AALS Annual Meeting, New Orleans, Louisiana     January 2-6, 2002
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Thursday, January 3, 2002
8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Annual Meeting Workshop: Do You Know Where Your Students Are? Langdell Logs On to the 21st Century


Concurrent Session: Using Learning Theory to Connect with Law Students

LEARNING THEORY AND CHOICE OF INSTRUCTIONAL METHODS:
WHY USING A VARIETY OF INSTRUCTIONAL METHODS IN LAW SCHOOL CLASSES IS A THREE “FER”
Lynn Daggett; J.D., Ph.D. (Education)
Gonzaga Law School

  1. A. Law teachers have a variety of teaching methods available to them, such as:
    • Socratic method
    • Non-socratic questioning of students
    • Lecture, short and long
    • Discussion, small group and large
    • Problem solving, simple and complex
    • Simulations/role playing
    • Cooperative learning
    • Free writes/two-minute papers
    • Developmental feedback

    B. Three separate areas of learning theory (learning styles, active learning and multichannel learning) each suggest that learning is maximized when teachers use a variety of teaching methods in their classes.

  2. A. Learning theory indicates that law students have a variety of preferred learning modes, and some instructional methods will be more effective for some students than for others. For example:
    • Students’ preferred learning “channel” may be visual, auditory, or kinesthetic (hands on); some teaching methods emphasize one channel over another, and some methods can be adapted to be “multichannel.”
    • Students’ processing speeds differ: some are quick on their feet, while others need more time to chew and digest.
    • Students’ patterns of intellectual abilities differ: some are particularly strong reasoners, other students are particularly strong in acquired knowledge.
    • Students differ in whether they are “top-down” or “bottom-up” learners.

    B. Law teachers need to understand not only the variety of student learning differences in their classes, but also their own preferred learning modes in order to avoid choosing teaching methods because they fit well with the teacher’s own preferences as a learner.

    C. Law teachers can help students maximize learning by helping students understand their own learning preferences and make appropriate adaptations to their own learning processes.

    D. Law teachers can help students maximize learning when teaching methods are adapted to the variety of student learning styles in a class

  3. A. Learning theory indicates that law students learn more effectively when they are active participants in the learning process.

    B. Consequently, choosing some teaching methods which require active participation by students maximizes learning.

    C. Which methods require active learning?

    • Socratic method is active for the student being questioned. Does it give the other students an opportunity to be active?
    • Lecture does not ordinarily involve active learning, but can be modified to give learners a more active role.
    • Other methods require active student roles: for example, problem solving, discussion (especially small group), cooperative learning (particularly with individual accountability), simulations/role playing, free writes/two minute papers.

  4. A. Learning theory indicates that law students learn more effectively when they have approached the material from more than one learning perspective (e.g. more than one sensory learning channel).

    B. Consequently, a variety of teaching methods which require students to come at a course from multiple learning perspectives maximizes learning.


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