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A Synergistic Pedagogical Approach to First-Year Teaching


Jamie R. Abrams


University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law

May 1, 2010

Duquesne University Law Review, Vol. 48, No. 2, 2010
American University, WCL Research Paper No. 2010-19

Abstract:     
The First “Colonial Frontier” Legal Writing Conference, held at Duquesne University School of Law, focused on Engendering Hope in the Legal Writing Classroom: Pedagogy, Curriculum, and Attitude. This conference built on the foundational work of Allison Martin and Kevin Rand in which these scholars call for educators to engender hope in law students to prepare them for practice. Martin and Rand conclude that hope is a predictor of students’ academic performance and psychological health during the first semester of law school and recommend that law professors “maintain and creat[e] hope in law students” by embracing five core principles. Martin and Rand’s core principles recommend that law faculty “(A) help law students formulate appropriate goals, (B) increase law student’s autonomy, (C) model the learning process, (D) help law students understand grading as feedback rather than as pure evaluation, and (E) model and encourage agentic thinking.” Martin and Rand’s work provides concrete recommendation on how to “engender hope” in the legal writing classroom in particular.

Martin and Rand’s frame for approaching legal education is both timely and responsive considering the rapidly evolving legal market and the ongoing calls for reform in legal education. As the Carnegie Report highlighted: “Critics of the legal profession, both from within and without, have pointed to a great profession suffering from varying degrees of confusion and demoralization. A reawakening of professional élan must include, in an important way, revitalizing legal preparation.” Martin and Rand’s work and the Colonial Frontier conference responsively and proactively bring together educators to consider pedagogical approaches centered on engendering hope in our students to prepare them for successful and satisfying legal careers. “Engendering hope” as a pedagogical frame for curricular innovation offers a holistic and success-oriented approach that is a workable and adaptable starting point to strengthening the legal education model.

This article uses Martin and Rand’s core principles as a lens to examine a synergistic integrated pedagogical approach adopted at the American University Washington College of Law (WCL). In this pedagogical approach, a section of first-year WCL faculty coordinated to lead students through a client simulation woven through all first-year courses in the first semester. This article examines how this simulation engendered hope in law students using Martin and Rand’s five principles as a rubric for initial assessment. This article reveals the methodology for this curricular innovation, the desired objectives, and both our initial successes and our preliminary critiques. WCL’s approach reveals how synergistic pedagogy can engender hope in today’s law students without unduly straining existing models, resources, or personnel. This approach suggests a proactive, not reactive, pedagogical technique capable of replication in institutions of varying curricular specialization, size, composition, and resources. This approach in its early assessment seems to rekindle hope in students and faculty alike, an outcome that is itself a catalyst to change.

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Date posted: June 26, 2010  

Suggested Citation

Abrams, Jamie R., A Synergistic Pedagogical Approach to First-Year Teaching (May 1, 2010). Duquesne University Law Review, Vol. 48, No. 2, 2010; American University, WCL Research Paper No. 2010-19. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1630517

Contact Information

Jamie R. Abrams (Contact Author)
University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law ( email )
Louisville, KY
United States
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