347 Schaeffer Hall
Fall 2019 Office Hours
Tue & Th: 3:15-4:45
Dept of Political Science
341 Schaeffer Hall
20 E. Washington Street
The University of Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa 52242
Posted updated Prelaw FAQ
Posted two new books in What I'm Reading
Posted updates with 2018 election data to all 11 papers in the Iowa Voting Series
New book, Supreme Court Agenda Setting: The Vinson Court, published for Kindle devices and computers with Kindle reader.
Below are the written comments I've received the last several semesters for POLI:3101/30:116. Each semester's comments are grouped together, with more recent semesters at the top. For semesters prior to Fall 2015 the comments were handwritten so I reproduced the comments as accurately as possible. This included spelling and grammar errors (but I didn't mark them with [sic]). From Fall 2015 on the evaluations were done online so I just copied them as is (again with no corrections for spelling or [sic] indication). Any response or comment I have will be in italics following the student's comment.
Most recent semesters are on top, scroll down for older ones.
This class is the hardest class I've ever taken and the most I've ever learned from a class before. I appreciate it so much because I was unsure about whether I would be able to handle the course-load and type of information in law school, and this is really the best and maybe only class to find out. It caught me off guard how hard it was despite me putting in 110%, and I'm not really used to giving a class my all and more and still struggling, but it just made me better. Except this class should for sure be worth 4-credits I literally have never spent so much time on homework before. I've devoted an ungodly amount of hours to this class in order to do well. For sure more than 3-credits worth. If I didn't have easy classes besides this I don't know if I could do it. But that's all I have to say about it, thank you for challenging me, this was my favorite class ever and I love telling people about all the things I've learned in it, now I'm confident in going to law school and know that I'm going to love it and can do it even if it's very challenging.
I'm very glad that this student appreciated the class, but also very happy he or she was willing to put in the work necessary to do well. It's a tough class, in part because I want to get students ready for law school. It's true that that course can take a lot of time. As I tell the students at the start of the semester, reading cases and getting the necessary information from them is quite different than reading straight text. It's a skill that can take time (and effort!) to learn, but it's worth it in the end for those heading on to law school.
By far the most frustrating class I have ever taken.
Some specifics on why it was frustrating would have been nice. I don't know if it was this student's situation, but some students are frustrated because they think they've put in the "right" amount of work and didn't do as well as they expected. As the prior comment indicated, the course is a lot of work and it takes work to understand how to read a case and what to get out of it. It can be frustrating until one gets some experience in reading the cases, but sticking with it pays off even if it's not easy.
This class is very demanding but I learned so much from it. The professor outlines the his expectations clearly and the class was exactly what he said it would be. Overall, this was a very valuable course.
Thanks. I tell the students the first day of class that the course will be tough, but, as this student indicates, I try to spell out my expectations clearly. I also explain how to do well in the course in terms of studying, etc. It can be a lot of work, but it's worth it in the end.
I would encourage you to spend one class period going into detail on how to efficiently brief a case. This would be beneficial for all students.
I think I have struggled in this class because it took awhile for me to learn how to pull important information out.
I do provide an outline of how to brief a case and discuss it on the first day. I also provide a sample case and a brief for it that the students can look at to see how what's in the case ends up in a brief. The problem is that until students have seen a few cases talking about facts, issues, reasoning, and results, won't make as much sense. Plus, it's not until several class periods in that we get to the first case that can actually be briefed. Still, it's something to consider.
Yes, learning how (and what) to pull out of a case is something that often takes time to learn. That is, in fact, one of the more important things to get out of this course for those going on to law school.
Talked fast but available outside of class for questions.
I do talk fast, but it's not usually a problem in this course as the bulk of the classtime is based on discussion rather than lectures. The assumption is that students have read (and briefed) the cases before class so they are able to discuss during class. That approach is intended to allow students to think about the questions and responses during the discussion rather than trying to take so many notes.
Yes, I'm certainly happy to answer questions, during office hours but also at plenty of other times via email.
Hmmm. I'm not sure if the student wrote this or it was something generated by the program if the student started a comment then decided against doing so. Oh well.
I think that Professor Hagle is a great professor who really knows the material. The reading is highly engaging and the topics we talk about are very relevant. The tests are difficult but fair. This class has helped me learn how to read cases and how to spot issues, tests, holdings, and other important information from cases.
Thanks! This student hits on my goals for the course in terms of preparing students for law school (issue spotting, etc.). As I tell the students at the start of the semester, we cover many topics that are in the news nearly every day, so aside from going to law school, the material we cover should help them understand many current political issues and the Supreme Court's role in them.
Could slow down lectures for questions from the class. Generally intimidating to talk to.
Underlying political bias. Elaborates on conservative justices while other judges on the left often seem ignored. Often times he influences class to believe political centrism is the answer.
After reading the first comment I had to double check to be sure I was looking at the comments for this course. That's because in this course I use a discussion format and rarely lecture. Even when I do lecture, there is always plenty of time for questions if the students have them. I'm not sure what to make of the "intimidating" comment. Over the years others have made similar comments. Sometimes because they say I know the material so well. Other times because I don't come off warm and fuzzy enough. It probably depends on what the student is asking about. I'm certainly willing to help students with the material, but if a student is looking to cut corners in some way I'm likely to be less sympathetic.
The "political bias" comments seem a little inconsistent. I do focus on come opinions more than others, a few of Scalia's in particular because he has more to say about some of the big cases. Of course, elaboration isn't the same as endorsement. I'm not sure how I influence the class toward political centrism, but perhaps we need a little of that in these highly partisan times. It also seems to suggest that I'm balanced in my overall discussions of the material.
study questions are very helpful
tests are very challenging especially with the structure of the multiple choice questions but also very fair in the material they cover
I really pushed the study questions hard this semester and I think it paid off. I know some of the students who were really working with them ended up with top grades. I hope this student was one of them.
Yes, the tests are tough and I tell students that right from the start. In addition to the study questions, they get three practice quizzes in this course to see how I ask the material in a multiple-choice format.
Less lecturing - more visuals, otherwise people zone out.
Again, I don't do very much actual lecturing in this course. I have to wonder what type of visuals this student would like when discussing a court opinion. The "zone out" comment hints at something that can often be difficult in this course. I usually have "speakers for the day" to discuss the material. Although those persons are the primary discussants, I like to have questions and comments from others as well. Even so, it can sometimes be difficult for those not participating to stay focused and engaged in the discussion. That said, this comment seems a little too close to the "I need to be entertained" variety. I certainly don't want to make the discussions boring, but the discussions should have been lively enough to keep from zoning out. If they weren't then perhaps this student could have done more to make them interesting by participating more.
Although his class can be incredibly difficult, Prof Hagle is perhaps one of the most thought provoking professors on campus.
Ah, but are those good thoughts or bad ones? ;)
Jokes aside, one of the things I tell the students at the start of the semester is that they will have the opportunity to examine several very famous Supreme Court cases. Rather than the superficial versions we often see in the news by talking heads, in this course they have the opportunity to see what the justices actually said and to compare majority and dissenting views. Regardless of any position the students have on a particular issue, this approach gives them a deeper understanding of the overall issues.
Professor Hagle is one of the best professors I have encountered at Iowa. Not only is he extremely knowledgeable about all topics covered in his class, but he was able to explain the complex concepts with ease in a way that made them easy to understand. He genuinely wanted students to succeed and always welcomed any questions I had. Course requirements were very clear and grading fair; explanations always followed lost points. This is one of the few classes I have had with such heightened expectations, making it essential for anyone interested in law school. No other class will prepare you as well as this one does.
As to the last point, when I talk to prelaw students I tell them that this is the best of my courses in terms of getting them ready for law school. Aside from the substantive material (which they will likely see again in law school) they learn how to read a court case, how to look for the issues, and how to sort out the various positions of the justices. These things are important for students to understand what law school is about and to give them a headstart when they get there.
This course was highly challenging for me, but Professor Hagle knows his stuff and was willing to explain any questions.
Most of the students in the course are planning on or thinking about law school so I certainly make it challenging to get them ready for what lies ahead in law school. I'm glad this student recognizes that I'm very happy to answer questions.
Very hard and tough. Would not take it again.
Well, hopefully this student did well enough that he or she wouldn't need to repeat it.
Very hard class and difficult instructor but expectations are clear and help is available
Again, yes, it's a difficult or challenging course. I tell students as much the first day of class (and many seem to know that going in). The difficulty has a purpose, which is to get those who are considering law school ready for it. Speaking of which . . .
Professor Hagle teaches skills and knowledge valuable to any student, but is especially helpful for those planning to attend law school.
Exactly. We read Supreme Court cases in this course and I give students a taste of what law school will be like. Even so, the course is valuable for those not planning on law school as it's an opportunity to read famous cases and discuss them in a way that's rarely done when they are mentioned in the news.
The class was very monotonous, but that has to be expected with a class that deals with only supreme court decisions. There was a flood of information that we had to retain, and I wish there was other ways of learning besides just a coursepack and class discussion
Monotonous?! We covered advocacy of violation of the law, fighting words, obscenity, the Establishment Clause, civil rights issues, abortion, etc. The variety of topics alone should have kept the course from being monotonous. It also shouldn't matter that we were only covering Supreme Court decisions. I don't know if this student is planning on law school (most in the course usually are), but he or she could be in for a suprise as discussing cases is mainly how material is presented there (especially the first year).
This class was very valuable in teaching me more about all the concepts he presented. He was very knowledgable. Note to all future students. Do the readings and the study questions!
Yes, you really need to do the readings (and before class!) and do the study questions to get the necessary information out of the course.
He has a very unique way of teaching that is very helpful if you are wanting to go to law school, but this class is so dang difficult because this is the first law class I have been in.
The style (a version of the Socratic Method) certainly isn't unique to me, but likely something that most undergraduates haven't seen before. It is, however, the basic approach used in law school and I use it to give those going on to law school some experience with it. It can take some getting used to, especially the part about reading the materials BEFORE class. This is also my most difficult class. I recommend students take one of my other courses first (POLI:3120 or POLI:3121) so they get some experience with legal terminology or reading cases. Students can take this course without the others, but it will mean more work to get the hang of it. I warn students about this at the start of the semester, but it still takes some time to catch on.
I am planning on attending law school following my time at the University of Iowa and I can say with all honesty that no other professor at this University has provided me with more preparation than Professor Hagle. While his classes are extremely challenging and require a substantial amount of work, he is fair in his grading and you receive a large feeling of self-accomplishment when you do well in one of his classes. This is my third class I've taken with him and I say the same thing every time, in my opinion he is the best teacher in the political science department.
Professor Hagle, if you do read this I have one suggestion. While your Socratic method of teaching is challenging, and in my opinion effective, I would recommend having the weekly readings (specifically in Constitutional Law) to be worth more points so the readers for that week are more pressured to be prepared. I found class periods in which the reader for that week was unprepared to be fairly difficult to learn the material and I felt it cut into the time you had to give your personal insight in the material because you spent more time helping the reader reach the correct answer than actually portraying it yourself. Other than that I find the method to be challenging and a good source of preparation for law school.
As to the suggestion, in this class we have "speakers for the day" who are supposed to have been fully prepared to discuss the day's readings when I ask them questions about it. Being the day's speaker is worth 10% of the grade in the course. Unfortunately, as this student notes, too many speakers are not prepared (even though they have an extensive set of study questions they can review in advance). That means I have to struggle to get any information out of such speakers and the rest of the class, particularly those who have actually prepared for class, can get bored or frustrated. I've thought about increasing the worth of the speaker assignment, but I don't want to put too much pressure on students. This is particularly so given that those at the beginning of the semester won't be as familiar with reading cases and getting the information out of them as students (should be) toward the end of the semester. Still, it's a problem and I have to keep working on ways to make sure the speakers are better prepared.
It is too hard as an undergraduate course. Too much material and too hard material.
Well, no, it's not. It is a difficult course and it requires a fair amount of work. I tell students this at the beginning of the semester, but not everyone believes it. Some, possibly this student, have in mind a set amount of work they think should be required and don't want to be pushed out of their comfort zone. My goal, however, is to get students in my prelaw courses, and particularly this one, ready for the challenges they'll face in law school. I don't know this student's plans, but even if he or she isn't bound for law school the course can be very valuable. Regardless of a student's plans, to really learn the material will take work.
The course is tough but may prove helpful in the future.
It will if this student goes to law school.
It would be helpful if you could define some of the main terms--in order to enhance the study guide.
I switched from a casebook to having all the cases in a coursepack, so I'm not sure if this student is referring to that or to the extensive set of study questions. Either way, one of the books I assign for the course is a law dictionary and I tell students the first day of class that they will run into a lot of legal terms that they are likely unfamiliar with so they should look them up. I'm happy to define terms in class if someone asks, but in terms of the readings they need to use the law dictionary.
I think the class is very helpful and well structured but the test just cover way too much information. Maybe break the two big test into 4 small ones. Also I leared alot in class and doing the readings but when it came to the test it felt like a really hard and long high school test based on memory rather than concepts or topics learned.
There is a lot of information in the course, no doubt about it. Having two additional tests (there are two now) wouldn't solve the problems as it would just cut into the amount of time spent on the material rather than testing.
It's certainly true that there is a lot to remember, but that goes along with knowing the concepts. In other words, it's not a matter of one or the other. One can talk about legal concepts like civil rights, Free Speech, etc., but in deciding cases it comes down to knowing the specifics and why one case or another does or doesn't apply in a given situation. Details matter.
I would like to comment on how I prepared for the course. I found it most helpful to read case briefs online, take extensive notes & actually do the reading & reread notes after class. That way I came into class knowing the basics but I could read the coursepack actually understanding the language.
I wish we had a few more writing assignments to set us up for the paper. I don't trust student editing so I did not find that very helpful.
This is my first time taking a course like this and it was very difficult for me. However I expect to do well because I put in so much effort into studying. I think students should be warned that this is an upper level course because I don't expect average students to do well. I think it would be extremely helpful if this class met 3 times a week or 50 minutes instead of twice a week for an hour + 15 because of how difficult and how much information there is. Overall, I think the instructor presented material fairly. I truly learned a lot & would recommend the course to serious students. I would have appreciated a brief, general introduction on how the Supreme Court works.
Thanks you for the challenge.
This is one of the longer sets of comments I've seen of late and I appreciate the details. I'll address the points in order.
I'm not sure where the student was finding case briefs online, but there are good and bad aspects to this. I recall my law professors generally warning against such course outlines (nothing online as this was during the time of the dinosaurs). Their reasoning was that they wanted us to learn how to get the information from the cases. Of course, most of us bought all the extra materials anyway. Still, at least most of those materials were keyed to correspond to a particular casebook. That allowed the briefs and outlines to focus on the issues presented and not those edited out. Given that I now use a coursepack for the cases with my own editing, such online briefs might be a bit off. On the other hand, the pluses for doing this extra work probably outweigh the minuses, particularly for someone with little or no prior experience with judicial courses.
I can understand the desire for more writing assignments, but there really isn't time to do so given the need for more comprehensive tests. Plus, to be valuable, a writing assignment needs to be something that takes time to craft and involves some critical analysis (i.e., not just a quick essay with little attention to style or content). That there is only one writing assignment is why I provide a comprehensive style guide and example papers so the students have a better idea of how to approach the assignment. I also offer an extra credit editing assignment. One reason for this is to encourage students to work on the paper sooner. The drafts are peer-edited to provide some feedback from someone else who should be familiar with the assignment's requirements and the course content. Unfortunately, as this student suggests, the quality of the editing is hit and miss depending on who the peer-editor is.
