Learning Science Meets the Socratic
Method: Transforming Teaching
Strategies In the Law School
Steven I. Friedland
February 8, 2013
University of Louisville
• This session explores how outcome-based,
threshold and other learning strategies have
offered fresh perspectives to more than a
century of deep-rooted Socratic instruction.
Moving from a linear educational approach to
various methods that embrace mobility in
learning, the session illustrates how the
classroom experience can be enhanced across
the disciplines. Collaborative exercises and
discussions will be used to create connections
• 1. Create a dialogue
• 2. Create some take-aways
Traditional Legal Education Narrative
• Socratic Method - “Thinking Like a Lawyer”
• Appellate Case Reports/ Coverage of Material
• Abstraction and Separation – course buckets,
The Traditional Legal Education
• The spotlight?
• The context?
• The assessment?
• Teaching --- Learning: identity or dichotomy?
• What do we teach?
• Lawyering relationships?
– Lawyer-client; lawyer-witness; lawyer-judge; lawyer-
• Feedback and tacit understandings?
Response: Reconceptualize the
• “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the
lighting of a fire.” ---- William Butler Yeats
• Mental Zumba, Mental Aerobics
• Google Introductions
• Days of the Week?
Response: Use the Science of Learning
• More effective,
• better process,
• more adaptive to reality
• Focuses the Salient Question: What are
students learning because of us?
Major Premise #1: People Learn
– “Learning results from what the student does and
thinks…The teacher can advance learning only by
influencing what the student does to learn.”
• -- Herbert A. Simon, Nobel Laureate in cognitive sci.
Fixed and Mobile Learners
• Sub-Premise: There are generational
differences in learners
• “Born Digital,” Gamers
• Youtube; Facebook; Instagram
Global and Sequential Learners
• Sub-Premise: Learners have preferences for
global or sequential learning
• Global: [Forest] Course-Area-Rule
• Sequential: [Trees] Elements of rules and their
Auditory, Visual and Kinesthetic
• Sub-Premise: Learners have auditory, visual or
• Sub-Premise: Some learners need to spend
time with concepts before understanding
• Meaning – once through is not enough. Need
repetition to move up to the next plateau.
Expert and Novice Learners
• Sub-Premise: Experts learn differently than
• Experts - Chunk knowledge
• The world of tacit understandings
– Elon study – read this piece on philosophy, with
Major Premise #2: Outcomes Matter
• “What we measure affects what we do” – Joseph
• Jobs and competencies
• Proposed ABA Standard 302: Learning Outcomes
• Current Standard 302: Curriculum
• Sub-Premise: Feedback Matters
• --Diagnostic, Formative and Summative
• --Constructive, Prompt, and Clear
• Sub-Premise: Engaged education promotes
• Features: Active, Challenging, Collaborative,
Deliverables, Self-regulated, experiential (big
• Piano Lessons -- Functional outcomes and
Types of Assessment
• Self-Assessment – performance-tracking,
Individual development plans, rubrics, review
• Other-Assessment – non-graded quizzes;
discussion posts, create hypos
Rubrics – Measuring Devices
• 1. Reach Mastery in topic
• 2. Attain competency in topic
• 3. Develop skills in topic
• 4. Be exposed to topic
Applying these Premises In the
• App #1: Class Scaffolding – initial problem,
then rule analysis, then more problems
• App #2: All writes
• App #3: Collaboration -- Small groups/
students write on board
• App #4: Visuals – photos of case, Youtube
• App #5: Engagement – deliverables. Role-
playing, Developing inquiry and advocacy
• App #6: Formative Feedback - Non-graded
Quiz, edit a response, rewrite an answer
Kelo v. City of New London, 545 US.
Outside the Classroom
• App #1: Pod Casts
• App #2: Discussion thread Web posts
• App #3: Deliverables – Go find an easement;
attend a criminal proceeding in court, take a field
trip to the jail
• App #4: Create and post hypo based on real case.
Write rule statement paragraph.
• 1. Modules
• self-contained specialized units
• 2. Transition classes
• 3. Wraparound classes
Additional Curricular Applications
• 4. Capstones
• 5. Varying delivery formats
• scale-up studio teaching
A New Age?
• Are we in the beginning of a new age of
education, where learning science permeates
all aspects of a law school course?
Ancient Egyptian 3,050 BC - 900BC
Classical (850 BC – 476 AD)
Renaissance (1400 - 1600 AD)
• THE END OF AN ERA….or the BEGINNING?