October 18, 2007

Should a lawprof let students read the Teacher's Manual for the casebook?

It would never have occurred to me to consider saying yes to a student who wanted to read the Teacher's Manual, but a colleague of mine is taking the request seriously. I received this email via faculty email list (and have permission to print it here):
I am sitting on an email request from a student who wishes to obtain info so that she can acquire a copy to the Teacher's Manual for our CivPro I casebook, and I am looking for input as to how to respond. The book contains a number of problems, and she says it would be helpful to check her answers. I agree. But we do much of this in class — and my fear is that students would not attempt to figure out the answers — but simply look them up, thus defeating the whole purpose. (And I do recommend supplementary materials which gives them more and better problems — as well as much better answers geared towards to students — not class instructors.) So I am learning towards saying no — but I am troubled by denying access to educational materials to a student who sees benefit in using them.
Why is anything readable off limits to a student who wants to learn?

39 comments:

Joan said...

I think it would be appropriate to share the materials from the teacher's edition after the class discussion of each case.

My impression of law school (IANAL, but I used to be married to one, including the time he was at law school) is that you're learning how to think like a lawyer. The goal is honing the process skills, rather than simply arriving at the correct answer. Of course you do need to get to the correct answer, but you have to have the process to back it up.

Having the teacher's edition on hand will hamper the independent development of that ability to process, to reason through to the correct conclusion.

There's nothing to stop the student from figuring out what the teacher's edition is and obtaining it with no input from the professor -- I'm surprised that the student even asked. Has he never heard of the internet? I'd give the guy props for having balls but then I'd have to take them away again because he's obviously an idiot.

(That's a generic "he" up there; I recognize that the student could be a woman. In fact I rather suspect it is a woman, as it sounds like the self-second-guessing that women do.)

Simon said...

"Why is anything readable off limits to a student who wants to learn?"

The problem arises, I suppose, if it permits them to avoid learning, to avoid thinking about the problems and simply learning rote prepared answers to potted questions. You want the student to understand the rule or principle such that they can apply it to other facts (or see why it does apply to other facts).

Richard Fagin said...

Without knowing what's in the Teacher's Manual it is difficult to answer whether a student taking the relevant class should be allowed to read it.

On the other hand, the process of "thinking like a lawyer" was not taught well, if at all, in law school. One was expected to infer the thought process from case study. If your student figures the process out more easily after reading the Teacher's Manual, well good for the student (although that may be an unfair advantage - you may have to share it with all your students).

One still has to know the law to answer test questions - or analyze a legal problem, for that matter, so what real harm could come from the information in the Teacher's Manual?

After my first semester "C" in both torts and contracts, I went to each professor for help to figure out what was wrong in my personal approach to test questions. Both gave me A-grade test answers to read. That wasn't any help at all. I was still stuck trying to figure out the process. I may to visit the law school and ask to see Teacher's Manuals.

Windbag said...

I would buy the student a copy of the teacher's manual, and keep it in my office.

Bissage said...

Holy freaking Friedenthal, Kane & Miller jumping on a pogo stick!!!!

I had no idea there was such a thing as a “teacher’s edition” to any casebook.

I am so naïve.

What next?

Maxine’s really a man?

I refuse to believe it!

Gary Carson said...

Why is somebody who wants to maintain secret texts, available only to the high priests, actually on the faculty of a real university?

When I was an undergrad I had a student job that was paid out of a faculty research grant. As part of my duties I had a small office in the basement of the business school building where many of the graduate student TA's also had offices.

So I had access to teachers editions of all kinds of text books. Sometimes it was useful, sometimes not.

Nobody every suggested there was some kind of problem with that. I shared that access with other students, btw.

Bissage said...

Joan, you were a code warrior, IIRC, right?

So was I and boy oh boy did law school teach me a whole new definition of "correct answer."

When programming, "correct answer" meant "it works."

