Duncan heads to conference as one of the nation’s ‘best law teachers’

Dincan in class

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May 29, 2014 – University of Houston Law Center Professor Meredith Duncan will participate next month in a conference follow-up to a book detailing the traits and techniques of the nation’s best law teachers in which she is prominently featured.

The three-day conference at Northwestern University School of Law June 25 – 27 is an offshoot of the book, “What the Best Law Teachers Do,” in which 26 educators were selected after an exhaustive screening process in a unique attempt to determine why they are so highly regarded in the classroom.

Hundreds of candidates from across the country were nominated by peers and students, interviewed by the three authors who also read their scholarship and teaching material, viewed in their classrooms, and reviewed by students over a 4½-year period. Only 26 of the “best” were included in the book.

Duncan ’93, George Butler Research Professor of Law, joined the Law Center faculty in 1998 and teaches Professional Responsibility, Torts, and Criminal Law.

“I love teaching. It is one of the things that I enjoy the most about my job,” Duncan said. “However, what I really love is helping students foster a life-long love and respect of the law and develop into healthy, professional, competent lawyers, regardless of the area of practice that they choose or what they decide to do with their law degrees.”  

While the authors concede it is difficult to determine the “best” of anything, their study focused on high marks in broad areas such as personal qualities, relating to students, teaching preparation and methods, engaging with students, and feedback and assessment of students.

Students commented on Duncan’s passion for the law and teaching, her prior experience clerking for a federal judge and as an associate in a large firm, her commitment to seeing her students do well in school and after, and her calm and approachable nature. A sampling of comments:

  • “The passion for teaching is definitely palpable with her. Students can tell when professors feel like the class time is important to them.”
  •  “She also makes it clear that she expects you to rise up to her expectations, not in a mean or demeaning way, but, ‘I’m treating you like a professional because I know you can deliver like a professional,’ and that makes you want to.”

 

  • ”You’ll know everything about the subject when you finish. And then she expects you to know it on the final exam. There’s no shortcut.”

Duncan on Duncan:

  • “I want them to learn that they should be careful in reading, work hard, pay attention to detail, look up words they don’t know. I want them to learn how to be able to read a statute and be able to identify the important terms. I want them to learn how to be critical thinkers and critical readers. I want them to be able to figure out what’s important and what’s not important. I want them to learn how to be efficient writers.”

“In my experience, most people come to law school to change their lives, the lives of their families, to help others, or to make the world a better place,” she said. “I like to help students keep their eyes on their individual goals, while at the same time discovering how satisfying it can be to push their limits and apply themselves 100 percent.”  

Duncan will join 11 other professors featured in the book and the three co-authors in group discussions of teaching-related issues at the conference in Chicago. The event is hosted by Northwestern University School of Law in conjunction with the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning.

“What the Best Law Teachers Do” was written by Michael Hunter Schwartz, dean and professor at the University of Arkansas School of Law, Gerald F. Hess, Gonzaga University School of Law, and Sophie M. Sparrow, professor at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, and published by Harvard University Press.

Click here for conference and registration information.

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