The Major Elements of Legal Education
Reform by Scott Fruehwald
- Legal education reform should employ scholarship from general education
- Law schools should teach their students that intelligence is fluid, not
fixed. Intelligence can be improved by engaged learners
using proper learning methods.
- Above all, legal education should be active. Lectures and other
passive learning approaches are not effective for long-term retention.
- Law professors should teach students how to become metacognitive learners.
They should make their students aware of how people learn.
- To develop metacognitive thinkers, law professors should encourage
students to "put themselves in the shoes of others," such as the opposing
attorney, judges, and their professors.
- Law professors should teach students to monitor their learning.
- Law professors should encourage their students to reflect on what they
have read and what they have learned.
- Law professors should teach their students to become self-regulated
- Law professors should motivate their students.
- Law professors should help their students set learning goals.
- Law professors should set goals for their course, each unit, and each
class. They should give their students the list of goals.
- Law professors should be explicit in their teaching; no more "hide the
- Law professors should adopt a variety of teaching approaches.
- Law professors can use the Socratic method, but they should use it
properly and as only one among several teaching approaches.
- Law professors should ask their students probing questions to determine
whether they understand the material and to develop their metacognitive and
- Law professors should help students discern deep patterns in knowledge,
such as how experts organize adverse possession.
- All doctrinal courses should include problem solving exercises or written
assignments. Students remember more when they apply doctrine.
- Law professors should demonstrate the steps in problem solving in class
(modeling of strategies).
- Law professors should teach their students how to choose among alternative
- Law professors should help law students break down complex tasks into
- Law professors should use scaffolding--"providing hints and cues when
students first try to perform the skill," such as using partially filled out
diagrams or leading questions before reading a case.
- Law professors should use graphic organizers, such as learning trees,
charts, or outlines, to help students learn better and make connections
- All law school classes should provide frequent formative assessment with
prompt, detailed feedback.
- Professors should use rubrics ("sets of detailed written criteria used to
assess student performance") to aid feedback.
- Law professors should explicitly teach their students legal miniskills,
such as case analysis, legal reading, rule-based reasoning, analogical
reasoning, how to distinguish cases, how to synthesize cases, policy-based
- Law professors should have their student do think aloud exercises.
- Law professors should help their students learn how to transfer knowledge
and skills from one domain to another. (torts to contracts; psychology
to law; contract doctrine to contract drafting)
- Law professors should use cooperative learning in the proper
- Law professors should allow their students as much self-determination as
possible. Adult learners prefer to control their learning.
- Law schools and law professors should teach their students the study
skills necessary for succeeding in law school.
- Spacing studying, opposed to massing it, aids in retaining material in
- Law professors should encourage students to reflect on what they learned
the same day as a class. Professors should encourage students to
synthesize and rewrite their notes. Synthesis of materials greatly
- Law professors should teach their students how to become reader-oriented
writers, rather than writer-oriented writers. In other words, writers
should strive to communicate their ideas as fully as possible to their
- Law professors should encourage their student to keep learning
journals. Law professors should encourage their students to use graphic
organizers in their journals.
- Law professors should encourage their students to self-test themselves
while studying. Recall of material creates more retention in
long-term memory than just rereading the material.
- Law schools and law professors should teach their students to be engaged
- Law professors should teach their students how to become "deliberate
learners." Deliberate learners work toward specific goals, avoid
distractions, constantly monitor their learning, and repeat a specific
strategy over and over to improve the details of that strategy.
Think of a cellist practicing the interpretation of a passage in a Brahms
- Law professors should have frequent office hours because students learn
- Law schools should teach their students how to effectively use study
- Law students should take at least one skills course, experiential course,
or clinic every semester of their second and third years.
- Law schools should provide courses such as contract drafting,
transactional skills, practical real estate transactions, and estate planning
- Law professors should improve their own teaching through reflection.
After every class, professors should evaluate whether their teaching that day
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