ILT 2015 

Applying Learning Theory to LegalEDucation

Featuring: Jill Smith, Jack Preis, Sarah Booher, Jeremiah Ho, Deb Cohen

Jill Smith

Talk Title: Bringing Transliteracy to Legal Education

Talk Summary: To be transliterate is to be able to read, write, and interact across a wide range of platforms, tools, and media. This talk will look at the way legal education is largely disconnected from the demands of transliteracy and ways we can think about incorporating the principles of transliteracy to our teaching.

Jill Smith is the Instructional Technology Librarian at Georgetown University Law Center. Prior to starting at Georgetown, Jill was Research and Instructional Technology Librarian at The University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, where she also taught Introduction to Legal Research and Advanced Legal Research. Prior to beginning her library career, Jill spent two years as a legal index editor at BNA and 12 years working in executive relationship management with the NASDAQ Stock Market and in corporate communications for NASDAQ-listed companies.  Jill is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law and the University of Maryland's iSchool. She is a member of the New Hampshire State Bar.

Jack Preis

Talk Title: We Are Always Team Teaching

Talk Summary:

In the first year of law school, students learn the building blocks of legal practice. The science of learning and memory tells us, however, that these building blocks will crumble over time as students forget large parts of what they learned. This is problematic not just because students will have to re-learn the material for the bar and future practice, but also because it is impossible to teach complex legal analysis in upper level courses if students have forgotten the basics.  One way to improve retention is through a program of "spaced practice."  Such a program forces students to re-engage with material they previously learned, thus improving their long term retention. Law professors sometimes make use of spaced practice, but usually only within a single semester rather than across semesters.  In this presentation, I argue that law schools should create upper level courses that, in brief form, revisit important and routinely forgotten concepts from the first year of law school.  Though it only teaches basic concepts, such a course is essential for learning the complex legal analysis that law schools endeavor to teach.    

Professor Jack Preis teaches and writes in the areas of federal courts, civil rights litigation, and civil procedure. His scholarship, which focuses on constitutional rights and remedies, has appeared in the Virginia Law Review, Indiana Law Journal, and Wake Forest Law Review, among other venues.  While a professor, Preis has argued before the Ninth Circuit, the Eleventh Circuit, and the United States Supreme Court in constitutional remedies cases.  Before joining the Richmond Law faculty in 2008, Professor Preis served as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Brooklyn Law School and Washburn University School of Law.

Sarah Booher

Talk Title: Engendering Success for ADHD/Kinesthetic Learners

Talk Summary:

It is estimated that five percent of the student population are kinesthetic learners and eleven percent are affected by ADHD. Frequently regarded as disruptive, unfocused, or unmotivated, such learners face additional challenges to an already laborious law school endeavor. Whether a student is one, the other, or both, psychology and education experts indicate there are actions educators can take to transform the traditional "lecture and listen" law school environment (without sacrificing the Socratic Method or precious financial resources). Concurrently, kinesthetic/ADHD learners can utilize specific study tools and approaches outside the classroom to help them better absorb, synthesize, and articulate required materials. Speaking from her own personal challenges and wins, this talk suggests easily-implemented, highly-rewarding practices for individuals on both sides of the classroom podium to engender success in kinesthetic/ADHD law students.

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Sarah M. Booher is a 2005 graduate of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, with a double major in American Studies and Public Policy.  After mastering an espresso machine and receiving her Master’s of Science in Urban and Regional Planning, she served as Planner for Anderson County, Tennessee, for 5 years until she succumbed to the unrelenting call to attend law school.  She is currently a 2L at Lincoln Memorial University – Duncan School of Law and hopes to join in the fight against human trafficking after graduation.  She works as a research assistant at LMU-DSOL and is active in Boys & Girls Club and Habitat for Humanity.  She resides in Andersonville, Tennessee, with her two adorable (and highly independent) dogs, Dexter and Deacon.

Jeremiah Ho

Talk Title: "Unhiding the Socratic Ball: Transparency in Teaching Law for the Digital Age"  

Talk Summary: In light of emerging technologies in the classroom and the generation of digital natives and millennials sitting before us in our classrooms, I see an ever-growing impetus for transparency in teaching legal knowledge and reasoning.  More so than ever, we must teach with transparency in mind that matches up with growing technologies in the law classroom. However, this urge does not mean a “dumbing-down” of law instruction, as many might fear it would.  Rather, there are ways of combining both straightforwardness in the classroom with high learning expectations to engage and challenge students, proving that hiding the ball does not necessarily equate intellectual rigor.  My talk will demonstrate how “unhiding” the ball, where appropriate, has allowed me to unlock my students’ abilities to obtain legal knowledge better and acquire reasoning skills more competently than remnants of the traditional case method have allowed.  

Jeremiah A. Ho is an Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Massachusetts School of Law—Dartmouth, where he teaches Contracts, Products Liability, and Remedies.  In the area of legal education, he is contributing faculty at the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning, and an editor for The Learning Curve, the official publication of the AALS Section on Academic Support.  In his spare time, he enjoys searching for the world’s most perfect fried chicken.


Deb Cohen

Talk Title: Unlearning: The Hardest Part of Law School

Talk Summary: No one arrives at law school with a clean slate – everyone arrives with prior knowledge. When that knowledge is correct and appropriate for the situation, it can help learning; however when it is incorrect or inappropriate for the situation, it can hinder learning.  As a result, the hardest part of law school isn’t learning how to “think like a lawyer,” rather it is unlearning some of the incorrect or inappropriate notions students bring with them. This talk focuses on some examples of prior knowledge that students bring to law school, and what can we do to help our students identify this prior knowledge that is hindering their success. 


Debra R. Cohen is a Professor of Law and the Director of Academic Success at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law. Coming from a family that is half lawyers and half teachers, she split the difference and became a law professor.  She loves the law and is passionately interested in learning as much as she can about teaching and learning.