Turning Legal Classrooms Upside Down: The Pragmatic and Moral Power of Cooperation to Foster Ethical Professional Identity in Legal Education
University of St. Thomas; Cultural Dynamics Consulting
University of Northern Iowa
December 14, 2012
This review of group learning in legal education draws upon empirical research from the social psychology of education and constructive-developmental theories of moral behavior to provide law school instructors with an approach to using small groups of four to five students in order to foster professional formation (also called professionalism or an ethical professional identity). Based on the idea of positive social interdependence or cooperation theory, this review states the case for viewing group learning as a pedagogy of fostering the cognitive, emotional, and social capacities involved with recognizing, facing, and resolving moral problems in small groups. An emphasis is made on how to foster self-authorship and individual accountability in teamwork. A model of assessment based on group learning that involves ongoing peer assessment and coaching is discussed. It draws upon relevant research from higher education, business, medicine and health sciences education, and provides practical suggestions for law school instructors and administrators who are interested in implementing group learning in the curriculum, including suggestions for how schools can assess their school's climate for cooperation and competition. An emphasis is made on how to foster self-authorship, reflection, and individual accountability in the context of small group learning. A model for dynamic assessment through ongoing peer assessment and coaching is discussed.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 25
Keywords: groups, legal education, team-based learning, teams, professional formation, professionalism, social psychology, cooperation, competition
Date posted: March 15, 2012 ; Last revised: January 1, 2013