Why Skills Ain't Easy: The Deceptive Difficulty Discovered in the Cognitive Taxonomy of Legal Learning Objectives

3 Pages Posted: 7 Oct 2011 Last revised: 31 Dec 2012

Hillary Burgess

Charlotte School of Law; Appalachian School of Law

Date Written: October 1, 2011

Abstract

When looking at many courses that are dubbed “skills” courses, many law professors have the initial reaction that they are “easier” than doctrinal courses. In my forthcoming article, The Taxonomy of Legal Learning Objectives and Outcome Measurements, I demonstrate that skills are both more difficult to teach and more difficult to learn than concepts. Concepts include doctrine, policy, theory, and facts.

Many law professors might be reluctant to accept this hierarchy of difficulty. However, there is general consensus across the most widely accepted educational taxonomies that skills are harder to learn and harder to teach than concepts. So, the question becomes, why do law school “skills” courses appear easier to teach and learn than courses that teach doctrine and theory?

This introductory essay explains why skills courses appear to be easier, but aren't. The article also discusses the factors that force professors who teach skills to create skills learning objectives that are sometimes entry-level skills.

Keywords: law school, pedagogy, carnegie, best practices, skills, doctrine, casebook

Suggested Citation

Burgess, Hillary, Why Skills Ain't Easy: The Deceptive Difficulty Discovered in the Cognitive Taxonomy of Legal Learning Objectives (October 1, 2011). The Law Teacher, Vol. 18, No. 2, Spring 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1939925

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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