Making Academics Explicit and Accessible: A Skills-Based Approach to Teaching
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
Prof. Deborah Zalesne
Professor of Law, School of Law, City University of New York
Director, Irene Diamond Professional Skills Center