How do I Teach a 1-credit pass/fail Transnational Legal Research Class in 7 Weeks?
- To which students should I market the course?
- How do I maintain positive morale in the classroom while affording them the opportunity to learn as much as possible?
- What and how much should I cover?
- How should I present it?
- How can I evaluate the students?
- How can I evaluate the success of my teaching methods?
Strategic instructional tactics
- Market the course to students who have a specific goals.
- Build mutual trust and foster student autonomy
- Focus on measureable skills – AALL Legal Research Competencies and Standards for Law Student Information Literacy.
- Competency building activities should be scheduled based on specific criterion.
- Evaluate skill acquisition.
- Monitor student progress closely by evaluating frequently and be prepared to adapt the course material to student needs and to respectfully offer individual help before things get out of control.
a. Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law staff members (Law Review)
b. Jessup Moot Court Team (Jessup).
a. Provide students with the necessary information to choose learning objectives that support their goals.
b. Demonstrate research and instructional expertise
c. Provide accessible guidance
i. Active collaborative learning.
ii. Shared-goal Competencies.
iii. Analytical skills.
b. Pre-class preparation
i. Self-directed learning
ii. Goal-specific competencies
iii. Mechanical, process-based skills.
1. Audience: Jessup & Law Journal students
Their research involves
- close examination of a legal argument, and/or
- analysis of law and policy.
My students are highly intelligent, educated, motivated, and extremely busy. Although they have varying levels of legal research competence, whatever they can conceive of, they can achieve.
2. Morale: Mutual Trust & Student Autonomy
With guidance, my students can discern
- what they need to know now,
- how much time they have available to learn what they need to know now,
- which of the suggested activities will provide them with their desired learning outcomes,
- what they can teach themselves later when they need it,
- how to find websites, books and people who can help them learn what they need to know when they actually do need to know it.
2a. Student Goals and Unknown Unknowns
To figure out what they need to know now, they need to understand
- what competencies they need to achieve their goals
- and which needed competencies they do not have.
Goal-specific entrance quizzes provide students with opportunities to methodically engage in tasks that test identified competencies. If they use the proper techniques, as described in the provided answers, to accomplish the tasks, it is an indicator that they have mastered that competency. This should raise their self-awareness with regard to which desired competencies they lack.
When doing work, the more autonomy people have, the higher the morale (See Devasheesh Bhave et al.). These entrance quizzes provide the students with the necessary information to successfully have autonomous control over what they choose to learn.
2b. Approachable Librarian
Students are encouraged to contact me for clarification and further instruction if they are unable to successfully master a desired competency after participation in the relevant learning activities. Students who are unable to successfully complete part of the overarching assignment are entitled to be coached until their work product demonstrates their mastery of the desired competencies.
2c. Librarian as Expert
Trust may be earned by demonstrating my expertise in the development of polished learning materials that make appropriate use of available technology. Learning activities that teach students the relevant competencies for completing assignments and logically sequenced, thoughtfully designed activities, such as, an overarching assignment that builds on the research results of smaller assignments, inspire student respect.
I want students to leave this class with
- the firm belief that law librarians are experts
- and with the skills and confidence to politely and effectively approach experts for help as needed.
3. Course Coverage
Given this course’s brevity, the students’ 2 goals and students’ varying types and degrees of skills. My intentions for this course are modest and fluid. Students should acquire:
- awareness of AALL Legal Research Competencies and Standards for Law Student Information Literacy,
- knowledge of how to obtain research help when they need it,
- and sufficient mastery of some legal research competencies, to successfully apply them to the analysis of transnational legal problems in pursuit of their goals.
4. Strategic Scheduling of Learning Activities
“Low hanging fruit” competencies are relegated to pre-class preparation because they can be mastered through online tutorials. In-class work builds on the pre-class preparation and entails collaborative, creative and analytical activities such as simulation scenarios.
4a. Pre-Class Preparation
Examples of Standard Mechanical Research Process Competencies
Related Learning Objectives
“Documents research strategies”
Able to create and use a research log and keep track of citations to information
“Considers the full range of potential sources of information, regardless of type or format”
“Selects appropriate research sources”
Able to identify, find and use free and subscription databases containing foreign and international legal material
4b. In-Class Activities
Examples of Creative & Analytic Research Process Competencies
- “Modifies initial research strategies as necessary”
- “Synthesizes research problems in an analytical approach to legal research”
- “Applies and integrates research into a persuasive document”
5. Evaluating Students
Mandatory weekly quizzes, and the brief research assignments with cumulative effect, provide opportunities for students to demonstrate mastery of competencies. Although students select particular competencies for study, they are tested on all so they may discover and demonstrate both intentional and incidental mastery of competencies.
6. Evaluating the Course
Unsuccessful completion of an activity or weekly quiz question will not count against students, however, it does provide some evidence that the instructional activities provided were inadequate. There are some ways to track whether or not students completed assigned learning activities (eg. CALI quizzes using lesson link) but did not acquire the expected skills.
I expect Jessup and Transnational Law Journal students to take this course. Fostering a team environment with high student autonomy and frequent but low-pressure evaluation of skill acquisition should boost morale whilst enabling me to keep track of their learning progress. Both the routine mechanical and creative analytical aspects of legal research will be covered. The former by online homework materials, the latter by in-class simulated scenarios. Quizzes and homework assignments are designed to afford students opportunities to demonstrate mastery of legal research competencies and they are only responsible for the competencies that they select. My teaching methods and course materials will be considered successful if students are able to demonstrate mastery of their chosen competencies.