As for it being an upper division course, that should be clear from the course number, though there will still be variations in the difficulty level among upper division courses. Even so, on the first day of class I talk about how this is the most difficult of my three main judicial courses and I generally encourage people to take one of the other two courses first. One of which, Judicial Process, is the one in which we discuss at length the processes of the Supreme Court.
As for meeting three times a week in a shorter period, I'm not sure the student's point about it being helpful to break up the material would work. There is a certain amount of downtime for each class period no matter how long it is. Meeting three times a week rather than two just increases the amount of wasted time. Plus, I think it's better to have a long period to be able to explore cases, particularly long or complex ones, at some length. Breaking up a case across class periods just doesn't work very well.
If we had specific review days in between learningmaterial that would've helped a lot. The study guide questions were helpful in preparing for the test. Also, if we go over how to take the test since they are structured differently.
The "review days" question comes up a fair amount. To a certain extent it suggests students aren't doing the work necessary before class. I tell students the first day (and often several times thereafter!) that they need to read the cases before class so they can understand and participate in the discussion during class. Basically, classtime is spend reviewing the cases they should have already read. Do I really expect the students to have read the cases in advance? Well, yeah. It's also a matter of them learning how to get information out of the cases rather than just me telling them what's important. Although the substance of the cases is important, perhaps more important, especially for those going on to law school (which is usually most of the class) is learning the ability to read and understand the court opinions we cover.
Also, I encourage students to get together in study groups to review the material (hopefully more than just before the tests). This allows them to check to see if they understand the material and to check with me if they don't. I'm happy to answer questions about the material, but we just don't have the time to set aside specific days for additional in-class review.
As for the test, I provide a handout on how to take my multiple choice tests as well as three practice quizzes during the semester that are aimed at showing students how the test questions are structured to cover the class material.
This course was challenging, but very helpful for my learning. It was a topic I was interested in and helped me get the basics of reading court cases. I know I will be happy about taking this class years down the road.
I hope it isn't years before he or she is happy about taking the course! Nevertheless, I'm glad he or she recognizes that having some experience reading court cases will help in the transition to law school.
Study question are very very helpful
Yep. I push them hard at the start of the semester and mention them fairly regularly. Students who do them generally do much better in the course. There are a lot of them, which tends to turn off some students, but they are a good outline for the course (this one and the others for which I provide such questions) and in this course help to guide the students through an understanding of the cases. In other words, it's not always clear to the students, especially at the start of the semester, what they should be getting out of the cases. The study questions provide some focus so they know they should at least be able to answer them after reading a particular case.
I wish I would have known this class would be so pre-law based. The material is very difficult & constitutional law is so tricky that this class proved (to me at least) to be too challenging. Too much information & topics to cover, discuss & go in depth about. Don't really see how I'll every use this information in real life. When exams are only 40 questions & study questions are like over 500? How does someone choose what is important & relevant?
In the very first class period I ask how many students in the class are planning on or thinking about law school. Invariably about 95% of the students raise their hands. I then talk about the value of the course for those going on to law school, but I also explain how the course is also valuable to those not planning on law school. In brief, I talk about how as citizens they should know, for example, their First Amendment rights (free speech, etc.). I also talk about how we cover many cases that are mentioned in the news on a regular basis (e.g., Roe v. Wade) and how this might be the only opportunity they have as undergraduates to read and analyze such cases without the political rhetoric that usually accompanies them. That should cover the "real life" part of it.
The first day of class I also talk about how the material will be challenging for most students. I generally recommend that students have had one of my other main courses (Judicial Process or Criminal Justice) before this one, but plenty of students can do well in this course without having had one of the others ones first. It does, however, take work.
As for the tests and questions, I provide an extensive set of study questions (actually about 600+) for the students. That's what I want them to get out of the course. My tests aren't intended to be comprehensive. Rather, they sample the material to determine the level of the students' learning. I discourage "will this be on the test" type questions as that approaches the material in the wrong way. The goal, I tell my students, is to learn as much about the material as they can within the context of the course I have set up rather than to just study for a grade on a test. It can be hard for students to see it that way, but I do what I can.
The information in this class is best learned by discussion going to class and reading is necessary. If this isn't done, there is really no point in taking the class. I think this is good because it forms good habits.
As I said this morning, this is tied with Judicial Process as my favorite class here. This area is better though. I sincerely enjoyed coming to class every single day. That's honestly a first.
I think I did course evaluations for this course and Judicial Process on the same day, so the "this morning" probably refers to what this student said in the evaluations for that course.
I know some students don't see as much value in the daily discussions about the cases, but others prefer it over the standard lecture format. Of course, the discussions work much better when the students have read the material and are willing to talk about it.
The largest problem I had with the class was the unfair grading criteria, specifically regarding the speaking assignment. Speakers at the beginning of the semester were asked much more than speakers at the end. There was not even the appearance of equal standards.
This is an interesting comment. It's probably true to some extent that speakers early in the semester are asked more questions, but that has more to do with the speakers themselves. The speakers get to sign up to be the daily speaker, who is then responsible for carrying the discussion on that day's cases. The students who sign up early in the semester tend to be go-getters who are better prepared. Those who wait until the end of the semester tend to be much less prepared. If a student clearly hasn't read the assignment I won't spend much time with him or her. Another reason for students at the start of the semester getting more questions is that early on I am trying to show the students what questions they should be asking themselves and thinking about as they read the cases. Most have never read a court opinion before and aren't sure what they should be getting out of it. By the end of the semester they should have better handle on the cases and I don't need to ask as many questions to determine whether the student understands it.
This student mentions "grading criteria," but I'm not sure that's what he or she really means. My guess is that the student is complaining about the number of questions a student gets rather than the score I give on the assignment. I'm not sure if the student is upset for having gotten more or fewer questions, but the number of questions doesn't determine the score. Rather, it's how the student does answering the questions.
2/3.) After getting my butt kicked on the first exam where I had just read the cases--the second half of the semester I briefed them/took notes.
The numbers at the start refer to the questions on the questionnaire part of the evaluation where I ask how much preparation/work the student had done. Naturally, I tell students to do all the work at the start of the semester, but some don't get it in gear until they don't do as well as they would have liked on the first test. The key, however, is actually working harder in the second half. Some students just give up when they don't get the grade they want. This one, fortunately, decided to work harder. Good job.
If I had known this class was intended for students going to law school I would have not taken it. Distracted me severely from my major courses. This fact needs to be made clear on ISIS.
As I said a couple of comments above, I talk extensively about the course the first day of class. In fact, although most students expect a really short first class period (maybe 15-20 minutes) I spend nearly the entire 75 minutes going over what the course is about, etc. Because most of the students in this course are planning on law school I certainly take that into consideration, but the course is also valuable for those not planning on law school. Too bad this student didn't see it that way. If this student was looking for an easy course outside his or her major, this one certainly wasn't it.
I would have liked to have taken quizes over terminology and section of cases throughout the semester in addition to the exams. This would have helped me to reinforce the terms, cases and principles as we covered them.
I recommend that students take Judicial Process or the Criminal Justice System before this course in part because it gives them an introduction to many of the terms they will run across in the cases we read for this course. Students starting with this course certainly have more work to do in terms of learning the legal terminology and case structure. Although I provide three practice quizzes during the semester, they are geared more toward seeing how I will cover material in the multiple choice format that I use for the tests. Even so, I also provide an extensive set of study question (about 600 for the semester) that essentially provides the review that this student suggests.
I was in Criminal Justice as well. I loved that class. This class was hard for me to focus with other students talking some didn't know what they were trying to say . . . some did good and I just focused there not so much for other students.
One of the assignments for this course is for students to sign up to be the "speaker" for a day. That means being one of the primary people I call on to discuss that day's cases. The purpose is to mimic how law school courses are run. Other students are supposed to stay engaged in the discussion, but it can be difficult when the speaker isn't very well prepared. Unfortunately, this semester the speakers were generally much less prepared than prior semesters. I mentioned this to my TA a few times and urged (nagged) the class to do a better job, but they just didn't seem to be putting in the necessary prep work to do a good job.
I loved this course. The cases were fascinating and class discussion was great.
[The TA] was a huge help on the paper, she's a fantastic TA.
That being said, your multiple choice test is psychological warfare and its ridiculous that you won't give the distribution. For this class, an essay test would be more reasonable and helpful for formulating ideas. (Although I'm sure you already know this given the way you curve the class.)
Given my prior comment, I suspect this was one of the few students who did a good job with the speaking assignment and stayed engaged in the discussions.
Yes, my TA this semester was very good. It helped that she was a recent law school graduate, so she already had a very good handle on the material.
Students often express concerns about having a multiple choice test over this material. I've commented on this before, but the short version is that I can ask about more things with a multiple choice test than I can with an essay test, and the students have less of an opportunity to BS their way through it. The ability to formulate ideas and arguments comes into play for the paper assignment.
As for the distribution, I don't say what it is because it doesn't matter for their grades. Some often want to know in a "misery loves company" sort of way, but I already provide a "curve" of sorts. In addition, and as I tell the students, they have to take a multiple choice test to get into law school (the LSAT) and one to become a lawyer (the bar exam), but they rarely see one in law school, so it's good for them to see the material in this format.
You should share the distribution for the midterm. If a majority feel they need to drop the midterm it is probably a hint that the test was written poorly.
This student would have no idea how many people might have wanted to drop the midterm grade, in part because that would be based on what final grade a particular student was trying for. As for the second part, it could also be an indication that students weren't working hard enough to learn the material despite my warnings and such that it was difficult and they needed to really put in the time on it.
The quality of my in class notes varied widely depending on the quality of the speaker(s) for that day.
I tell students about "briefing" cases and how they should be mainly taking notes on the cases before class so that they can focus more on following the discussion in class. Even so, when speakers aren't very well prepared, as occurred many times this semester, it makes it harder for other students to follow the discussion and take additional notes.
--It would be helpful if you had a more comprehensive reading list, it can be difficult to figure out what to read to be prepared.
--You probably get a lot of comments about the tests being too specific, but I thought they were a good way to test the material.
--You can sometimes be a little long-winded, but a lot of the time I think it is because you know the subject so well and are very passionate about teaching it.
--Right after the first test you talked to the class about it. The thing that struck me about that discussion was how important it clearly is to you for students to learn the material. Personal suggestion: Let that show more. A lot of the people who don't like you are just lazy, but I think a lot of them would get more out of the class if they realized your motives. Overall the best class I've taken so far at Iowa.
As the readings were set up for this semester there is a basic reading list in the syllabus, but an additional one in the coursepack, along with the additional cases in the coursepack. There are pretty clear instructions for how to integrate the material, but it does take a little effort. I do it that way in part because it mirrors to some extent how law school casebooks are structured (where you have a main casebook and usually a supplement that adds to or deletes material from the main book). That said, I'm currently working on moving entirely to a coursepack where everything is integrated into one long document, which will make things a lot easier.
I try to talk about the tests in class, so I don't get as many of the "too hard" questions as I used to. Still, they are very detailed because the details matter in the law and I want to get folks ready for it.
Long-winded? Moi? I like all the courses I teach, but this is my favorite and I know I can get excited about the cases in class.
I'm glad that this student recognizes how important it is to me for the students to get the material. Law school is expensive and time-consuming and I want to do as much as I can to help them prepare. That takes the form of knowing basic terms and such, but also knowing what to expect in terms of how to read cases, knowing that details matter, and that it's going to take work to succeed. I do talk about this at the start of the semester, but maybe I could emphasize it a bit more. Good suggestion, thanks!
The instructor obviously knows the material very well but we went over too much to understand it all.
The reading assignments listed in the syllabus were confusing. There are specific page #s listed but it seemed they did not always correlate with what we talked about in class. There needs to be more detail in addition to the pg #s, like chapters or sections.
In the multiple choice section four (of 47 students said there was "way too much" material covered in the course, but the average was between "a bit too much" and "about right." The amount of pages to be read is not that much for this course, but the reading is more difficult in that it consists of cases that must be closely read rather than text that can be breezed through. Thus, the amount of material is not that much, but it does take more work to absorb it, and students can't just show up to class and listen to the discussions to pick it up.
The second comment is a bit puzzling. Because the course is discussion-based I don't have an exact reading assignment for each day. That allows me to keep a good discussion going longer to move more quickly if folks don't want to engage on some topic. Thus, rather than daily assignments I list the readings in the order we read them. The puzzling part is that the bullet points on the reading list are marks by chapters and we did them in the order listed. The only exception of sorts was that items from the coursepack were to be integrated into the main reading list, but there were instructions on that as well.
The test I found to be very difficult. When studying, I felt that I had a firm grasp on the basics of each case so that I could explain the rulings. However, I did not prepare for what was eventually on the test. If the questions were presented in an essay format, I, on many questions would have answered differently than any of the answers given for multiple choice. Were I to be given a second chance at studying for the first test I believe that I would score significantly higher. Essentially I think that a brief test on the first chapter or an example test would be to the benefit of students in the future so they know what to expect and not just "a hard test."
This student would be correct if I just gave them a hard test with no warning, but I don't. I talk about the need to pay attention to the details at length at the beginning of the semester and at several times throughout. I talk about why I give multiple choice exams and I provide them a handout with tips on taking my tests. I also make available three practice quizzes, two of which come before the first test. In fact, the first practice quiz is made available after we've covered the first chapter so students have a better idea of what they should be getting out of the cases. In addition, the study questions ask very detailed questions, as I do in the class discussions, so students should know that they need to know more than just the basics for the cases.
I think this class is extremely interesting and reading cases is a very good skill that is emphasized here. I like the way the class is taught, I think it is also quite helpful! My only issue is w/ the 1st test, I feel that it doesn't represent what I know/learned all that well.
Yes, reading cases is an important skill that, obviously, will be necessary for law school. I didn't have any classes in which I read cases as an undergrad and that made my transition to law school classes a bit difficult. As a result, I want to make sure my students are better prepared than I was.
As to the first test, this comment is a bit different that the previous one as it goes to what the student learned rather than just "it's a hard test." Part of the problem here is that students often expect to learn just the basics and don't get into the details sufficiently or don't go that next step to applying what they learned. It's one thing, for example, to know what the justices said on some case, but quite another to take that reasoning and apply it in a different situation. I tell students at the beginning of the semester that I expect them to work to that deeper level of understanding for the material in this course. Despite the handouts, study questions, and practice quizzes, some students have trouble doing so, at least until they see the first test and realize I'm serious about it.
The only recommendation I have is to cut a few of the cases. We spend too much time speeding through some material which can be detrimental to out learning. Also, I wish we knew what material we were going to cover each day. Telling us to always read ahead is wishful thinking . . .We are procrastinating college students!
Thank you for 3 straight semesters of great courses. Your classes are thought-proviking, fair, and enjoyable. See you next semester. (Notice that I used the serial comma!)
Ha! The last comment refers to my writing guidelines where I tell students to include the comma before "and" in a string even though some now omit it.
