Experiential Education as Critical Pedagogy: Enhancing the Law School Experience

28 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 2014

See all articles by SpearIt


University of Pittsburgh - School of Law

Stephanie Ledesma

Thurgood Marshall School of Law

Date Written: September 19, 2014


This article examines the shift to greater experiential education in law school through the lens of critical pedagogy. At its base, critical pedagogy is about devising more equitable methods of teaching, helping students develop consciousness of freedom, and helping them connect knowledge to power. The insights of critical pedagogy are valuable for a fuller understanding of experiential education and its potential to affect students in profound ways, particularly as a means of empowerment. Although this is an understudied area of pedagogical scholarship, power relations are at the heart of legal education. Critical pedagogy offers a frame for considering how experiential education empowers students and leads to other positive outcomes. Although advocates of experiential education typically emphasize the needs of the profession and student marketability, critical pedagogy reveals more at stake for students — including experiencing greater agency, autonomy, and hopefully, greater justice.

The article outlines a student-centered set of rationales for adopting experiential principles. As such it seeks to engage law professors of all persuasions to consider what experiential education means for students personally. More pointedly, this article attempts to break down some of the great divide between teaching doctrine and experiential education. Infusing doctrinal courses with opportunities for experiential learning will be imperative for law schools; and so it will be imperative to engage doctrinal faculty. This article is an attempt to do just that.

Keywords: experiential learning, experiential education, critical pedagogy, legal education, social justice, law school

Suggested Citation

SpearIt and Ledesma, Stephanie, Experiential Education as Critical Pedagogy: Enhancing the Law School Experience (September 19, 2014). 38 Nova L.Rev. 249 (2014), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2498782

SpearIt (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law ( email )

3900 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

Stephanie Ledesma

Thurgood Marshall School of Law ( email )

3100 Cleburne Street
Houston, TX 77004
United States
5122282307 (Phone)

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