice questions, but I’ve also used surveys, which allow students to move through several questions at once, such as when they are working through a statute, or word clouds, which allow them to answer a question in a few words.  You can see the various types of questions that PollEverywhere offers here

Kahoot.  I’ve never tried this tool, but my teenage daughter highly recommends it!  Apparently Kahoots are like PollEverywhere, except that students get also points based on whether they answer the questions correctly and how quickly they answer them.  There is a leaderboard that shows the top five students, so it is like a gamified version of PollEverywhere.  There are Kahoot accounts that require the instructor to pay, but the free version (which isn’t prominently advertised on their website) should work for most people.  See the different account types here.

Jeopardy.  Again, I’ve never tried this one, but it turns out that there are lots of tools out there that allow instructors to create their own Jeopardy games.  Here’s a free Google Doc template, but there are also sites like Factile, Jeopardy Labs, and Flippity that offer easy-to-use templates.  I wouldn’t put up a customized jeopardy game every class period, but it could be a fun way to structure a review session or inject some fun learning into the flow of the semester. 

This set of suggestions is pretty tech-heavy.  In my next post, I’ll get away from tech and focus on ways to spark discussion in these new learning environments. 

Posted by Jessica Erickson on July 15, 2020 at 02:43 PM in Remote & Physically Distanced Teaching, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 13, 2020

CFP: Akron Law Review

Akron Law Review is seeking to publish an issue devoted to criminal justice reform. Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Recent efforts in and new ideas regarding bail reform, pretrial detention and pretrial “services”, the use of proprietary algorithms to make decisions about pretrial release, and other uses of technology for “predictive policing.”
  • Exploring new and existing ways of holding police accountable, including changes to qualified immunity, obstruction of justice charges for turning off cameras, changing the burden of proof in federal civil rights actions against the police, and taking charging decisions away from local prosecutors.
  • Collateral consequences of conviction, easier or automatic expungement, and felon disenfranchisement.
  • Financial burdens from the criminal justice system including fines, court costs, late payment fees, privatized probation and pretrial services, etc.
  • “Abolition” of prisons and/or police and alternative ways of securing public safety, and how these might be implemented in our legal system. Do models of policing/public safety/criminal justice in other countries, or historical instances where police forces were disbanded and replaced, have anything to teach us?

Articles published by Akron Law Review average 15–25,000 words. Please email submissions and any questions to [email protected] Articles submitted on or before September 15, 2020 will receive priority consideration. The submission window will close when the edition is full or on October 15, 2020.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 13, 2020 at 03:05 PM in Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Preparing for Fall Teaching – Assessment Theory for Physically Distanced, Hybrid, and Remote Courses

This post is part of a series on preparing to teach in the fall.  For the other posts in the series, see here.

In an earlier post, I laid out a five step approach to redesigning your courses for a physically distanced, hybrid, or remote semester.  This post introduces the second step, which is designing assessment & engagement techniques for these new learning environments.  I’ll cover this step in a number of posts over the next two weeks.  In this intro post, however, I want to review the basics of assessment theory, especially as it relates to these new learning environments.

First, the good news – assessment theory is largely the same in physically distanced, hybrid, or remote courses as it is in traditional courses.  The same principles still apply, so we aren’t reinventing the wheel from a theory perspective.  The bad news though is that we may not always follow this theory perfectly in our own classes.  So before diving into specific techniques for the fall (they’re coming in future posts – I promise!), I want to highlight some of the key principles from assessment theory that will be especially relevant as we redesign our courses for the fall. 

Alignment:  In my last post, I discussed integrated course design and how defining your learning objectives should be the first step of any course redesign.    Your learning objectives should then inform your assessments and learning activities, with all three tightly aligned.   This visual shows the interdependent relationship between these three parts of course design.

Integrated course design

So go back to your objectives before you start redesigning your assessments.  What is the best way to assess if the students have achieved the learning objectives?  How can you use class time to prepare students for these assessments?  Legal education has sometimes had a mismatch of objectives, assessments, and learning activities, so your redesign this summer is the perfect opportunity to create better alignment.

Formative & Summative Assessment:  Legal education is used to thinking about summative assessments, but many of us don’t think nearly as much about formative assessments.  Summative assessments are the assessments we provide to audit student learning and determine what grades to assign, often at the end of the semester.  Our final exams do a good job sorting students into grade categories, but they don’t do as much to help students learn along the way, especially when students receive little feedback on their exam performance other than the grade itself.  

In contrast, formative assessments are designed to be part of the learning experience.  They provide feedback on student learning throughout the course so both students and faculty can assess whether students are meeting the course objectives.  They also provide students with frequent opportunities to practice what they are learning, along with immediate feedback on their efforts.  The most effective formative assessments are ones that are (i) aligned with the course objectives and (ii) accompanied by feedback that is frequent, immediate, based on clear criteria and standards, and delivered empathetically (see here for more information on feedback guidelines).

Developing and using these assessments does not need to be overly time-consuming.  We tend to think of assessments as tests, papers, or quizzes that professors have to grade.  But there are plenty of ways to provide quick graded or ungraded feedback to students to help them reflect on their learning.  For graded assessments during the semester, consider using rubrics that allow you to quickly assess student performance (see here for sample law school rubrics) or multiple choice or true/false assessments that can be graded in your learning management system.  For ungraded assessments, instructors can provide feedback to the class as a whole by discussing the answers in class or through polling software that provides instantaneous feedback.  Instructors can also use peer assessment where students provide feedback to each other using rubrics from the instructor.  Or they can use self-assessment where students assess their own work using model answers.  With formative assessment, the grades are not the point; instead, the assessments themselves help students learn the material and guide their future learning.  

Offer a Variety of Authentic. Higher-Order Assessments.  Authentic assessments ask students to apply their knowledge in real-world scenarios.  How would a practicing lawyer use the information that you are teaching?  Try to have your assessments match how the law is used in the real world.  If you are teaching pleading standards, have students evaluate and/or draft real complaints?  If you are teaching elements of specific torts, have them look at real jury instructions. 

Learning activities should encourage students to apply the content and make connections using the content.  These connections can be internal (across the course content) or external (from the course content to the students’ experiences and/or the world).  These connections are crucial because new learners can have trouble seeing how all of the different elements of a course fit together.  They tend to focus on isolated facts or checklists instead of gaining the big picture.  Understanding the connections underlying the course material can advance their knowledge in important ways.

