Actively Achieving Greater Racial Equity in the Law School Classroom
Forthcoming, Cleveland State Law Review
67 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2022
Date Written: January 31, 2022
2020 and 2021 continue to illustrate the pervasiveness of implicit and explicit racism in our society. Less well-acknowledged and recognized is the extent to which Socratic pedagogy also reflects those pervasive racist realities while simultaneously resulting in inferior learning based on a teaching method invented 150+ years ago. Despite this racist and outdated reality, the legal academy has been reluctant to alter the traditional method of teaching. Tangible, empirical evidence obtained from data-driven cognitive learning science research demonstrates that active learning not only improves learning outcomes for all students, but also mitigates the structural effects of racism in the classroom thereby increasing racial equity. Most law professors do not fully understand what active learning entails and underestimate how different an active learning classroom looks from a traditional Socratic class. Once educators explore the evidence in this article supporting active learning as a pedagogical method for increasing greater racial equity in the classroom, understand why most of the rationales frequently cited in support of Socratic teaching are unsupported, and implement the tangible and feasible techniques discussed to facilitate the transition away from Socratic towards active learning, the inertial resistance to the change will be overcome. In so doing, law professors can embrace best teaching practices, experience maximum learning gains for their students, and create classrooms where every student is engaged, included, and supported in a truly equitable learning environment.
Keywords: pedagogy, systemic racism
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