Sara Ross is entering the third year of her PhD at Osgoode Hall Law School, where she has served as an Instructor for the Legal Process class over the past two years. She is also a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, holding an LLB and BCL from McGill, as well as an LLM from the University of Ottawa, and is the Graduate Student Representative for the Canadian Association of Law Teachers Board of Directors.
This post was derived from an inter-faculty workshop given at the York University Teaching and Learning Conference: “Teaching In Focus”, on May 20, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario.
A frequent complaint heard among law students after graduating from law school is that they have been inundated with information, without feeling that they have been taught the actual skills they need to be a lawyer. In my own classroom this year I have focused on using language that links everything I teach to how the student will use it in a practical context, such as a law firm, the courtroom, and so on. Couching everything within this context allows students to not only build their understanding of legal concepts; it provides them with a way of better connecting this knowledge to a professional skill set. This is what I call the “So, what’s the point?” approach.
You might also frame this “So, what’s the point?” approach as “point-first learning” or “point-first teaching”. As lawyers and within the law school context, our distinct focus on writing, arguing, and, in general, presenting our legal arguments in a point-first manner—leading with the ultimate point that we wish to get across to, for example, a judge or a decision-making panel—is something that can take time to instill in new law students. To aid in this transition, it can be intuitive to teach law in this manner too, and helpful to carry this approach into how we structure a law student’s learning environment and classroom experience. This method of instruction can reinforce what point-first argumentation and writing looks like, but there are benefits beyond this.
Teaching through a “So, what’s the point?” approach also speaks to and draws on an experiential education focus. As law schools are seeking to transform many of their courses into experiential opportunities—legal clinics, and so on—the desire and need to respond to and incorporate the practical element of learning and education is apparent. Encapsulated within this is the need to develop the practical skills needed within the legal employment path a student will eventually choose. And thinking about the skills or concepts you’re teaching in a “So, what’s the point?” manner helps bring an experiential element into the classroom; highlighting the real-world application of what the student is learning.Read more
Many Professors are interested or curious about the Flipped Classroom, but unsure how it works, or what it actually means to "flip" a course in this way. In this video, produced by Peter Sankoff of the University of Alberta, Faculty of Law, with the assistance of students from his flipped Evidence law class from 2015, he breaks down in detail how the class proceeds - from start to finish – by showing what a "mock" class looks like. You'll also hear his thoughts on the flipped classroom, and better yet, the views of students who can tell you whether it works for them.
If you have any comments or questions, feel free to contact Peter at firstname.lastname@example.org .
THE TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION RECOMMENDATIONS ON LEGAL EDUCATION AND ACCESS TO JUSTICE AS CENTRAL THEMES OF THIS YEAR'S CONFERENCE
Our programme has been finalized and it is an amazing lineup of panels and roundtable discussions, thanks to your stimulating and inspiring proposals. This year’s conference will take place May 30th-31st at the University of Calgary Faculty of Law (with our Awards reception on the 29th).
We are dedicating an entire day of the conference to the T&R Commission recommendations on legal education. This will be on the joint day with CLSA (Canadian Law and Society Association), on May 30th. Our plenary panel features inspiring scholars Larry Chartrand, Aimée Craft, Sarah Morales, Karen Drake and Rebecca Johnson, who will start the day off by asking difficult questions and guiding us in taking action individually and collectively. The other sessions will incite even more discussion and exchange about implementing the recommendations in different courses and contexts.
Access to justice is another crucial and current issue in the legal profession and in legal education this year, and it is also a central theme of this year’s conference, with three panels running back to back on the second day of our conference.
And of course, as has been CALT’s practice for the last few years, legal education curriculum and pedagogical issues and ideas will be shared and discussed! We’d like to end things with a discussion on creating and maintaining communities of practice, thus hopefully bringing the different discussions while turning to future action.
The CALT and CLSA joint banquet will be held on May 30th at the Calgary zoo!
Since most of you will be arriving at least on the 29th (CLSA conference starting on May 28th), we are hosting a wine and cheese reception on that day at 5pm to honour this year’s recipients of the CALT awards: academic excellence, scholarly paper, and our new scholarship of teaching and learning award.
To register for the conference, see the Congress website (http://congress2016.ca/ ) where you can also find information on travel and accommodation.
