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Role Playing in Teaching Constitutional Law
Unformatted Document Text:  Role Playing in Teaching Constitutional Law George R. La Noue Professor of Political Science University of Maryland Baltimore County ## email not listed ## My goals for teaching courses in constitutional law are to help students decide if law school or other law-based careers are the right choices for them and, if so, to help them prepare, to improve generally their analytical, writing, and oral communication skills and to acquaint them with enough about their legal heritage so they can participate productively as citizens in discussion about constitutional issues. Research shows that students learn more by doing than listening. Yet teaching law to undergraduates too often lends itself to replicating law school techniques (lecturing, students preparing briefs, with episodes of the Socratic method with the all-wise and much better prepared professor.) While some students, when they score a point, find the Socratic give-and- take with a professor fascinating and even exhilarating, others find it intimidating or off putting and shrink in their seats hoping not to be called on. At best, in a large class only a few students generally will participate in a given lesson. Lecturing, briefing and questioning will always have a place in teaching law, but there are ways to create more active participation that are useful complements. Role playing is a device to encourage students to take responsibility for their learning, to expand participation to larger numbers of students, and teach communication skills. Role playing often helps students decide if a legal career is something they should pursue. Two techniques have proved successful over thirty years of experimentation. 1

Authors: La Noue, George.
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Role Playing in Teaching Constitutional Law
George R. La Noue
Professor of Political Science
University of Maryland Baltimore County
## email not listed ##
My goals for teaching courses in constitutional law are to help students decide if law
school or other law-based careers are the right choices for them and, if so, to help them prepare,
to improve generally their analytical, writing, and oral communication skills and to acquaint
them with enough about their legal heritage so they can participate productively as citizens in
discussion about constitutional issues.
Research shows that students learn more by doing than listening. Yet teaching law to
undergraduates too often lends itself to replicating law school techniques (lecturing, students
preparing briefs, with episodes of the Socratic method with the all-wise and much better
prepared professor.) While some students, when they score a point, find the Socratic give-and-
take with a professor fascinating and even exhilarating, others find it intimidating or off putting
and shrink in their seats hoping not to be called on. At best, in a large class only a few students
generally will participate in a given lesson.
Lecturing, briefing and questioning will always have a place in teaching law, but there
are ways to create more active participation that are useful complements. Role playing is a
device to encourage students to take responsibility for their learning, to expand participation to
larger numbers of students, and teach communication skills. Role playing often helps students
decide if a legal career is something they should pursue. Two techniques have proved
successful over thirty years of experimentation.
1


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