Finally, think about how you can build assessments to scaffold student learning.  If you want students to become proficient at more complex legal analysis or skills, you may need to start with easier formative assessments at the start of the semester and slowly build up to more complex assessments. 

The principles above focus on principles of assessment theory that apply to any course design.  But there are a few additional principles that apply when designing for physically distanced, hybrid, and remote courses. 

Engage More.  We are going to have to work harder for students’ attention this fall.  Think back to your last Zoom meeting.  How long did it take you to check your email or click over to social media?  Probably a lot less time than it would have taken you if you were physically in a room with the other meeting attendees.  There’s something distancing about sitting behind a screen or a mask, so we will need to design our classes to bring in even more opportunities for them to engage with the material.  If you used to lecture for 15 minutes before switching to a learning activity, you might want to make it 10-12 minutes now.

Don’t Try to Just Replicate Your Old Techniques.  If you are used to having your students learn through in-person Socratic discussions, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to find a way to have the same type of discussions in a physically distanced classroom or through Zoom.  Your goal is not to replicate your old learning activities in these new teaching environments.  Instead, go back to your course objectives and figure out what types of assessments and activities work best given how you will be teaching in the fall.  Maybe it’s replicating the Socratic method online, but maybe it’s an entirely different technique that better accomplishes your learning objectives.  

Consider How Remote Students Will Participate.  At many schools in the fall, students will have a choice regarding how they attend class – either in-person in a physically distanced classroom or remotely over Zoom or a similar platform.  This blended approach will allow students to participate in class even if they are sick, immune-compromised, or quarantined. It will, however, make designing assessments even more challenging.  With every assessment or learning activity, consider how you will include students participating remotely over Zoom.

Beware Extraneous Tech: When it comes to engaging students remotely, there are lots of tech tools out there.  Resist the urge to try new tech just to try it.  Every use of technology should connect back to your pedagogical goals.  You also don’t want to overwhelm your students (or yourself!) with lots of new tech in your courses.  I’m aiming to incorporate no more than one or two new tech tools this fall, so I’ve been evaluating the various options to see what might work best for me.   

In future posts, we’ll turn to assessment techniques, building on the assessment theory outlined here.  If you tried a great assessment technique or if you’re curious about a particular technique, let me know!   

Posted by Jessica Erickson on July 13, 2020 at 12:25 PM in Remote & Physically Distanced Teaching, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

AALS Federal Courts Section: Calls for Nominations

After the jump is information on two Calls for Nominations from the AALS Section on Federal Courts: The first is for the Daniel J. Meltzer Award, designed to honor the life and work of the late Prof. Meltzer. The second is for the Best Untenured Article on Federal Jurisdiction.

AALS Federal Courts Section - Daniel J. Meltzer Award: Call for Nominations

The AALS Section on Federal Courts is pleased to announce that it is seeking nominations for the Daniel J. Meltzer Award, which is designed to honor the life and work of the late Professor Meltzer.  The Award recognizes a professor of Federal Courts who has exemplified over the course of their career Professor Meltzer’s excellence in teaching, careful and ground-breaking scholarship, engagement in issues of public importance, generosity as a colleague, and overall contribution to the field of Federal Courts.

Eligible nominees are those who are full-time faculty members at AALS member or affiliate schools, have not previously won the award, and have not served as an officer of the Federal Courts Section in the two previous years.  It is not required that the award be given out in any particular year, and it may not be given out more frequently than every three years. 

Nominations (and questions about the award) should be directed to Prof. Seth Davis at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law ([email protected]). Without exception, all nominations must be received by 11:59 p.m. (EDT) on September 15, 2020.  Nominations will be reviewed by a prize committee consisting of Professors Seth Davis (Berkeley), Gillian Metzger (Columbia), James Pfander (Northwestern), and Carlos Vázquez (Georgetown).  If the committee decides to make the award, it will be announced at the Federal Courts section program at the 2021 AALS Annual Meeting.

AALS Federal Courts Section - Best Untenured Article on Federal Jurisdiction: Call for Nominations

The AALS Section on Federal Courts is pleased to announce the annual award for the best article on the law of federal jurisdiction by a full-time, untenured faculty member at an AALS member or affiliate school—and to solicit nominations (including self-nominations) for the prize to be awarded at the 2021 AALS Annual Meeting.

The purpose of the award program is to recognize outstanding scholarship in the field of federal courts by untenured faculty members. To that end, eligible articles are those specifically in the field of Federal Courts that were published by a recognized journal during the twelve-month period ending on September 1, 2020 (date of actual publication determines eligibility). Eligible authors are those who, at the close of nominations (i.e., as of September 15, 2020), are untenured, full-time faculty members at AALS member or affiliate schools, and have not previously won the award.

Nominations (and questions about the award) should be directed to Prof. Seth Davis at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law ([email protected]). Without exception, all nominations must be received by 11:59 p.m. (EDT) on September 15, 2020. Nominations will be reviewed by a prize committee comprised of Professors Samuel Bray (Notre Dame), Seth Davis (Berkeley), Allison Orr Larsen (William & Mary), Marin Levy (Duke), and Leah Litman (Michigan), with the result announced at the Federal Courts section program at the 2021 AALS Annual Meeting.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 13, 2020 at 12:08 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 10, 2020

Preparing for Fall Teaching– Identify Your Learning Objectives

This post is part of a series on preparing to teach in the fall.  For the other posts in the series, see here.

In my last post, I laid out a five step approach to redesigning your courses for a physically distanced, hybrid, or remote semester.  This post covers the first step, which is to identify your learning objectives. 

I’ll fully admit that this step is the least exciting of the five.  We have so much to learn about distanced and remote pedagogy that we are eager to dive into the new stuff.  We don’t want to spend our precious time this summer on more general pedagogical work.  I get it, but if you’re going to spend time overhauling your courses, you have to know what you want your students to get out of them.  It’s the foundation for all of the other steps. 

Pull out your old learning objectives from past syllabi, and take a hard look at them.  Do they still represent your learning goals for the course?  My learning objectives represent a constant battle between depth and breadth.  It feels so satisfying to cover lots of content in a course, zipping through the chapters in a casebook.   This satisfaction dissipates though when you see the same students in a year or two, and they remember little of the content.  Three weeks of personal jurisdiction in Civil Procedure becomes “um, minimum contacts?”

This isn’t a critique of our students.  It’s just how the human brain works.  Our brains are not designed to remember lots of information if we don’t regularly use it.  That doesn’t mean that content is irrelevant—I still teach personal jurisdiction!—but I need to do more in the classroom to get it to stick in students’ minds.