I also have to chuckle about the procrastinating students comment. Hey, hope springs eternal, right? Actually, as much as I realize that students aren't inclined to read ahead, one of my goals for this course is to give students a taste of what a law school course would be like and those classes don't usually provide exact daily reading assignments.
As for the speeding through, there are two points in the semester where this usually happens. One is a section of very short and easy cases and I assume this isn't what the student is referring to. The second time is at the end of the semester when a combination of possibly being a bit behind, not having speakers (or ones who are properly prepared) to generate discussion, and more lecturing causes me to go through the material faster than usual. Aside from that, one "problem" with his course is that there are always new cases to work in, which means that older cases have to be deleted. I sometimes don't like to get rid of the older cases, particularly if they are good for teaching purposes, so I know I have a tendency to pack some sections a bit.
One of the things that I think students should take into account when beginning this course--and I think Professor Hagle has emphasized this well--is that some students "get" the material more easily and readily than others. I, for example, did well on the first test with relatively little studying, whereas a classmate of mine put in far more effort and wound up dropping the class. I don't particularly consider this a flaw in the course--in fact, I think it's a good remedy to the notion held by many students that they are somehow entitled to a "good" or even "okay" grade all of the time. That's simply not the case, and I think Professor Hagle does an excellent job in demonstrating that throughout the course. Regardless, I can say that I've learned an immense amount throughout the course, and I consider it to have been an indispensable part of my college career.
Not surprisingly, I agree completely with this, and am very pleased the student found the course so useful. Again, one of my main goals for the course is to get students ready for law school where they will have harder classes and more complex material than they are likely to have seen in their undergrad courses. I've run into a few students with the "entitled" mentality, but more often I think the problem is that students expect that if they put in a particular level of effort they will get the grade they think they deserve. As I tell them, and illustrate from my own undergrad courses, sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't. As this student indicates, I tell the class at the beginning of the semester that some will "get" the material more easily, but for the rest of us (and I include my self in this) a lot more effort is required.
Massive amount of info covered. Expected to be able to pick out a justices specific answer from their dissent in a case on the exam. [Then there's a big X over the entire comment.]
I'm not sure if the student meant the X to mean that he or she was suggesting the comment should be ignored or if it was a sign of frustration. Regardless, this seems an indication of the kind of thing the prior comment was getting at. This student seems to think it too much effort to know what dissenting justices are saying the cases we read even though we spend a lot of time in class discussing dissents along with majority opinions (and not to mention that they are covered in the study questions, etc.).
Make the course pack better organized to find cases, possibly a numbered table of contents?
I put a table of contents of sorts right on the front cover of the coursepack and footers for each case easily identify it as one pages through. What it doesn't have, however, is an integrated numbering system. Part of this is a holdover from the days when the software just didn't make doing that easy and part of it is that I wanted to try to make citing any individual cases easier. That said, I'm working on moving to getting rid of the casebook and only using a coursepack for the course. When I do I expect to have a numbering system along the lines this student is suggesting.
--less review questions--there are too many to help
--return papers quicker
--handled the abortion cases well . . . it is a very tough subject & lots of people were uncomfortable. I appreciated minimal participation (opinions) that day.
I call them "study questions" not "review questions." They are designed to cover the entire course material not just hit the essentials as some other comments have mentioned. I tell students that the study questions are a resource they can use or not as they choose. I also tell them that if they do plan to make use of the questions they need to not wait until just before the tests. There are certainly far too many to just use for cramming a couple of days before an exam. Rather, they should be used to make sure one is getting the material as we cover it. That means I suggest going though the questions after every class period, or at least once a week. I know, wishful thinking on my part.
I always make sure that the students have their papers back by the last day of class. That means I'll have three or four weeks to grade them. Given the class size and number of classes, that amount of time does not seem too long, particularly when other classes have papers due at the end of the semester and the students will likely never see them again.
Thanks, re the abortion cases. I cover a lot of "hot" topics in this course, but abortion is certainly a particularly sensitive area for several reasons. Just making sure that both sides of the issue are presented can upset some, so I do try to take extra care with the topic.
I think that after my 1st year of law school I'll be very glad I took this course.
I certainly hope so! I have to smile a bit at this as it almost seems this student isn't so sure that he or she is glad about it right now, but hopes that the benefits will be clearer later. At least he or she is keeping an open mind about it! I hope that this student sends me an email after that first year to let me know if my course helped.
During the end we were rushed and it was to the detriment (or benefit if you didn't want to speak) of the speakers. A bit less of a rushed feel would be nice, but I understand difficult to obtain given time restraints. Maybe make people aware of this early?
I talked a bit about this in a prior comment for this semester. Sometimes we are a little rushed at the end if I've gotten behind. Part of the problem is that the speakers at the end of the semester tend to be ones who have waited to the last minute to sign up, which often means they are not the best prepared. That means that I have to take longer to get the points of a case out of them, which then means I get behind. The alternative is for me to lecture through a case. Although I don't go that fast, lecturing is certainly faster than the norm of doing the cases by discussion, so it certainly seems faster. Regardless, I'm aware of the problem and try as much as possible to minimize the effects.
Great course. You get out of it what you put into it.
Thanks! I think this is a good way of summing up a lot of the comments and my responses.
I really enjoy your classes. They can definitely be very tough, but I enjoy the challenge.
Great! I do want to challenge my students, not least because I want to get them ready for the challenges of law school.
Hagle is the bomb. He is not a dick, his bad reputation is completely undeserved. He's a cool cat.
Loved the course as I always do with Hagle.
Thanks! Students who have had one of my other courses are usually better prepared for POLI:3101/30:116 and they know what to expect from my teaching.
I really enjoyed this class. One thing that was confusing, though, was what we were expected to read. It might be helpful to provide students with a list of everything we are expected to have read, including reserve materials, articles, and coursepack material.
Actually, I do provide a detailed reading list in the syllabus. I think this student is referring either the list of articles I also post on the course website, or the section of notes in the coursepack. The articles on the website are mostly background reading to show how the issues presented in the cases are (or have been) in the news. The articles also bring out some of the more practical or political aspects to the issues that we often don't have time to cover during class. The additional notes in the coursepack are not specifically mentioned on the reading list in the syllabus, but there is a detailed listing for when each note should be read. This is no different from the supplement that usually comes with a casebook--and a whole lot cheaper! That said, I'm eventually going to move entirely to a coursepack for the course and all the materials will be better integrated.
Very good course. More enlightening & challenging than [30:]158. Sometimes speakers are unprepared which is frustrating but you handle it well. Thanks for a good course that thoroughly prepares students for law school.
Yes, this course is the more difficult of my three main judicial courses. Having had either POLI:3120/30:158 or POLI:3121/30:153 before this one usually helps a lot. Ten percent of the grade in this course is based on being one of the speakers for a day. Depending on who signs up, between one and four people share primary responsibilities for being able to discuss and answer questions about the day's readings. Even though students get to choose their day, some are clearly under- or unprepared. That can end up being a huge waste of time, and, as this student indicates, frustrating for those who are trying to follow a discussion. I can often work around someone who is unprepared, particularly if others are willing to jump into the discussion, but sometimes it's a struggle.
Thought the course was difficult. I am not a political science major and introducing myself to the basics was the most difficult part. If I were to take the course over, I would spend more time preparing for class and the first exam because it is necessary to succeed.
There are often non-Pol Sci majors, usually those interested in law school, who take this course. Business and journalism and history majors are common. I don't usually feel that students need to have had other Pol Sci courses to take this one, but if someone doesn't follow the news much (so isn't as aware of some of the constitutional issues we cover) then it will be harder. Even so, the course is hard even for Pol Sci majors. I talk about this at some length the first day of class, but it may not resonate for a student who has been used to getting top grades with a certain level of work. This course often requires a higher level, largely because the material (reading cases) is different from what they are likely used to. Some students get that right away, but others don't realize it until after the first test.
30:116 was a tough but fair course. I would recommend that students take the Criminal Justice System [POLI:3120/30:158] or Judicial Process [POLI:3121/30:153] before they take this class, like I did. The amount of material covered was just right, as we were not rushing to cram in material at the end of the semester. I would definitely recommend this class for anyone considering going to law schools since Constitutional Law is a required class for 1st year law students at almost every law school.
Yes, I also recommend that students take one of the other courses first if possible. The other courses give students a chance to become familiar with some of the legal terminology and (for POLI;3120/30:158) reading a few cases which is a good introduction to the entirely case-based approach of this course. We don't have any set amount of material to cover each day; it's flexible to accommodate the discussion nature of the course. Even so, I do try to make sure that we keep on pace to finish the material without having to rush at the end. I had Con Law in my second year of law school, but some (and maybe more than during my time) have it their first year. The law school version will focus more on legal theories and such than I do for a Pol Sci version, but one of my goals for this course is to give students some exposure to how read and understand cases and how a law school class is run.
I appreciated Hagle's willingness to go back and correct himself when I raised a question about a point made after class early in the semester. Very gracious.
Thanks. I don't recall the specific point, but if I say something incorrectly in class (or don't think of some exception to a rule, etc.) I'm very willing to make a correction the next class period. One nice thing about judicial courses is that the law is constantly changing, and that's particularly true for the issues we cover in this course. Given the discussion nature of this course, that means I have to do a lot more preparation and updating for each class. Sometimes I'll miss something, so it's only appropriate that I give the students updated info (either in class or via email).
Towards the close of the semester it seems as if the discussants were asked fewer and fewer questions. Sometimes I felt as if a more concise learning method would be more conducive to my learning only because it is difficult to keep track of the "real" points amongst all of the guessing by speakers and classmates.
There are two different points here. This student's observation about fewer questions for the discussants (i.e., the assigned daily speakers) at the end of the semester if probably correct. The speaking assignment is worth 10% of the grade in the course and students can sign up for the day of their choosing. What usually happens is that the students who are more eager and likely better prepared tend to sign up early. Those at the end of the semester are the ones waiting to the last minute and often after a lot of general nagging my me for folks to sign up. On average, the quality of the responses is lower later in the semester. As a student mentioned a couple of comments above, I try to work with folks who are not as prepared as they should be, but I also end up asking fewer questions of them and relying more on others to jump into the discussion or just talking through a case (basically lecturing).
The second point here isn't really specific to the end of the semester. It's certainly true that the course would be "easier" if I were to just lecture about each case. It would be clearer to pick up the main points, as this student suggests, and it would certainly be easier for me. Unfortunately, that approach wouldn't be as useful for the students who are planning on law school, which is usually pretty much everyone in this course. Reading cases is quite different from reading plain text. Aside from the legal terminology, the judges writing the opinions are dealing with complex legal questions and are not always clear in their points or their writing. In addition, the discussion format is what's used in law schools and I want them to get some practice in learning to follow such a discussion and to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff, as it were, in the discussion. This may not be the easiest method, but it develops critical thinking skills, is more appropriate for the material, and will be more useful for them later on.
Today the speakers answered almost no questions about case material. You engaged them for 45 minutes and almost all of that time was spent playing a guessing game about the marriage rates of the military. I answered specific substantive questions about case for 75 minutes, and it was very difficult. Utterly ridiculous.
I've replied above to a couple of other comments about speakers and the discussion in other items for this semester. It will depend a lot of the quality of the speakers, but I usually try to start out with fairly easy questions about the case itself, the facts, the issues, etc. When possible, I then try to get the students to think about the case and issues and facts in different ways. I tell the students at the start of the semester that they need to go beyond just learning the basics of the case to understanding and being able to apply the concepts to other situations. Sometimes, such as with the case this student is referring to, I try to get the students to dig deeper into the "why" behind a particular case. This involves exploring justifications for, as in this case, a particular government action. My guess is that this student would fall more in the just tell us what we need to know camp, but if it's also a day when the speakers are not well prepared and haven't thought about the cases before class then even engaged students can get bored.
Excellent class and well taught. I feel that the material in this course exposed me to real legal analysis and reasoning.
Thanks! That's certainly one of my goals for the course.
Loved the class!
Instructor referred to my INALIENABLE Liberties as privileges.
Often advocated statist positions with disregard to the original intent of the Founding Fathers.
Well, this is a new type of comment. I wish this student had provided some examples. This is particularly so regarding the latter complaint as I generally don't advocate any positions (other than better legal reasoning on the part of some justices). This is also amusing because the student is apparently complaining that I--the department's token Republican--was too liberal!
Simply, I feel that I learned quite a bit of useful information in 153 and didn't learn anything in 116. Stop entertaining the useless guesses of the members of the class who don't know what the answer is. I never have a solid feel for what I should know, and I feel very discourage to ask for help.
There are two issues here. The first is a complaint I've seen before. Specifically, in class I tend to let folks (apparently) ramble a bit when answering questions to see if they can get to the correct point. This frustrates some folks who either know the correct answer and want to get there faster, or those who are just looking to get to the "correct answer." Part of the discussion approach to the class requires that I let folks fumble around a bit on occasion and other students need to learn to follow the discussion to think about how they would answer the questions. (Good practice for sitting in meetings where the speakers may not be as focused as one would prefer!) Part of what I want students to get out of the course is a thinking process, not just "correct answers" to the questions I pose.
On the second issue, it's not clear why this student felt discouraged about asking for help. I usually have several students talk to me about this issue each semester and I explain in greater depth (than what I talk about the first few class periods) about they should be getting out of the class discussions. Perhaps this student was discouraged about asking questions in class for fear of being one of the students that I let stumble around. Either way, he or she should have asked me about it.
Regardless of the grade I receive in this course, I feel it has been immensely valuable to my understanding of the Constitution and the function of the law.
The first test was stupid, if you have the option of dropping the first test every semester, your test is too hard. I am not a slacker student but completely bombed the first test. It doesn't help me learn when you set me up to fail.
I don't necessarily offer the option of dropping the first test (i.e., any current of future students reading this shouldn't rely on it). To the extent I do, it's a second chance for those who did poorly. It's not just a matter of being a slacker. As I explain many times in class, the material is quite different from what students may have seen in other classes. The complaints about not knowing what they should be getting out of the material are a testament to that. Some students "get it" more easily than others. Sometimes this is a matter of ability (it just clicks for them). Some students take my advice and do all the things I suggest (briefing cases, doing all the study questions, forming a study group, taking the practice quizzes) and do well on the first test. Others, even if they do all those things, may still need more time to understand how to read cases and to get what they should out of them. The cases in the second half of the semester are harder than those in the first. Even so, and on average, students do better on the second test. One reason is that by the second half of the semester students who weren't understanding how to read the cases will have had time, and practice with enough cases, to learn. An important point of the course is to give students an opportunity to learn this skill, so it seems appropriate to give the students willing to put in the effort a second chance if they want it. It's not a matter of how many students did poorly on the test.
Overall, I found this to be a very interesting & enjoyable class. I thought the exams were reasonable, especially considering the bonus points. I think you overemphasize the study questions. I did about 20 before the first test, but they actually made me lost focus & feel overwhelmed. I got an A+ by just reading & taking notes on the cases.
This year's paper topic didn't seem as good as previous years--too few cases applied to the prompt.
Great class though. You do a really good job & are obviously knowledgeable & prepared.
Contrary to the student who made the previous comment, this one seemed to have "gotten it" a bit more easily. He or she also notes that I usually include extra questions on my tests (bonus or extra credit) as a recognition of the difficulty factor. This student didn't think the study questions were all that useful. Maybe they weren't for this student, but it also sounds like he or she attempted to do the full set (about 275 per test) right before the test. I tell students in class that they are very hard if you try them all at once. The better approach is to do them as we do the cases. In fact, they may good study guides prior to class discussion of the cases.
