Please Come to the Stone Soup Session at the ABA Conference – and Use Stone Soup Next Year

Saving the best for last, Lessons From the Stone Soup Project and Ideas for the Future, is scheduled for the ABA Legal Educators Colloquium on Saturday, April 7, from 3:30 to 5.  Since you probably won’t want to miss this, you should plan your travel accordingly.

This program will discuss, assess, and build on the Stone Soup Dispute Resolution Knowledge Project‘s inaugural year.  DR faculty, students, and practitioners have collaborated in the production and dissemination of valuable qualitative data about actual dispute resolution practices.  Stone Soup faculty assign students to conduct interviews about actual cases and/or conduct “focus group classes” with guest speakers.  In this program, Stone Soup faculty will describe their experiences, answer questions, and brainstorm with the audience.  Faculty, students, and practitioners are enjoying and benefitting from this project.  Come find out how you can too.

We have a fabulous set of presenters:

Carolyn Wilkes (Carrie) Kaas, Quinnipiac (Externship)
Kelly Browe Olson, Arkansas-Little Rock (Mediation Clinic)
Martha Simmons, Osgoode Hall (Mediation)
Gemma Smyth, Windsor (Access to Justice)

They illustrate the wide range of courses where you can use Stone Soup.  Indeed, it has been used in doctrinal courses, like Evidence and Trusts and Estates, and can be used in virtually any law school course.  (Well, maybe not Law and Literature.)

This is the time when faculty are getting their teaching assignments for next year, so it’s a good time to start thinking about using Stone Soup in your courses.  Even if you can’t come to the ABA session, I hope you will seriously consider using a Stone Soup assignment in one or more of your courses next year.

Using Stone Soup can provide many potential benefits, including:

  • increasing students’ exposure to the real world of practice
  • helping students develop critically-important interviewing and analysis skills
  • identifying how theory does and doesn’t map well onto actual practice
  • supplementing faculty’s knowledge, especially for faculty who haven’t practiced in the subjects they are teaching – or haven’t practiced at all
  • increasing everyone’s enjoyment of the course (and faculty course evaluations?)

A pioneering cohort of faculty have already used Stone Soup in their courses and the results have been phenomenally good, far exceeding our expectations.  Here’s a collection of their assessments of their courses.  They generally plan to use Stone Soup again, with little or no change.  Based on their experiences, I developed this description of the range of their experiences and specific suggestions as well as these general suggestions for using Stone Soup in your courses.

We have developed materials that you can easily use or adapt for assignments to have students conduct interviews, some sample student papers, and a wealth of other resources.  We will share more resources in the coming weeks and months.

Faculty have great discretion to tailor courses to fit your goals and circumstances, which I think is why Stone Soup has worked so well.  Here are some things you can control about Stone Soup in your courses:

  • whether you will assign students to conduct interviews, observe cases, and/or use “focus group classes
  • who will be the interview subjects or what types of cases will be observed
  • whether students will focus on specific cases and/or general practices and philosophies
  • whether all students will be required to do Stone Soup, it will be one option for completing a required assignment, or whether it will be an optional, extra-credit assignment
  • whether you will give students wide discretion in their choice of topics and questions or whether you will require them to focus on certain issues
  • whether students will complete assignments individually, in small groups, or as part of a class-wide project
  • whether to require students to write a paper and, if so, the length of the paper
  • the deadline for completing assignments
  • whether you will discuss students’ experiences in class
  • whether the assignment will be graded and, if so, the proportion of the grade

Try it next year.  I bet you and your students will like it.

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