During law school, "correct answer" meant . . . well . . . please don't ask me what it was because I can't remember.

Practicing law taught me that "correct answer" means "you got paid."

Ha!

No, better make that a sad, sad little "ha".

Balfegor said...

But we do much of this in class — and my fear is that students would not attempt to figure out the answers — but simply look them up, thus defeating the whole purpose.

I'm not sure why this would be a huge concern at the law school level. The students have already graduated from university, and are -- or are supposed to be -- adults. They know, themselves, what the point of the exercise is.

Trumpit said...

I don't think there is a right or wrong answer. There is plenty for them to study without the casebook. But, if you decide to make it available to one student then you have to make it available to all students, e.g., by putting the book on reserve in the library.

Ralph said...

Without knowing what's in the Teacher's Manual it is difficult to answer
So post all your Teacher's Manuals and we'll tell you the answer.
Could it be used secretly by next year's students for an unfair advantage in class?

nina said...

Most teachers' manuals are of poor quality -- as if an afterthought to the case book. Sometimes they take the material in a direction you do not want to follow. But there are other reasons to say no. Anything made avaliable to one student should be made available to all others and these "manuals" are not for sale and most likely you cannot repreduce them. And finally, oftentimes several faculty memebers use the same text. I may feel secure in giving up my manual because I do not rely on it much, but I may be doing a disservice to another person who is relying on it -- especially a young faculty member who is still learning how to teach. It could even be the case that problems are being incorporated into that person's exam. To the person who commented as a former TA, or friend to a TA -- it's well and good to scoff at law faculty for having "aids," but you should note that, at least at Wisconsin, we do not have TAs during the semester and we grade our own exams. It would be a rare grad school prof who would be asked to grade over a hundred exams without assistance. There are exceptions, but the norm is to use TAs both for grading and section reviews in grad school. Not so in law school. All you get is that stinky little aid -- most of which simply repeats what the case book already says.

hdhouse said...

some shouldn't. some professors' knowledge doesn't extend past the teacher's edition...some find the teacher's editions to be elementary or core but basic knowledge from where to depart.

I suspect that if your students used the manual as a text you would teach past it.

antiphone said...

Where’s the art in this?

former law student said...

I buy the unfairness of letting only one student, or even a handful of students read it. argument. As a substitute, the "Examples and Explanations" series present dozens of problems and solutions for a variety of law classes. And yes, the temptation is to simply read the explanations without first working through the examples.

Larry said...

IANAL (netnews for "I Am Not A Lawyer") although I am closely related to one (and to a paralegal).

But supposing it is demonstrated that it is critically important that the Teacher's Edition's very existence be denied and kept a secret, how will you enforce that?

I'm guessing that a few seconds at NBC's or Powell's (or any of a number of other bookseller's) online presence would for appropriate amounts of electric coin have one at my mailbox by Monday.

corporate law drudge said...

The Rosie Ruiz approach to learning Civil Procedure?

Richard Dolan said...

What's most odd about this professor's email is how little is at stake in the answer. Presumably, the student wants the teacher's manual because she expects that it will give her the "right" answers to questions that matter -- meaning, most likely, questions that will come up on an exam. It's been a long time since I looked at a casebook, but my recollection is that they have lots of these little "problems" at the end of each discrete section. Law school exams (again, this may not be true at UW) were essay-type, "spot the issue and analyze it" exercises. And the likelihood that any particular question answered in a teacher's manual will help you on that kind of exam (or that a student could possibly remember all of the Qs and As) seems quite remote. So from the student's perspective, she may not get much from the teacher's manual.

But for the same reasons, the professor's "concerns" seem quite weak. All he says is that "my fear is that students would not attempt to figure out the answers — but simply look them up, thus defeating the whole purpose." If that's the concern, however, the easiest way for the professor to deal with it is to explain that the exam (presumably the event concentrating the student's mind) will be structured so that memorizing the "right" answer to any of those questions won't help. To do well on the exam, the student needs to be able to analyze a fact pattern, spot the issues it raises, and then apply legal reasoning to those issues. (He says that he spends a lot of time in class getting the students to apply legal reasoning to analyze fact patterns). If the students still want the teacher's manual, at that point there's no good reason not to let them have it.

