Teaching 'Thinking Like a Lawyer': Metacognition and Law Students
41 Pages Posted: 23 May 2015
Date Written: 2015
With a study of 150 beginning law students in 2010 and 2013, this article provides the first empirical data on law student thinking skills. The results of this study challenge prevailing wisdom about the most critical reforms for legal education.
From an interdisciplinary perspective, this article considers legal education in light of learning theories. It explains the concept of “metacognition,” and its role in learning and expert-thinking theory. It then translates this critical component into law and illustrates how specific metacognitive skills relate to the intellectual demands of law school and, especially, of a career in law that will demand life-long learning.
To support our claim that metacognition training is essential for law students, our data shows the flaws in the previous assumption that law students come with excellent metacognitive skills because of their high undergraduate academic achievements. Although further research is necessary, our study provides a significant foundational data point for taking metacognition skills seriously in the re-envisioning of legal pedagogy.
A handful of legal scholars, primarily legal writing teachers, have published limited scholarship on metacognition and methods for training law students in thinking skills. Unfortunately, some of the work in the context of law mischaracterizes and muddles the concept of metacognition. This article provides an evaluation of existing legal scholarship referencing metacognition from the perspective of both law and education theorists. It then poses a framework for further empirical and theoretical work.
Keywords: metacognition, legal education, law training, lawyer skills, professionalism, civility, bar associations,
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