Law Professor Uses Active Learning Strategies to Help Students Develop Skills to Prep for Bar Exam

Law Professor Uses Active Learning Strategies to Help Students Develop Skills to Prep for Bar Exam

Two speakers at our recent user conference in Chicago highlighted how law schools are using technology to change the way legal education is delivered. Bill Flanagan, Dean and Professor of Law at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario described how Queen’s Law is educating the next generation of lawyers by transforming the traditional law lecture. Similarly, Amanda Compton, Instructor and Director of Bar Support at the Antonin Scalia School of Law at George Mason University showed attendees how she uses Echo360 to help her students to prepare for the bar exam.

“I was a person who hated having laptops in the classroom because of the distractions they can bring,” Compton said to conference attendees. “But, what changed my mind were all of the student engagement tools within Echo360 that allow you to make your presentations more interactive. My class is three hours long and I felt that it would keep students engaged if I could incorporate as many activities as possible. I had read that for law students to remain alert in class, you need to introduce something new or change activities every 6 minutes. PowerPoint slides alone just won’t cut it.”

Q&A Features Create Opportunities for Classroom Discussion

Compton uses the Q&A features within Echo360 extensively in her class. These features allow her to ask different types of questions such as multiple choice, fill in the blank, graphic response, and open-ended questions.

“Open-ended questions and questions where I ask students to justify their answer stimulate discussion,” says Compton. “It also gives me the opportunity to correct students without calling them out individually.”

Compton creates many multiple-choice questions for her students and it is an important component for preparing to take the bar exam. Why? Because with only a few exceptions, most state bar exams use multiple choice questions.

“I use a lot of multiple choice questions in class because that is what students will see when they sit for the bar exam,” says Compton. “These exams don’t just measure substantive knowledge and whether you understand the law. They test your ability to spot critical issues, separate pertinent facts from irrelevant facts, engage in critical thinking, and identify the one word in the fact pattern or question that makes a difference. So, my questions are designed to help students develop the skills they will need when taking the bar.”

Group exercises are also an important in-class activity and they help to create lively interaction between students. Compton will organize the class into groups, present a question, and ask the group to discuss the question and come up with an answer. The group leader then submits the response to the question in Echo360 and their answers are discussed in class. According to Compton, group activities make it easier for the instructor – the instructor only must read the group responses rather than responses from everyone in the class.

The “Judgment-Free Zone” Encourages Student Participation and Provides Important Feedback

“I love the anonymous nature of the question and answer features in Echo360. I don’t have to call students out, they don’t have to raise their hand, and they are more likely to respond. It’s a ‘judgment-free zone.’ Students don’t fear being judged if they don’t know the right answer.”

According to Compton, the Q&A features in Echo360 provide important feedback for both the student and the instructor. It’s especially important because like most traditional law schools, students at George Mason have only one exam. Compton says that students want and need more feedback along the way. The Q&A activities that Compton designs help her students monitor and track their progress.

“These activities allow individual students to better understand how they are doing compared with the rest of the class. We grade on a curve and this is a great motivator for students if they see they’re the only one in class not getting it. It also helps me understand how students are doing and whether or not they are engaged with the assignments I’ve given,” Compton adds.

Compton has just completed her first year at George Mason and had not previously used Echo360. After attending the 2017 user conference held at George Mason School of Law, she embraced the platform and made the decision to use it.

“I’ve been teaching for 10 years now and it is sometimes difficult to embrace new technology. But, I’m motivated by doing what I believe is best for the students. They mentioned Echo360 in my teaching evaluations. They wanted to see it more in their other classes and wondered why other instructors don’t use it.”

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