Adaptive Clinical Teaching
Legal education has a clear mission – to develop competent and committed members of the legal profession – but this goal can be an elusive one to meet. This is because legal educators often develop their most effective approaches to teaching through trial and error and instinct. A microcosm of this struggle for effective legal teaching is clinical legal education’s distinct set of commitments, pedagogy and teaching methodologies. Building on the trials, errors, and instincts of clinical teachers, this article offers a more intentional approach for designing, teaching, and supervising in a clinic: “adaptive clinical teaching” (ACT). ACT is a structured method of guided analysis and reflection that applies to any clinical teaching situation, allowing a clinician to make her teaching choices based on as much knowledge and with as much intentionality as possible. One of the advantages of this method is that it provides clinicians with an approach for new issues as they arise and builds a base of knowledge so that each clinical choice is not experienced anew. This article offers clinicians – and ultimately all legal educators – a systematic framework to apply ACT to their own teaching and an example of the application of ACT to demonstrate how the method encourages replacing instinct with deliberate strategies for teaching and supervising. It is the authors’ hope that clinical teachers will use the ACT model to create collections of knowledge for themselves and their colleagues, to challenge and broaden their teaching instincts, and to maximize learning for clinic students. It is the authors’ belief that these insights and the collected knowledge that results will translate to legal education more broadly.