Reaching the Visual Learner: Teaching Property Through Art
William C. Bradford
United States Coast Guard Academy
September 1, 2011
The Law Teacher Vol. 11, 2004
Learning theorists have demonstrated that people vary in the manner in which they absorb, process, and recall what they are taught. Verbal learners, a group that constitutes about 30% of the general population, learn by hearing. They benefit from class lectures and from discussion of class materials in study groups or in oral presentations, but chafe at written assignments. Experiential learners - about 5% of the population - learn by doing and touching, and clinical work, role-playing exercises, and moot court are their best instructional modalities. Visual learners - the remaining 65% of the population - need to see what they are learning, and while they have difficulty following oral lectures they perform well at written assignments and readily recall material they have read. The implications of variance in learning styles are particularly significant for legal educators. Empirical research supports the conclusions that when students are matched with teaching methods that complement their learning styles their absorption and retention is significantly enhanced. However, law professors who rely upon the Socratic method or more traditional lecturing techniques, as do the majority of those who teach doctrinal courses, particularly in the first-year curriculum, may be satisfying the pedagogical needs of their verbal learners without adequately engaging their kinesthetic or visual students, who comprise a majority of their classes. Students for whom traditional teaching methods are unsatisfactory may not only learn less but may suffer motivational problems and enjoy the law school experience less than their peers.
Moreover, variations in learning styles have been linked to gender: women tend to be more visually oriented than men, who are generally more kinesthetic, and consequently female students are systematically more prone to suffer the deleterious effects of learning style-teaching method mismatch than men. However, sixteen years after the American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession suggested to law schools that the first-year curriculum would be improved by the use of greater variety of teaching methods in light of the diversity of learning styles in the student body, the typical first-year doctrinal course remains a predominantly verbal domain. In some degree this is a function of the subject matter. After all, law is a bibliocentric profession, and words are the coin of the realm. But we need not seek the radical transformation of the law to teach to the entire class. This Article presents empirical evidence demonstrating that the use of original art can assist legal educators to this end.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 5
Keywords: Legal education, visual learners, learning theory, art
Date posted: September 10, 2004 ; Last revised: December 7, 2012
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