Moving Beyond Product to Process: Building a Better LRW Program
44 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2006
In the past two decades, LRW has undergone a pedagogical revolution that shifted the emphasis from the product of writing to the process of writing. In the former, product view, LRW teaching tended to focus solely on the product produced, what scholars have called the current-traditional or formalist approach. The teacher did not engage in the process of analysis, assuming that the thinking process was completed before the writing process began. This method of teaching often failed to produce good legal writing. Influenced by composition and rhetoric theory, LRW scholars began to advocate for a focus on the process of analysis and writing, instead of limiting their role to mere correctors of error. This approach recognizes that it is through the process of analyzing and writing that a student constructs meaning. LRW became a course about legal analysis - how to perform it and, most important, how to convey it to others in writing, as lawyers are called upon to do it in their work.
The majority of LRW programs have incorporated at least some elements of process-based teaching, though formalism remains central in some LRW classrooms. Many common pedagogical choices still grow out of the older view - not just the product emphasis, but also the era when LRW teachers were replaced every few years and were constantly faced with reinventing the wheel. This article addresses some of the common challenges that arise in structuring a LRW program to maximize student learning. We review the Temple LRW program in detail to demonstrate how we have resolved many of these issues; we highlight those aspects of our program that are different from many other LRW programs and suggest why our methods resolve certain pedagogical dilemmas and are consistent with current theories on teaching writing and helping students enter the discourse community of lawyers.
Keywords: Pedagogy, legal research and writing, learning theory, legal skills, legal analysis, grading, grading practices, legal writing program
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