Donna Ziegenfuss, Director of the Office of Faculty Development on Widener’s Chester campus, presented a talk entitled “Challenges of Teaching and Learning Dichotomies” to members of the Widener Law faculty and staff on Thursday February 28th. The talk focused on the complex relationship between teaching methods and learning styles, offering a number of theories and suggestions to improve the teaching experience.
Acknowledging the complexity of legal education, Ziegenfuss noted that in addition to imparting knowledge and teaching students how to think, law professors need to impart the professional skills and ethical responsibilities necessary to practice the law as well. She sited learning approaches, teaching strategies, content vs. context, and assessment as four key factors in a successful educational experience. Stressing that student perception of the learning experience may not be what the teacher expects, she noted that students change their approach based on how a course is taught. As a result, professors should either explicitly tell students what they are trying to accomplish, or ask students for their perception.
Faculty members raised several interesting questions and points. Large classes can make direct engagement lessons impossible and lecturing is generally more time efficient. The challenge of teaching students comes from the complex interaction between what a student needs to learn, how a student learns best, and the methods employed by the professor. While achieving a perfect teaching environment remains forever out of reach, continued assessment of teaching methodology can offer potential improvements.