By: Elizabeth Cameron, Professor of Law, Cybersecurity & Management at Alma College
How exciting it is to be a college Business Law professor in 2021! We can try new approaches to make learning fun for our students, which means teaching is a blast! Teaching Generation Z students requires creativity and engaged learning. Students love gamification in the classroom and creative lessons that make the law relevant to their lives. Here are some of the successful learning exercises that work in my classes.
It is critical to access and understand how students learn. According to a recent study by Google, Generation Z values “information, stimulation, and connection.” As educators, we must meet students where they are and adjust our teaching strategies to the ways they learn. Different students have different preferences for auditory, visual, tactile, interpersonal, and a variety of other learning styles.
For the visual learner, I use props to make the material memorable. For example, when teaching Sherwood v Walker,1 where Rosie the Cow is sold twice as a case of mutual mistake,2 I hold a plastic cow to give meaning and a visual remembrance of the case. Plus, it is just plain funny. When teaching torts, I have a student walk across the front of the classroom with his or her back to the perpetrator who throws a foam sword at the pedestrian to demonstrate the difference between assault and battery. Seeing, doing, and discussing a topic at the same time makes the material fun and memorable. Students will laugh and learn—what can be better than that?
Academic teasers are my way of getting students to want to return for the next class session. When I teach the Uniform Commercial Code, I tell students at the end of the Tuesday class session, “Come back on Thursday and I will tell you about my future life as a sheep farmer’s wife.” Most students cannot visualize their “non-camping” professor living on a sheep farm. Another academic teaser that I use when teaching option contracts is “My Plan to Take over the World.” Students see me in the hallway and beg me to tell them the stories behind these “academic teasers.” The key is not to tell them in advance, so it creates a buzz and a desire to come to class.3 This makes class interesting, but it also cements the material.
Cengage Mobile App
MindTap provides students with access to the Cengage mobile app, which I use to track attendance and poll students in class. Polling allows students to efficiently voice their opinions on class discussion—particularly helpful for shy students who want to engage, or for addressing controversial topics. I typically create questions on the fly in class4 when I know students want to weigh in on the discussion but don’t want to be vulnerable. The app can be used for course subject areas, switching an exam day, and my favorite, “Poll the Audience.”
Poll the Audience is modeled after “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” and is used on exams (when the stress kicks in for students). While students are taking the exam, they vote on one question that bothers them. On the spot, I create a poll to ask the audience for help. This doesn’t provide the answer to the question as students vary on what they think the correct answer is, but it does give them percentages. This is a stress reliever. However, I do give a disclaimer that the audience might be wrong, and students should weigh the risks (although it is low stakes). I also create polls when guest speakers come to class. Students can be hesitant to speak up, so one or two polls gets the discussion moving.
Kahoot and Quizizz are fun ways to review course content but creating these in-class practice quizzes can be time consuming. My tip is to put the students in groups and have those teams create the Kahoot or the Quizizz. This helps them learn and have an investment in the material. Gen Z students love competition so the teams that did not create the quiz play for trinkets (nice pens, highlighters, hats, t-shirts, etc.). I use the conference items that I get or items from my “gift recycling” cabinet. It makes the students happy, and I get to clean my closets. My students are motivated to study and perform well on exams as they study in advance to win at gamification in the classroom.
One of my students’ favorite games is called “Legal Monopoly.” Incoming students hear about it “through the grapevine” and always ask me to do it. The pre-law group, known as the Justice and Advocacy Group (JAG), plans and hosts the event, including advertising and set-up. Advanced law students (who previously had Legal Environment) will show up to play with the newbie Law students. This is an exercise on understanding contract law. It is a night of monopoly with a twist—inserting legal contracts—and it’s a great way to engage Business Law students.
I hope you give these activities a try in your course. They offer fun practice and application most students will appreciate!
1 Sherwood v. Walker, 33 N.W. 919 (Mich. 1887). The plaintiff, Sherwood, entered into a contract to buy a cow known as “Rose 2d of Aberlone” from Walker, the defendant, that both parties believed was barren. Later, the parties discovered that “Rosie” was with calf. The plaintiff wanted to enforce the contract and the defendant requested rescission. The issue in the case was whether or not the agreement involved a mutual mistake. Id. At 1.
2 Log in and view contents 15-2b. Mistake
3 These examples are true stories about my life that are hilarious.
4 You can also build polls in advance.
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