June 21, 2018 Articles

Getting Everyone on Board: Increasing Law Student Classroom Participation

By Merri A. Baldwin

Women now make up the majority of law students in the United States. At some schools, including the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, where I teach part-time, women are significantly in the majority. Yet, studies show that women law students volunteer and speak less frequently in class than male students, something that my own experience confirms. I tell my students that participating in class will increase their grade; that it will better train them for being lawyers in the real world; that I value all contributions; and that their participating makes a big difference to the class experience for everyone, including me as the professor. Every semester, I experience the same result: a handful of students (mostly, but not exclusively, men) who regularly volunteer and who seem to enjoy speaking in class, a straggler group of occasional participants, and a number of students whose voice I never hear through the entire semester. In thinking through how to address this issue, a few possibilities emerge.

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