Preparing for the Three Ring Circus (But Not Yet)

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4 Responses

  1. Kurt Lash says:


    I do think occasionally exams can be helpful self-evaluations tools. For example, if several exams that are otherwise very good nevertheless struggle with (or miss) the same point in a similar way, I take that as a signal to think about how I taught the subject and consider making changes the next time around. I often make notes (right away) in the master syllabus to remind myself when I start putting together the next class.

    As for background materials, this is very tricky. All of us teach the material in slightly different ways (sometimes in very different ways). Unless we have written our own study guides, it is not likely that any one source will fully or even adequately present information in a manner helpful to a student seeking a decent grade in your particular class.

    Still, I do believe students often can benefit from short “scholarly assists” regarding particularly important historical events, persons, and cases. For this reason, I recommend students pick up a copy of The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court. Every case, justice, theory and historical event that has any significance to the study of the American Constitution gets a short discussion by a top scholar in the field. Its quick, painless, generally “neutral,” and gives the student enough background material to help them understand the lecture without giving them an “outline” of the course.

  2. Kurt Lash says:

    And sorry about misspelling Nicole!

  3. Nicole Huberfeld says:

    Hi Kurt, Many thanks for your thoughtful comment. I had thought about the Oxford Companion, but I have steered away from it because our library only carries the electronic version. I am rethinking that bias now, as our students are “digital natives” who may find the format intuitive. It sounds like you have your students use the hard copy – do you think something would be lost in the translation to the electronic version?

  4. Kurt Lash says:

    I’ve not used (or even seen) the electronic version, but if it’s complete I would think it would be fine. Perhaps even better (more convenient and “immediate” search options).

    My students have generally bought used hard copy versions from Amazon.