Prof. Chomsky's Article Selected as Institute for Law Teaching and Learning's Article of the Month

Professor Carol Chomsky's article, "Casebooks and the Future of Contracts Pedagogy," was published in the Hastings Law Journal earlier this year. Now the article has been selected by the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning as its Article of the Month. In announcing the selection, Professor Andrea Boyack of Washburn University School of Law noted that casebooks remain "hugely relevant to student outcomes from and experience in class" and that the "thought-provoking" article "has added much value to the open question of how to best evolve teaching materials" to embrace new understanding about student learning. The article speaks in particular about the casebook co-authored by Professor Charles Knapp, whose 50-year career in law teaching was honored in a symposium conference at which Chomsky presented her paper in October 2014, and is also based on Chomsky's own experience authoring innovative casebooks on contracts and sales law and on discussions with Law School students about teaching and learning.

The article suggests that course content must change to focus on the subject-area issues addressed by lawyers in practice, while retaining aspects designed to teach lawyer-like thinking and an appreciation of how law evolves over time, and that casebooks must change to incorporate experiential learning (hands-on exercises in which students perform lawyering tasks) and to reflect what educators have learned about how people learn most effectively. As noted in the article's abstract:

As casebook authors take seriously the forces and trends in academic publishing, the casebooks are bound to change in significant ways, leading to innovation and even transformation of the course itself. Driving the change are at least six developments and concerns: ( 1 ) recognition that the course must include more attention to the concepts and skills that matter to practicing lawyers; ( 2 ) new accreditation standards that require identification of learning outcomes expected from our courses; ( 3 ) the need (if not yet the reality) to have the bar exam be focused less on knowledge and more on skills; ( 4 ) perhaps most importantly, increasing knowledge about what good learning practice requires in the classroom; ( 5 ) availability of new technologies to deliver more dynamic content; and ( 6 ) changing demands from publishers and students, partly as a result of the other forces mentioned. Our teaching is already adapting to the new law school environment, and visionary casebooks, in contracts as elsewhere in the curriculum, can and should lead the way.

The article suggests particular ways in which casebook authors can change their texts to facilitate the evolution. For more information, read Professor Boyack's review here and the full text of the article here.