Teaching Law Students through Individual Learning Styles

By Boyle, Robin A.; Dunn, Rita | Albany Law Review, Fall 1998 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Teaching Law Students through Individual Learning Styles


Boyle, Robin A., Dunn, Rita, Albany Law Review


"[S]ome things invite understanding and others do not."(1)

INTRODUCTION

Teaching can be rewarding, but it can also be frustrating when some students fail to grasp the material. Professor Robin A. Boyle of St. John's University School of Law has been teaching Legal Research and Writing in small sections of approximately twenty to thirty students for four years. She, like many of her similarly exasperated colleagues, has repeated the same course content by using either lecture or collaborative learning, and has observed some students doing well, Whereas others continued to perform poorly. Then, Dr. Rita Dunn was introduced to the law school faculty and suggested that law professors incorporate learning-styles theory into their lesson plans to accommodate students with diverse learning styles. Suddenly, there was light in the tunnel.

Dr. Dunn challenged the conventional belief that students who were motivated, concentrated during professors' class lectures, did all their assignments, and studied would be able to master basic law course requirements. Unfortunately, that belief is almost universally accepted in law schools where professors teach an entire class of aspiring attorneys in exactly the same way, with the same instructional materials, and in the same amount of time-- regardless of the differences in the students' intelligence levels, aptitudes, experiences, interests, and learning styles.

Learning theory evolves from the study of how students learn.(2) Learning style is the way in which individuals "begin[ ] to concentrate on, process, [internalize,] and [remember] new and difficult [academic] information" or skills.(3) Learning styles vary with age,(4) achievement levels,(5) culture,(6) and individual-processing of new information.(7)

During the past decade, Dr. Dunn and other educators have been researching and employing various learning-styles strategies in elementary through secondary levels,(8) as well as undergraduate schools.(9) Researchers experimenting with alternative strategies for teaching college students found significantly higher achievement when the strategy used was congruent, rather than incongruent, with individuals' learning styles. Those findings were reported for learning anatomy,(10) bacteriology,(11) marketing,(12) mathematics,(13) physiology,(14) social sciences,(15) and for an overall improvement in grade-point averages.(16)

Each of these studies document the effectiveness of teaching students to study by using their learning-styles preferences. When students were matched with teaching methods and materials that complemented their diagnosed learning-styles preferences, they performed significantly better than when they were not matched. Researchers have suggested that instruction delivered without concern for individual learning-styles is improper.(17) For this reason, we advocate that teachers should provide instruction that responds to the various large clusters of learning styles in their classes.

We tested Legal Research and Writing classes at St. John's University School of Law and found that, like undergraduate students, law students were diverse in their learning styles. Law professors,(18) regardless of their class size, should incorporate methods and materials that complement their students' learning styles. This approach can be used without individualizing instruction to each student, which would be nearly impossible in all but the smallest of classes. Law professors are encouraged to use a diagnostic assessment in their classes so that they have an understanding of the kinds of learning styles present within their classes. Once the assessment is complete, the professor then can determine the overall "learning-style majorities," meaning the larger populations of certain types of styles. Professors would be able to adapt their methods to a few such majorities. If assessing students is not feasible, then, in the alternative, professors would be wise to use a combination of instructional methods, ones that can be incorporated into most class periods and that are likely to reach a broad spectrum of students.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Teaching Law Students through Individual Learning Styles
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?