Out of the Shadows: What Legal Research Instruction Reveals About Incorporating Skills Throughout the Curriculum

Barbara Glesner Fines

University of Missouri at Kansas City - School of Law


Journal of Dispute Resolution, Spring 2013

In examining the challenges of bringing any skills instruction out of the shadows of the curriculum, reformers may find a telling example in the efforts to incorporate instruction of legal research into the curriculum. Legal research skills have long been recognized as foundational to legal practice. Yet attorneys and law firm librarians consistently evaluate law students and new lawyers as deficient in legal research skills. A careful examination of why law schools been unable to improve this assessment of their graduates’ skills can provide insights in thinking about the integration of other skills education into the curriculum. The article first examines the politics of curricular reform. Part Two of the article discusses attitudes that can hinder the development of skills instruction starting with a general skepticism about skills instruction. Part Three of the article posits that approaches to curricular reform that are grounded in collaboration and focused on assessment of student learning can raise the profile and importance of a particular skill. Thus, this article describes such an approach to integrating skills instruction into the curriculum through the analysis of outcomes and the development of assessment devices. Last, the article explores the ways in which assessment leads to curricular change and prioritization, as results of assessments drive improvements in both teaching and learning. It concludes that data on student learning gained from assessment activities can focus conversations about whether and how to improve student competence on a given learning outcome. It is only through these shared conversations and ownership of skills learning that the demands for improved student preparation can be met.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 37

Keywords: legal education, legal research instruction, integration, curriculum reform, skills

JEL Classification: I20, I21, K00

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Date posted: September 30, 2013  

Suggested Citation

Glesner Fines, Barbara, Out of the Shadows: What Legal Research Instruction Reveals About Incorporating Skills Throughout the Curriculum (2012). Journal of Dispute Resolution, Spring 2013. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2328939

Contact Information

Barbara Glesner Fines (Contact Author)
University of Missouri at Kansas City - School of Law ( email )
5100 Rockhill Road
Kansas City, MO 64110-2499
United States
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