Creating Wise Classrooms to Empower Diverse Law Students: Lessons in Pedagogy from Transformative Law Professors

67 Pages Posted: 29 Apr 2015

See all articles by Sean Darling-Hammond

Sean Darling-Hammond

UC Berkeley, Goldman School of Public Policy

Kristen Holmquist

UC Berkeley School of Law

Date Written: 2015

Abstract

Many of today’s law students experience a triple-threat. They suffer from the solo status that accompanies being a member of an underrepresented group, the stereotype threat that accompanies being a member of a stereotyped group, and the challenges that attend lacking a background in the law before beginning law school. But today’s law schools often fail to create safe environments, teach foundational content and skills, or take basic steps toward providing instruction that ensures students from all backgrounds are empowered to thrive. While much has been written about improving legal education and about the failure of current pedagogies to provide a sound education to students experiencing this triple-threat, little has been written about approaches that ensure that these students succeed. This article is an attempt to identify an initial pathway forward. It builds off of research regarding legal pedagogy, inclusive pedagogy, and the results of eleven in-depth-interviews with “transformative professors” who UC Berkeley Law students identified as being skilled at creating safe spaces and ensuring that individuals from all backgrounds succeed academically. This rich data can inform professors and institutions across the state and country in their efforts to provide a legal education that, instead of simply benefiting the most privileged, provides a transformative education to all.

We have used the term “safe” to describe techniques and environments that allay stereotype threat and solo status and allow students from underrepresented backgrounds to focus on learning.

Keywords: transformative teaching, pedagogy, law school, stereotype threat, professors, students, socratic method, expectations, self-fulfilling prophecy, scaffolding, feedback, safe spaces, multicultural education

Suggested Citation

Darling-Hammond, Sean and Holmquist, Kristen, Creating Wise Classrooms to Empower Diverse Law Students: Lessons in Pedagogy from Transformative Law Professors (2015). Berkeley La Raza Law Journal, Vol. 25, No. 1, 2015, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2599582 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2599582

Sean Darling-Hammond (Contact Author)

UC Berkeley, Goldman School of Public Policy ( email )

2607 Hearst Ave
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States
650-455-7014 (Phone)

Kristen Holmquist

UC Berkeley School of Law ( email )

215 Law Building
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

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