The paper topic this semester was on a current Free Speech problem related to the 2008 election. I thought it would be interesting because it was more topical, but it probably did involve fewer cases than some other topics I've used.
Mr. Hagle was one of the most knowledgeable professors I have had while @ Iowa.
Even though some members of the class preferred to bitch & complain about how hard it was, they are not putting in enough effort because this class was great. It covered too much material although it did teach me a lot about const. law.
The course description described it perfectly.
Give Hagle a raise - he know everything.
[the student signed the comments]
Like the previous student, this one seemed to have found the right amount of work necessary to succeed in the course. There is often some variation in this. Some students assume that if they put in a certain amount of work they should get a certain grade. The problem is that some courses might take more work to get the grade they want and a few students are unable (or unwilling) to adjust their efforts accordingly. I tell students this in class, repeatedly, so it shouldn't be a surprise. I even tell them how I faced this problem in one of my undergrad courses. Even so, as this student notes, a few still complain about the difficulty of the course.
Test were way too hard for the type of atmosphere of classroom we had. I felt extremely confident with the amount of time I studied.
I'm not sure what the students means by "atmosphere of classroom," but I certainly told students that the test would be hard and what they needed to do to prepare. The evaluation was written after the first test, so I hope this student studied more for the second test.
You seem to take a certain amount of pride in being disliked by your students and having a reputation. What's up with that?
I certainly wouldn't take any pride in being disliked, if that's the case. If the reputation is that the class is hard and demanding. I'll just have to live with it if some students dislike me as a result. My goal for this class (and others) is to provide an opportunity for the students to learn the material and other things (writing papers, meeting deadlines) in a way that will help them later. Sometimes that means pushing students more than they would prefer. Some students understand that during the class. Some understand it later. Some just don't like it and end up disliking me as a result. (See, for example, the second comment below for Fall 2004).
Lectures needed to be summarized a general synopsis of what is important would make the material much more learner friendly.
Expressing and repeating what is important to know!
It's all important!
More seriously, it seems this student wants to be spoon fed what will be on the test. Aside from the fact that I do summarize cases and material on a regular basis (particularly when the discussion gets off track), one of the things that students are supposed to learn is to sort out what things are important from any discussion.
I really enjoyed this class. I thought it was a good over view of different areas of the subject. The test wording made the test a little difficult. The paper topic was very clear & allowed me to demonstrate what I learned.
This students notes that the wording on the test questions was "difficult." Other students often complain about it being tricky. For good or bad, interpretations of the law often turn on things as simple as whether "and" or "or" was used or the placement of a comma. That means students need to know the specifics and details of the cases. I emphasize this all semester long. This student seems to understand why; others sometimes don't.
Course evals a lot like tests--not much separation b/t answers. I'm not sure what to say about the tests, but I think they could be more helpful if the possible answers were more different.
Good bacher [the handwriting is good, but that word doesn't seem to make sense] overall.
Two points to make in response. First, yes, there is often little separation between the answers because that is the way it often is in the law. Again, understanding the smallest details can make a big difference. Second, the tests are for my benefit. Some tests outside the classroom represent some qualifying level of knowledge, such as a bar exam. Tests in most courses (and particularly mine), in contrast, are a measurement tool to help me determine how well the students have learned the material.
I did enjoy this course but felt there was too much emphasis put on the 2nd test b/c the 1st test was IMPOSSIBLE! Quote from you "misery loves company" is not very encouraging to your student, & I cant imagine how a teacher could feel good about that. This is not law school, although it is good prep, but still way to advanced for the students taking it Thanks you for the enjoyable semester but I really feel strongly that good grades should not be so hard to get
The first test was difficult, but certainly not impossible as many people do well on it. I emphasize the difficulty all through the semester, but some students are still caught off guard. I don't specifically place more emphasis on the second test, but if a student did below his or her expectations on the first test putting more emphasis on the second test is basically a second chance.
This student seems to have completely missed the context of the "misery loves company" comment. Of course I'm not pleased when students do poorly on the tests, but my solution is not to just make the tests easier. Rather, I find ways to try to get the students to understand the material and what is expected of them. I make the "misery" comment when some student asks about the mean for the test. The test is not graded on a traditional curve so, as I explain in class, it doesn't matter what anyone else got on the test. I suggest that those who did worse than expected may try to take solace in the fact that others didn't do well either. In the context of explaining that they should only be concerned with how they did on the test and not to worry about anyone else, I sometimes mention the "misery" comment, suggesting that it is not the way to think about the results; pretty much the opposite of how this student interpreted it.
Overall, I would say this is a great course, although it is very hard. One thing I think would improve the course however is a full day devoted to reviewing the material before each test. That way, any remaining questions people have can be answered and the class can get a better idea about what information is more important to the course. Although the practice quizzes help out alot, I think an in class (or even out of class) review session would be even more helpful.
The request for review sessions is not uncommon. I tend not to do them mainly because I don't want to cut out two class periods worth of material. As an alternative I provide the students with an extensive list of study questions which effectively provides them with a summary of the course. Students can also email me questions, stop by during office hours, or use the listserv for the course to get additional information. The "more important" aspect gets too close the "what's on the test" idea.
There was far too many cases to study for the exams. I worked through all of the study questions and unfortunately did not score as high as I would have. The amount of work needed to just do minimally well was ridiculous. This class has made me second guess my decision of attending law school. While the professor has great speaking skills & he is very knowledgeable about the material, he needs to be aware he is not only teaching to potential law students, but as well to undergraduates as a whole.
I am aware of that, and talk about it the first day of class. It is certainly not my goal to discourage students from attending law school, but I do want students to get a taste of what it will be like. At one level that includes working really hard in a class with a lot of material. In law school students will get four or five times that amount every semester and students need to understand that.
Overall, I learned a lot in this class, however the tests did not seem to allow us to fully demonstrate what I learned from the material. It almost seemed like whether or not I know the answers was almost [? couldn't read it] b/c they were so specific & narrowly tailored. While I did well on the midterm, I was still discouraged about the final b/c it seems like it is impossible to study for your tests b/c of their structure and the type of questions asked.
It seems a little odd for this student to still feel discouraged after having done well on the midterm. I hope that whatever he or she did to prepare for the first test provided adequate preparation for the second.
The paper assignment was very helpful in applying topics and relating cases. It was good to show what we've learned. The tests did not really allow one to demonstrate their ability to grasp concepts. Your personal beliefs come out more when you are discussing Roe, Stenberg, Gonzales, etc.
As to the second point, the cases this student mentions are some of the ones that tend to be more complex, which means more dissenting and concurring opinions. I am certainly critical of arguments in the cases that are weak or inconsistent, but I do this with many other cases during the semester.
Hope you guys have a good winter break!
This course is incorrectly named. There was not a focus on the politics of the Supreme Court. Rather, the professor attempted, and failed, to teach a traditional Constitutional Law class.
Given that this is a Constitutional Law class, the professor did a great disservice to the students. The study of the law is not meant to be tricky or a game. It is the common work & effort & individuals to understand American jurisprudence. The professor appeared to take great pleasure in turning this noble study into a game & did little more than confuse & disinfranchise students.
Additionally, the practice of limiting potential sources for the paper assignment is similarly deplorable. The study of law should be inclusive, not exclusive. A course in Constitutional Law should teach research as well, a pursuit that was stifled by this practice.
Finally, the exams in this class are fundamentally improper. Beyond the basic & obvious observation that no OBJECTIVE exam is suitable for a Law exam a subject rooted in argument & subjectivity, the exams were meant to be tricky & a game. Exams in any course should test knowledge, not confuse students. The actions of the professor in this class & in his preparation of exams is deplorable & borders on the sanctionable or unethical.
I will not reccomend this potentially rewarding course to my colleague's so long as this professor continues to teach it!
Yeah, but what did you really think about the course?
This student clearly did not like my approach to the course. Although I explain my approach to the course at the beginning of the semester, and talk about why I use multiple choice tests, and why resources for the paper are limited to assigned materials, this student just didn't agree with it. Nothing I can do about that. He or she had a set perception of what to expect and was unwilling to waver from it. That's fine, but if this student continues on to law school I suspect he or she will get the proverbial "rude awakening."
If we spent half the time that we spent going over pet peeves or formatting or doing things in "your way" -- which of course isn't like law school, but come close enough for our purposes--going over real matters, I think that would be more helpful.
Furthermore, along those lines, use the Socratic method or don't use it. This hybird crap doesn't help @ all. We get off track, people give way off answers and you indulged them, or you ignored other responses which could be valid alternatives.
Frankly, you took a subject matter I loved, and really enjoyed so much that I studied these cases in my free time and perverted it into something I absolutely dreaded.
I've never disliked a professor more than I dislike you.
This student's first comment refers to the time we spent on formatting and citation for the paper, which was only about half of one class period. It seems that explaining how a paper should be put together (including citations, formatting and such) is an appropriate--and fairly limited--use of class time.
The essence of the Socratic method is to ask a series of questions to get the student to reach a particular result or understanding. Strictly speaking, the instructor would never just give an answer. That approach generally won't work in most undergraduate classes (and I only had one law school professor that came close to fully using it). Thus, I tend to mix questions with student responses and my summaries. Sometimes students are unprepared or off track, that's the nature of the method. We eventually get back on track, but I have to give the student responding enough time to get to the answer. This student complains that I both let us get off track and ignore valid alternatives. Well, sometimes I have to let an off track response develop to be sure that it is either really off track or otherwise not a valid alternative. Sometimes I don't. Even so, I do understand the concern about letting students give incorrect responses, but because being the speaker for the day is a graded assignment, I have to give them sufficient opportunity to demonstrate their understanding (or lack thereof). Although that might confuse some students, I do always summarize and make sure that the correct information is presented.
I loved this course. Hagle explained material well, he challenged us. I feel prepared for (and more confident about) law school.
Whew! After two bad ones in a row I was getting worried. (I don't get the written comments in any particular order and just post them as I get them.)
When you see comments like this one and the previous one back to back it makes you wonder if they were in the same class! Sometimes you just click with people and sometimes not.
I enjoyed this course a lot. Maybe cut down a little bit on the amount of material covered so students can grasp a more solid understanding of concepts presented in class.
We do cover a lot of material. Over the years I've cut out entire chapters from the casebook I use, but there are always new cases and old ones that need to be deleted. It's an ongoing process.
Paper is formatted & explained in an esoteric & ultimately uneducational fashion. We were discouraged from seeking help from the writing center because the paper was of a legal fashion, which is fine, but there was NO explanation of the paper until you called the TA. Then she told you exactly what to write, which is ridiculous because it artifically inflates the grades of some in the class. The paper was an exercise in arbitrary conformity, but such is this class & law school. No?
If you really cared about educating students, I recommend integrating readings from some Critical Legal Scholars. Thank you, I suppose, for proving many of their arguments true.
This student is incorrect about being discouraged from seeking help from the writing center. That said, either I or my TA usually warn students that the folks at the writing center will not likely be familiar with how to use cases to argue a point. Even so, a lot of the problems we regularly see on papers involve basic elements of grammar and structure, which the writing center can certainly help with. The student is also incorrect about there being no explanation of the paper. I have my TA prepare a presentation to discuss the paper assignment which lasts about half the (75-minute) class period.
More generally, this and a few other students this semester (comments above and below) were particularly unhappy with the paper. They generally seem to dislike the specificity with which I tell them how to construct their papers. This reminds me of a comment I got many years ago. That student complained that I should only grade papers on their substance, not on their style. I usually mention this comment in class and explain to students that they will generally have difficulty making their substantive points if the style is not appropriate. You could, for example, be making a very good point, but the reader likely won't see it if it is delivered with poor grammar, typos, and misspellings. Along these lines, my guess is that many students don't get much instruction in how to construct a paper. That includes things such as margins and footnotes, but also paragraph and even sentence structure. They seem to not like to be told to do some things and avoid others. I explain in class that it is good that they learn to be flexible in case they have to adapt to a new style based on their employer's (or someone else's) preferences (which will certainly be true for those going to law school). As much as I've been telling students this for years, I learned it first hand when I spent two years working at the Department of Justice. In addition to having to conform to Government Printing Office style for all my office's printed materials, requests for information from other government offices often required the response to be in a particular format (which usually specified margin size and even word count).
I enjoyed the subject & cases. However, I do not think the test accurately evaluates the information learned. I knew a great deal about all the cases and did not do well on the test. I think short answer or essay would be better.
This is a fairly regular complaint. I explain to the students why I use multiple choice tests, but some still don't like them. The second aspect of the complaint is the notion that the student know a lot but it wasn't reflected on the test score. At one level, I tell students that I expect them to know a lot. That includes knowing the details of the cases and how to work with them. That means knowing more than is often necessary for short answer or essay questions.
I wish that one of the first periods was spent briefing a case. For an example to help students through out the semester. Also, maybe when you are haveing trouble finding speakers toward the end of the class, offer extra credit to those who speak twice.
I explain about briefing cases the first day of class, and one of the recommended books goes into more detail about it. The questions I ask in class generally go through the points made in a brief, but I don't actually go through a case to show how it's done. I'm not sure I have the time in class to spend doing this, but it might be something I could write up and put in the course pack.
As for speakers, in this class a "speaking assignment" is worth 10% of the grade. Three or four students sign up to be the speakers for the day and are supposed to be prepared to discuss the day's cases. Not surprisingly, the more interested and eager students sign up early. By the end of the semester the folks remaining are often the ones less interested in the course, those who don't attend very often, or just don't want to do it. That means I have to make a few comments at the start of those class periods "encouraging" students who haven't signed up to do so. Although plenty of students would be willing to be the speaker a second time, I don't have the slots available to be able to offer the possibility to everyone. If I give some a chance to do it again, others will undoubtedly complain that they didn't get a similar chance.
I think it would be better if this course focused on less material and considered the political implications of court decisions.
We do talk about the politics of the Court's decisions, but I think this student means beyond the courts. A course on, for example, the First Amendment that dealt with a few cases and then covered material relating to how those cases were put into effect, etc., would be fine, but that's not this course. As it is I focus on a relatively narrow range of civil rights and liberties issues and I would hate to narrow it even further. A narrower course would be better as a second semester follow-up.
I thought the TA went above & beyond w/ her help & the papers.
That's good to hear!
The class material was presented way too quickly. I felt discouraged to ask questions about clarification. I feel I would have learned more if we went over material more slowly allowing time to actually take constructive notes.
I certainly encouraged students to ask in class. That said, questions along the lines of "will you repeat that" or "will that be on the test" don't thrill me. (In part, because I tend to repeat the things I want students to get down word for word and I often tell them whether they need to worry about some item for testing purposes.)
The comment on taking notes gets back to the briefing matter mentioned in a comment above. A major point of briefing is that the students are effectively taking notes before class. That means, as I tell them in class, that they don't have to spend class time furiously scribbling away to take down all the info about the cases. Unfortunately, a lot of students don't brief the cases in advance and end up struggling to take notes.
Very worthwhile class. I should have been more prepared for class but it worked out anyway. The paper assignment taught me a lot. [The TA] was great, very helpful.
