A Conversation About Canadian Legal Education: Lakehead University and Dialogue Pedagogy


Through my experiences opening the first new law school in Ontario in 44 years, I have had time to reflect on my own teaching style and have employed what has been termed “Dialogue Pedagogy.” Using an auto-ethnography methodology in this paper, I will examine ways of teaching the law including the case-law system of study distilling black-letter law and the Socratic Method which is widely considered the preferred method in legal education. I argue that there is a better, and more humane, way to teach our law school students.

Experience has shown that although students get training on issue identification, they are not taught to plan a solution by dialoguing with the relevant actors. It has been my challenge to come up with an adequate teaching and evaluation method that allows students to do an interactive assignment. I have found that law students need more opportunities to access their emotional intelligence and interactions with real people, and I have captured this skill in my mandatory 1L Tort class through an exercise I call the “Torts Crime Scene.”

Connecting our students to life and humanity and having empathy for others is perhaps one of the most important things that we do. Having students learn dusty legal maxims is, for good or bad, essential. However, being able to connect what they are learning to them personally, their family, their friends, their fellow human beings is paramount. Our students have changed, and so too, our teaching must change. The transformation cannot simply be a system of add-ons but of fundamental review and evolution.

Chapman, Frances, A Conversation About Canadian Legal Education: Lakehead University and Dialogue Pedagogy (September 1, 2020). (2020) 21:1 The Western Michigan University Cooley Journal of Practical & Clinical Law 1, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3690384

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