Priorities of Pedagogy: Classroom Justice in the Law School Setting
13 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2012 Last revised: 28 Feb 2014
Date Written: May 15, 2012
This essay discusses “classroom justice” and considers how this concept can contribute to law school pedagogy. It explores the theoretical aspects of this approach and practical applications in the law school setting, and argues that everything from classroom ecology, to course design to attire and policies determine what students experience as “classroom justice.” Broadly speaking, this approach might best be viewed as a subspecies of critical pedagogy, or efforts in education to devise more equitable methods of teaching, help students develop consciousness of freedom, and connect knowledge to power. As a critical approach, the concept acknowledges traditional law school teaching as intentionally oppressive and hierarchical, and that “justice” is not merely a concept to be gleaned from a casebook, but something to be cultivated and practiced in legal education. This might include creating environments free from unfairness, fear, and hazing, where teachers make a conscious attempt to minimize the chasm between teacher and student and employ evidence-based models of teaching. The essay also critiques reliance on the Socratic Method as being riddled with an improper allocation of power, which strips away all of the dialogue and leaves students little opportunity to debate in any meaningful sense. When power is distributed unevenly in the classroom, it creates artificially tense learning environments, which cuts against the grain of much educational theory and research. Finally, the essay offers a personal evaluation of these techniques and how implementation of this liberatory approach to teaching has fared thus far.
Keywords: Classroom Justice, Critical Pedagogy, Legal Education, Socratic Dialogue, Law School
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