Just as importantly, most of us have pedagogical goals that extend beyond our students being able to remember and parrot back the content.  We want our students to be able to use the content in various ways, and it takes time to develop these deeper skills.   So deciding on your learning goals is a balance between covering lots of concepts and developing students’ ability to use these concepts in various ways.

To develop these deeper learning objectives, take a look at the various learning taxonomies that instructional experts have developed.  You might start with Bloom’s taxonomy, a  staple for many of us.  The list of verbs that often accompany each level of Bloom’s taxonomy are a helpful start to drafting learning objectives.  I aim for fewer objectives that start with the verb “understand” and more objectives that start with specific and measurable verbs that represent what students will be able to do with the content.  Here are the levels of Bloom’s taxonomy along with some corresponding verbs for each level.

Bloom

Some faculty balk at the hierarchical nature of Bloom, however, and there are plenty of other good learning taxonomies out there.   Dee Fink, who wrote one of the foundational texts on integrated course design, has a good taxonomy that incorporates the human side of learning, including learning how to learn and developing self-knowledge, empathy, and an understanding of one’s own values.  Davis & Arend have a similar framework that may be appealing to many law professors because it includes components for building skills, cultivating problem solving abilities, and developing professional judgment. 

It’s also worth thinking through the broader questions you want to tackle in your course.  What are the deep questions that run through your course?  Phrased more broadly, in your deepest, fondest dreams, what kind of impact would you like to have on your students?  That is, when your course is over, and it is 3-5 years later, what will your students still value, know, and/or be able to do?  These questions come from a course design workshop I took with Professor Michael Palmer from the University of Virginia several years ago, and they are a helpful reminder that not all learning objectives need to be objective and measurable. 

For those professors who already review their learning objectives on a regular basis, here are three ways to go a bit further.

First, use this moment in history to think about how your course treats issues related to oppression and racism.  If you are rethinking content, ask yourself some hard questions about the traditional content in your courses.  Which issues and voices are you prioritizing in your selection of readings?  Do you acknowledge and discuss the interests and perspectives that the law is protecting or ignoring?  Do you provide space in the classroom for students to explore the broader social and historical context of the doctrine?  As I rethink my learning objectives for  Civil Procedure in the fall, these questions will be at the center of my thinking.  The AALS had a good webinar last week on racism and justice in our fall courses, and the video is available here if you want to check it out.

Second, consider partnering with faculty teaching similar courses to develop common learning objectives.  We often design our courses in a vacuum, but many law professors are working this summer to rethink their courses, which presents a great opportunity to collaborate and share ideas. I’ve met a few times with the other professors here at Richmond Law teaching Civil Procedure, and it’s been so helpful to hear what they are planning and be able to learn from them.

Finally, look for opportunities to share your learning objectives with your students.  I’ve traditionally included my learning objectives in my syllabus, but we all know students don’t always read the syllabus with as much care as we might like.  It turns out that students perform better when they take the time to reflect on how the learning objectives connect to their personal goals for the course.  You might think about an assignment in the first week of the course asking students to read the course objectives and submit a brief video or written response discussing how these objectives relate to their own objectives for their career or the course.  You might also ask students to reflect at the end of the semester on whether they achieved the course objectives and the advice they might have for students taking the course in the future.

I’ll end by noting that we already have many tools to address the challenges of the fall semester.  Yes, we still have so much to learn about online pedagogy (and physically distanced pedagogy, which appears to be entirely new), but course design all starts from the same basic principles.  So before you dive into all of the new stuff out there specifically about online pedagogy, spend some time reflecting on integrated course design and rethinking your learning objectives.  I really like Dee Fink’s primer on integrated course design and the accompanying self-directed guide available here.

My posts next week will focus on assessment & engagement techniques in physically distanced, hybrid, and remote courses, so feel free to share any specific questions on these topics in the comments below.    

Posted by Jessica Erickson on July 10, 2020 at 10:35 AM in Remote & Physically Distanced Teaching, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Teaching and evolving doctrine

I will teach 1L Constitutional Law (structure, powers, and basic 14th Amendment) for the first time this semester.

A friend who teaches the course at another school described the difficulty in this course as the rapid increase in the amount of law in a course whose time structure has not changed. Many major cases that occupied many casebook pages and many minutes of class time when he began are now one-paragraph or one-parenthetical notes. In the past two weeks, the Court has decided four cases--Seila Law, June Medical, Vance, and Mazars--that could be substantial cases in addition to or in lieu of what is in the casebook. (My momentary preference is to add Seila Law and maybe Mazars but not the others). And that is without cases radically altering the legal landscape (we are not living through either the Switch in Time or whatever we call Lopez).

Is this unique to Constitutional Law? Do other law school subjects (especially 1L course) have the same issues? Is Con Law unique because the focus is on SCOTUS decisions, so every new case seems important and necessary to the course?

I have experienced this a bit with personal jurisdiction in Civ Pro. I have moved several post-2011 cases (Nicastro, Walden, and Daimler and probably Ford when it comes out next Term) into the mix. During an early Civ Pro Unavailability Workshop someone raised which of the nearly ten recent P/J cases to include and which 1980s-era cases to replace, to say nothing of what to do with Pennoyer. Less so in Fed Courts and Civil Rights, where I use a treatise and new developments or applications (e.g., the legislative and policy move to eliminate qualified immunity) can be integrated into existing materials without displacing them.

But it feels pervasive and never-ending in trying to plan this course. Thoughts?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 9, 2020 at 01:01 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (7)

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Preparing for Fall Teaching – Five Steps to Designing a Physically Distanced/Hybrid/Remote Course

This post is part of a series on preparing to teach in the fall.  For the first post in the series, see here.

As I mentioned in my first post, I’ve spent a lot of time this summer reading books and attending webinars about remote teaching.  A week or so into this deep dive, however, I found that I was overwhelmed.  Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience.  There are lots of great tips out there, but it can feel like drinking from a water hose.  We’re told to learn more about our learning management systems, keep our videos short, offer flexible options for students, have a good online presence, experiment with new assessment techniques, caption our videos, along with so many more tips.  They were all good ideas, but it was too much.  I wasn’t sure where to start. 

I needed a broader framework, so I took a step back and tried to fit this information into five concrete steps to redesigning a physically distanced, hybrid, or remote course.  This post introduces these steps, and I’ll go into each step in more detail in future posts.  Approaching the fall using these steps feels a lot less overwhelming, at least to me.

