Prof. Hillary Burgess Writes ‘Deepening the Discourse Using the Legal Mind’s Eye’

Professor Hillary Burgess posted her paper “Deepening the Discourse Using the Legal Mind’s Eye: Lessons from Neuroscience, Cognitive Psychology, and Educational Psychology that Optimize Law School Learning” to SSRN. The article has been accepted by Quinnipiac Law Review.

The article ranks in the top 10 downloads for recent papers in the following eJournals: Law & Neuroscience, LSN: Legal Education, Law Educator: Courses, Materials & Teaching, Education Law eJournal, LSN: Education Law: College & Graduate Education, LSN: Legal Information & Legal Education, LSN: Legal Information & Academic Disciplines, LSN: Legal Information Scholarship, Legal Information & Technology Legal Writing eJournal Top Ten. CSN: General Cognitive Social Science, CSN: Law.


This article serves two purposes. First, it provides professors with a review of the theoretical and scientific literature on learning theory as it applies to law school. This information will provide professors a reference when they reform the overall legal curriculum, modify teaching strategies, and create innovative teaching methods. Secondly, this article provides professors with information about visual aids, visual exercises, and teaching methods that increase student learning and retention in law school, on the bar, and for a lifetime career in law.

This article begins by defining what higher order cognitive skills are by mapping common law school learning tasks onto a leading taxonomy of learning objectives. This article argues that the legal curriculum engages all six levels of learning by traditionally teaching the lowest four levels of learning and by traditionally testing on the highest four levels of learning.

To help professors teach all six levels of learning optimally, this article provides a neuroscience and cognitive psychology perspective on how students learn which applies to all levels of law school learning.

Research demonstrates that incorporating visual aids and exercises into learning environments improves learning with higher-order cognitive skills such as “thinking like a lawyer.” The article reviews research that indicates that students learn more, at deeper levels, while retaining information longer when they engage in multimodal learning, especially learning involving visual aids and visual exercises. This article argues that because law school learning focuses on the highest order cognitive skills, professors optimize the learning environment by including visual aids and visual exercises. This article provides concrete guidelines for law faculty interested in incorporating visual aids and visual exercises effectively in their teaching.

Thus, this article applies learning taxonomies, educational psychology, cognitive psychology, and neuroscience to the law school context so that the article serves as a reference for professors who are examining legal education. The article also provides many concrete guidelines and examples of specific teaching techniques that professors could adopt in their own class immediately.

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