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The Power of Prediction in Legal Education

Are law students retaining what we teach? As educators, we should care that our students are taking their learning with them beyond our classes. To do so, we need to look to the science to discover ways that we can help our students to retain what they're learning. One evidence-based strategy for increasing retention is to use predictive activities in our classrooms. Predictive activities ask learners to give answers to questions or to anticipate outcomes about which they do not yet have sufficient information. They prepare our students' minds for learning by driving them to seek connections that help them to make accurate predictions. In doing so, students open up their minds to make connections between the new learning they're doing and the preexisting knowledge schema that exist in their long-term memories. By trying to answer questions without sufficient information to do so, it helps prepare the long-term memory to fit the new information into the preexisting knowledge
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Cognitive Disruptors in Legal Education

The pandemic has had a significant impact on all of our lives (biggest understatement ever).  However, with the return to in-person learning at many institutions, there has been this feeling that we should have returned to our "normal" teaching strategies in an effort to get back to the way things were. But of course, we know that things are not the same.  People traumatized by the pandemic--loved ones being gravely ill and dying, extreme isolation, financial stressors due to industries being impacted, and more--are experiencing lingering effects of the past two years.  Burnout has become the buzz word, as entire circles of friends and colleagues report feeling emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted. This means that our classrooms should not go back to normal.  We must consider what might be impacting our students' ability to attend to and retain new information presented in our classrooms.  I've written before about cognitive (over)load and the limits of wo

Helping with Student Focus & Motivation in the Remote Classroom, Part 4: Building An Online Teaching Presence

I've written before about how important it is to show students you care about their learning and about them as humans , in part summarizing Kent Syverud's excellent piece , "Taking Students Seriously: A Guide for New Law Teachers. It is harder to show students that you care about them in a remote environment than when you see them in a physical classroom every day, where you can smile at them, easily ask them how they're doing as they enter the room or when you run into them in the classroom, or notice through their body language if they are having a hard time and reach out. But we know that showing we care matters; our students try harder and engage more when they feel like their learning matters to their instructor.  It takes more intention to show you care about students in the online classroom, but it's imperative that we find ways to show we do. So what are some ways that we can show students we care in the remote learning environment? The first is to

Helping With Student Focus & Motivation in the Remote Classroom, Part 3: Limiting New Technologies to Reduce Extrinsic Cognitive Load

A librarian colleague used to say to me, "Technology is great until it's not." This couldn't be more true in the classroom.  As many of us prepare for a fall entirely or partially online, there's a rush to familiarize ourselves with lots of new educational technology to teach our classes. There's this sense that if you're not using the best and newest ed tech in your class, you're doing something wrong. Fortunately, the science doesn't back this up.  Using too many different types of technology can be a contributing factor to cognitive overload in students . Cognitive load is a term cognitive psychologists use to describe the mental challenge that the limitations of working memory puts on a student's learning.[1] Basically, working memory is extremely limited in both time and duration. Humans can only hold on to between four and nine "chunks" of information at any given time,[2] and can only hold on to new information in their worki

Helping with Student Focus & Motivation in the Remote Classroom, Part 2: Prioritizing Transparency

One factor leading to decreased focus and motivation in online classes is the uncertainty many students feel in the virtual environment.  This uncertainty can arise from students never having taken an online class before, from having distractions at home that they don't have in their in-person classes, or from using technology with which they're not familiar.  This uncertainty can lead to students disengaging with the class, as they feel disconnected from the content, their instructor, and their classmates. To support students undergoing this uncertainty and help them stay engaged, provide as much clarity as possible.  Being clear about expectations will help students gain some balance in an uncomfortable situation.  There are a number of ways we can help students minimize their discomfort--from making sure online class modules are standardized in their format within the learning management system to designing a syllabus with well-structured, clear course requirements.  One m