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Learning Law. Orientation: August 16, 2006. 5. Professional expertise. 4. Prescriptive vs. Exploratory. 3. Limited context vs. Unlimited context. 2. Hearing vs. Understanding. 1. Recognition vs. Recall. Metacognition: James Flavell. The process of ‘thinking about thinking’

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Learning Law

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Learning Law


August 16, 2006

5. Professional expertise

4. Prescriptive vs. Exploratory

3. Limited context vs.

Unlimited context

2. Hearing vs. Understanding

1. Recognition vs. Recall

Metacognition: James Flavell

  • The process of ‘thinking about thinking’

  • Metacognitive knowledge

    • Person variables

      • Awareness of one’s own ways of thinking

      • Understanding that others may think differently

    • Task variables

      • Self-questioning about ways information influences and constrains your own responses

    • Strategy variables

      • Approaches for meeting goals

        • Cognitive – direct purpose for accomplishing an outcome

        • Metacognitive – a strategy to determine which cognitive strategy is most appropriate for meeting a goal

Cognitive Theory: Piaget

  • Functions

    (Same for everyone)

    • Adaptation

      • Assimilation

      • Accommodation

    • Organization


[Knowledge cluster]

College of Law:

Assimilation Requires Attention

  • General estimates from research on attention indicate that people remember from 1/3-1/5 of lecture material.

  • To increase attention:

    • Make it personal.

    • Attend to main points.

    • Look for analogies.

    • Relate concepts to practical uses.

    • Review and tie to previous material.

    • Write down examples.

Remembering & Forgetting:

Remembering & Forgetting:

Causes of Forgetting:


•Other thoughts



Lack of focus

•Did not input

•Not meaningful


•No organization

•No link to future context (chk file)

Ways of Remembering:

Decrease interference


Stay connected

Set times: study & play

Increase focus

Take notes & review

Create meaning link


Organize by use

Talk about concepts and apply to people or creative stories.

Repetition Increases Learning (Assimilation)

  • It takes about 7-10 repetitions to learn new material

    • Short frequent repetitions input information

    • Applying in active ways increases ability to remember

  • The more senses involved in learning, the stronger the memory.

    • Explaining or saying to someone else is a form of output that increases memory and understanding

  • We have a special ability to remember stories – cases, hypotheticals, particularly hypotheticals with unusual facts stick in memory.

Attention & Adaptation: Perceived Importance*

*Concept developed by William Purkey

Attention & Adaptation: Perceived Importance

Attention & Adaptation: Perceived Importance

Attention & Adaptation: Perceived Importance

Accommodation: Metacognitive Tasks & Strategies

  • Accommodation requires distinguishing concepts

  • Look for the relationship of cases to each other.

  • Make visual representations of the relationships of concepts or cases to each other to help identify differences.

  • Use examples or analogies to highlight and test differences.

Study Steps:Assimilation & Accommodation

7-10 repetitions = long term memory

  • Review last class before reading for next class --[Let your professor guide your learning.]

  • Read for class

  • Review last notes before next class

  • Go to Class

  • Review notes after class

  • Review week’s notes at the end of week

  • Use a study group for clarification & applications

  • Write a homework problem each week

Study Goals: Content

  • Develop expertise in legal content through learning:

    • To read like a lawyer

      • Looking for general and specific rules

      • Discerning critical facts that shift analysis

      • Understanding reasoning of court

      • Examining how sets of cases are like and different in reasoning and outcomes

    • The language of law

      • Purposeful

      • Specific

Study Goals: Process

  • Developing legal analysis skills

  • Focus on questions your professors ask

  • Practice analysis by asking these or similar questions of yourself as you prepare for classes

  • Be active in your learning:

    • Talk about what you are studying

      • With each other

      • With friends and relatives

    • Apply what you are learning to news stories and events in your life

    • Make up stories that illustrate legal rules – change facts to test limits of rules.

Vary Study Activities

  • Read actively

    • Ask questions while reading

      • What does this add to the concept?

        • Compare: What is this like?

        • Contrast: How is this different?

      • Are professor’s questions asked in last class also applicable to new material?

    • Diagram or chart to aid understanding

    • Try color coding

    • Write a short summary of content in addition to case briefs - good use of time?

Organizing: One Important Learning Skill

  • Ordering notes

  • Organizing at the end of each week

  • Organizing at the end of each chapter or unit

  • Organizing before exams

  • Organizing in exams

Reasons to Organize

  • To learn course content

    • Organizing forces a focus on content that increases recall of material

    • Grouping cases helps

      • Deepen understanding of concepts

      • Build associational connections to increase memory

  • To highlight analysis process

    • Drawing attention to legal rules

    • Providing context for legal arguments for analysis and application to new fact patterns

  • To prepare for exams

    • Emphasizing thoroughness of analysis in exams

    • Increasing speed when writing exams

Choosing a Format

  • Start with what has worked for you in past courses.

  • Experiment with other methods to see if they facilitate analysis and application.

  • ‘To Outline’ is code for ‘To Organize’

    • Outlines are one way to organize, but not useful for everyone.

    • Flow charts emphasize analysis

    • Decision trees use questions to aid analysis

    • Diagrams can reveal relationships among and within concepts

    • Summary and synthesis statements put the big picture into words

  • Use a structure that simplifies understanding, emphasizes analysis, and aids memory and application.

Preliminary Questions

  • Is it more efficient to use an outline created by someone who knows more than I?

    • NO! Making it is a huge part of the value

    • Do use table of contents, syllabus, or similar materials to provide an initial framework or to stimulate ideas

  • What about sharing outlines?


Recommended Strategies:

  • Go to all classes

  • Make some kind of notes or other record

    in or about classes

  • Review notes frequently

  • Read supplemental materials only as


  • Use flash cards for memory tasks

  • Study alone, but apply through planning and

    writing problems with a study partner or group

  • Designate time frame

Group Programs & Individual Appointments

  • We will have group programs on study and exam writing skills regularly throughout the term.

  • Individual appointments are available for all students.

  • How to find me:

    • My office #216,

    • Phone: 278-9240,

    • E-mail: mpeters3@elon.edu

  • Stop by when door is open or contact me for a time for an appointment.

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