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How to Become an Expert Law Teacher by Understanding the Neurobiology of Learning

57 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2012  

Edwin S. Fruehwald

Independent

Date Written: July 23, 2012

Abstract

Legal education is changing. Law schools are incorporating skills classes into their curriculums, and law teachers are integrating new techniques into their teaching. Subjects that were never taught before are now appearing in law school curriculums. Now for the last step – turning law professors into expert teachers.

This article applies cognitive psychology and learning theory to explain how to become an expert teacher. As Best Practices has asserted, “Members of a law school faculty should base their teaching decisions on research about effective teaching, or at least hypotheses grounded in research.” More specifically, as Diane Halpern has stated, “It is clear that a successful pedagogy that can serve as a basis for the enhancement of thinking will have to incorporate ideas about the way in which learners organize knowledge and internally represent it and the way these representations change and resist change when new information is encountered. Despite all of the gains that cognitive psychologists have made in understanding what happens when people learn, most teachers do not apply their knowledge of cognitive psychology.”

This article begins by discussing the neurobiology of learning, then it uses this understanding to move onto educational theory and finally to the details on how to be an expert law teacher. Part II of this article addresses how humans learn (the neurobiology of learning) in order to provide the foundation for the rest of the article. Parts III and IV apply this learning theory to specific methods of improving teaching and learning. Part III examines the idea of “engaged teachers” and “engaged learners.” Part IV discusses how to become a “self-regulated” and “reflective” learner/teacher. Finally, Part V presents the attitudes and habits of expert law teachers, while Part VI covers what expert law teachers teach.

Keywords: legal education, cognitive science, legal skills, brain sciences, neurobiology, expert teacher

Suggested Citation

Fruehwald, Edwin S., How to Become an Expert Law Teacher by Understanding the Neurobiology of Learning (July 23, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2115768 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2115768

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