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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Law Students Deserve Better Teaching

National Jurist November 2008 Jon Peters, a law student at Ohio State, has an interesting op-ed in the November 2008 issue of The National JuristTeaching Deserves to be Valued:

I'm confident that many law schools do value teaching, but I'm equally confident that its value, in practice, doesn't suit that rhetoric.  That is, I no longer believe what I was told -- that teaching is first among equals at law schools,,, in the context of the three traditional tenets of higher education: teaching, research and service.  Indeed, it seems that teaching has assumed redheaded stepchild status, behind the favorite child: scholarship.

[A]bsent an economic incentive [for good teaching], teaching will remain a distant second to scholarship, in light of the pressures created by scholarship-heavy P&T criteria and the pressures created by the rankings.

The legal academe cannot continue to incentivize faculty to be better than bad, but not necessarily to be good; to take its cues from the rankings; and overall to marginalize the importance of teaching.

It should go without saying, students deserve better than that.

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I am a law student and absolutely agree. For the amount of money we pay, we deserve more.

Posted by: Law Student | Nov 26, 2008 1:39:42 PM

I completely agree with the op-ed. Law school professors, many of whom are experts in their respective fields, mistakenly assume that they are experts in teaching. An important shortcoming of law school evaluations is exclusion of the professors' methods of assessment by closing the evaluation period prior to final exams. An imprecise evaluation frustrates the evaluating student and misguides the professor, administration, and future students and professors - all of whom could benefit from a precise evaluation.

Posted by: Nate | Nov 27, 2008 1:10:54 PM

Call me contrary, but my observation over the years is that the quality of law teaching is usually pretty good, certainly much higher than the quality in most other academic departments, but the scholarship is frequently mediocre. So if I were in charge, I would recommend more or less the opposite. I suppose it all depends upon your perspective.

Posted by: Michael Livingston | Nov 27, 2008 6:29:39 PM