You can download the programme by clicking here.
We look forward to seeing you in Calgary!
President, Canadian Association of Law Teachers
Welcome to CALT’s new website!!!
We have been busy developing this new website for CALT members and Canadian law teachers. On this site you will find blog posts about legal and legal education topics, teaching and learning resources, postings for jobs and calls for papers, information about our journal and annual conference. But that’s only the start! The beauty of the site lies in its networking possibilities. With this website, we can manage our own communications to different audiences, we can create networks of members teaching in the same area or concerned about specific aspects of legal education, for example. The site is also connected to our Twitter and Facebook accounts, so if you follow us on those accounts, you’ll know of new posts. We can amend the website, add content, update the database without much outside help, which will help us reduce our costs.
New website, new smaller Executive board, new Constitution, new Advisory board, new award!
It is my great pleasure to be writing to you again this year in my capacity as the CALT president, re-elected at the June AGM in Ottawa for a term of two years. John Kleefeld, from the University of Saskatchewan College of Law, was elected as the Vice-President. Derek McKee agreed to stay on as our Treasurer for yet another year to ensure a successful transition to the new treasurer (any takers?). Angela Cameron (Ottawa) was elected as Secretary. We have also a small number of members at large: Teresa Scassa and Craig Forecese from the University of Ottawa and Konstantia Koutouki from Université de Montréal. Jennifer Koshan (Calgary) has agreed to be our local organizer for the annual conference 2016 which will be held in Calgary. Sara Ross is our graduate student representative. On behalf of CALT members, I extend a huge thank you to them for volunteering their time. You can see the members of the Executive here.
I would also like to thank the members of last year’s Executive: Shauna Van Praagh (past president, McGill), Gemma Smyth (Windsor), Amar Khoday (Manitoba), Eric Adams (Alberta), Elaine Craig (Dalhousie) and our two graduate student representatives, Vanisha Sukdeo (Osgoode) and Tenille Brown (Ottawa). Some of these members sat on the Executive for a few years, so a huge thank you for your service and dedication to CALT!
At our annual conference in Ottawa, the many members who were present (thank you!) adopted amendments to the CALT Constitution. Some of these changes reflect technological advances (for example communicating via email instead of snail mail(!), being able to consult our Executive via email), and some of them are more substantive. For instance, Executive members are now elected for a term of two years instead of one (although they must renew their membership every year) to ensure continuity and to be able to plan on a two-year basis. The amended Constitution has also created the possibility for an Advisory Board, with representatives at least from every law faculty in the country, chosen by their own institution. If any of you are interested in becoming an Advisory Board member, let us know! We will be putting it together very soon. The Advisory board may hold a couple of meetings per year, but its members will be consulted regularly on specific issues as they come up (mostly via email). They may also help out the Executive on ad hoc matters.
2016 CALT annual conference
The 2016 conference will be held in Calgary, May 30th-31st. Building on the Congress theme of “Energizing communities”, the theme for our conference is “Energizing communities through legal education”. We encourage each of you to submit a paper, workshop, panel or roundtable proposal. There are many current issues in law and legal education to discuss, and the CALT conference and policy committees and board are working to create some forums for these discussions. The success of this conference ultimately depends on your participation ! See the Call for papers here.
New Scholarship of teaching and learning award!
On the excellent suggestion of one of our members, we have also created a NEW award to be in line with CALT’s focus on legal education. This new prize will reward scholarship about teaching and learning in law, published or unpublished. You can find out more about this award in the “awards” tab!
Our plans for the 2015-2016 year include the annual conference of course and the usual CALT activities (prizes, annual conference, journal). We are also exploring different options for CALT’s legal status and for membership. Considering the number of law professors in Canada, CALT’s membership base is still far from what it could be, or used to be. As I pointed out last year, our limited membership constitutes a limit as to the activities of CALT. We hope that the new website and the visibility that it creates will help boost membership. But from my conversations with law teachers in different forums, I have also observed that many people think they are automatically members of CALT, or that once they sign up, they are lifetime members of CALT. Wouldn’t that be nice!!! But that is actually not the case. Every year, you have to renew your commitment to CALT by signing up and paying the modest fees of $75 ($25 for graduate students). With your membership, you get a free paper copy of the journal CLEAR (the Canadian Legal Education Annual Review) sent to you.
