Reflections on Teaching ALR: Modeling as Feedback

by Christina A. Coan, RIPS-SIS Grant Recipient for AALL Management Institute

Last fall, I taught my first Advanced Legal Research course.  This was not my first teaching experience.  I have previously taught various age groups on different subjects: Oral English & English Writing to college students and American Government and U.S. History to high school students. Every time I have taught, feedback has been an integral part of the course. The shorter the period between the work performed and the feedback given, the greater the impact on student learning.  Unfortunately, it can be difficult to give feedback as readily as we would like on graded assignments.  Modeling is an excellent work around for this dilemma.

Modeling is the act of showing a student how a project or problem should be approached. There are many ways to implement modeling; for example, going through a research problem together as a class before having the students attempt a similar problem on their own. However, modeling can also be used to give feedback for solo student work once the assignment is turned in. This post-assignment modeling could be given by revealing the written model answer to the problem, sharing a video that explains the steps of how the problem should have been answered, or taking class time to go through how the assignment should have been answered. Each method of modeling has advantages and drawbacks.

Answer Modeling

Answer Modeling is similar to a model answer for an essay final exam.  It shows the student what an A grade would look like for the particular research problem.

Advantages:

  • Quick way to disseminate information
  • Allows students to check their answers to see how they performed on the assignment

Disadvantages:

  • Does not explain the how in finding the right answer
  • Students may only use the model answers to mentally check off their grade without understanding why they got the answer right or wrong

Video Modeling

Video Modeling is a screen capture of how the professor would approach the answer.  The video includes commentary on why the professor was taking a particular path to answer the research problem.

Advantages:

  • Quick way to disseminate information
  • Allows students to see the steps the professor took in addressing the legal research question
  • Students can refer back to the video in new problems for some guidance

Disadvantages:

  • Does not allow for immediate questions by students for deeper understanding of the approach to the problem
  • Students may apply the same to approach all subsequent legal research problems
  • Takes time (without distractions) and appropriate software to prepare and create a fluid video model

In-Class Modeling

In-Class Modeling is similar to Video Modeling except that it takes place in class. This allows the professor an opportunity to ask questions of the students and the students of the professor.

Advantages:

  • Allows students to see the steps the professor took in addressing the legal research question
  • Allows for immediate questions by students for deeper understanding of the approach to the problem
  • Allows discussion of alternative approaches to addressing the problem with student input and collaboration

Disadvantages:

  • Uses class time that could be spent on a new topic
  • Desired discussion may be difficult to achieve depending on level of student involvement in the discussion
  • May not be able to address the problem in its entirety because of time constraints in class

No single modeling approach is best. It is up to the professor to gauge the class and determine which type of modeling is needed after each assignment is turned in.  Although I was unable to utilize each of these modeling methods during my first semester teaching ALR, modeling allowed me to give feedback on assignments when I knew that grading would take some time. Additionally, I found modeling to be a helpful way to give feedback that goes beyond whether they found the right answer.

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About Jamie Baker

Jamie Baker is the Associate Director of the Law Library at Texas Tech University School of Law. She also teaches Civil Trial Research. She blogs at www.gingerlawlibrarian.com.
This entry was posted in AALL Annoucements, Legal Research Instruction and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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