Here are the five steps I will be talking about:

Step 1: Identify your learning objectives. This isn’t the most exciting step, but it’s hard to design a good course in any learning environment without being really precise about what you are trying to achieve. 

Step 2: Figure out how you will assess and engage students in these new learning environments.  This is a staple of integrated course design, but it’s particularly challenging when we are teaching in new environments that may well change during the course of the semester.  Some tried and true techniques won’t work, so it’s important to have a robust plan.

Step 3: Determine how to build connection and community in your courses.  Connections develop more organically in traditional classrooms, which means we’ll have to work harder to build these connections in the fall.

Step 4: Develop a communication strategy.  This fall will continue a period of upheaval for our students, both personally and in the classroom, so we will need to make our expectations and agenda for the course even more visible to them.

Step 5: Create a plan to support all students.  Students fall through the cracks more easily when we are not in traditional classrooms, so we need to be more deliberate about supporting students in these new learning environments.

I’m a visual person, so I created this image, which sets out each step as a separate layer in redesigning our courses.


Layers of Distanced Course Design

These steps intentionally take a broader view of course design than a lot of the other resources out there.  I’m not starting with the choice between synchronous or asynchronous or the details of particular tech tools.  That information is important, but it has to fit into the bigger picture of your course design.  I’ll include some of this information in the various steps, but I don’t think it should drive the discussion. 

My next post will focus on the first step of identifying your learning objectives.  If there are specific topics or ideas you want me to cover in the future, let me know in the comments!

Posted by Jessica Erickson on July 8, 2020 at 10:34 AM in Remote & Physically Distanced Teaching, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, July 06, 2020

A New Series of Posts on Remote & Physically Distanced Teaching – Preparing for the Fall and Famous Last Words

In January, I had lunch with a law professor who teaches primarily online, and I told her that I knew nothing about remote teaching.  It just wasn’t something I saw myself getting into, I told her.  I can now file that under “famous last words.” Like most of you, I got a crash course in remote teaching this spring when I had to suddenly take my Securities Regulation course online.  The plan is for me to teach my Civil Procedure classes this fall in-person in a physically distanced classroom, but I obviously need to be prepared to take both classes online if the health conditions change. 

With that in mind, I’ve spent a good part of the summer trying to prepare for whatever the fall will throw at me and the rest of the legal academy.  I’ll admit that I may have gone overboard on this task, reading more books and attending more webinars than is probably healthy.   I’ve done a deep dive into this topic because I’m the Associate Dean for Faculty Development at the University of Richmond School of Law and I want to be a resource for the faculty at my school.  I’ve now collected a lot of good ideas from across the academy and other available resources, and I’d love to share them more broadly.  My series will try to summarize the most helpful ideas I’ve come across and create space in the comments for people to share other ideas as well.

To be clear, I’m certainly not an expert on online pedagogy, and I would never hold myself out as one.  But I am in a similar position to a lot of you – I’ve been a law professor for a while, I care a lot about teaching and pedagogy, and I’ve had to get up to speed fast on how to convert my classes for these new learning environments.   My goal is to share my learning so that we do not each have to recreate the wheel on our own this summer.   

Finally, a word about terminology.   I’ve seen a variety of terms used to describe the new learning environments that we may see in the fall.  For the sake of consistency, I plan to use the following three terms:

  • Physically Distanced Courses: These courses are taught in traditional classrooms with students physically distanced from each other, likely wearing masks.  There may also be a few students participating remotely through a monitor in the room.
  • Remote Courses: These courses are taught fully online through Zoom or another platform.  The sessions may be synchronous, asynchronous, or a combination of the two.
  • Hybrid Courses: These courses are taught through a combination of physically distanced and remote class sessions. 

Stay tuned for a post later this week introducing five steps for creating a physically distanced/remote/hybrid course!

Posted by Jessica Erickson on July 6, 2020 at 05:30 PM in Remote & Physically Distanced Teaching, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

How to become a legal writing professor

The new addition to the Baude/Chilton series on how to become a law professor comes from Rachel Gurvich (UNC) and Beth Wilensky (Michigan).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 30, 2020 at 03:03 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 27, 2020

So you want to be a law professor? (Updated and moved to top)

At Summary, Judgment, Will Baude and Adam Chilton have a conversation on law teaching and advising people who want to enter law teaching. The conversation is inspired by Jason Brennan's Good Work If You Can Get It: How to Succeed in Academia, applied to the unique species of the legal academy. The first posts (in order of posting, rather than order they appear on the blog) are here, here, here, and here.

Update: The topic produced a number of posts, including one guest post on becoming a clinic professor. The remaining posts (in order on the blog) are: here, here (this one is for everyone, not only budding prawfs), here, here, and here.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 27, 2020 at 01:46 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Meat Market cancelled, alternative hiring conversations

AALS canceled the Faculty Recruitment Conference out of concerns for COVID, although it will serve as information clearinghouse for candidates, including running the Faculty Appointments Registry, for schools that will run a hiring process remotely. (Brian Leiter wrote about changes making the FAR form more candidate-friendly).

Latisha Nixon-Jones, a VAP at Oregon, is starting a listserv for VAPs/Fellows to share information about the upcoming hiring season. Candidates interested in joining the listserv can complete this survey by June 30.

We will have our usual assortment of hiring-related posts and perhaps we can rerun some of our greatest hits. Although query how well advice about doing a good job talk translates to doing a good job talk via Zoom.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 25, 2020 at 09:18 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (6)

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

FIU/UM Zoom Brown Bag

This summer, FIU and UM organized a joint Zoom-based brown-bag series--a two-hour workshops, one speaker from each school. We held the first on Wednesday, with Scott Norberg (FIU) presenting an empirical study of law-student borrowing and Caroline Mala Corbin (UM) presenting a piece on Barnette and parental opt-outs. It was an engaging hour.

My thoughts on online/distance education are well known. But I will say that distance scholarly workshops work pretty well. We lose something not being in the same room, in terms of communication, engagement, and sociability. But it is a good second option that allows scholars to talk with one another.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 17, 2020 at 03:01 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

So you want to be a law professor?

At Summary, Judgment, Will Baude and Adam Chilton have a conversation on law teaching and advising people who want to enter law teaching. The conversation is inspired by Jason Brennan's Good Work If You Can Get It: How to Succeed in Academia, applied to the unique species of the legal academy. The first posts (in order of posting, rather than order they appear on the blog) are here, here, here, and here.

