Using Technology to Cultivate Student Voices in Legal Education Pedagogy

Description

This article highlights how embedding voice and video learning tools in law school courses prepares students for the dynamic and client-centered practice of law. These tools offer an efficient and sustainable pedagogy tweak that modernizes existing simulations and practice problems. Typical legal education pedagogy uses serial class participation by which one student at a time participates in a Socratic exchange with the professor. The Socratic method has been roundly critiqued for the ways in which it reinforces hierarchies between the professor and the students and isolates and marginalize women and students of color. It also marginalizes the client from the case, pushing the client layers below an appellate legal review.  It fosters one monolithic voice archetype in the classroom – a well-projected, confidant, informed student engaging with legal concepts on display for others. 

Savvy law faculty have long supplemented the traditional Socratic method with sophisticated practice problems.  Casebooks continue to strengthen with each new edition providing more diverse problem sets and more accessible problems to work with in class.  These practice problems, however, are often implemented using the same Socratic pedagogy with a serial exchange, one student at a time, or through group exercises in which no one voice is heard or assessed formative feedback.  These exercises are one step forward for applying legal concepts toward mastery, but they do not typically alter the existing classroom pedagogy.

New learning products, such as VoiceThread and FlipGrid, have emerged that allow students to engage in voice and video class assignment submissions. These tools offer exciting and dynamic pedagogical enhancements preparing students for the practice of law.  These tools uniquely allow every student voice to address a practice problem or client hypothetical.  In so doing, students need to layer both substantive rules and other critical lawyering and communication skills, such as tone, empathy, clarity, and cultural competencies.

Shifting to the use of these tools offers several pedagogical advantages. Voice-based tools can efficiently modernize the existing universe of sophisticated practice problems embedded in law casebooks, thus offering a high-impact, low-effort pedagogy upgrade with no new substantive preparation or assignment design. This is an important pedagogical benefit, particularly in a COVID world in which faculty have to be adaptive and have increasingly crushing demands in teaching and service. 

These tools are a symbolic improvement because they ensure that every voice in a class is heard and cultivated through formative assessment. They are far more efficient to grade than written work because faculty can simply listen to the thread play and then respond with her own video/voice closing comments on the student work globally. They are a substantive improvement because they more closely replicate a dynamic and fast-paced law practice in which legal advice is also delivered through face-to-face meetings and phone calls. These voice/video simulations also cultivate strong professional identity formation for students as they find and develop their voice advising

No prior knowledge is necessary for this session. Attendees will leave knowing about two technologies for voice engagement and their relationship to existing critiques of Socratic teaching. 

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