“The great end of education is to discipline rather than to furnish the mind; to train it to the use of its own powers rather than to fill it with the accumulation of others.”
The American Bar Association is exerting pressure on United States law schools to improve teaching effectiveness by shifting the evaluation of student learning away from input measures to focus upon output-based assessments. Yet, many legal educators appear to be resistant to and fearful of change, in part, perhaps, due to their comfort with teaching methods such as the Socratic or case-dialogue approach, which demands little accountability for teaching effectiveness and provides more time for the pursuit of the traditional goals of scholarly productivity. This method of teaching as currently utilized in law schools is also innately professor-centric performance art.
The article provides examples and exercises that demonstrate that any teaching method will be enhanced if a professor adopts a “cross-cultural” approach to teaching first-semester and first-year law students. A “cross-cultural” approach shifts the focus in the classroom to the students to assist them in becoming aware of the cultural contexts they bring to the study of law, enabling them to compare their cultural perspective with the shifting cultural context of the law. Not only will this shift in classroom focus teach law students to become lifelong students of the law by critically self-assessing their learning, but it will additionally enrich a professor’s scholarship. It does so because the professor who elicits and responds to the cultural perspectives of students in the classroom will better understand societal perceptions of the law, which will provide new avenues for traditional and nontraditional scholarship.