Worth keeping an eye on over the coming days and weeks. I will link to posts periodically.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 16, 2020 at 03:03 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Quick Civ Pro Thought after Bostock

A quick thought about teaching Civ Pro (not until January) following Bostock: One of my go-to illustrations of 12(b)(6) legal insufficiency and dismissals with prejudice has been a Title VII claim for sexual-orientation discrimination. I need to find something new.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 16, 2020 at 09:40 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, June 05, 2020

No vehicles in the park

No explanation needed.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 5, 2020 at 10:43 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, May 23, 2020

A Day in the Life

Josh Blackman lays out what a day in the life of a law student will look like this fall--he is correct and it is not pretty. My concerns for the difficulty of teachers playing to both the room and the Zoom dovetail with the teaching problems he describes.

He concludes with an important point: Most students' will demand face-to-face classes, because most students hated Zoom. But most may not realize that they are demanding something that cannot be delivered two months from now and will look and feel different than what they imagine. Schools' most important task right now may be to communicate with students and lay out the realities (perhaps assigning Josh's post)--both to set student expectations and perhaps influence student demand.

Update: Ilya Somin offers further and different suggestions, including moving small classes online so larger classes can be spread into several rooms and protecting vulnerable teachers by having them teach to the students gathered (at a distance) in the classroom.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 23, 2020 at 02:37 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Online education on trial?

This op-ed describes a lawsuit against George Washington by the lawyer/parent of a GW student, alleging breach of contract because the claim that the school continues to deliver quality education regardless of formate is "demonstrably false."

When we went underground in March, there was some discussion of whether schools could succeed with a force majeure defense. The op-ed raised a different question for me: Will resolution of this claim require a court or jury to decide whether online education is comparable to in-person education and how comparable must it be? And will a court be willing (or willing to allow a jury) to resolve that policy question as a factual matter?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 17, 2020 at 05:44 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (2)

When the middle might be worse than the extreme

Although several months away, universities, including law schools, are trying to figure out how to conduct fall classes. This Inside Higher Ed piece from April offered fifteen scenarios. The favored approach seems to be a return to campus, but with social-distancing and other protocols and with accommodations for students and faculty with age, health, or other reasons for being unable to return to the workplace without a vaccine or herd immunity.*

[*] And assuming that the wave of reopenings in May and June does not produce spikes in cases in June and July that set us back by several months.

Which really means that most schools will be doing a hybrid. They will be mixing in-person, remote, and online classes. And  in-person classes must have remote components. Professors who want to return to the live classroom will have to divide their sections (half the class live on Day One, the other half live on Day Two) and combine it with interactive technology--namely some kind of Zoom or similar hook-up--for the students who cannot be there. (Recording or live-streaming the regular live class is not a reasonable accommodation).

I have been thinking about how this will work and I am not sure it will. My in-person classes work because of a high level of engagement with the students in the room--a rapidly moving conversation, my pacing and moving around the room a lot, and working with and off stuff written on the dry-erase boards. I do not see how I can do that while being close enough to the computer to interact with those students, answer questions, see who is chatting or raising a hand, etc. People on Zoom cannot see the dry-erase board, so visuals would have to be on share screen in addition to the Board. In being close enough to the computer to engage the remote students, however, I fear I am going to lose meaningful interaction with the students in the room.

Given that, I think I might prefer to keep the entire class via Zoom. I believe I reached a point in March and April were I could run a Zoom class that was a reasonable approximation of an engaged law-school course that challenged students, engaged students, and taught students what they needed to know. It remains inferior to an in-person class. But it may be preferable to a hybrid that does a poor job for both sets of students.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 17, 2020 at 04:46 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (4)

Monday, May 11, 2020

Mandatory retirement for academics?

From a humanities professor, although I imagine the same arguments could and would be made about law professors. The article loses me a bit with the argument that besides scholarship drying up, being a senior academic means "repeatedly teaching the same courses on the same books with the same notes." That practice does not strike me as a product of age or seniority; I know many senior academics who would never dream of teaching this way and many more-junior academics who have been doing this since their careers began.

This proposal contrasts with the article discussed in this post, which argues that teaching effectiveness lasts far longer than scholarly creativity, at least for those who enjoy and wish to pursue that route.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 11, 2020 at 09:30 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, May 02, 2020

AALS Section on Professional Responsibility Call for Papers – 2021 AALS Annual Meeting

The AALS Section on Professional Responsibility invites papers for its program “Professional Responsibility 2021Works In Progress Workshop” at the AALS Annual Meeting in San Francisco (if it happens). Two papers will be selected from those submitted.

WORKSHOP DESCRIPTION:

This workshop will be an opportunity to test ideas, work out issues in drafts and interrogate a paper prior to submission. It will pair each work in progress scholar with a more senior scholar in the field who will lead a discussion of the piece and provide feedback. Successful papers should engage with scholarly literature and make a meaningful original contribution to the field or professional responsibility or legal ethics.

ELIGIBILITY:

Full-time faculty members of AALS member law schools are eligible to submit papers. Preference will be given to junior scholars focusing their work in the area of professional responsibility and legal ethics. Pursuant to AALS rules, faculty at fee-paid law schools, foreign faculty, adjunct and visiting faculty (without a full-time position at an AALS member law school), graduate students, fellows, and non-law school faculty are not eligible to submit. Please note that all faculty members presenting at the program are responsible for paying their own annual meeting registration fee and travel expenses.

PAPER SUBMISSION PROCEDURE:

Two papers will be selected by the Section’s Executive Committee for presentation at the AALS annual meeting.

There is no formal requirement as to the form or length of proposals. However, the presenter is expected to have a draft for commentators one month prior to the beginning of the AALS conference.

The paper MUST be a work in progress and cannot be published at the time of presentation. It may, however have been accepted for publication and be forthcoming.

DEADLINE:

Please email submissions to Ben Edwards, Associate Professor of Law, William S. Boyd School of Law, University of Nevada, Las Vegas at [email protected]  on or before September 30, 2020 The title of the email submission should read: “Submission – 2021 AALS Section on Professional Responsibility”

 

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 2, 2020 at 12:27 PM in Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Civ Pro Workshop Series

Suzanna Sherry (Vanderbilt) and Adam Steinman (Alabama) have organized a new remote Civil Procedure Workshop Series, hosted by and modeled on the Evidence Workshop run by Ed Cheng at Vanderbilt). It will be weekly 30-minute discussions with a guest speaker discussing current trends or topics, interesting factoids, or teaching ideas. It is open to all Civ Pro teachers.

