A new book co-authored by Gonzaga University School of Law Professor Gerald Hess titled “What the Best Law Teachers Do” (Harvard University Press, 2013) is receiving national attention for identifying the teaching methods and personal qualities of 26 of the most effective law professors in the United States.
Conclusions From Four Years of Study
The culmination of a four-year study that sought to identify extraordinary law teachers who have a significant long-term positive impact on their students, the book is the fourth that Hess has co-authored with Professor Sophie Sparrow of the University of New Hampshire School of Law, and Michael Hunter Schwartz, dean and professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law. The three are colleagues in the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning, which is co-hosted at Gonzaga Law School.
“This book describes how 26 amazingly dedicated and dazzlingly effective law teachers do their work,” said Schwartz. As tuition at law schools continues to rise, despite a decline in the number of applications, and postgraduate jobs become increasingly competitive, receiving a high-quality education is paramount, Schwartz said.
“Law teachers represent the critical element in that equation,” Schwartz noted. The American Bar Association Journal and Inside Higher Education recently featured the book.
A Wide Range of Professors Included
The 26 teachers identified in the study were drawn from a pool of 250 law professors – all nominated by colleagues and students at every law school across the nation. The three authors all observed the 26 finalists, studied student evaluations, examined documentation of teaching awards, interviewed current and past students, and looked for commonalities.
According to Hess, the authors left these visits feeling moved, inspired, and excited to make changes in their own teaching based on what they observed and heard.
Modeling Hard Work and Creativity
“The teachers who are profiled in the book work at law schools that represent the full spectrum of U.S. News & World Report law school rankings, yet the core of who they are and what they do is quite similar,” Hess said. “All of the teachers we studied are regarded as being among the most rigorous professors at their law schools who have high expectations of every student, yet they also are known for their kindness to their students. They foster self-confidence in their students and inspire in them a belief that they are capable of great things. They get to know their students as people and manifest caring and respect for their students. These teachers model hard work, creativity, and humility.”
“What the Best Law Teachers Do” is available online and at bookstores nationwide.