Chip Ahoy said...

Yes. Tell the student how the book is obtained.

Nathan said...

I don't really see why letting one student read the manual without announcing its availability to everyone else would be unfair. This one student asked for it, nobody else did. As long as anyone else who asks gets the same answer, everyone is being treated equally.

Smilin' Jack said...

In this age of Google and P2P nothing is really "off-limits" to anyone who wants to find it. You have to assume some of your students will get the Teacher's Manual--might as well let them all.

Mark said...

I had a similar request once when I was taught an environmental law class. It provided a great teaching moment to explain what the process of lawyering and learning lawyering is about. Students think that they are supposed to give the "right" answer to questions. This was generally true though most of their education. However, it's only partly true for learning to be a lawyer. While law school does impart a body of knowledge, the main things to learn are skills, thinking skills.

I think the prof should use this chance to show how the "right answer" is not always the main point. For example, in class go over one of the questions in to book and put up the answer from the teacher's manual. Then ask the class about that answer. maybe tell them that the guy/gal who wrote the book thinks this is the correct answer, but that you'd give only part credit. Why? The answer is that manual always shortcuts the analysis (thinking skill) part. It should. It's for teachers after all. But for the student, the process is is the part that is the most important.

mca

Mortimer Brezny said...

I tent to think more data = more opportunity for deeper analysis, unless you reach the point of information overload. A Teacher's Manual isn't too much for law students to handle, so I don't see the problem.

Daryl said...

When lawprofs hoard secret info like teacher's manuals, it only fuels suspicion that you are obsolete and useless.

Why not distribute videos of a top-notch Yale/Harvard prof's lectures instead of lecturing live, and then make classtime optional and have a clever TA go in your place to ask tricky questions but not actually give the answers?

That would accomplish the same thing, right? It would save a great deal of money.

You actually serve some sort of role that can't be filled by a less-expensive substitute? Prove it. Let us see the substitutes and let us make our minds.

Methadras said...

Ann,

Look at it like this. It isn't so much about learning as it is about creating a lawyer who can think and think critically. Looking at the teachers manual to check the answers against their own isn't learning, it's trial and error. Actual learning is when you are given instruction from a lesson and you formulate, through your own thinking, an answer. If the teacher or professor says you are right, then you obviously understood and the lesson, thought it through to the correct conclusion and arrived at the right answer. However, if you were wrong, then the only two possibilities that you have at that point is to learn from your mistake, assimilate the error into your memory and think through why you got it wrong, and then the next time a problem arises where this is a question, you will hopefully engage your memory and arrive at the right answer or conclusion. Or the other path you can take is to sulk at the wrong answer and later ask your professor to look at the teachers manual to make sure you go the answer right and ausage your self-esteem and ego and in the end learn nothing.

I would tell the professor to refuse the request for the student to come anywhere near a teachers manual for the sole reason that they need to learn to think through a problem to arrive at the correct answer and looking at the teachers manual doesn't convey that sentiment.

Cabbage said...

2L here. I disagree with a lot of the comments implying that looking at the answers would be "not learning".

The most frustrating experience as a 1L is to spend a few hours studying, thinking that you've done all that 'think about the problem and the process' stuff that they tell you to do, only to show up and realize that your approach was completely wrong. This is not a bad thing, and getting things wrong is something you should go through very early on in the process. However, the ultimate goal is to actually learn the correct process. So if you've tried your best, and your getting the wrong answer, maybe seeing the right answer would help you figure out what the heck is wrong.

I might have learned all the rules in Torts, but I never put anything together until my professor took us through the entire process. Not having the answers to a Civ Pro problem is no different than giving a bunch of calculus problems out but never offering to show students the answers.