The first workshop will be at 3 p.m. EDT (2 p.m. CDT, 1 p.m. MDT, noon PDT), Tuesday, May 5; Alexi Lahav (UConn) will discuss Bristol-Myers Squibb: Going Forward. I will speak on Tuesday, May 12 on a topic TBD.

Register at the above link by clicking on "Register for Civ Pro" (unless you also want to join Ed's Evidence Workshop, which I might do, as well).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 28, 2020 at 09:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 27, 2020

Reopening universities

Whether and how to reopen colleges and universities (and with them, law schools) has been the topic of discussion by Brown President Christina Paxson in The Times and Adam Harris and Graeme Wood in The Atlantic. Wood's suggestion that "colleges are more like cruise ships and retirement homes than they are like hardware stores and driving ranges" is sobering. As is the reminder that a law school with 500 students, like a small college, can more easily distance students than can a large university.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 27, 2020 at 05:10 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Testing on (if not for) coronavirus

I am curious if people are planning on using COVID-19, the pandemic, and everything going on for exams and assessments for this semester. It presents legal issues across a number of subjects, including mine. Is it too soon, either because everyone is living through it or because the issues are not ripe? Is it triggering because everyone is living through it--the equivalent of testing about Ferguson while the protests were ongoing--and thus distracting and unfair?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 21, 2020 at 02:54 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (5)

Monday, April 20, 2020

More on the demise of blogging

One of my favorite non-law policy blogs was the Reality-Based Community ("RBC"), started by UCLA public-policy professor Mark KleimanZ"L and then expanded to other academics. Kleiman died last summer and RBC closes shop at the end of April. The remaining bloggers are offering final posts with thoughts and memories of RBC.

Yesterday's post was from Keith Humphreys (Stanford Med School) reflecting, as I have in the past, on the decline in law-and-policy blogs in the face of the decline of paid journalism and the rise of social media and the gravitation of many bloggers and readers to Twitter and other social media. Fortunately, some of us are still going, perhaps more so in the current environment when we have nothing but time on our hands.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 20, 2020 at 09:31 AM in Blogging, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Zoom as the new normal in the legal academy?

Yes, says Josh Blackman.

As for virtual academic conferences, workshops, and symposia, I wonder if we should separate long-term and short-term. Short-term, I could see schools doing this to deal with coming budget crises. One of the first things to go may be money for faculty travel, conferences, workshops, and symposia. Schools determined to weather the budget problems while maintaining some an academic and intellectual culture may choose this option. Longer-term and once the financial problems (hopefully) pass, how strong will the push be to get real human contact in our lives? Will the current experience make us not accepting of the new normal but longing for what we had? Then the question is when short-term ends and long-term begins.

As for class, I share Josh's bottom-line assessment of "more positive than I expected." I have been able to recreate, more or less, my live class in terms of how the conversation goes, the level of interaction, etc. There is a slight delay and things move more slowly than when we are in the same room. But I agree the students have been flexible and as well-prepared and engaged. I even took advantage of the technology to save class time--posting a recording of me talking about material (the types of civil actions) I would have lectured on in class. (Talking to a blank computer was awful).

Josh says "[u]niversities will demand more classes to be taught virtually." True. But the X-factor is that students hate this. That might be due to the sudden transition or the sense that this is not what they signed up for. But the common refrain that I have heard--and that some of my colleagues have heard--is how inferior this form of instruction is. I hope this gives faculty, like me, an argument to use when "stand[ing] athwart history, yelling Stop."

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 4, 2020 at 05:58 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (12)

Monday, March 30, 2020

Emergency Florida Diploma Privilege

An online petition is calling on the Florida Board of Bar Examiners to extend a "one time, sui generis" diploma privilege to all graduates of ABA-accredited law schools registered for the July 2020 Bar Exam. Such an expanded privilege is one of several suggestions in this multi-author paper about what to do about the Bar Exam in the current circumstances.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 30, 2020 at 12:01 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (4)

Creative Projects

I have written before about the creative projects I do in Civ Pro (I stole the idea for Josh Douglas of Kentucky). For voluntary extra credit, students put together something fun related to the class and the subject: skits, videos, song parodies, poems (lots of haikus), paintings, storybooks, comic strips, etc. At the Q&A session the day before the final, we display and perform them. Many of them are quite good--law students have talent.

The question is whether to do this this year and how. Many of the larger projects are collaborative, which obviously is impossible this year. We will not be in the same space to display the visual projects or to perform. I suppose people can read or show their projects through the Zoom connection and I can run any videos through it. Keeping the project might provide some sense of normalcy (as well as extra points).

Thoughts?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 30, 2020 at 09:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (4)

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Altering courses mid-stream

The move to remote instruction affects course coverage because class moves more slowly. There is a time lag, however slight, between when I call on a student and when she unmutes her microphone and gets ready to answer. In-person, I relied on volunteers, which limited the possibility of calling on someone who had no clue or was unprepared to talk. This meant fewer long silences, fewer times repeating a question or backing up to prior principles, and less time spent deciding when to try to work the student through something and when to move on or to bring in "co-counsel." Having to cold-call introduces those delays. (This should not be read as a knock on my students this semester, who have been prepared and engaged through a lot of technological and personal problems). But things move slowly.

This affects course coverage. When we went inside, we had about half a day left on discovery. This was followed on the syllabus by Summary Judgment, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Personal Jurisdiction, Venue, and Erie. With nine 70-minute classes remaining, I have to make some hard choices.

Erie is gone. This is too bad because I like teaching it and it is the most "gamey" part of the class. I assign two cases--Erie and Hanna--then we work through a series of current problems to illustrate the various moves on the flowchart. I will miss doing this.

• I skipped the capstone problem for Discovery (based on a long-ago lawsuit in which Coca-Cola bottlers attempted to obtain the formula in discovery), in which I split the class into parties and work through the discovery issues. I could not make it work online, with cold-calling.

• On SMJ, I am basically skipping Federal Question Jurisdiction. We examined the different types of statutes and I will lecture (or post a primer on the course blog) about the Well Pleaded Complaint Rule and about the Mims standard for arising under. I am less concerned about this because I focus on FQJ in Fed Courts, going beyond what I do in Civ Pro to include Grable and complete preemption. It may be that this cursory overview becomes the new normal.

• On Personal Jurisdiction, I expect to have, at best, 7 days to cover what I usually cover in about 9+ (including Venue). My plan is to skip Pennoyer and lecture/write a primer on the different types of actions (in personam, in rem, etc.) and the basic idea of the Power Theory.

