Deepening the Discourse Using the Legal Mind's Eye: Lessons from Neuroscience and Educational Psychology that Optimize Law School Learning

75 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2010 Last revised: 14 Dec 2012

Hillary Burgess

Charlotte School of Law; Appalachian School of Law

Date Written: March 24, 2010


While critical thinking is one of the most crucial skills in law school, the foundational principles of many core law school courses are also critical to passing the bar and, more importantly, the competent practice of law. However, law students tend to forget significant amount of the doctrine and policy before they graduate.

This article argues that law professors could 1. cover more doctrine and critical thinking skills 2. at more sophisticated levels 3. while knowing that their students will retain much of their lessons throughout their career if they taught using multimodal strategies because students learn higher order thinking skills better with multimodal learning. These ideas can be applied to both students who excel in law school to further challenge them and to access students who need a bit more guidance to demonstrate their full legal potential.

In providing this thesis, this article also argues that the traditional legal classroom typically teaches the lowest four levels of learning and tests the highest four levels of learning.

This article serves three purposes. First, it provides professors with a review of the theoretical and scientific literature on learning theory as it applies to law school. Second, this article provides professors with information about teaching methods that allow students to learn more optimally and retain their learning during their lifetime careers in law. Third, this article provides concrete guidelines for law faculty interested in incorporating visual multimodal strategies effectively in their teaching. The article also provides many concrete examples of specific teaching techniques that professors could adopt in their own class immediately.

Keywords: neuroscience, neuropsychology, cognitive psychology, educational psychology, psychology, educational theory, education, legal education, brain, working memory, long term memory, visual, verbal, picture superiority effect, pictorial superiority effect, images, diagrams, flowcharts, flow charts, graph

Suggested Citation

Burgess, Hillary, Deepening the Discourse Using the Legal Mind's Eye: Lessons from Neuroscience and Educational Psychology that Optimize Law School Learning (March 24, 2010). Quinnipiac Law Review, 2010. Available at SSRN:

Hillary Burgess (Contact Author)

Charlotte School of Law ( email )

201 South College Street
Suite 400
Charlotte, NC 28244
United States

Appalachian School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 2825
Grundy, VA 24614
United States

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