R. Spece

University of Arizona, James E. Rogers College of Law (UNITED STATES)
It is indisputable that students learn better when they interact with the material they wish or are assigned to own. One category of technique is to break classes up into smaller groups who are assigned various tasks that immerse them in course materials. This technique is reportedly used with success at my institution, the University of Arizona, even in basic science courses consisting of hundreds of students. I teach within the College of Law where the primary mode of instruction is still the Socratic Method in which students are questioned on assigned materials that involve factual and legal particulars or ambiguities. These materials serve as the background for hypothetical cases or situations that the professor presents to the students. Often one student is “grilled” for a significant slice of time. Some students are terrified or offended by this process. For them, the Socratic Method is not emersion but alienation. One response is that they need to be prepared for grillings they might encounter from judges, employers, or even clients. Regardless, I continue to use the Socratic Method. I have responded to the apparent success of various emersion exercises and student angst over the Socratic Method, however, by implementing a process I call “Stump the Professor.” I have had the luxury of small classes that can be broken up into groups of four or five students. These groups required to construct hypothetical cases drawing upon assigned readings and their general expertise. These groups then will, acting as panels of judges, present these hypothetical cases to me playing the role of lawyer for whatever side of the case the students assign me to. I will make an opening statement and then they are free to pepper me with questions. This process grew out of an earlier, and still used, practice of having the groups of students present their cases to each other, some service as panels of judges and some serving as cooperating attorneys. The students report that they enjoy “Stump the Professor,” and it is my impression that they learn better through this process than through the Socratic Method or lecturing. I intend to test my impressions in the future by adding multiple choice questions to my hereto for essay examinations. I will employ the “Stump the Professor” process when we are covering certain portions of the course material. I will then determine whether the students to better on the material covered through the “Stump the Professor” method or the Socratic Method. I will also compare student performance in subsequent semesters of the same course by manipulating which materials I cover with either the “Stump the Professor” method or the Socratic Method. I will need the assistance of a colleague better equipped to design studies and interpret data.
keywords: students.