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

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fourteen Tips to Improve Law School Casebooks

Michael Hunter Schwartz (Washburn), Improving Legal Education by Improving Casebooks: Fourteen Things Casebooks Can Do to Produce Better and More Learning, 3 Elon L. Rev. 27 (2011):

Legal education has enough scholar-driven casebooks. What legal education needs right now are learning-centered casebooks written by experts in law teaching. We need casebooks that engage students in all three Carnegie apprenticeships, casebooks that make it easy for law professors to adopt best practices, casebooks that offer law teachers a different model. We need casebooks that translate well-documented principles of instructional design to the creation of law school casebooks. This article uses the core, guiding principles of the Context and Practice Casebook Series as a mechanism for arguing for a new model of law school casebook design. It identifies fourteen features of casebooks in the Context and Practice Series that distinguish the books from some, most, and, in some instances, all other casebooks currently available in the legal education marketplace. The distinctive features fall into five categories. Firstly, describes innovations aimed at increasing the likelihood that we produce practice-ready lawyers. Secondly, articulates what casebooks can take from the field of instructional design. Thirdly, addresses what was, perhaps, the most challenging aspect of the design, creating learning experiences that assist students in synthesizing their existing value systems with the value systems implicitly and explicitly taught in law school. Fourthly, describes the ways in which series books assist law teachers in being more effective as day-to-day classroom teachers, and finally explains what the books in the series do to assist law professors in providing students meaningful opportunities for practice and feedback and to make it easier for law teachers to conduct multiple and varied summative assessments.

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I don't want to be cynical, but this strikes me as a proposal to do to law school casebooks what the publishing industry has already done to secondary school textbooks - make them boring, fill them with educational jargon ("assist students in synthesizing their existing value systems"), and dumb them down. No thanks.

Posted by: Connecticut Lawyer | Aug 26, 2011 7:55:03 PM