The TA did a poor job giving instructions and was rude when answering questions. She didn't care about our/my learning of the material.
Again, you sometimes have to wonder if students were in the same class. Sometimes a style or approach clicks with someone and sometimes it doesn't.
The only aspect of the class that was not clear was the paper. It was organized well when presented but it lacked a real explanation of what was expected. Maybe old examples need to be gone over so that we really have an understanding of what is expected. It is our first "Court memo." That is important to keep in mind.
I do keep it in mind. I also provide an example fact statement and paper that students can read to see an example of how to work with cases and a fact statement.
The teaching assistant is on a power trip. If she thinks giving students attitude is a way to succeed, then fabulous!
More than the usual number of students wrote negative comments this semester. My feeling, as I expressed a number of times to my TA during the semester, was that they were far less prepared than in previous semesters. I pointed this out to them as a class several times, but there didn't seem to be much--if any--improvement. (In fact, this was the first class to actually do worse on the second test on a percentage basis.) It seems that rather than working harder, many of them just got mad at me.
I felt you tried not to see how well we understood terms and concepts of the cases, but how often you could "trick" us. This class felt overwhelming to me. I didn't do much of the reading before class because everything was so overwhelming. You seem to take pride in jokes at others' expense. That doesn't make me feel comfortable in your class. I studied about 20 hours over finished study questions and performed poorly on your test. That seems ludicrous to me. This class makes me glad I'm nearly finished with my poli-sci minor. You seem like a generally nice guy, but not the most effective professor.
There are a couple of points to make about this. First, I usually get the "trick" comment at least once a semester. I tell the students that the result in a case often turns on something as specific as where a comma is placed. As such, I expect them to be very familiar with the details of the cases. Even so, I suspect that I get accused of trying to trick them when I ask them, for example, to know whether a particular justice was on the Court for a particular case. At another level, it's easier to think that an instructor is trying to trick them than to take responsibility for not working hard enough in the course.
Second, I tell the students the first day (and several times during the semester) that they need to do the readings before coming to class so they can better follow the discussions. Clearly, not doing the reading before class--regardless of why--is not going to make it any easier.
Third, the "jokes" comment is odd because I'm very careful about this. I do make jokes in class, but never with an intent to belittle anyone in class. My best guess is that when a speaker is struggling with the material I will often make a point about being more prepared, but try to do so in a light-hearted way so the student doesn't feel bad about it. This student apparently didn't like that approach either.
Fourth, I also usually get at least one comment about how much time a student put in and still got a bad score on the first test. Although the correlation between the time spent working on the study questions and the test results should be positive, it's certainly not perfect. Plus, the students are often surprised at the difficulty of the first test in terms of the depth of the material covered. If this student was using old study habits for easier tests, then he or she was not likely approaching the study questions in the proper manner. Given the student's admitted lack of preparedness for class, it's very likely that he or she wasn't doing a very good job with the study questions.
The material covered in the course is overall not overwhelming however the material on the 1st exam is a huge amount of information. It actually covers 81 court cases plus any other relevant material. Studying for the exam was very overwhelming.
I did a quick count and got about the same number of cases. A good chunk of those cases, however, are ones that we either mentioned only briefly or were very easy. One of the things I tell the students is that we have a lot more cases in the first half of the semester, but they are easier. In contrast, we have fewer cases in the second half, but they are more complex.
I will graduate in the Spring and this was the first "college" course that my teachers in high school warned about. I am not a poli sci major and felt somewhat out of my element with the terms at first.
I read the evaluations on line before registering for the class, so I knew what to expect. I have worked very hard and don't think I will get the best grade, or even my goal, but I am very glad that I took this class.
It was very enjoyable and although my work will not be rewarded with an A, the info will be very helpful and I feel that I will leave w/ a working knowledge. Great Class!
It's true of most students that the material--court cases heavy with legal terminology--takes some getting used to (and that's its main value for those going on to law school). Political Science majors may have a bit of an advantage, but probably not all that much. Those with majors in other social sciences will often have a better handle on the political aspects of the material, but I usually get a few business or engineering majors each semester and these folks often have a little more catching up to do. Even so, their majors usually serve them well in terms of working through the logic of the cases.
Excellent course but would be helpful to review very basics the first day--how to approach the cases--how decisions are presented/organized (in the book) and specifically how & what to analyze --> may seem obvious but isn't initially to those w/out any experience.
Excellent instruction & very interesting!!!
Also--chart the progression of Court as tests change--good suggestion to help people learn.
I spent quite a bit of time talking about the course, the opinions, etc., the first couple of class periods. I also assign them a chapter from a book that describes how to "read" court opinions. Even so, it might be a good idea to go over the basics a bit more in class at the start of the semester.
In terms of the study questions, some of them I feel are unnecessarily broad/vague & don't really contribute to understanding the material and preparing for the test.
I like that you press the rationale & decisions of the Court in order to make us think about the larger legal principle. But sometimes I feel like you do it more often when it will emphasize the conservative point of view.
It's true that many of the study questions are very broad. Many of them also don't have specific answers that one can look up in the book. That's often the way it is in the law. One aspect of the study questions is to get the students to think about the material, not just memorize some facts. As such, they are meant to help the students learn the material, not just prepare for the tests.
The students know my political orientation and this sometimes results in a little selective perception on their part. In the second half of the semester we have more complex cases which often have one or more concurring or dissenting opinions. I usually try to bring out the main points of such additional opinions, but it's also true that I may skip by them if they don't raise any significant or interesting questions. I do tend to emphasize many of Scalia's opinions because he often gets right to the heart of some issue the majority is dancing around. That said, I also criticize some of his opinions as well. One of the main things I stress is consistency, so many of the justices come in for some criticism when they seem to be applying standards more to reach a particular result.
Your ability to spit out information concerning the cases is outstanding. However, forming questions to questions does not help to facilitate learning. Nobody cares how smart you are; I did not take this class to find that out. Rather, I wanted to get a greater appreciation of the legal issues regarding our Constitution. This did not occur. I guess the old saying stays true to its form: If you can't teach, profess.
Well, the "questions to questions" approach does facilitate learning; it's called the Socratic method. The Socratic method is used in law schools, so I use a soft form of that approach in class to give the students a feel for what law school will be like, and to help them make the transition to that class format. Many students don't like it at first, but most come around and see the value in the approach. Some never do and prefer a more direct approach. That's fine, and I have a much more direct approach in my other courses, but for this course my goal is to get the students to work beyond merely memorizing facts.
I liked the fact that students are always forced to justify everything that they say in class discussion. It prevents people from continuing to make useless or unhelpful comments.
As I said in response to the previous comment, some folks like the approach and others don't. I sometimes have people complain that I let folks go on too long with unhelpful comments. It's a balance. I have to let folks go on long enough to see whether they will get to where they need to go, but I can't let them go on so long that it eats up too much time or starts to confuse other students.
Great material--but slow down to make sure everyone understands!
Do not segregate certain individuals during their speaking session with impossible questions!
Don't be as intimidating in class and students will speak up more.
There is a lot of material to cover, though a good bit of it in the first half of the semester is fairly straightforward so we move pretty quickly.
The "segregate" comment is poor word choice given that we deal at length with discrimination in the second half of the course--and certainly nothing along those lines occurs in class. It's true, however, that the daily speakers will often get very hard questions (though none should be impossible). In fact, I tell the class at the beginning of the semester that I don't necessarily expect them to know all the answers. I will usually push each student as far as I can to see how much the student has prepared. Those who are well-prepared will get much further than those who aren't.
The "intimidating" comment is interesting. I know some students think this of me, but see below for a dissenting opinion.
I can study the material but still have trouble w/ trick questions it would be helpful to learn how to approach them.
The first thing is to not think of them as trick questions. I ask the same types of questions in class as I do on the test. (Actually, the questions in class are probably much "trickier"--to use the student's term--that what ends up on the test.) The point is usually to make sure that the students are paying close attention to the details of the cases, as well as getting the broader themes.
Tough course, requires a lot of time, but it is fair.
Yup. I tell them this the first day of class.
The test is obscenely hard--seems to disregard what the readings & discussion cover.
The study ?'s aren't helpful--too many to learn in order to get a grasp.
Well, the tests aren't obscenely hard because a lot of folks do very well on them. The second part of this comment doesn't make much sense, given that the questions come directly from the readings and discussion. In fact--and I hope I'm not giving away a secret here--it is extremely rare that I put something on a test that I haven't directly covered in class. (How's that for an incentive to show up!)
I have two replies concerning the study questions. First, there are a lot of them and I often get comments saying there are too many of them. I now tell the students that it's up to them to do them or not. I strongly encourage them to do so, but they are just an aid that they can use or not at their pleasure. Second, they should be using the study questions to get more than a grasp of the material. Again, I want students to learn the material at a deeper level than just memorizing things (also something I mention at the start of the semester).
You seem to give a lot of weight to the dissents of opinions that you personally agree with and are offended when the other side doesn't answer these. The court always tries to adapt Constitution to their believes, its not that big of a secret. Good job, and Go Spartans!
This student doesn't seem to be making any political observation. As such, he or she is correct. In fact, it's my job to point out weaknesses in the opinions of the justices. A majority opinion may be the current law, but that doesn't mean that it can't be criticized, possibly with an eye to changes that might occur in the future. (We actually cover two or three lines of cases where we spend quite a bit of time on the dissents of the early cases because a later majority of the Court basically adopted the prior dissenting position.) I suppose "offended" might be somewhat accurate on two levels. On one level, I do express mock outrage when I'm discussing some comment of a justice that I think is inconsistent with the law or with that justice's prior statements. On another level, I do get upset then I don't think the justices are doing their job.
"Go Spartans!," of course, refers to the fact that I'm an alumnus of Michigan State University.
The tests were not very indicative of course knowledge. I knew the material, but too much time was spend on the test trying to trick the student!
This is basically a variation of prior comments. I tell the students very clearly what I will expect of them. I also pattern the class discussions around the ability to make the connections between the various cases. Knowing the material is a relative thing. The tests do contain some questions aimed at a basic factual knowledge of the material, but many questions also ask the students to work with the material at a deeper level and make the connections that I discuss at length in class.
This student wrote a few written comments next to the questions on the multiple choice portion of the evaluation. As such, I'll include the question, so the comment makes more sense.
Q: How do you feel about the amount of material covered in this course?
A: there needed to be a lot--most of us want to go to law school!
Q: How well did the first test cover the topics to be tested?
A: the warnings didn't quite do the hardness level justice
Q: On the whole, would you recommend this instructor to other students?
A: if you want to work very hard!
On the first question, the first day of class I usually ask how many of them are interested in going to law school. Invariably, nearly all indicate that to be their plan.
On the second question, I warn the students many times about what I expect of them on the tests. I often find, however, that they don't believe me until they see the test. In addition to general warnings and encouragements to work hard, I also provide three practice quizzes. These quizzes provide a few sample questions to give students an idea for the way that I will be asking questions about the material. The quizzes are set up to provide feedback to explain why each option is either correct or incorrect, and students can take each quiz up to three times to try to get them all correct. Of 80 students in this class, only 30 took the first quiz. The number jumped to 57 for the second quiz (the first two quizzes were available before the first test), but dropped down to only 36 for the third quiz. In other words, after the first test, which they knew was really hard, 21 fewer students took the third practice quiz in preparation for the second test.
On the third question, again, this is true--and something I tell them the first day of class.
Prof Hagle, whether on purpose or not tends to belittle students when asking questions or speaking in front of the class. This is quite discouraging. Also the paper covers too much & is to complicated to be given so little time.
The first part of this is a variation of previous comments. I am, however, very careful not to belittle students. I do not, for example, tell a student he or she is stupid, doesn't understand the material, or is unprepared. As I've mentioned above, I did tell the class a a whole that I didn't feel they were preparing sufficiently for class, but I always waited to do it at a point when it would not seem as if I were specifically criticizing that day's speakers. On the other hand, I will tell students that they are incorrect, and, as one student noted above, I will continue to ask them questions about some topic. This will either to be to flesh out their reasoning or understanding of an issue, or to get them to some particular conclusion. This is how the Socratic method works, but, again, some students don't like either because it is different from what they are used to or because it puts them on the spot (i.e., forces them to think on their feet, so to speak).
As for the paper, they have to write a 10-page paper which analyzes a factual situation based on the course material (mainly a few chapters we cover just before the first test). Students have everything they need and have four weeks to do it. In addition to a class presentation on the topic, we organized an extra credit editing exercise in which students could turn in a first draft early and get some comments from someone in the class (as well as see the first draft of someone else).
(In big caps.) I [heart] HAGLE!
Bring back the mustache.
This last summer I shaved my mustache for the first time in at least 20 years. It took me a while to get used to it. I'm tempted regrow it as I'm not keen on shaving, but I thought I should go for a more clean cut look.
Lot of cases on the first midterm to study for.
Prof. Hagle, although he encourages class participation, he makes students feel like fools if they don't have the exact answer he had in mind.
Actually, I don't make students feel like fools (leaving aside the matter of not being able to control the "feelings" of someone else). If I don't get the response I'm looking for to a particular question, I will do a couple of things depending on what the student said. If the response was just wrong I might say so and explain why. If the response was something close, or something that I hadn't thought of, I'll comment on that, but indicate that I'm looking for something else. Neither approach should make a student feel like a fool. Along these lines, my TA mentioned to me that one student came to see her with a complaint that I didn't seem willing to tell students when they were wrong. In other words, I was too soft in my approach to incorrect responses--the opposite criticism of this student's concern.
There may be another aspect driving this comment, as well as those of some other students. I tell students the first day of class that in reading the cases they need to be willing to "look stuff up." That mainly means having their law dictionary handy for all the legal terms they will encounter. It also means, being willing to look up other stuff. The justices often use terms in their opinions that will likely be unfamiliar to the average person. To understand the point the justice is making, one needs to look up the term. For example, in one of the more important cases we covered Justice Douglas speaks of penumbras. Okay, so the logical question is what's a penumbra? A few students might have looked it up in the law dictionary, but didn't find it there and didn't look elsewhere. Brownie points for doing that much, but just because it's not in the law dictionary doesn't mean that it's not important or doesn't exist elsewhere. The first time or two we encounter such words I don't really expect them to have done the work, but I emphasize that they should have looked it up and that they will need to do so for future terms. That usually works, but this semester it didn't. There were several times when I had to admonish them to "look stuff up!" (now with an exclamation point). Based on the comments, they either thought I was mad at them, or thought I was making fools of them for pointing out that they weren't sufficiently prepared, but from my perspective it was more a matter of pleading with them to work harder because I was concerned about their preparation for the second test, not to mention their later ability to succeed in law school.
Professor Hagle is a very good lecturer. I enjoyed the class involvement in the lectures. Also, speaking was very helpful, and so was listening to the speakers each day. I felt rushed on some of the material and felt we dragged slowly through other sections. The course was difficult, but just getting through it is something to be proud of. Oh and by the way, you're not as scary as you think.
I agree that there are parts of the material that we go through fairly quickly and others that we spend a lot of time on. This is partly due to the nature of the material. Some of the cases are very straightforward, so we don't spend much time on them. More complex cases get more time. It's also a function of pacing and whether we are on schedule. If the students seem willing to really discuss some case I may spend more time on it to explore different aspects and lines of thought, but that might mean we have to go a little more quickly through other material. As always, it's a balance between encouraging class discussion and making sure we cover the necessary material.