I look forward to exchanging ideas about what matters to legal educators in Canada with you throughout this year.
President, Canadian Association of Law Teachers
The CBA Legal Futures Initiative welcomes interventions from scholars, practitioners, law students, and advocates that address:
- New legal disciplines – what training and education will 21stcentury lawyers need?
- New legal environments – how can we train lawyers to work effectively in collaborative and multidisciplinary teams?
- New licencing processes – how can we encourage experimentation in the methods used to prepare new entrants for their call to the bar?
- Lifelong education – how can professional development meet the needs of lawyers throughout their careers while also ensuring increased competence in the profession?
- A more representative profession – how can we ensure that law schools and the profession reflect the diversity of Canadian society to a greater extent, and that law school graduates are able to pursue varied career objectives including social justice?
- Bridging theory and practice – how can legal employers and legal educators engage in productive dialogue about matching law school graduates to legal market needs?
- The relevant lawyer – how does the profession become more relevant to clients?
- Transforming the profession – how can educators encourage innovation amongst lawyers?
Digital natives now comprise a major sector of law school entrants. Don’t be surprised if they appear in your Contracts 101 class this September expecting to use their Apple Watches or Google Glass in learning the law. Such a scenario raises a troubling discrepancy in legal education methodologies: while most students are quite adept with student engagement technologies (SETs) from undergraduate classes, the majority of their law school professors prefer the passive environment of lectures, podiums, and PowerPoint. There might be a variety of reasons for avoiding SETs: apprehension of the technology, the time required for set-up, or fears that techno-wizardry will bog down content-intensive curricula. Some might also hold deep ideological commitment to the timeworn Socratic method.
As the inventory of SETs increases to include both more functional clicker remotes and web-based mobile phones, as well as videos used in the flipped classroom, there is mounting empirical evidence that active learning can address alarmingly short attention spans, improve grades, and close gender and socio-economic gaps. Such benefits raise the ethical question for us all: are we not obligated as law teachers to employ active learning, including SETs, in the best interests of our learners?Read more
Law and Ideas: Research, Teach, Learn, Transform
Our annual conference will take place in Ottawa from June 2-3rd 2015.
On May 7th, 2015, I had the pleasure of participating in the Estey Symposium on Experiential and Active Learning in Business Law, organized by Professor Rod Wood, my colleague at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law, and this past year, the visiting Estey Chair in Business Law at the University of Saskatchewan College of Law.
When we think of experiential learning, we tend to think of courses that offer students either actual or simulated experiences in litigation. For example, Prof. Wood, with experienced practitioner Rick Reeson, offers a course on restructuring in which students argue a multi-party chambers application (in front of a real judge!). For those of us teaching in the corporate and commercial law areas, it was interesting to spend a day talking about various ways to give students these kind of experiences in solicitor or transactional work.Read more
Is the Dress Blue & Black or White & Gold? Students Creating and Moderating Hypothetical Fact Pattern Scenarios in the Classroom
Teaching a one-year contracts course for the first time, I solicited feedback early on from my first year law students about the different learning approaches that I used in class. The students overwhelmingly loved the hypothetical fact pattern scenarios that I prepared for them from time to time, and which we discussed in class. Many students asked for more. The students were less enthusiastic about the short case comment that a student had to present every week.
Inspired by this feedback, I changed the format of the student presentations for the winter term (which was destined to change anyway). Under the new format, students would have to create hypothetical fact pattern scenarios and moderate a class discussion about possible approaches to resolve the legal issues involved. The goal of that change was to ensure a regular flow of hypothetical fact pattern scenarios for my enthusiastic first year students, and raise the bar of the presentation assignment of the second term. The new assignment would support some of the key learning objectives of the course and mimic what students would soon have to do own their own: apply their legal reasoning to solve real-life factual situations.Read more
As this term and academic year draw to a close, the thoughts of several Deans will turn to broader trends and lessons learned. I wanted to share one such development based on my experience at Osgoode Hall Law School. This year more than any other, it is becoming apparent that art in legal education is no fad but. Art no longer seems like an interesting distraction or peripheral gloss in legal education, but is becoming central to our mission and how we can best fulfill it.Read more