Final Exam on the First Day of Class and Throughout the Course
2 Pages Posted: 11 Feb 2010
Date Written: February 10, 2010
I grab my law students’ attention on the opening day of Criminal Law by distributing the first part of the final examination and informing them that they are about to embark on a semester-long project in professional skill development and academic statutory construction.
I explain that the exam has a twofold purpose. First, it is designed to impress on them the importance of essential lawyering skills, such as active listening, interviewing, counseling, facilitation, brainstorming, mediation, negotiation, public deliberation, and community advocacy. To satisfy this objective, I assign the 125 first-year students to legislative committees of no more than nine each, supplying them with materials and questions that require them to compare their respective critique of a current penal code treating such controversial subjects as stalking or spouse abuse. Their shared task is to develop a model penal code section that represents their best understanding of criminal law and each other’s critique of the current statute.
Secondly, the exam tests academic grasp of criminal law doctrine and materials throughout the semester. Instead of briefing assigned course readings only for a particular class discussion, students plumb the cases and penal code sections in earnest for their applicability to their legislative committee's working draft of a model statute.
Keywords: Criminal law pedagogy, legal education, model penal code, moot court, final exam
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