Professor Bill Slomanson presented at the Institute for Teaching and Learning summer 2011 conference—”Engaging and Assessing Our Students”—at the New York Law School, on June 3, 2011.
Conference participants encountered new ideas about ways to engage students in and out of class, how to involve students in a range of experiential and simulated learning exercises, and how to assisting students in their quest for knowledge, skills, and values. Consistent with the recommendations of Clinical Legal Education Association’s Educating Lawyers and Best Practices for Legal Education, participants discussed techniques to engage students in self-assessment and reflection, including collaborative assessments.
According to the program description of Professor Slomanson’s presentation, titled “Pouring Skills Content into Doctrinal Bottles: “
“A thousand flowers will bloom during the coming renaissance in legal education. By acknowledging the 800-pound gorilla, aka draft A.B.A. Standard 302, even Professor Langdell will be augmenting doctrinal legal education with fresh strategies for preparing students for entry-level practice positions—beyond what clinicians, Legal Writing, and skills-oriented faculty members have been doing for years. One can introduce varying amounts of skills content into a doctrinal class, without having to create a discrete skills course—thereby introducing a healthy dose of reality and enthusiasm. Prof. Slomanson will provide some practical insight into how to ‘skillsify’ a doctrinal course.”
Professor Slomanson was supported in this presentation by the presence of TJSL’s Professor Jeff Slattery and Professor Kevin Greene’s sister-in-law Mindy Sanchez, who teaches at Charlotte School of Law.
"Professor Slomanson wowed the crowd with several models for blending doctrinal content with core skills, including a student-driven approach to case method teaching and learning” Slattery said. “Having enlisted help from two New York Law School students in the weeks before the conference, Professor Slomanson first demonstrated a traditional, student-professor Socratic dialogue as a means of presenting the issues, facts, and arguments from a particular case. That was quickly followed by a presentation of the same information by two students, each taking a side and speaking before the class as they would in a courtroom, with Professor Slomanson in the role of the judge. The latter approach enhanced learning and engagement opportunities for everyone in the room, in terms of both legal doctrine and oral argument skills, as evidenced by the insightful questions and positive comments from the audience."
Professor Slomanson has been introducing skills components in all courses that he teaches, including testing exclusively via Performance Testing for the last dozen years. He commented that “in addition to the Performance Test being one-third of the California Bar, most states are now using the document-oriented Multistate Performance Test on their bar examinations. Since I began using this style of testing, I’ve had hundreds of thank you’s from TJSL bar takers, thanking me for preparing them for this portion of the bar examination.”
During the spring 2011 semester, Professor Slomanson converted his formerly doctrinal International Law course into a skills elective. His California Civil Procedure course has been a skills elective for many years. He notes that “My doctrinal courses were improved with the addition of skills components. It has been especially gratifying to observe the progress of our students, who have augmented their studies by taking one (required) or more of TJSL’s upper-division skills courses.”
His related article, “Pouring Skills Content into Doctrinal Bottles”, will be published in Volume 61 of the Journal of Legal Education. An online, pre-publication version of this essay is available on the Social Sciences Research Network, at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1754629.