BTW, you guys have Teacher's Manuals? WTF is my tuition going to?!?!??!

Maxine Weiss said...

"For Professional Use Only"

Because you might hurt yourself.

Balfegor said...

Re: Methadras:

Looking at the teachers manual to check the answers against their own isn't learning, it's trial and error. Actual learning is when you are given instruction from a lesson and you formulate, through your own thinking, an answer. If the teacher or professor says you are right, then you obviously understood and the lesson, thought it through to the correct conclusion and arrived at the right answer. However, if you were wrong, then the only two possibilities that you have at that point is to learn from your mistake, assimilate the error into your memory and think through why you got it wrong, and then the next time a problem arises where this is a question, you will hopefully engage your memory and arrive at the right answer or conclusion. Or the other path you can take is to sulk at the wrong answer and later ask your professor to look at the teachers manual to make sure you go the answer right and ausage your self-esteem and ego and in the end learn nothing.

I'm not seeing the distinction between this and what a (diligent) student could be expected to do with a teacher's manual. What you're describing there, evidently in opposition to trial and error, looks a lot like trial and error to me. You try something out, you get it right or wrong, and if you get it wrong (error), then you learn from your mistake and do it over -- hopefully properly, this time. Whether you figure out you got it wrong on your own or allow a professor or textbook to explain to you why you got it wrong doesn't seem to me to be particularly meaningful, though.

Figuring it out on your own -- what you seem to be advocating above -- is, of course, a purer sort of trial and error, since there's no outside guidance helping you along. Nothing for it but to make the trial and see whether you got it right or not. And if you got it wrong, better luck next time. Try something different. But the process of education is a process shaped by outside guidance. It's not re-inventing the wheel. There are people who are afraid to ask a professor to walk through problems they don't understand step by step, and I think they're the poorer for it (although, in fairness, the kind who play dumb in the hopes their tutor will just walk through all the problems are even worse). While a teacher's edition is not quite as good as an actual teacher, it can substitute, up to a point. Provided the user is a serious student.

class-factotum said...

In my college calculus class, the answers were in the back of the book, but we didn't get credit for getting the right answer on the homework unless we had gone through the correct process. Putting "IO" didn't count, either.

Maxine Weiss said...

If Teachers are so smart, why do teachers even need a "Teacher's Manual" to begin with?

Ann Althouse said...

"BTW, you guys have Teacher's Manuals? WTF is my tuition going to?!?!??!"

The manuals are mostly boring restatements of the cases and patronizing suggestions about how to explain them padded with the author's classnotes. I rarely look at them. I'd rather read the primary materials and think the problems through for myself. I think the commercial outlines students use are probably way better than the teacher's manuals.

Gary Carson said...

To the guy who thinks law school profs need to keep secret texts because they are a source for exam questions --

At every university I ever went to or taught at files of test questions from past tests and from teachers editions were availble at any frat house on campus.

I've used publisher provided test banks to generate some test questions but I never deluded myself into thinking it was secret.

Just put the damn thing in the library reserve room.

Cabbage said...

Ann,

That's only kind of relieving. I'm glad to hear that you invest energy into it, but the mere fact that they print teachers manuals sets of my cynic alarm.

I'm not trying to sound like Loyola 2L, but the guy's got a point.

/occasionally frustrated law student
//still really likes law school

Bissage said...

All this talk of correct answers got me to thinking about a professor I had for a two semester business statistics class.

He would typically spend the first half of class teaching us how we should have done the last homework assignment. The second half of class he’d spend teaching us how to do the next homework assignment.

His exams were open note and they were nothing but a bunch of homework assignments he’d already given.

He said he’d been doing that for years and it always gave him a perfect grade distribution.

It was a state school.

Your tax dollars at work.

Catherine Johnson said...

Sorry, haven't read the thread yet, but I've been engaged in a dispute with my K-12 school distrist over answer keys.

