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

Thursday, August 8, 2013

What the Best Law Teachers Do (Harvard University Press)

BestMichael Hunter Schwartz (Dean, Arkansas-Little Rock), Gerald F. Hess (Gonzaga) & Sophie M. Sparrow (New Hampshire), What the Best Law Teachers Do (Harvard University Press, Aug. 2013):

What makes a great law professor? The first study of its kind, What the Best Law Teachers Do identifies the methods, strategies, and personal traits of professors whose students achieve exceptional learning. This pioneering book will be of interest to any instructor seeking concrete, proven techniques for helping students succeed.

What the Best Law Teachers Do introduces readers to twenty-six professors from law schools across the United States. These instructors are renowned for their exacting standards: they set expectations high, while also making course requirements—and their belief that their students can meet them—clear from the outset. They demonstrate professional behavior and tell students to approach class as they would their future professional life: by being as prepared, polished, and gracious as possible. And they prepare themselves for class in depth, even when they have taught the course for years.

The best law professors understand that the little things matter. They start class on time and stay afterward to answer questions. They learn their students’ names and respond promptly to emails. These instructors are all tough—but they are also committed, creative, and compassionate mentors. With its close-to-the-ground accounts of exceptional educators in action, What the Best Law Teachers Do offers insights into effective pedagogy that transcend the boundaries of legal education.

Table of Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. What Is Exceptional Learning in Law School?
  3. What Personal Qualities Do the Best Law Teachers Possess?
  4. How Do the Best Law Teachers Relate to Their Students?
  5. What Do the Best Law Teachers Expect from Their Students?
  6. How Do the Best Law Teachers Prepare to Teach?
  7. How Do the Best Law Teachers Engage Students in and out of the Classroom?
  8. How Do the Best Law Teachers Provide Feedback and Assess Students?
  9. What Lasting Lessons Do Students Take Away?
  10.  Suggestions for Using This Book

This book fills an enormous vacuum in law teaching literature. Based on painstaking, methodical, individual attention to 26 carefully-selected law professors from around the country, it presents cogent, inspiring, and concrete approaches to teaching and student–teacher relationships in the voices of the teachers and their students themselves.—Jean Koh Peters, Yale University

Reading this book is like sitting down and having extensive conversations with excellent teaching mentors. It is a wonderful addition to the professional mentorship that is so important yet often so lacking in faculty development.—Alison Grey Anderson, University of California, Los Angeles


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"The best law professors . . . start class on time . . . and stay afterward to answer questions." If this is the kind of insight that is being published by the Harvard Press, it's not surprising people are losing faith in law schools.

Posted by: michael livingston | Aug 8, 2013 4:49:51 PM

"Best" measured by what standard?

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Aug 9, 2013 8:28:50 AM