I will swing back in three weeks and let you know how it goes.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 29, 2020 at 02:04 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (5)

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Rothgerber Conference: Women's Enfranchisement now online

The 28th Annual Ira C. Rothgerber Conference on Constitutional Law, sponsored by the University of Colorado's Byron R. White Center for the Study of American Constitutional Law, slated for next Friday, April 3, will be online as a Zoom webinar. Registration is free.

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Register here for the 2020 Rothgerber Conference, to receive important email updates, including the link needed to join the webinar. Participants will be able to use this link to join at any point during the conference. 

For more information on the panels and speakers, visit the CU Law Rothgerber event page.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 28, 2020 at 10:47 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Assessment in a Time of Cholera (Updated)

Larry Cunningham (St. John's) discusses assessments in the current situation--he raises a number of questions, then proposes a framework for answering them. He rejects the suggestion making the Twitter rounds (which some of my colleagues have offered) that we cancel the semester and give everyone a "pass" in the course; we have "solutions—albeit imperfect ones—to the challenges we are facing. Giving up the semester should be a last resort."

I have been thinking about the grading questions this weekend because of the ongoing interim assessments I do throughout Civ Pro.

I distributed the preliminary exam (a one-week take-home of the type of short-answer questions on the final) last week; it is due Thursday. I have been working with our registrar to devise a mechanism for submitting electronically (I have 130 students in two sections, so email is not an option). My plan had been to print them out so I can grade on paper, but FIU moved us off campus effective Monday afternoon. So I will get electronic copies of all the papers and will try to grade on the computer, using the Comments feature to make comments and assign a number. I expect it to take longer than it would on paper, just because I read and can type comments and remarks more slowly than if I am working through it with a pencil and paper.

I expect to assign at least three essays in the three weeks we are guaranteed off campus (an essay is on one topic from the class, assigned to a random group of 6-7 students). The smaller numbers mean they can be emailed to the register, send to me, and graded electronically.

The question is the final exam, which ordinarily a four-hour in-class, open-materials, short-answer test. I guess I will make it take-home. I had been thinking of doing that before this hit, to get less-rushed and (hopefully) better-written answers. The question, as Larry raises, is the "integrity" of the exam. I have heard enough rumors of students cheating to fear take-home exams as a matter of course. But I am not sure there is an alternative.

Submitting grades will not be a problem (something Larry raises) will not be a problem, because we have been doing that through the school's web platform for years.

Read Larry's post; he goes deep into macro issues such as what to do about the curve, scholarship retention, rankings, etc. And looming over it all is who decides--how much is for individual faculty for individual classes, how much for faculty as a governing body, and how much for the administration.

Update: The argument against canceling the semester--in general and for law schools in particular--is content dissemination: Students need to know stuff for other classes in the remainder of the curriculum and for the Bar. And that is a good argument.  Larry's post shows that assessment remains tricky, even if content dissemination can go online. So I wonder if the answer is to keep classes through the end of the semester, but cancel final exams and projects and give everyone a "Pass."

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 15, 2020 at 08:19 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 13, 2020

On two days of online teaching (sorry, remote instruction) (Updated)

Josh Blackman offers good thoughts on teaching via Zoom, which is the tool I have been using. My responses to Josh's bullet points and further thoughts after two days and four online classes (both 70-minute Civ Pro section). My verdict: Not as bad as it could have been; not my preference and I am unlikely to become a convert in support of this as the new normal.

1) Normal Appearance: Nope. I took advantage of this as the chance to wear shorts, a polo shirt, and a pullover. From the waist up, I look business casual. Not sure I am not going to wear a robe, a la Hogwarts, one day.

2) Put on a Show: Rather than sitting or standing in front of my laptop camera, I am conducting the class in a classroom, facing a Zoom camera with a screen showing the students. That is, I am conducting my regular class from my regular position in the room. I am pacing and moving around, as I do in class. The difference is I am talking to a screen of headshots rather than live people.

2 1/2) Dry-Erase Board:  The one limit on the "regular show" concerns the dry-erase board. I learned after the first class that it is useless--the camera cannot pick up what is written on it from a wide-field camera. So my usual interaction with stuff on the board (key language, flowcharts, maps of parties and claims) is out. My solution is to write out whatever I would put on the board and post it in advance of class to the course blog. It should work well enough.

3) Call on Students in Alphabetical Order: I do not cold-call in Civ Pro, relying on incentivized (participation is part of the final grade) volunteers. That cannot work in a large class because the Zoom screen only shows 25 people at a time. I am cold-calling, but I am doing it via the seating chart. I think it works as well as alphabetical, because the students know who they sit next to and so they are on notice when they might be next.

4) Switch the Camera Up: I see Josh's point about staring at one thing for too long. I think/hope that I overcome this because they do not see a close-up of my face, but what they would see if they were in the room. I am standing about 15 feet away from the unit, so I have no opportunity to play around.

5) Check the Chat Feature Often: My big lesson from day one to day two, along with stopping every 15-20 minutes for questions, either shouted out or on the chat feature. The students are using the chat feature to help one another out with answers. When a question was giving one student trouble, I cold-called the student who had answered it in the chat.

6) Virtual Office Hours: I love this idea and may try to implement it.

Other Thoughts:

• The interaction is slower and it takes longer to get through material--at least it feels that way. There is a time delay in the student response to me and likely in my response to the student. I think I am repeating rephrasing because I do not have a group of faces that I can read to determine if it is sinking in. Cold-calling contributes to that. With volunteers, the person answering is ready to go--if she is off the mark, I move on; if she is close or in the general vicinity, we can try to work through the question. With cold-calling, I feel obligated to try to work through it with someone who is at a complete loss.

• This probably relates to how I am using Zoom and that I do not have the computer right at my fingertips. I do bring up the speaker and I not necessarily see the person answering (if she is not one of the 25 on the first screen), so the back-and-forth is not visual. That makes it harder.

• That said, I my rethink cold-calling in Civ Pro when things return to normal. The students have been pretty good when called on, including some who had never or rarely raised their hands through the semester. I always have feared cold-calling a student who is lost and brings the conversation to a needle-screeching halt. But maybe my assumption has been wrong.

• I have had technological problems every class. This does not happen when the only "tech" problem I usually have is that the marker is out of ink.

