Tag Archives: learning styles

Making the Case Brief Yours: Utilizing Preferred Learning Styles

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Over the past several days, we have explored how to read and brief cases for your law school classes. I’ve explained the various components that make up a judicial opinion, and as well as the various types of judicial opinions you may encounter in your reading. Today, I want to focus on how you make the case brief yours—how you can personalize the case brief and use it to prepare for class by drawing from your preferred learning style. (If you don’t know what your preferred learning style is yet, read about how to find out what your learning style is here).

Case Brief Formats: The first way to customize your case brief is to make a conscious choice about its format. Your learning preferences may influence your formatting choices. For example, reading and writing learners may prefer a more traditional case brief format, with Roman numerals, bullet points, or bolded or underlined headings and subheadings. In contrast, if you are a visual learner, you may color-code different parts of your case brief, draw diagrams, or create mind maps. Don’t forget that the majority of learners are multimodal learners—they may draw from a variety of these approaches, rather than settling on one standard format for all situations.

You also want to think about how you will use the case brief in the future. Although a reading and writing learner may prefer to handwrite their case briefs, other students find that an electronic copy of their brief allows for the insertion of class notes and makes it easier to transition to outlining later. Some students create two columns on each page—one column with the case brief information, and the other column for taking notes in class. There is no one way to approach your case brief—ultimately, you must decide what works best for you.

Using Your Case Brief to Prepare for Class: Even after you’ve created your case brief, you may use it to prepare for class in other ways. Once again, your preferred learning style can come in handy. For example, if you are an aural learner, you may find it helpful to talk through your case brief with other students prior to class. Kinesthetic learners can also utilize this approach, even going so far as acting out parts of the case or even acting out the Socratic Method experience they expect to have in class, having other students quiz them about the case. (In fact, even if you are not a kinesthetic learner, you may find that practicing your responses to Socratic questions may reduce your anxiety about being called on in class!)

Experiment with the form of your case brief in the first few weeks of law school, and see what works best for you. Law students often have assumptions about what format they should use, but as they go through the semester they may find that another approach works better. Be flexible and figure out what seems most helpful both during class and as you continue studying the topic later after class has ended.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under General, Pre-Law, Study Tips

Leveraging Your Preferred Learning Style in Law School

Although there is some debate on this subject, many people believe that understanding your preferred learning style can help you to make better use of your time—your studying will be more effective, which will also make it more efficient. Not everyone agrees that there is a direct link between maximizing your learning style and achieving academic success, but thinking about your preferred learning style—as well as other learning styles—may introduce you to different study techniques that you might not have otherwise thought about.

It is also important to understand that, regardless of your learning preferences, you will encounter circumstances during class and while you study when the information is not presented in the way that you prefer. In those circumstances, you will have to find the way past your own learning preferences to learn the material anyhow, and your understanding of various learning techniques may help you to do that.

One of the most popular learning preference assessments, the Vark assessment, identifies five key types of learning preferences: (1) visual; (2) aural; (3) reading and writing; (4) kinesthetic; and (5) multimodal.

Image courtesy of Pakorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Pakorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Visual learners prefer to learn by seeing. They may prefer professors to use powerpoint slides in class, and they like to read books with diagrams, pictures, flow charts, and graphs. A visual learner may use different colored ink or type to label particular parts of their notes or case briefs, or may use highlighter markers when they read. They may also convert their notes into flow charts or mind maps to visualize how various concepts that they’ve studied relate to each other.

Image courtesy of Chaiwat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Chaiwat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Aural learners prefer to learn by hearing information. They remember more by listening to lectures, and may find it helpful to make audio recordings of information that they want to study. Some aural learners use text to audio software to convert reading assignments into aural information that they can listen to as they read. Because aural learners are focused on listening in class, their notes from class may not be as helpful, and it may require more work to expand their notes after class by incorporating other materials from readings. Aural learners may also find it helpful to talk through legal concepts aloud, either by themselves or in a study group.

Image courtesy of Suat Eman/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Suat Eman/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Reading and writing learners prefer to learn through text. They may prefer reading information for themselves, whether through reading assignments or class powerpoints and handouts. This type of learner also tends to take extensive notes. They may study by reading and writing information from their notes over and over again, and they like to turn flow charts, diagrams, and charts into words instead of visual images.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Kinesthetic learners, sometimes referred to as tactile learners, learn best by touching and doing things. They may prefer role-play exercises or situations that allow them to act things out. They also like to practice doing things in order to learn them.

Finally, there are multimodal learners. Most learners are actually multimodal learners, and their learning preferences depend on the situation. As a result, multimodal learners may use any of the strategies that I’ve described.

If you would like more information about your preferred learning styles, take the Vark assessment today (the basic assessment is free, although the website offers more extensive analysis for a fee). There is also this Index of Learning Styles, which is categorized a little differently from what I’ve described here. Regardless of what year you are in law school, thinking about how you learn and exploring other study techniques can contribute to your academic success.

Leave a comment

Filed under General, Pre-Law, Study Tips

Perfecting the Law School Outline

It may sound crazy to talk about how to outline when we are already three quarters of the way through the school year, but outlining is a skill that you can constantly improve—whether you are a 1L, 2L, or 3L. I thought I would take this opportunity to discuss “best practices” for outlining. Maybe after reading this post, you will discover something that strengthens your outlining skills and make your outline do more work for you.

Of course, we use the word “outline,” but a law school outline can be so much more than a document organized by Roman numerals. While it is certainly possible to organize information from course materials using the traditional Roman numeral format, outlines can utilize many forms. Some students use bolding, underlining, tabs, and bullet points to organize their course information, while others use the tables function in Microsoft Word to create organized sections. Still others find Mind Mapping a useful technique. Experiment with different ways of organizing your outline—you may be surprised about what works best for you. You also may discover that what works for one class may not work as well for another. Outlines are personal and should support your unique learning style.

One reason why the outline is so important is that it really is the place where you learn the law. By synthesizing various course materials (case briefs, class notes, other assigned reading, etc.), you gain a deeper understanding of legal issues and see connections among legal concepts. You also identify legal issues that you don’t entirely understand—topics that you need to spend more time on, go back and read about again, or set up an appointment to meet with your professor to go over.

So what should your outline contain? Regardless of format, all strong outlines contain the same basic types of information. The first step is to make sure that your outline is organized around legal issues rather than cases. For each section, start with the legal issue that you are going to focus on. Make sure each section has the following parts, as applicable: (1) history/development of the legal issue over time (For example, when you studied personal jurisdiction in Civil Procedure, you read Pennoyer v. Neff. Although not everything is this case is still good law, it may provide helpful context for your understanding of the current state of personal jurisdiction law); (2) any rules/tests/factors relevant to the legal issue, along with any definitions of key legal terms; (3) policy arguments relevant to how courts decide this legal issue; (4) competing approaches to the same legal issue (such as majority vs. minority approaches, or common law/Restatement/Uniform Commercial Code); (5) cases and hypotheticals illustrating components of the outline described above (in very brief form, focusing on facts relevant to understanding the legal issue that is the focus of this part of the outline); and (6) any observations about how this legal issue relates to other legal issues in your outline (for example, for your section on the tort of negligence, you might note that defenses and other legal concepts such as contributory/comparative negligence, joint and several liability, vicarious liability, etc. may also apply).

If your outline contains this information, it will be the only thing that you need to study for purposes of the final exam.  And, most importantly, you will gain a deeper understanding of legal concepts that will stay with you–not only for the final exam but for the bar exam and the practice of law.

Leave a comment

Filed under General, Outlines, Study Tips