The Elephant in Law School Classrooms: Overuse of the Socratic Method as an Obstacle to Teaching Modern Law Students
Benjamin V. Madison III
Regent University School of Law
September 11, 2008
University of Detroit Mercy Law Review, Vol. 85, No. 3, 2008
This article contends that if law schools paid attention to the discoveries in the field of education, law school teaching would improve dramatically. Instead, the Socratic method continues to dominate legal education. The method dominates even though it can be shown not only (1) to be an ineffective method for fully achieving educational objectives; and (2) to be an elitist approach that discriminates against both minority and female students as well as the increasing number of law students with diverse learning styles.
This article reviews findings in both legal education and education generally to demonstrate discoveries about the ways people learn and educational methods that have proved to be most effective in light of these discoveries. This article answers common objections to a departure from the purely Socratic approach. Moreover, this article demonstrates the method in which the author identified educational objectives for a first-year law school course (Civil Procedure) and then designed a diverse set of educational methods to achieve those objectives. Within this course, the Socratic method plays a part, but it is no longer King (or Queen) in the classroom. The professor employs the method when it serves the educational objectives. The result is a course that better serves the entire class - regardless of race, gender, or learning style.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 54
Keywords: Education, Legal Education, Teaching, Socratic Method
Date posted: September 15, 2008 ; Last revised: December 11, 2012