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Unpublished Paper
Did Harvard Get It Right?
ExpressO (2007)
  • Laurel Currie Oates
Abstract: Q: Did Harvard get it right when it adopted the casebook method over 150 years ago? A: Maybe. Many first-year law students struggle to understand why law professors force them to divine legal principles from judicial decisions, some of which were decided before their grandparents were born and others which seem to be written in a foreign language. Wouldn’t it much be easier, and better, if law schools used the same pedagogy that is used in many other disciplines: reading assignments, lectures, and exams that test whether students have learned the information set out in those textbooks and lectures? The students have a point. Recent research from educational psychologies suggests that, by itself, the casebook method is not particularly effective in helping students learn either the law or to how to use the law to solve problems. However, the casebook method may be an extremely effective method of helping students develop what researchers call “adaptive expertise” if, after questioning students about the cases, professors present a lecture that summarizes the concepts that the cases were selected to illustrate. Instead of describing this new research using the conventional format, this article models the process that the researchers advocate: in the first section the author asks the reader to do a “data analysis” exercise, in the second part she provides the reader with a “lecture,” and in the third part she asks the reader to apply what they have learned to determine whether Harvard did, in fact, get it right.
  • Legal Education,
  • Socratic Method,
  • Casebook Method,
  • Trasfer,
  • Adpative Expertise
Publication Date
March, 2007
Citation Information
Laurel Currie Oates. "Did Harvard Get It Right?" ExpressO (2007)
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