Making Academics Explicit and Accessible: A Skills-Based Approach to Teaching

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Institutions across the globe are trying to identify effective means of increasing access to higher education for a broader range of the population. Unfortunately, those efforts are often limited to recruitment, admissions, and (usually inadequate) financial assistance, overlooking the enormous pedagogical challenges these sought-after students present. Teachers face classes filled with students from a multitude of backgrounds, and, especially in higher education, with students who have profoundly different learning styles and levels of academic preparation and readiness. The challenge for educators and administrators is to make the promise of access real by recognizing their responsibility (and ability) to teach effectively to this diverse group, i.e., to develop innovative classroom approaches that address (1) the range of skills, knowledge, and attitudes to be developed; (2) the range of students’ academic preparation; and (3) the range of learning styles or modes the students bring with them.

This presentation will focus on a skills-based teaching approach in a law school setting, but is applicable to other modes of higher education as well. We will describe how and where specific academic skills might be included and taught in a typical first year Contracts class. This proposal provides a practical addition to typical Contracts pedagogy that will enhance that course and improve students' overall first-year law school learning. The proposal also speaks to the profession's current concern about modernizing the curriculum and bringing it into a better relationship with the skills that professionals need for practice. The proposal seeks to sharpen the debate about enhancing the curriculum by demonstrating ways to respond to the calls for overhauling law school pedagogy in the context of a conventional course that is likely to remain in the center of required curricula for the foreseeable future.


Keywords: Teaching Methods, Pedagogy, Learning Styles, Learning Theory
Stream: Curriculum and Pedagogy; Student Learning, Learner Experiences, Learner Diversity
Presentation Type: 30 minute Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Prof. Deborah Zalesne

Professor of Law, School of Law, City University of New York
Flushing, NY, USA

Deborah Zalesne is a tenured professor of law at the City University of New York School of Law where she teaches in the areas of corporate and commercial law. She earned a B.A. degree from Williams College, a J.D. from the University of Denver College of Law, and an LL.M. in Legal Education from Temple Law School, where she was an Honorable Abraham L. Freedman Fellow. Prior to teaching, she practiced law with a firm in Denver, Colorado, and clerked for a Colorado Supreme Court Justice. She is a member of the boards of Beyond the 11th, a charitable organization devoted to supporting disenfranchised widows in Afghanistan, and Iris House, a community-based organization that serves women infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. She has published numerous articles on sexual harassment, gender discrimination and poverty law, as well as on teaching and pedagogy, and has made presentations on these issues in the U.S., South Africa, Poland, Hungary, Israel and Australia.

David Nadvorney

Director, Irene Diamond Professional Skills Center
School of Law, City University of New York

Flushing, NY, USA

Director, Irene Diamond Professional Skills Center, CIty University of New York School of Law. Responsible for design and implementation of academic support programs for law school students; design and implement faculty development workshops on pedagogy and teaching methods; Past chair, Law School Admission Council (LSAC) 2005 National Academic Assistance Training Worksop, 2006 Regional Academic Assistance Training Workshop. Interests focus on innovative pedagogical techniques that support increased effots to diversify profession post-graduate education programs.

Ref: L09P0417