Maybe a handout on the tests would have helped.
Well, I provide three practice quizzes, a handout on taking my multiple choice tests, and the set of 500+ study questions. Actually, I suspect this student would like something more specific about what will be on the tests. I often get questions in class along the lines of "will this be on the test." My answer is generally that I don't teach for the test. In other words, the test should be a tool to sample the knowledge the students have learned, not be the end in itself.
I think this professor takes less time to work with students constructively in class than he should. Belittling a student is not a constructive form of teaching. Additionally, the amount of material covered should be decreased. If students are expected to know everything about every case, more time should be spent on those cases.
I specifically make it a point to not belittle anyone in class, but I do put students on the spot in terms of answering questions. One of the assignments is for the students to sign up to be the speaker for the day. I don't belittle the speakers, even when they are clearly unprepared. Even so, I try to work with them to see what they know and whether they can still follow arguments based on the rest of the discussion. Given that the students choose their own day to be the speaker, they should be prepared. As the semester progresses they should also be getting an idea of how prepared they should be. Still, I will always try to poke and prod to see how well the speakers know the material. Some may simply not like this. More generally, I do occasionally complain to the class that I don't think they are sufficiently prepared. I suppose some might see this as belittling if they take it personally. This semester there were many times when the daily speakers were unprepared.
As far as the "would recommend" this course question, I answered yes, but only to law school perspective.
I didn't like how you mentioned your political alliance with the Republicans. Not because I disagree [It was hard to make out the word here], but because the material you cover is political. It was hard not to think that you were biased.
I usually let my students know my general political perspective early in the semester. I also tell them specifically that my, or their, particular political orientation doesn't matter. What does is whether they know the material. I occasionally get comments about my being a Republican, but I suspect that many such comments involve selective perception on the part of the students as I tend not to reveal my particular positions on the issues (as opposed to the legal reasoning) in class. It's a bit odd that this student would prefer to be kept in the dark on the matter (and I have to wonder whether he or she knows that most professors are Democrats and whether they should be considered biased as a result).
I did not like how we rushed through the religion material. I missed 10 on the first test and seven of these questions were among the last ten on the test. I think this was partly due to the mad rush to catch up with all of the material.
As is usually the case, we spent three class periods on the religion material. There are a fair number of cases in the religion section, but many of them are relatively straightforward. As this was the last section before the first test, this student might simply not have been as prepared as he or she should have been.
Where were you during Vietnam? Many of us are questioning your service record. Did you leave to Canada and watch "Deep Throat" or other various porns?
Did you burn your draft card? Did you wear clothing that said Fuck the Draft?
This gets the prize for the strangest comment of the semester. It indirectly refers to several cases we covered, which makes me wonder whether it's just a joke. Although I'm inclined to think so, sometimes one does get odd comments.
The test questions were, for the most part, poorly worded and often unrelated to the material covered.
Suggesting that the test questions were unrelated to the material covered is just silly. Aside from the fact that the questions are clearly drawn from the cases we discuss in class, I make sure that nearly everything I ask on the tests comes from things specifically mentioned in class (i.e., I rarely ask things from readings we don't specifically discuss).
The point about the wording of the questions is, in one form or another, a common one. The questions are often worded to see if the students can make fine distinctions--which is the bread and butter of the law. Many students are unaccustomed to being asked to make such distinctions, particularly on multiple choice tests. Despite my warnings and suggestions for ways to prepare they often do poorly and blame me or the test. One note about this is that the students generally do better on the second test having had the experience from the first. Unfortunately, the evaluations are given before the second test, so they don't get to see how they've improved before commenting on the first test.
We moved way too fast the first half of the semester.
This may be partly a function of the students learning how to read and understand the cases by the second half. Many of the cases in the first half are very simple, but those in the second half more complex. Still, by the time we get to the second half the students have learned how to get through cases more quickly. Thus, this comment actually suggests that the student learned a lot about the process of reading cases over the semester.
I think there was too much material for the 1st 1/2 of the course & we went too fast.
Also the paper assignment was confusing w/ the fake amendment & lower Ct. rulings mixed in.
On the second comment, the fact situation for the paper assignment was taken directly, with a few name changes, from an actual case. It was quite similar to several of the cases we covered in the relevant section of the casebook, so the students had examples of how to deal with such a case.
+ The method of teaching, specifically encouraging class discussion and posing questions, keep people alert and interested.
- Consider spending a little time teaching an effective method of case briefing.
The suggestion for additional training on briefing is a good one. Although I discuss how to brief cases, I don't actually work through a case and show them a completed brief that they might have for their notes. On the other hand, many times this semester I would look around the class and notice that no one had briefed the cases or even marked up their casebook indicating that they had read the cases before class!
Might be more helpful if paper was due sooner. Might make the last half class easier to follow.
The timing of the paper assignment is sometimes the subject of comments. Most would like it later in the course, but a few, like this student, would like it sooner. I currently give the paper assignment on the class after the first test with a due date in three or four weeks. The paper is based on the material from the first half of the semester. I can't really give the paper assignment any earlier because the students won't have had enough material and seen enough cases to know what to do with the paper assignment (which is the analysis of a fact situation based on the decisions of the Supreme Court that we've covered). Giving the paper assignment later in the semester begins to conflict with their preparations for the second test (and given how many students seem to blow off class the week the papers were due, having a later paper could spell disaster). On a more practical level, in a large class there wouldn't be time to get the papers graded and back to the students before the end of the semester if they were due much later.
Focus less on small details, more on understanding and comprehension of material.
I repeatedly make the point in class, and illustrate it with examples from the cases, that the details matter. Law suits and the resulting court cases are often over the details. Given the prelaw focus of nearly all the students in this course, I want to give them some experience in concentrating on the details so they will know what they are getting into once they hit law school--or so they know that they aren't interested in that kind of detail work.
Tough class, but worth it.
That's pretty much what I'm going for in a nutshell.
Interesting material but it went pretty fast and the test questions were very specific and tricky.
I tell the students the first day of class that I expect them to know the details of the cases very well. The need to know broad themes, but much of the law turns on the details, so that is very important as well. That my questions are "tricky" is a common complaint, but it really relates more to the specifics of a question. If I ask about the Fourth Amendment and they think it says Fifth, it's hardly a trick on my part.
Very good teacher, makes a tough subject easier to understand. Does a very good job of keeping me interested.
6. Some what of a smart ass.
The 6 refers to question six on the multiple choice part of the evaluation where I ask how well I responded to student questions. The student's assessment is likely accurate as I will tend to kid around a bit if a question or response is goofy. This is done with good humor, but not everyone gets it.
I really enjoyed it but I got an ulser from the work. I'm glad that all my classes weren't this hard, but I have to be honest I really did enjoy the material.
I hope this student didn't really get an ulcer! I tell students the first day of class that the course will be hard. The material is important and complex, and given that most in the class are thinking about law school I want to do the best I can to prepare them. I'm convinced that just about any student can do well in the course if he or she puts in the necessary work. The amount necessary will vary based on the student. Some just put in a standard amount of effort and complain if they don't get the grade they want. Others, like this one, put in the extra effort.
Please consider using more visuals in the future--power point presentations in different cases wold eliminate black board work.
Please consider removing the word abortionist from the visual in the course web pages--it has a negative connotation--just change to physician--I'm sure it would be very easy to do.
To much material for a one semester class--the book was difficult to read--all of the cases were edited & very choppy--they took the facts of a case, edited them out, making it difficult to place the case in context. Maybe fewer cases, but more in-depth discussion about the principles discussed in the case.
Students occasionally complain about the lack of "visuals" in this course. I have PowerPoint presentations for the first day and for the paper assignment, but beyond that it's mostly talk. I use some overheads and tend to use the blackboard more in the second half of the course, but I think many students want to be entertained, or to have it spelled out exactly what they are supposed to write in their notes. Aside from my general preference for "chalk and talk," I've learned that overheads and such take up a fair amount of class time while waiting for the computer and equipment to boot or warm up--and that assumes that it's working! Also, I'm not sure why this student doesn't think that using the blackboard is a visual (unless it's my handwriting!).
The student is correct that "abortionist" seems to have a negative connotation, though it surprises me. I've always taken it to mean one who performs abortions, not unlike an internist or oncologist, etc. Still, as a political matter the word does tend to be used more by the pro-life side of the issue, as I explain in the material that accompanies the images. Aside from presenting the material in its original form, I would also have concerns about editing out every word or phrase that someone finds offensive. Should I, for example, also go through the cases and make a similar change every time one of the justices uses "abortionist."?
The complaint about the editing of the cases is an odd one. I mentioned in class that I wasn't always pleased with the job that the editors did, but more because I thought they cut out important arguments rather than that the result was choppy or hard to understand. What this student probably doesn't realize is that reading cases in their original form can be a real chore. The style and format of cases is such that the justices include many citations, footnotes, and references to material that are often not directly related to the underlying issue. The reader then has to mentally skip over this information to follow the thrust of the sentence or argument. The editors cut most such material out of the cases that appear in the book, which should make the essential points of the case easier to follow. That doesn't necessarily mean they are easy to grasp, just easier than if reading the unedited case.
This is by far the most challenging course I've ever taken. Interesting as the material was, I think it may have been a little much--especially in the first half of the courses. More evenly divided would have been better. But I love a challenge, and you definitely came through on that.
There is a difference between the material in the first and second halves of the semester. That in the first half is more straight forward, so we tend to have more cases to cover. The material in the second half covers cases and issues where the justices are more split in their decisions, so there are fewer cases, but each is more complex. Covering more easy cases in the first half gets them ready to handle the harder cases in the second half, so I like to stay with the current division.
I respect your right to devise your tests in the manner you do. You warned us about them, so I'm not arguing that it was a surprise. I feel that the tests fail to test comprehensively. I have a ton of other things to say, but being the only one left gives the appearance of impropraty [couldn't make out the student's word here].
I would not recommend this course.
Perhaps a con law class may be offered to those w/ no intention to go to law school, for those interested in the governmental aspect of the subject.
Actually, multiple choice tests do a better job of testing comprehensively than essay tests. An essay test can only ask a few questions while still leaving time for students to write the answers. In a multiple choice test I can ask questions that bring together items from several cases in, well, a more comprehensive fashion. That's partly what makes them so hard. The students need to know the specifics of the cases and can't BS their way through as they would in an essay question. (I did this on many essay tests as an undergrad, so I know whereof I speak!)
I wasn't in the classroom when evaluations were completed, and I wouldn't know who turned in which comments (and it wouldn't make any difference if I did), so there's not much to say about the "ton of other things."
I tell the students the first day of class that as much as the class will be valuable to those thinking about law school, it may be even more important to those not interested in law school as it may be the only time they see and discuss these cases in an organized fashion. Some con law courses, particularly those that are divided over two semesters, do contain material on federalism and such. Aside from that fact that I would teach that in a different course (such as Judicial Process), that material tends to be even less interesting to those not going to law school (and those going to law school will see the material there).
Professor Hagle is a very effective instructor. His charm, enthusiasm, & high expectation level encourages (if not intimidates) his students to learn the Supreme Court cases. His Socratic teaching method fairly opens the door for class debate and his knowledge of Con Law adequately keeps his students on their toes while speaking. His tests are very difficult & intense. However, regardless of my final grade (which most definitely won't be an A) I will definitely walk away from this class with a much better understanding of the U.S. Supreme Court & our Constitution. Overall, Professor Hagle is a debonair teacher who works very hard at his job -- he should get a pay raise!
Not much I can say here except Thanks!
I understand that selecting speakers aids in determining a class participation grade but I felt that the process was too exclusive and not demanding of the entire class. Plus, I would have like to cover other areas of Constitutional Law outside of cases, i.e., the judicial system, the relation between congress and the Supreme court, etc. I felt that the course was too "narrowly tailored" on the cases.
Each day I have three or four "speakers" who sign up in advance to be the primary discussants for that day's cases. Although I focus on those speakers, I try to fit in as many questions and comments from others as possible, and it is rare that I am not able to get to everyone who wants to contribute. It's true that the course focuses exclusively on the cases, but that's where Constitutional Law is made. The Court's relationship with Congress is often shown through the way the Court interprets statutes passed by Congress. Only so much can be covered in a particular course and material on the judicial process is left for other courses.
The one thing that bothered me, ok two things, was one) when a question was asked the teacher would throw it right back at the person who asked it. It seems to me the whole point of asking is because you don't understand, would be helpful if he just answered himself. Second, at the end of the classes the teacher seemed to rush through the material. This was not helpful. Though to counter, questions could have been posted to the web, list serve and they weren't, though by the time I left class I had forgotten the question I'd had. Maybe not so much just reading through the case in the last five minutes of class -- I can do this myself, its the discussion of the case that I come to class for. However, I did enjoy the material covered, so THANKS! :)
On the first thing, the point of the Socratic method, which I use in class, is to get folks to think through a question. By throwing the question back at the person it gives me an opportunity to see what the person is thinking. Contrary to what the person above suggests, those asking questions often know the correct answer and just want confirmation. On the second thing, it's true that some cases get less time near the end of the period, but it depends on the case. Some cases are very easy and I don't mind going through them quickly, pointing out a few key items, and letting the students read them on their own (with help from the study questions in the coursepack).
I would have enjoyed the course more if we could have spent more time on the concepts involved in each case & less time with the plain facts of what happened. Also, due to the large number of cases I feel like we raced through cases sometimes that we should have devoted more time to. Also, the paper assignment was horrid to write b/c the expectations were so vague. I'd never written a paper like it & had no model to help me structure the paper. And [the TA] succeeded in confusing me even more w/ cryptic answers that dodged my questions. But overall I enjoy the material, there was just too much of it.
The result in many cases turned on the specific facts of that case, so one couldn't discuss the concepts without knowing the facts. In some cases the facts are more complex, so we spend more time on them. It would have been nice for the person to have given an example or two of a case that we didn't spend enough time on. As for the paper, the TA gave an elaborate explanation of how the paper was to be structured and his PowerPoint presentation was posted on the course webpage. Plus, as noted in class, students should model their papers on how the justices deal with the cases in their opinions.
Class was definitely interesting; in part because of material and in part because Prof. Hagle is good in presenting it.
With that in mind though, a couple suggestions. We covered a massive amount of material; while I understand that Hagle wants to get through a certain amount, it is by far more important to make sure the material is understood then it is to get through a pre-set amount.
Also, Prof Hagle: we are all not as quick to pick up this stuff as you like. Please try to keep your disdain and impatience from showing to those of us who ask you questions outside of class.
Regardless, I liked the class. Very challenging, but helpful and informative even though I'm not pre-law or poli-sci.
I wish I knew what prompted the "disdain" comment. I often have several folks ask me questions after class. My reaction to the question does vary depending on the question. The student is correct that not everyone picks up the material at the same speed, but I still expect that folks will have a handle on the basics. If the student above asked a question about something that we had spent 15 minutes discussing in class, I might very well have given the student a bit of a hard time in jest.
My one complaint is on the paper. I wish we could of had a better example, maybe on a paper from last years section. Throw us a bone here people. I never wrote anything like it & was very uncomfortable doing so. The test was harsh, but fair, the questions weren't evil but the wording may have been. In all Prof. Hagle & [the TA] are cool guys that I'd have a beer with if they weren't Republican. :) Cheers
Well, I don't think that my TA is a Republican, so this student owes him a beer!
