This article describes my ongoing experiments with “learning communities” and “spiral curricula” in my Civil Procedure I classes, as influenced by my eight years as a sole practitioner in Western Kentucky. Despite endorsement from many education theorists and classroom teachers and potential effectiveness in combating student disaffection, neither has made more than the shallowest dent in legal education. “Classroom community” implies a less stratified and more culturally respectful education experience that is more rewarding, more honorable and more likely to be urban law school graduates’ professional future. Spiral curriculum design facilitates analytical depth that leads to a sense of the law’s rhythms critical to high performance as a generalist.
My Spring 2009 Civil Procedure I class created my first “community in the classroom,” and its dynamics are repeatable. Students spun a web of intergenerational, multiplex relationships that are the essence of a “community of memory” and institutionalized the “patterns of commitment” that shaped the experiences of those who came later. These have led to enthusiasm about personal jurisdiction in particular that is disproportionate to that topic’s entertainment value – call it “love” if you are “Michael.” Woven throughout this article are vignettes and voices that demonstrate their engagement and emerging sense of justice.
Part II explains my spiraling syllabus design that facilitates analytical depth and appreciation for the very real people their blossoming legal philosophies may govern. Part III describes the course’s assessment package – call it “Justice Brennan Meets The Lord of the Rings in 2009 – that tests analysis while reinforcing students’ sense of membership in a community with a past, present and future. This article concludes that the structure and content of the course facilitated unusually intense student engagement, enriched students’ academic experience, and opened a conceptual door to an alternate professional future.”
- Legal Education,
- Civil Procedure,
- Personal Jurisdiction
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/jennifer_spreng/12/