Teaching Intrapersonal Intelligence as a Lawyering Skill: Introducing Values Systems into the Environmental Law Syllabus

Burger, Michael

The ranges and types of problems with traditional law school curricula, pedagogies, and learning cultures are well-rehearsed, and have been framed, narrated, and analyzed in a number of prominent venues, along with suggested improvements and proposals for systemic reform. This Essay addresses one aspect of the ongoing and pervasive critique: the need to develop in law students the diverse intellectual competencies that the practice of law requires. Working within the framework of Professor Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, I argue that intrapersonal intelligence and the self-reflexive analytic process it invokes are important tools in the practicing lawyer’s toolbox, and describe an in-class/take-home/online exercise specifically designed to challenge and teach to students’ intrapersonal intelligence (the “Values Systems Exercise”). The Values Systems Exercise pairs nicely with intrapersonal intelligence -- a capacity for self-reflection often overlooked in law school -- offering the opportunity to get students thinking about how their own predispositions influence their legal interpretations and policy prescriptions. The exercise is conducted during and between the first two classes of the semester in a survey course in Environmental Law. Part II of this Essay begins by defining intrapersonal intelligence and identifying its salience to legal education and practice. It then introduces the andragogical problems the Values Systems Exercise attempts to answer. These include problems particular to environmental law as a subject -- establishing a conceptual framework and common vocabulary for the perspectives offered by economics, ecology, and ethics (the values systems in the Values Systems Exercise) -- as well as problems common to legal education as a whole, such as accounting for a diversity of student goals and learning styles, and creating a classroom dynamic conducive to productive discussion. Part III describes the Exercise in detail, addressing issues of design and offering examples of its outcomes. Part IV concludes with some suggestions of ways to improve the exercise in future iterations.


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Pace Environmental Law Review Online Companion

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Academic Units
Sabin Center for Climate Change Law
Published Here
July 13, 2015