• A question on economies of scale. I teach two sections of Civ Pro of ~65 each (the entire full-time class), opposite my colleague who teaches Crim to that group--I teach Section A and he teachers B in one time slot; then we flip in a second time slot. So would it work for each to combine section so we each teach once per day--I teach all ~130 Civ Pro in one time slot, my colleague teaches all in Crim in the other slot?

    I would never attempt to teach that many at once in an in-person class. But if I am cold-calling and the interaction is less engaged and more stilted, is there any drawback to adding more students to the mix? Everyone would have fewer opportunities to participate and I would have to jump between classes. But am I wrong that it would be less overwhelming and more efficient when it is remote?

Update: Diane Klein, an experienced online teacher, raises two points with which I agree:

    1) It was "ridiculous and impossible" to believe everyone--including professors (like me) who had never taught remotely and rejected the very idea--would be able to transition to teaching online in one day or one week and be able to do so effectively. She likens it an order that everyone begin teaching using American Sign Language, effective tomorrow.

    2) "[C]lose observers of higher ed in America cannot help but wonder how many of the courses that "migrate" to these online platforms during this crisis may never come back. " I said the same earlier in the week: There will be pressure to make this the new normal.

Second Update: As to # 1, consider these points that have been passed around; they seem to have started on Facebook. No one is expecting anyone to speak ASL; the goal is to muddle through so there is some level of understanding.

  1. Let’s acknowledge that the quality of education will not be as good in alternative formats as it is in the pedagogical model we’ve actually planned for. That’s OK as well—we’re just trying to survive.
  1. Do not read on best practices for distance learning. That’s not the situation we’re in. We’re in triage. Distance learning, when planned, can be really excellent. That’s not what this is. Do what you absolutely have to and ditch what you can. Thinking you can manage best practices in a day or a week will lead to feeling like you’ve failed.
  1. You will not recreate your classroom, and you cannot hold yourself to that standard. Moving a class to a distance learning model in a day’s time excludes the possibility of excellence. Give yourself a break.
  1. Prioritize: what do students really need to know for the next few weeks? This is really difficult, and, once again, it means that the quality of teaching and learning will suffer. But these are not normal circumstances.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 13, 2020 at 06:22 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Online teaching

FIU (and the rest of Florida's State University System) joined the parade of colleges and universities by moving to "remote instruction" (ah, euphemisms) effective tomorrow. It starts with my 9:30 a.m. Civ Pro course, for which Zoom has not been set-up. It should not be surprising that I am not happy about this development. Not only do I find online law teaching a horrible idea. Not only are we, by necessity, rushing into it without preparation or organization. But I fear that this is the camel's nose for people who want online education (legal and otherwise) to become the new normal--"see how well it worked, let's put everything online so we are ready for the next emergency and never again have to worry about rushed transitions."

This defense of online education (sorry, remote instruction takes the cake, especially the start of the fourth paragraph:

But teaching online wasn’t that different from the classroom experience I was accustomed to. It was often more fun than standing at a lectern working through a well-worn set of PowerPoint slides. The trick was making it as personal as possible and accepting that sometimes, the technology fails and you figure it out. 

Anything is more fun than standing at a lectern working through a well-work set of PowerPoint slides. But if all you were doing is standing at lectern working through well-worn slides, then you were not doing a good job of teaching in the first place. So a poor facsimile of the educational experience will not seem much worse.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 11, 2020 at 09:22 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (9)

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Fulbright Scholars program now open for applications

This year's Fulbright Scholars program is now open for applications.

For those who do not know, Fulbright, named after late Senator J. William Fulbright, is a grant program of the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government. The Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES), the scholar division of the Institute of International Education (IIE), administers the program for State. Selected Fulbright Scholars spend time abroad at a foreign host institution. Awards are for teaching, research, or some combination of teaching and research. There are awards both for U.S. scholars interested in traveling abroad as well as non-U.S. scholars interested in visiting an institution in the United States.

Law faculty should note there are always multiple award announcements seeking faculty with legal expertise, and this year is no different. There are 62 awards for which law is a designated discipline. Destinations range from Australia to Zimbabwe, including multi-country regional grants. Can't spare a full semester? There are now flex awards that permit multiple, short-term stays in the host country over a period of 1-2 years. You can search the awards here.

In 2017, I completed a Fulbright to Croatia (Hrvatska) where I taught at the University of Zagreb for 5 months. I made many professional contacts and dear friends. As a parent, one of the most rewarding aspects of the Fulbright was the chance to live abroad with children, which while occasionally soul stretching, was very good for them developmentally. And I enjoyed myself too as I explored a corner of the world that was previously unfamiliar to me.

Posted by T. Samahon on March 4, 2020 at 01:35 PM in Teaching Law, Travel, VAPS & Fellowships | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, February 28, 2020

CFP: Junior Faculty Fed Courts Workshop

Washington University School of Law in St. Louis will host the Twelfth Annual Junior Faculty Federal Courts Workshop on September 11–12, 2020. The workshop pairs a senior scholar with a panel of junior scholars presenting works-in-progress.

The workshop is open to untenured and recently tenured academics who teach and write in the areas of federal courts, civil rights litigation, civil procedure, and other related topics. The program is also open to scholars who wish to attend, read, and comment on papers but not present.  There is no registration fee.

 

The conference will begin on the morning of Friday, September 11, and conclude by early afternoon on Saturday, September 12. Each panel will consist of three to four junior scholars, with a senior scholar commenting on the papers and leading a group discussion.

 

The workshop will take place at WashU Law, which is located 15 minutes from STL airport. The School of Law will provide lunches and dinners for those attending the workshop, but attendees must cover their own travel and lodging costs. A discounted block of rooms will be made available at Washington University’s Knight Center, which is next door to the School of Law. Those wishing to present a paper must submit an abstract to [email protected] by March 30, 2020. Papers will be selected by a committee of past participants, and presenters will be notified by the end of May.

 

Questions about the conference may be directed to Prof. Daniel Epps ([email protected]) or his assistant, Andrea Donze ([email protected]). Up-to-date information about the conference will be provided at https://law.wustl.edu/faculty-and-research/conferences-and-workshops/12th-annual-junior-faculty-federal-courts-workshop/

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 28, 2020 at 09:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 17, 2020

Call for Nominations: Peter Gonville Stein Book Award

Nominations are being sought for the Peter Gonville Stein Book Award from the American Society for Legal History, awarded to the best book in legal history (written in English) outside the field of US legal history, published during the previous calendar year.

Nominations are due by March 16, 2020. Direct inquiries to Matthew C. Mirow ([email protected]).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 17, 2020 at 10:53 AM in Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)