Seattle University School of Law
In the fall of 2020, students entered law school under extreme circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic led to isolation, depression, and restrictions on activities. A new hybrid learning environment was created. Social upheaval also caused unease. The 2020 national elections loomed, bringing divisive political discourse. The murder of George Floyd and other BIPOC, at the hands of police, led to a reckoning around the country. Additionally, with the COVID-19 pandemic came a rash of anti-Asian violence.
Faced with these unprecedented realities, we, as legal educators, struggled with how to adapt our curriculum to this new normal. These realities forced us to re-examine how we taught. We considered how to instruct on basic legal skills with the ultimate goal of ensuring that students would be able to transfer these skills to real life practice. Further, we sought to create a community during these isolated times and give students an outlet to explore social justice issues in a meaningful way. As a result, the "Book Club with No Books" was formed.
The Club used various forms of media-including a podcast, a documentary, and a movie-to engage students outside of our 1L Lawyering Skills classrooms. Consistent with established learning principles, the Club utilized engaging stories in an effort to deepen, or scaffold, long term memories. It also helped to build community and reduce stress, and injected themes of systemic and racial inequities into the 1L curriculum. We ultimately sought to improve student learning and enhance the "holy grail" of skills teaching-transfer of learning.
We offer this blueprint to other law professors who wish to accomplish similar goals. Part I of the article explores the specifics of the Club, including a description of the different media we used, the issues we explored during our meetings, the structure and logistics of the meetings, and the goals we sought to achieve. Part H discusses established learning principles and how we sought to enhance transfer through our choice of material, creation of a small group setting, and particular discussion questions. Part III discusses how the Club injected social justice themes into the 1L curriculum and why doing so is critical per the ABA's recent proposal that law schools add training in anti-racism into their curricula,' student desires, and the ideal mission of a 1L skills classroom. Part IV reflects on the success of the Club, including student feedback and potential modifications based on that feedback. Finally, the article details our proposal to expand the Club into a pass/fail elective class for all 1L students at Boston University School of Law.
Marni Goldstein Caputo & Kathleen Luz,
A Book Club with No Books: Using Podcasts Movies, and Documentaries to Increase Transfer of Learning, Incorporate Social Justice Themes, Create Community, and Bolster Traditional and Character-Based Legal Skills during a Pandemic
Seattle Journal for Social Justice
Available at: https://scholarship.law.bu.edu/faculty_scholarship/3179