As with most comments on list serve I think the test are very tricky -- to the point of absurdity! The class is hard enough w/o adding trickery to the mix. Such as changing one word there is too much material for this. Other TAs have said Hagel teaches this course in a way to disuade people from going to law school. Thats not right!
I tell the students the first day of class that my test questions are difficult. I provide an extensive list of study questions and three practice quizzes to get students used to dealing with the format of the questions. Even so, some students still want to be able to get away with just knowing concepts rather than details. Knowing broad concepts is important, but so is knowing the details, particularly as the results in many cases turn on such details. I'm not sure what other TAs the student is referring to, particularly given that I've only had a couple of different TAs in the last few years. Even so, most in the course are at least thinking about law school so I try to give the students a taste of what law school is like. I don't intentionally try to dissuade anyone from going, but if they realize that the law isn't for them, at least right now, then it would seem to be a good thing to find it out now rather than after a year of law school.
I think that the challenge of this course is really helping me to prepare me for law school.
I feel more familiar and comfortable with legal terms and aspects of legal writing.
Professor Hagle is a very effective and thorough instructor.
I think that the paper is a valuable part of this course.
The nature of written comments is such that more unhappy students tend to write them. This was a nice change of pace after the few before it.
This was without a doubt one of the most educational and interesting courses I've taken in college. I just had one problem. I prepared well for all the classes, got an A+ on the test, but will receive a bad grade on my speaking b/c I think I was treated unfairly. I was confused about one small point, and I wasn't asked anything the rest of the class. I realize it's impossible to be totally fair, but I feel like I was denied a minimal chance. But that's probably just bad luck -- I should've spoken up more in class, I guess. Oh, God -- I guess it's back to the drawing board for me!
I can't tell if this student is kidding or obsessing. Either way, the speaking portion is only 10% and the person couldn't have lost more than one point. I want everyone to have the experience of having to be prepared to answer questions in class, but some students just don't perform well under such circumstances. As a result, I make it a low percentage and keep the standard fairly easy.
I know other students have commented on this, but I really thought the test did not really test how well one understood the material, but rather how well one could "outsmart" Professor Hagle. However, I think one does learn a whole lot prior to the test, although most grades probably do not reflect it. Contrary to popular belief (i.e. rumors around the Poly Sci dept.) Prof. Hagle is a cool guy, and very intelligent. People should audit this course though, b/c you learn a lot of cool stuff but it doesn't ruin your GPA.
I recommend that students read past evaluations for the course, and this student seems to have done so. As I tell the students in class, you have to know the details. As much as I try to get them thinking along these lines, some still think it's tricky to ask them to know whether, for example, a right is mentioned in the Fourth or Fifth Amendment. I know that some think the course will hurt their GPA--and I've even heard that some advisors tell their students to avoid the course. This really isn't true, plenty of students do very well in the course. What I have seen happen, however, is that students realize early on that the course is more difficult than they expected (despite my warnings). The students who respond by working harder tend to do well. Those that don't . . .
I don't think that auditing the course is the way to go. In fact, I would discourage it. What allows students to learn so much is the fact that they are working for a goal. Students who audit don't have the incentive to do the work, and won't pick up as much as a result.
Thought we could have learned judicial terminology up front, standard of review, etc.
Wish we had better grasp on cases instructor had hard time with RAV v. St Paul & a few others.
I would of loved a small gp "discussion" w/ professor.
Tests seemed a bit tricky for undergrad class but was do-able.
Wished we talked about poli-sci topics more -- given the election & all how this all relates to our lives now.
The desire for judicial terminology up front is understandable. I assign a law dictionary for the course and I tell students how much time I had to spend using mine when I first started reading cases. We start with some relatively easy material that should give students a chance to get in the habit of looking up the legal terms.
RAV is a tough case, but I'm not sure why the student thought I didn't have a good grasp of it. I suppose I could have had a bad day and not have explained it as well as possible.
Students often mention the desire for small group discussions. There would certainly benefits to having a smaller class. On the other hand, a small class would mean that everyone would need to be prepared every day. This isn't a problem for some students, but I know that others wouldn't be able to handle it (and would likely complain about it later).
No doubt that the election was very interesting, but it just didn't relate directly to the material for this course. On the other hand, we often discussed how the Court's decisions related to current issues.
Perhaps divide class into those who are taking the class as an elective or for general information on Con Law and those who are Poli Sci majors or law-school bound, and lessen or increase cases as necessary.
On the first day of the semester I usually ask how many are planning on or thinking about law school. Invariably, about 95% of the students indicate an interest in law school. Even so, I tell those not planning on law school that the course is probably even more important for them given that it may be the only time they see this material presented in an organized fashion. I understand the desire for an easier course for those not interested in law school, but the law is just as hard either way.
Discussion of study question would be helpful.
Too much reading -- for those of os real interested in the topic who have five classes this one goes way too fast & I felt that I didn't have a chance to learn everything sufficiently.
I give the students an extensive list of study questions. In addition to using them as a guide for preparing for the tests, I strongly urge them to consider the questions before class so they have an idea of what to look for in the cases being discussed. Unfortunately, I don't think I've ever had anyone ask about a particular study question during a class discussion. I also set up a listserv for the course. I encourage students to start discussions about the study questions (and other course topics) on the listserve. Unfortunately (again), few students seem willing to participate. The few that did tended to wait until just before the tests.
There really isn't that much reading for the course, at least in terms of the number of pages. What's different for the students is how long it takes to get through each page. Court opinions are not written as clearly as plain text and they contain plenty of legal terms. I tell the students that they will have to spend a lot more time on the course than they might for other courses and that they shouldn't take this course when they have a heavy courseload.
Hardest most beneficial class I have taken. The paper assignment was very similar to my friends second year law school classes. Challenging & very fun. Almost too advanced for sophs -- but juniors & Seniors who plan on law school is very very good.
I agree that the class is tough, and I generally don't recommend the course for sophomores.
Damn boring. Has tendency to suck out my will to live.
It was cool to have a tough, challenging course, but the tests were extremely difficult. It is frustrating that the class you put the most work into will be your worst grade.
Many students are often discouraged after seeing the results of the first test. Most do better on the second test and do fairly well in the course as a whole.
Your comment stating that a male victim of rape would not object and most likely enjoy it was flagrantly offensive and utterly out of line.
But, I did enjoy your class and instruction . . .and [the TA] is a hell of a guy.
The comment the student mentions comes up when we cover the Court's cases on how statutory rape is treated differently between men and women. I think the student is referring to a comment a judge made about how an underage male having sex with an older woman would be considered "an education." No doubt the judge was only referring to consensual situations with the male about 17 years old, and I mentioned it to show the difference in thinking on the topic when we were covering the Court's gender cases. It's okay to find the judge's comment offensive, but bringing it up in the context of the cases we were covering was not out of line.
I do not think the instructor's approach to critizism was constructive at all. I believe there would have been more class discussion if he didn't answer in such a demeaning way. The teacher's tone often made me less than pleased with the class.
I also did not like how the class is so focused toward law students.
[The TA] is a hell of a guy. I enjoyed talking to him.
On the syllabus, and during the first day of class, I tell students to let me know during the semester if they are having problems with the course rather than waiting until the end. This is a good example of why. The student makes a general criticism, provides no details, so I can't respond effectively and really have no idea of what irritated this student. Of course, some comments like this one are the result of my using a form of the Socratic (question and answer) method. The fact that I don't always just provide an easy answer seems to generate a certain number of comments about my questioning, tone, etc.
I cannot believe how much you go out of your way to make students hate you and this class. This isn't coming from someone who is failing or who does not come to class, but from a 3.9+ student who leaves here every class period feeling like this class and professor sucks. This class could be fun, but it isn't. This is the only class I have ever had in which I feel smarter than the professor.
I have to wonder why this student bothers to come to class given that he or she thinks I'm so bad and stupid. This is exactly the kind of evaluation that makes it easy for instructors to discount them as useless. This student gives absolutely no details as to what I'm doing wrong. It's possible that this student is smarter than me, but he or she certainly isn't showing it here.
For the paper, I personally would have preferred racial equality as the topic. I loved the course!
Racial equality would have made an interesting topic, but we don't cover it until the second half of the semester. Because of timing concerns, the paper topic has to cover material from the first half of the course, which means it usually involves free speech or establishment of religion.
The sexiest professor I have ever had. Cute TA, too!
Letting people drop the first exam is unfair to those who did well.
Actually, it isn't. Although I give plenty of warnings about the difficulty of my tests, some folks just don't believe me and don't prepare adequately for the first test. As a result, I sometimes allow students to drop the first test score and put the weight on the second test--basically giving them a second chance. I don't grade on a curve, so how one person does on the tests doesn't affect anyone else's grade.
I actually expected the course to be more challenging. Prof. Hagle is an excellent teacher, concise in delivering material and gives examples of applications.
I give plenty of warnings about my tests, and I know the student grapevine has warnings about how hard the course is. Still, lots of students to very well in the course if they do the work. This student was apparently willing to do the work and found the course less difficult. Hmmm. Hard work = Success. Sounds good to me.
A blackboard can be consider an es en ti al tool, used in the learning process. I think student may have a more enriched benifit from this class if the blackboard (teaching using the board) was used more frequently. Thankx
It's true that I don't use the blackboard or other equipment that much. The class is mainly discussion, which doesn't require use of the board. I suspect this student wants me to outline the material on the board so he or she doesn't have to do as much work taking notes. That's all well and good, but I tell students that they should outline the cases before class so that they can spend more time listening to the discussion rather than taking notes. (Students, not stenographers.) Even so, this comment is a little odd in that I actually do use the board more in the second half of the semester.
I feel this course had so much more potential than what it actually turned out to be. I think Prof. Hagle needs to slow down & cover not just the cases in the book, but the jurisprudential concepts involved. I think the book positively sucks! In fact, I don't think, I know, there are better textbooks that could be used. Moreover, I'm not a big fan of the Socratic Method, or "Socratic Lite" as Hagle likes to call it. I don't learn anything substantive, only what other people think they know. Lastly, I would not recommend this course unless it has to be taken as a requirement.
This student will be in for a rude awakening (as my Dad used to say) if he or she plans on law school. Regardless, I have to wonder what the student considers the "jurisprudential concepts" given that was pretty much all we covered. I suspect that this student really wanted a different course (something along the lines of Judicial Process). The "textbook" is a casebook, which was probably the problem, but the student doesn't say why the book sucked. Both the use of the casebook and the Socratic approach are designed to get students to think about the cases. Students are often used to having material spoon fed to them, so learning how to think about the material in ongoing discussions is often strange (and sometimes painful!). Even so, I don't strictly adhere to the question and answer format and regularly lecture and sum up cases, so this student is protesting a bit too much.
I do think this Professor was very knowledgeable in this area, but I disagree with his teaching strategy.
I think that he tends to make students feel inferior with his constant sarcasm. His attitude tends to make students, such as myself, shy away from answering or asking questions.
I would have learned more in a different environment.
Also, there are better ways toward questions on the test--I don't think you need to make a test IMPOSSIBLE to see what they have learned. Also, I think that it's ridiculous to try and trick students on tests.
I will never take another class taught by this professor, no matter how beneficial it may be!
Ouch. Seriously, this student raises several points worth commenting on, but I need to preface my remarks by saying that I think I know which student this was. If I'm correct, some background might help to put her comments in context. (A major part of my reason for elaborating is that if she should read these comments I would like her to get a bit more out of the course than she currently believes she has.)
Each day I have speakers who are responsible for discussing the day's readings with me. A former student described my method as "soft Socratic." Given that most in the course are planning on law school, the approach gives them a taste of the law school experience. Unlike most law classes, I allow the students to sign up for the day they wish to speak and I only make it worth 10% of their grade. How much material we cover, for which they are responsible, varies depending on how long or complex the cases are, or how much discussion there is, and so on. I try to give students some indication of how far we'll get, but I also tell them that they are responsible for preparing enough material that I don't get ahead of them.
In my own law school experience I only had one professor that was willing to really grill students, particularly ones that were unprepared. I certainly don't want to embarrass students and if students are unprepared (which they shouldn't be given that they know in advance the day they are to be a speaker) I'll tend to ask different types of questions. Even if a student is unprepared, after I get the facts of the case from other students, the unprepared student should still be able to respond to a variety of questions about the case. Of course, if the student hasn't been keeping up on the reading this may prove fruitless. Sometimes it's a fine line between trying to give the student a chance to answer a question and having them feel embarrassed.
The day this student signed up to speak started well. She and the other two speakers adequately answered several questions on the first case, but when I moved to the second case this student indicated that she had only prepared to discuss one case. Rather than just inform me of this so I could adjust my questioning, she immediately began to argue that no one else had had to discuss more than one case. Although I told her that I would have to check my notes to see if any prior speakers had discussed more than one case (some had, but it was still the beginning of the semester when we go a bit more slowly), I also reminded her that I always told speakers to be prepared. She continued to want to debate this with me during class, but I made a remark that made it clear I was not interested in doing so and I continued with the material for the day. I tried to work her and the other two speakers into the discussion. One of the other two had prepared more cases and the other was still able to answer some questions, but this student did not. After class she came up to me to discuss the matter further. Unfortunately, she seemed to want to continue to argue that she was only supposed to prepare one case. I asked her why she wasn't able to answer more general questions. She said that after I had cut off the debate she felt demeaned. I thought that might have been possible from her perspective given that my remark was probably more curt than I intended, so I apologized and told her that was not my intent. I also sent a message to the course listserv along the same lines.
The next time this student asked a question in class was some time later, I think just prior to the first test. I began the class with the administrative matters and indicated that I would talk more about them at the end of class. I then began the discussion when she raised her hand. I called on her and she essentially asked a question on a matter that I had just said I would discuss at the end of class. I suppose my expression gave away the frustration I felt (which is why I don't play poker), but I thought I managed to tell her in a pleasant way that I would discuss that at the end of class. Her expression indicated that she wasn't pleased with the answer.
In the last week or so of the class were discussing gender discrimination. I was playing devil's advocate about the justifications a state may have had for a statute it enacted and this student raised her hand. I called on her hoping that I wasn't going to go 0-for-3, but I did. The student took great exception to the statute the state had enacted. I then proceeded to try to get her to explain why. Her basic response was, "because it's wrong." OK, but why? Same response. I tried several more times to get her to elaborate or to take an objective look at the state's reasoning, but to no avail. As always, my point in pushing students is to get them to critically examine the arguments for both sides. A better understanding of both sides gives them a better understanding of the issues and makes them better advocates for their preferred position. I got the feeling, however, that after a couple of questions this student thought I was attacking her conclusion. I was a bit surprised that I wasn't able to get her to say more than that the statute was wrong. I was also concerned about how my questioning might have been perceived, so I asked my TA about it. My TA told me that she didn't think that I had pushed too hard. Even so, I sent a message to the course listserv reminding students that my goal is to get them to understand the arguments of both sides, etc.
On top of all this, the student indicates that she thought the first test to have been IMPOSSIBLE (her caps), which I take to mean she didn't do as well as she would have liked. I know my course is tough. My approach is intended to give students a feel for what they might encounter in law school, but it's still not for everyone. From my experience I realize I can't reach, or please, everyone, but it's still disconcerting to have someone so dislike the course. This is particularly true when a better initial interaction might have allowed her to get more from the course.
