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Learning Communities: A New Model for Legal Education

Knauer, Nancy J., Learning Communities: A New Model for Legal Education (February 8, 2015). 6 Elon L. Rev. (2015), Forthcoming. Available for download at SSRN:

This article makes the case that learning communities can improve legal education through their unique ability to integrate the three core apprenticeships: theory, practice, and professionalism. They offer students a collaborative learning experience while instilling “soft skills,” building an appreciation for diversity, and fostering creativity. Learning communities are based on the social constructivist theory of learning where knowledge is understood as a collaborative enterprise that requires both diversity and innovation. Although the learning community paradigm has been widely used in undergraduate education and in some graduate programs, it has not been adopted by law schools for a variety of reasons, including resource issues, the composition of law faculties, and curricular limitations. Despite these structural obstacles, the current crisis in legal education has ignited a strong interest in increasing opportunities for experiential learning and has opened the door to fundamental reforms. Accordingly, this is the perfect moment to consider the potential benefits of learning communities. By way of example, this article describes a newly developed program in Law & Public Policy that combines theory, practice, and professionalism through the use of field placements, innovative web-based course materials, and leadership training. Based on collaborative work, peer review, and information sharing, the Program engages students in policy reform and provides them with a platform to launch their ideas, as well as their careers.”

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