It seems that law lecturers around the country employ some pretty crazy techniques to keep us engaged during class. Some may offer a brief reprieve from stoic concentration with a random YouTube video every 30 minutes during a lecture (as I experienced in one subject), but we’re also increasingly experiencing highly creative teaching methods from our beloved lecturers.
Light-hearted relief from the lecture content is a part of the transition from excitable layperson to seasoned law graduate. However, tenuous links between the subject matter and things such as snails or Elle Woods or even pop culture examples may be a little too predictable for some:
Elise Histed, of the University of Tasmania, was reported to have worn tentacle fingers and bear paws whilst lecturing, and was even filmed suddenly biting the neck of the nearest person, mid-lecture. It was related to the lecture material, of course.
Kate Galloway of James Cook University uses Maurice Sendak's children’s classic Where the Wild Things Are to teach a legal ethics unit. The materials were written by one of Galloway’s colleagues, and inspired by Desmond Manderson’s article From Hunger to Love: Myths of the Source, Interpretation, and Constitution of Law in Children's Literature.
Dr Paula Gerber from Monash University gets her construction law students out of the classroom by taking them to a building site, which she says helps to make what they are learning real.
Evan Richards from Adelaide Law School surprised his property law students in an exam revision lecture when he produced a microphone and guitar and performed his Blink 182-inspired ‘Law School Song’. The following year, he sang ‘The Corporate Lawyer Song’ to the tune of One Direction, Maroon 5 and Miley Cyrus.
Dr Matthew Stubbs from Adelaide Law School used voting as part of his Principles of Public Law classes.
A number of law lectures are also tapping into social media to better engage students.
It's great to hear how lecturers are challenging the norm and keeping lectures fresh, but does putting on a little show in a lecture facilitate a deeper connection with the content, or does it simply provide a momentary refresher?
Some people would probably think that these classroom antics are just plain silly, but I believe such methods can give more than just a fresh perspective or light relief, but it's up to us, as students, to turn a funny lecture into an exam-ready memory.
Mnemonics make recalling a memory significantly easier, and regardless of the sensory medium, mnemonics work especially well when they are distinctive, unusual, repetitive, or just plain odd. If you consciously make the association between the lecturer's techniques and the content they are presenting, you will be far more likely to remember it in a meaningful way.
This wisdom can also be applied to your study outside the classroom. Use a silly rhyme to remember a legal test, make a short sentence out of the key words. Remember the strangest thing about a case and associate that in a meaningful way to the principle. I'll never forget the case of Couchman v Hill... but only because the heifer was not 'unserved' after all, and the purchaser really wanted it to be.
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