Prof. Rick Hills decided to tap his inner Tufte in his Yale Law classes this year with good results:
My basic goal was to make doctrinal relationships, legal and political history, and legal text more intelligible by representing it visually in different modes — color, shape, movement, or images generally. My prime directive was to adhere to Edward Tufte’s principles: For instance, avoid “chartjunk,” and never use bulleted text that you read from a screen. Within this capacious constraints, I tried a wide array of images and diagrams — decision trees and flow charts, Venn Diagrams, statutory text in multiple colors, photos galore, and some often hokey but hopefully memorable visual representations of causal and doctrinal relationships.
My verdict? In anonymous surveys with a decent response rate, my constitutional law section 70+ members seemed to like the slides. Many printed them out as guides during the final exam. My own sense: The pictures, if sufficiently simple and memorable, helped clarify ideas or narratives that had previously left some significant portion of the class baffled and frustrated. After the jump, I will provide some samples and invite you to share your comments on whether you think that these sorts of visual aids help and how they might be improved.
More and more law professors are incorporating visuals into their lectures as a way to engage students and illustrate the points of law being discussed. While this trend has been picking up a lot of steam of late, the use of graphics, flow charts, video, and more in law school lecture halls has been going on for years. There are a number of interesting resources for visuals that any law prof could use in their lectures available on the Internet. Here are a few:
- CALI Lesson Illustrations – This collection of nearly 400 illustrations was created from the custom images used in CALI Lessons. The images are freely available for use under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike Non-Commercial License.
- Prof. Karl M. Manheim‘s flowchart collections for Constitutional Law and Federal Courts. Older but still an amazing resource.
- Margaret Hagan has a more modern collection of flowcharts covering a number of topics.
- Aaron Dewald is running a flipped classroom project that has produced excellent videos for Contracts, Evidence, and Cyberlaw. The videos provide another way to use visuals to teach the law.
Like most things, I’m sure there are many, many more examples out there. Feel free to add stuff in the comments (one link per comment).