In my case, the school is failing to teach math to my child and to numerous other children. There is no dispute over this; it's wel known and well documented. (VERY well documented; I've been writing a blog about my efforts to "reteach" my son math for 2 years now.)

The math department's position is, in essence, "all the answers are belong to us." Turf protection; parents stay out; your kids aren't the little geniuses you thought they were and their failure to learn math proves it, etc.

And, by the way, the refusal to provide answer keys (keys, not solutions) extends to the 11-dollar test prep book they had us buy. The test-prep books do not have answers in the back, and yet the kids in my son's class were instructed to take the book home and "use it."

I spent 6 hours working the problems myself so I could have my son "use the book" and check his answers.

This is ongoing.

A couple of weeks ago I spoke to COOG (Committee on Open Govt) here in New York state.

Answer keys to the Test Prep book fall under FOIL; the school must provide them. Copyright law does not apply; the school must copy the answers and provide them. (The middle school principal has claimed that copyright law prevents him from supplying kids with the answer key.)

Answers to problems in a textbook are another matter to some extent. Teachers and schools can withhold answers if the question is likely to appear on a future exam. If the question is unlikely to appear on a future exam, the teacher or school must supply the answer.

I imagine FOIL law applies to a state university just as it does to a public school.

I don't know whether there are significant variations in FOIL law in different states.

Kevin Lomax said...

Bigger question...

Who does problems for a Civ Pro class???

David said...

This is not a hard question.

The professor should tell the lady that there will be no teachers' manuals when she is practicing.

She needs to learn now to work hard enough and think clearly enough to reach confident and accurate conclusions.

Methadras said...

Balfegor said...

Figuring it out on your own -- what you seem to be advocating above -- is, of course, a purer sort of trial and error, since there's no outside guidance helping you along.


Actually there is outside helping you along. It's your teacher/professor. He's there, or should be there to guide you along the process, but not to allow you to see the pat answers in his manual. A good student understands how to go about problem solving. That way when they continually show that they can problem solve over and over again, in a good and meaningful way, they are proving to themselves and to their professors handing out their grades that they are worthy of the efforts they've put in. But more importantly, they will transition from a good student to a good employee/employer that will be competent, cogent, and cognizent of the craft they are engaged in. That is the what learning is about. The process is a part of it, but how you wrap up that process into yourself and the way you think to formulate a final outcome that is correct is what is more important.

If that is to pure for some, then so be it, but that's how I envisioned being a student and then ultimately transitioning to a professional and this is how I ultimately conducted myself in my business as well and it's carried me through and will do so until I'm dead. Luckily, I've been able to pass this, I hope, to my child, so now she can use it to her best advantage.

matthew said...

As a new lawyer who also has a degree in Mathematics, I've taken a lot of both math and law exams. In my experiences, they're really two entirely different beasts.

Math is objective. There are correct solutions. Even in the high levels of abstraction in upper math, there are objectively correct proofs with reasoning that can be objectively graded for being valid or invalid.

Yes, the law case book might have 'solutions' for a student, though 'correct answers' rare in law school. But at least in my experiences at UW Law, law exams rarely have 'answers,' at least in the same way as a math test.

Law tests, in almost all my classes, were graded by how you analyze the problem. As opposed to math, where getting to the solution in any appropriate manner counts.

And after one poorly graded year of trying to think of things mathematically, I learned that most of my Professors wanted you to analyze the problem much the same way they would have analyzed them in class, and the legal conclusions were secondary.

And how your professor will analyze or think about a problem will never be in a case book or teacher manual that they co-author. Putting it another way, a teacher's manual in law may help the student learn, but it won't help with their grade.

Maxine Weiss said...

Considering nobody reads books anymore, and certainly not textbooks.....it's quite amazing that a student would actually request an actual text.

Maybe all textbooks should be called "Teacher's editions" as a way to get students to read more.