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From Cooperative Learning to Collaborative Writing in the Legal Writing Classroom

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Document pages: 31 pages

Abstract: Hundreds of studies document the benefits that accrue from using cooperative and collaborative learning and trace that use back several centuries. At Northwestern University School of Law, the faculty who teach legal writing, research, and reasoning have intergrated both cooperative and collaborative learning (often jointly termed “group” work) into our curriculum. This Article traces the theory and practice behind our use of collaborative work at Northwestern Law. Section I summarizes the academic theory underlying the use of collaborative work, including the pedagogical and other benefits for students and faculty. Section II addresses our use of graded and ungraded cooperative and collaborative work -- both inside and outside of the classroom -- and how this work provides students with a context for the graded collaborative writing they perform later in the semester. Section III focuses on our methods with respect to the collaboratively written graded assignments. In Section IV, we report the results of our survey of the students collaborative writing experience. Finally, in Section V, we look to the future and discuss our planned changes. We conclude that collaborative work serves a useful and important purpose in our law school curriculum and should continue to play a role in the future.

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