Can “Flip Teaching” Happen in Law School?

Flip teaching is a format of education which reverses the roles of homework and classroom teaching.

The traditional pattern of education has been to have classroom lectures, in which the teacher explains a topic, followed by homework, in which the student does exercises.

In flip teaching, the student first studies the topic by him or herself, typically using video lessons. In the classroom, the student then tries to apply the knowledge by solving problems and doing practical work. The role of the teacher is then to tutor the student when they become stuck, rather than to impart the initial lesson.

Flip teaching supports the following:

  • Formative assessment rather than summative assessment
  • Innovative & engaging classroom activities
  • Experiential & authentic learning
  • Use of technology by teachers to increase student engagement and motivation.
  • Focus on student-centric learning with the teacher only providing directions as to how to complete the experiential activities.
  • Students interacting with each other and the content much more than the teacher.

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Though not labelled initially as “flip teaching,” this is really what Prof. Garver does at Central Michigan University and what was discussed in a previous post in this blog. Garver, who uses lecture capture software to record his lectures and then assigns them to students to listen to outside of class,“… gave up lecturing in the classroom (because) he was tired of having to choose between introducing ideas and letting students try putting them into practice. There was never enough time for both.”

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iTunesU is used by many law schools to host videos and podcasts of lectures . (UChicago, Yale Law, NYLS, Suffolk U law, CUNY School of Law, Harvard Law to name a few.)  These videos/podcasts are available to students to watch/listen to outside the classroom.

If you search on YouTube, you will find that Aaron Dewald, Associate Director of the Center for Innovation in Legal Education at the University of Utah College of Law, has posted 11 videos on Cyberlaw, 23 videos on Evidence and 37 videos on Contracts (see example above.). These are also accessible to students as a supplement to their law school curriculum.

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The goal of Michele Pistone’s LegalEd website is to offer video lectures that can be assigned by law professors so that they can use class time for interactive activities and formative assessments.

In this blog post, Craig Forcese, Vice Dean & Associate Professor of Law at the University of Ottawa, recaps the “Flipping the Classroom” experiment that he conducted in his Administrative Law class this past semester. I highly recommend reading all his previous posts:

Prof. Forcese concludes the following:

So will I do it again?  Yes.  Will I expand to other courses?  Yes.  Indeed, some of my lessons from this large format class will now be deployed in my seminars — a venue which has always been active learning based. 

Do I recommend it?  In a heartbeat.  Will it be everyone’s cup of tea?  No. Should it exist in every course?  No.  Part of what might make it effective is novelty.  But more than that, there should always be a few courses law students can actually shuffle through.  Active learning is more work for students (although many of them will find that it true because they are revising well-worn time management skills developed in a passive setting).

Is it a panacea to all that ails legal education?  Of course not.  It is a brick in a larger edifice of reform.  Do I think that brick should be mortared into the fabric of my law school?  Absolutely.  Personally, I believe that the law school that gets this one right — the mix of active and passive — will be a place to contend with.

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At Albany Law School, many professors have been narrating their PowerPoint presentations using Adobe Presenter and then posting them as pdfs (with audio) in the course’s TWEN site.  These recorded presentations are assigned as homework. In class, the professors now have more time for discussion and assessments. This is another example of “Flipped Teaching.”

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As you see from this post, there are lots of innovative ways to flip your class.  But as Eric Mazur states: “It’s not about the technology, it’s about the pedagogy.”

Could “flip teaching” be successful in law school? The answer is “You’ll never know until you try.”

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2 Responses to Can “Flip Teaching” Happen in Law School?

  1. Awesome! Thanks for the shout out. I have a blog post out there about how our flipped experiment went. We’ve got some fun things in store for next semester!

    http://lawschooledtech.classcaster.net/2012/12/18/blending-the-first-year-classroom/

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