Why Professors Should Call on Law Students — With a Plan

Gender Difference in Law School Participation
A new paper by Batten School professor Sophie Trawalter finds gender dynamics in classes are not fixed.

Numerous studies have shown that when classroom participation depends on volunteers, male students speak more often. The solution, three University of Virginia professors explain in a new paper focused on law school classes — is to call on students systematically, and with care.

Written and conducted by UVA Law professors Molly Bishop Shadel and J.H. “Rip” Verkerke, and Associate Professor Sophie Trawalter of UVA’s Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, the study suggests that instructors can employ various tactics in their classes to achieve more balanced levels of engagement. Gender differences in classroom participation are not related to confidence levels, as popular culture often suggests, but to curricular design, they argue.

The authors presented the results of their paper, “Gender Differences in Law School Classroom Participation: The Key Role of Social Context,” at the Virginia Law Review Online symposium “Interrogating Legal Pedagogy: Imagining a Better Way to Train Lawyers” in February.

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