Teach Me

I’ve been thinking a lot about teaching lately. Specifically, I’ve been wondering about my effectiveness in the classroom. After my 9:00 AM class, my 1L students line up at the podium to ask me questions – obviously a consequence of my uncanny ability to convey information in an unclear and unconcise manner. My upper-level students, however, make a beeline for the door as soon as I quit my yammering. So, either I morph into a paragon of teaching clarity in the hour that I have between these classes or my upper-level students prioritize lunch over knowledge. Or maybe they know that a trip to the podium would be futile.

How is it that so many of us (maybe I should just speak for myself) become teachers without any training on how to teach? Is teaching truly so unimportant that we’ll let most anyone (e.g., me) in the classroom? If it is unimportant, then why do we pass out teaching evaluations to our students? And why is it a factor in the promotion and tenure process?

Maybe the better question is “how can I improve?” I know that there are annual teaching conferences and panels on teaching methods at the January AALS. But do law schools offer training and mentoring on teaching to their faculty members? I’m curious to know what folks are doing at their schools. Continuing to exhort my class to “Love the One You’re With” when they grumble about my (or anyone else’s) teaching may be entertaining, but it doesn’t address their concerns.

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4 Responses

  1. Ben says:

    There are a lot of factors. First, 1Ls know a lot less, and therefore have to ask more questions. Secondly, the amount of questions students ask is indicitive of two things: (1) their level of understanding of the material; and, (2) their interest therein.

    Students who don’t get it, and students who really get it will both ask questions. The students who really get it are usually also very interested in the topic, and more likely to ask questions that go beyond the class material, rather than the students who ask you to clairify the class material.

    Also, some upper level classes are harder than others. I asked a lot more quesions after the class in Fed Courts than I did in Evidence. The fact that the upper levels aren’t asking questions could be that they just get it and aren’t particularly interested in learning a lot more about it than you’re covering.

  2. Michael says:

    The truth is that I learned much, much more about legal method, substantive law, and everything else connected to law from the mentoring that I received after graduating from law school than from any law professor. The reason is that the mnetors used more effective and hands on techniques than lecture, socratic dialogue, commenting on writing and testing. Sadly, when I began working with legal educators in Eastern Europe, I found that the situation was far, far worse. My point — yes, there is a need for better thinking on how to teach law better.

  3. Michael says:

    The truth is that I learned much, much more about legal method, substantive law, and everything else connected to law from the mentoring that I received after graduating from law school than from any law professor. The reason is that the mnetors used more effective and hands on techniques than lecture, socratic dialogue, commenting on writing and testing. Sadly, when I began working with legal educators in Eastern Europe, I found that the situation was far, far worse. My point — yes, there is a need for better thinking on how to teach law better.

  4. Skorri says:

    It has nothing to do with your teaching. It’s just that the 1Ls haven’t learned yet that it’s not cool to be a gunner.