Teaching Skills of Legal Analysis: Does the Emperor Have Any Clothes?
David J. Herring
University of Pittsburgh - School of Law
University of Pittsburgh - Learning Research and Development Center & Intelligent Systems
June 1, 2011
University of Pittsburgh Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2011-16
This paper adds to the on-going discussion about the assessment of student learning outcomes in law schools. It addresses the assessment of first-year law students’ basic legal reading and reasoning skills, with a particular examination of students’ capacity to read closely related cases, detect indeterminacies of meaning among cases, and determine which similarities and distinctions are relevant in light of an assigned professional role or task. Following a detailed review of the prior research in this area, the paper reports the results of a study that employed pre- and post-test instruments to measure the impact of the traditional case-dialogue teaching methodology on students’ skills of legal reading and reasoning. The analysis of students’ normalized learning gains indicates that while some of the participating students realized an improvement in their reading and reasoning skills, the student population as a whole did not achieve substantial learning gains. This central finding is consistent with the findings from the prior studies in this area. The results across studies call for the development of teaching approaches other than the traditional case-dialogue method and for the continued assessment of learning gains.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 37
Keywords: legal education, educational assessment, assessment, student learning outcomes, teaching, teaching outcomes, law students, methodology, case-dialog
JEL Classification: K19, I21working papers series
Date posted: June 2, 2011 ; Last revised: December 17, 2012
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