Fran Ansley

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University of San Francisco Law Review


In September 1996, Laurie Zimet, Director of the Academic Support Program at the University of California at Hastings College of the Law, proposed to the rest of us – four law professors and two other academic support teachers – that we plan the Academic Support Section presentation at the 1997 Association of American Law Schools Annual Conference. Our panel topic, “Inclusive Teaching Methods Across the Curriculum,” would draw deeply from our common passion for the subject and from our diverse experiences in innovative pedagogy. But could seven of us, three of us speaking one dialect of legal education (academic support processes) and four of us speaking another (substantive transfer of legal doctrine), communicate well enough to decide what areas we would cover, how we would convey the material, and who would do which part of the presentation? Little did the seven of us know what lay ahead!

This article describes an educational journey of seven diverse law teachers, located in different parts of the country, at various stages of our careers, who, in the course of preparing a simple panel, found that we had created a truly rewarding experience of our own. We write with the conviction that we need to share what we learned from those four months of “schoolwork” and from the AALS program we eventually presented in January, 1997. As we reconstruct our collaboration on inclusive teaching methods and ponder where it is taking us, we find we worked through the following stages of progression. First, came the initial selection of the presenters: Assembling the Panel (Part I). Second, a period of orientation and sizing up each other followed, where we shared our respective visions of how law and academic support teachers could join forces to promote inclusive teaching methods into the legal academy. We entered an “adjustment-to-reality” phase. Each of us critically reflected upon how our broad vision of collaboration might be at odds with the reality of our circumstances: Planning the Presentation (Part II). Third, we eventually sought both closure to our collaboration and commencement of a wider effort through a call to activism within the academic community; realizing our goal to make a positive difference for the AALS audience: The Presentation (Part III). Finally, we made future plans to bring legal education into the next millennium: Postscript (Part IV).

Our transformative experience in working together on this panel, then interacting with a terrific audience and later enjoying the charge of warm and enthusiastic feedback has reinforced for us the importance of inclusive teaching methods in the law school classroom. It has also convinced us that we should seek further opportunities to share and promote these ideas. We write these words with the hope of encouraging other academic support and traditional law teachers to collaborate in a healthy critique of one another's teaching methods, thereby increasing opportunities for new and better applications. We do so with an increased sense of the urgency of the task in the face of the sharp challenges now facing diversity efforts in legal education. It is our conviction that law schools should continue and expand their efforts to make the legal profession and justice system accessible to all kinds of people, especially to members of groups historically excluded or disadvantaged. Although it is clear that more inclusive teaching methods are beneficial for all students, these methods can also play a key part in assuming that after a diverse class of students is admitted to law school, each member of the class is both supported and challenged in ways that produce personal and academic achievement for all.

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Publication Date

Summer 1997

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