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Author and law professor Sophie Sparrow, a leading voice in the law teaching reform movement, turned Albany Law Faculty members into temporary law students for a day as part of Albany Law School's Faculty Workshop Series sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Law Teaching (CELT) and the Associate Dean for Research and Scholarship, James Gathii.
Faculty who walked in expecting a traditional presentation were assigned to a "law student group" as Professor Sparrow demonstrated how to transform traditional doctrinal lectures into active group learning exercises. She provided instruction on how small group dynamics operate and how to best develop a class to use the strengths of group learning. Professor Sparrow's system has the added benefit of developing interpersonal skills by requiring feedback from other students in the group. The result is a learning experience for all group members, not only in legal principles, but also in real world interaction.
Professor Sparrow, who currently teaches at University of New Hampshire Law School, specializes in teaching and learning. As one of the co-authors of Teaching Law by Design: Engaging Students from Syllabus to Final Exam (2009), she is particularly interested in active teaching strategies that help students develop the skills they need for a balanced life practicing law: working with others; writing well; navigating complex legal doctrine and facts; engaging in self-assessment; and practicing professionalism.
Professor Sparrow has conducted more than 50 workshops and presentations on teaching, professionalism, writing and assessment to professors, judges and lawyers, including the conferences hosted by the Institute for Law School Teaching, the American Association of Law Schools, the Legal Writing Institute and the New Hampshire Judicial College. She won the Inaugural Award for Innovation and Excellence in Teaching Professionalism, sponsored by the American Bar Association and Conference of Chief Justices.
While at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, Professor Sparrow has been engaged in building sustainable and effective programs. She built the legal writing curriculum, serving as Director of Legal Skills from 1998-2008; and helped design New Hampshire's alternative to the bar exam, the Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program. She worked with faculty and administrators in designing and implementing a new law school curriculum while visiting at Phoenix School of Law in 2005.
CELT's mission is to provide legal educators with the resources to provide a pedagogically sound and innovative program of instruction to meet the changing needs of law students and legal educators. The center serves as a web-based clearinghouse for material on teaching and curriculum development, legal education reform and the ABA accreditation revisions based on the Student Learning Outcomes movement. CELT also hosts the Best Practices for Legal Education blog.