As to some of her specific comments, I don't use sarcasm to make students feel inferior. I do ask lots of questions, including lots of challenging and leading questions. The point is to get the students to be able to recognize a leading question and not fall into traps when answering. When I purposefully use sarcasm, it's usually in a humorous way, but I suppose if you already don't like my approach you won't find it amusing.
The tests are difficult. I tell the students this the first day of class. Despite the study questions and practice quizzes, some don't believe me until they've taken the first test. Although I account for the difficulty by having extra credit questions, an extra credit editing assignment, and I allow them to drop their first test score, my goal is to get them to work harder to learn the material. Most do the work and end up doing well on the second test and for the course, but some don't.
Finally, I'm not entirely sure what to make of this student's last comment. She seems to recognize that she might benefit from taking additional courses with me, but refuses to do so. Given her other comments, I could understand if she just thought my course was useless, but it almost seems as if she is, if you'll pardon the cliche, cutting off her nose to spite her face. I suppose I can only hope she has better luck with her other instructors.
The most difficult part of this course was the 1st test. I studied greatly and felt it did not help.
Although my test questions are very similar to the questions I ask in class, and despite the extensive set of study questions, students are often unsure of what they should be getting out of the cases. This is more often a problem during the first few weeks of the course, but sometimes students don't realize the problem until they take the first test. This is one reason I was eager to provide practice quizzes this semester. The quizzes give the students a chance to see the kind of questions I'll ask on a test and also give them an idea of the way they should be studying the material. Most students have this sorted out by the second test (which is why I allow them to drop the first test score).
The practice question the web ct were really nice. It at least prepared me for the format of the questions on the midterm.
The student is referring to the practice quizzes on WebCT. Although this student took the quizzes and benefitted from them, far too many others did not even try them.
I wish Prof. Hagle wouldn't announce that he (in his own words [student's emphasis]) went to a "bad" law school--it lessens his credibility.
Hmmm. First, I can't imagine that I said I went to a "bad" law school. (As I passed the Michigan bar exam on the first attempt, it couldn't have been too bad.) I'm sure I did say that my alma mater was a third-tier school, which is true according to the rankings, but that doesn't necessarily mean it was "bad." Second, I'm not sure what that has to do with my credibility. Then again, on the evaluations for the first time I taught a class in grad school one of the students said I wasn't credible because I wore jeans to class. Whatever.
Great material, but extremely hard.
Not Recommended to be taken with 4 other courses--semester over load
Right. I tell students right at the beginning of the semester that despite the relatively small amount of reading that it's much more complex that what they are likely used to and that they shouldn't try to carry a heavy load when they take this course.
At times, with a few minutes left in class, the rundowns of material was quick and hard to follow. My understanding was more significant in the first 60-65 minutes.
Instructor should write or assign a book on general terms involved. Such as the scrutiny etc. Test would be good . For example, I missed the and/or distinction in the malice/defamation/libel cases. Distinction that time [?] are helpful, but I missed em in the 1st place.
It's true that at the end of class I may just give an overview of the remainder of the material I need to cover for the day. Basically I stop discussing and start lecturing. I generally only do this when the material is relatively straight forward, but if students aren't as prepared as they should be, which means having read and briefed the cases before class, they may find the summary a bit too quick.
As for the terms, one of the required books for the course is a law dictionary. In addition, I go over most of the terms in class. In fact, the and/or distinction for one case was one that I mentioned at least a half dozen times in class prior to the test.
This is a challenging course, especially if you are not ready for it [couldn't make it out]. I thought you did a great job of teaching the material and showing us to get involved w/discussion. You have been the 1st prof I have had to take no bullshit answers and I kind of liked being challenged by that.
Although I might have phrased it differently, this student seems to have understood my approach. It's easy to let students go on with a response that doesn't really answer the question, and sometimes I do just to see where they end up, but I will often interrupt to get them to focus on the question I asked. Again, as students who are interested in law school, this is something they need to experience. Some students may want to have their answers "validated" and when I don't they may not be happy about it. I understand this, but in the long run my goal is to teach them critical thinking.
I think that the list serve is an excellent tool. You should ask more questions about the cases on the list serve, I found it fun to look up the answers. The same could apply to asking for student opinion about things on the list-serve. If you were able to find a way for students to express their opinions on the list-serve, it would probably facilitate more participation. I enjoyed the class & think that you are the best Proffessor I've had.
I'm glad this student liked using the listserv. At the beginning of the semester we had several students regularly participating. Many of the messages dealt with impeachment questions. Because the Clinton situation didn't directly relate to the course, I encouraged them to use the listserv as a forum for discussing it. Unfortunately, after a couple of weeks one of the students sent a flame that included some name calling, which pretty much shut down further discussion. I often sent questions to the listserv, but sometimes didn't get any responses. I know that some will read the messages, but just don't want to participate. I've had more participation in previous semesters, but sometimes I need to work harder at it.
I think the sometimes cras attitude of the instructor offends some students, even me at times but in the long run I think dealing with this type of instruction will be useful. It helps you develop more clear responses and quick wit.
Hmmm. I don't think "crass" is what the student here really means. I suspect that the student means my approach of challenging the students and their answers to questions. If so, I agree. Some students don't like it, but they will likely run into a lot of it in law school and later as lawyers of one sort or another.
I enjoyed the course, don't get me wrong. The big problem I had was the test. I failed it and I am quite confident that was not the grade I deserved. I went to class (I missed twice). I did all the readings. I participated and I put in a great deal of time and effort. What do I have to show for all of my work? A big fat F.
I just felt that some of the options that were considered wrong. I thought a good argument could be constructed to support it. Essentially I felt there was more than one right answer.
I have two basic comments here. First, the grade is based on the result, not the amount of work that went into it. I certainly look to see how hard a student is working if he or she is on a break point when I assign grades, but the bottom line is performance. My first experience with this came in my high school government class when one of my buddies complained to me that he had to work so much harder to get the same grade I got. I probably worked a bit harder than he thought I did, but still less than him. It just came easier to me. In college I had a course where I was on the other end of the stick: Differential Equations. I worked harder in that course than any other as an undergrad. In preparation for one test I went to a study room in my dorm for eight hours on each of the three nights before the test and did problems from the book. It didn't do me much good and I still ended up with a C+ in the course. It happens.
Still, this student's basic complaint really seems to concern the ability to distinguish between close answers. Not all the questions on the tests require the students to make fine distinctions, but many do. The law does this. The cases do this. We do this in class. That the test questions do this should come as no surprise. I tell the students before the test that there might be more than one option that seems correct, but they need to be able to pick out the one that is best. I also rarely ask something on the test that I've not covered specifically in class. This includes the "and/or" distinction mentioned by a student above or what a student below calls "tricks."
I do not think that your test will adequately show what I have learned in this course, and that is a shame. It's as if you need to prove that you can sick someone's GPA down if they have been doing fine so far. Other than that, I loved the class, and learned more than I expected. It's too bad I'll get such a nasty grade after working so hard. At least you let us drop the first exam, so I won't be too hard on you for those things you call tests. (I didn't realize it was a test to see if we were prepared for a seat on the Supreme Court).
Aside from the difficulty of the test, a relatively common complaint is that the test did not adequately show what they had learned. From the student's perspective this assumes a particular level of learning or work that ought to guarantee a particular grade. I mentioned in the previous comment that it doesn't always work that way. Moreover, I tell students right from the start that I want more from them. I expect them to know the details and want them to go beyond merely memorizing things to being able to use and apply them. I put the bar relatively high to get students to work a little harder and achieve a bit more.
I felt the test questions were arbitrary & did not test an expansive knowledge of the material. I feel the questions were designed to "trick" us & and had little to do w/ knowledge of const. law. And I do not feel we were adequately prepared for the test.
There's a saying that "God is in the details." I would say the same for the law. The result in a case can turn on whether a conjunction is "and" or "or." It can turn on the meaning of a single word. (Consider Clinton's defense about the meaning of "is" and "alone.") I constantly emphasize this in class, so, again, it should come as no surprise when it's on the tests. It's all well and good to ask broad questions (e.g., What was Roe v. Wade about?), and sometimes I do so, but I think it's more important, and more beneficial to the students, if they know and understand the arguments and reasoning of the various justices. This has everything to do with constitutional law.
As for being prepared, I think this student needs to take a bit more responsibility for his or her preparation. As I've said in my responses above, I provide an extensive list of study questions and two practice quizzes, I make sure that almost everything on the test was specifically mentioned in class, I answer questions and try to generate discussion on the listserv, and I emphasize that they need to really dig into the material. I'm always looking to improve things (such as the practice quizzes this semester), but at some point it's a matter of how much effort a student is willing to put into learning the material. I don't know if it applies to this student, but sometimes it's easier to believe the instructor asks "tricky" questions that to realize you didn't work hard enough in the course.
I just wanted you to know that I really enjoyed your class and I learned a lot. It has shown me that I do indeed want to go to law school. So, I thank you very much for that.
This student sent me this comment in an email after the course. Although one might expect email messages about the course to be more positive than the anonymous evaluations, they are still much appreciated.
I took this class b/c I was considering going to law school. Now I definitely know I'm not going! I do find the law fascinating, but I can't handle it.
I suspect there are very few students that truly "can't handle it," but there are probably many that don't realize what studying the law, and later being an attorney, involves. I certainly don't want to turn students away from considering law school, but it's better that those who won't like law school (at least right now) realize it before they waste at least a year and several thousand dollars in their first year of law school.
This student's comments refer directly to the questions I asked on the questionnaire. I'll put my comments after each.
#6 Answered w/ level of vagueness due a law prof.
Too bad I don't get paid as much. One misconception that most students have when they take the course is that there is such a thing as "The Law." It's often difficult for them to get used to the idea that the answer to a particular question usually depends on the particular factual circumstances surrounding the issue.
#7 Could be more prepared -- knowledge of areas other than math or poli sci BUT very interesting angle that his personal background allowed.
The math comment comes from my having been a math major as an undergrad and that I teach a math refresher course to our grad students. As for the rest . . .
#8 Answered questions BUT didn't allow for many. My greatest complaint of the teaching style -- not enough interaction.
Yes, there are time limitations, which is one reason I set up the listserv for the course so students could ask additional questions relating to the class discussions. It's true that the
Q-and-A style allows for less per student interaction in a somewhat larger class. On the other hand, in a smaller class it puts more pressure on every student to be prepared every day.
#9 I felt not enough time to jump in and answer between question and Hagle's own answer.
There are a couple of reasons for this. One is the "dead air" problem. If I think a student is working out an answer I'll give him or her some time, but I also want to be careful not to put
undue pressure on the student. It's a judgment call on my part. A second reason is that I want to encourage students to think quickly, "on their feet," as it were. Related to this is the fact that
students who are the daily speakers ought to be thoroughly prepared and able to answer the questions. Third, to some extent I will usually try to get others in the discussion if hands are raised
after the original student has had some time to answer the question.
#12 A handout of key terms would be great!
I agree, but it would end up being a small book, so I assign a law dictionary as a required book instead.
#13 I love to be challenged but maybe a bit too much -- a bit more of an intro to law style of writing/reading would be helpful. Maybe could read a short case aloud together & show how you would analyze it (or maybe most people are coming into this class more prepared than I did :) ).
I don't exactly throw the students into the middle of the (legal) river to see if they sink or swim. I tell students the first day of class that reading cases is different than reading ordinary text. I talk about what to look for in the cases. I also put a book on reserve that talks about how to read court opinions (cases). The first cases in the course are fairly easy to allow students to get used to the style and a good part of the class discussion the first several weeks deals with how to interpret the cases. I don't emphasize a legal writing style in the papers. In fact, as legal writing is often unclear and wordy, I advise them to stay away from it. To the extent the students have to discuss cases in their papers, they certainly have many examples from the cases we've read and one aspect of the assignment is to see if they have learned from the cases. I agree that more would be better, which is why I've occasionally taught a separate writing course for those who have had 30:116.
#15 see 7 -- don't think it's so bad
#17 initially confused more than helpful
#18 better if more energy
Yes, this is something I try to do. As I mentioned in the regular questions, students not actively participating in the discussions may drift off, so it's up to me to try to keep them engaged. One result of this is to keep things moving, which includes not waiting too long for student's to respond to particular questions -- a bit of a rock and a hard place.
#19 when I looked at them, I encourage it!
Hagle's okay for a Republican; He doesn't seem to be afraid of girls.
I thought Hagle did an outstanding job teaching and explaining difficult concepts. He has truly instilled a sincere interest in const. law & government in me. Very well done! I hope U of I continues to seek out and hire such well qualified instructors.
Blush, blush. I swear I did not pay this person!
Prior to the tests, it would be helpful if one class was specifically for review of the material being tested on. Other than that, I truly enjoy the lectures!
A fair number of students ask about review sessions. I don't spend a class period on this for a couple of reasons. On the practical side, I just can't take off two class periods (one for each test) to do this. New cases are decided every year and it's always a struggle to keep the list down to what we can discuss in a semester. Another reason is that I view the tests as a sample of what the students have learned in the course, not as something to "study for." I want them to know many things about the course materials that won't appear on the tests. Thus, the notion of my giving a rapid fire summary of the course in one class period doesn't seem particularly productive. I realize, of course, that review sessions are often a forum to ask questions. In lieu of such a session, students can come see me or my TA, or they can send the questions to the listserv. When a student asks a question that I think might interest others, I will often send it to the listserv with my answer.
I enjoyed this class although I feel that while the Study Questions were helpful they didn't give me an accurate picture of what would be on the test. There was too much information. I answered all the study questions & studied extremely vigorously for the first exam, & still received an average score. I felt that you tried to work the exam questions in a way that intentionally made it difficult for a firm response! You focused on certain legal phrasing in class (I.E. compelling, important . . ) But then used other words on the exam.
Clearly, one problem with the study questions is that the answers would be in an essay or short answer form while the test is multiple choice. I'm currently working on creating some sample quizzes that may help here. As for the test questions, I tell the students that I expect them to know the material very well, and the test questions reflect that. Many of the questions are also written for students to select the "best" answer. Sometimes that means that it's not obvious, but there will always be reasons why the correct answer is correct and the others not.
I wish I had known how much work was involved before I signed up for the class. I would have enjoyed it much more if there had not been so much work. I was always playing catch up so I couldn't ever really get into the course.
I tell students the first day of class that it will be a lot of work. I suppose some don't believe me. Others may believe me, but for one reason or another just can't drop. Now that I have web pages for my courses, I post an "About" statement to try to let students know that it's going to be more work than the usual course.
Because this course requires so much work (I have spent more time on this course this semester than my other classes combined), it should be worth 4 credit hours rather than 3.
What's encouraging for me is that this student found the course sufficiently important or interesting to spend that much time on it.
For a second time through, the course still has flavor. However, I still think that Hagle does concentrate primarily on his point of view. It would be very hard to be a liberal, feminist, or other of the like and enjoy the course. I did think his perceptions were accurate, insightful and helpful regardless. A challenging course!! Thanks.
I suppose I could say that it's difficult for liberals or feminists to enjoy much of anything, but that's probably the type of joke that this student is referring to. Actually, I've had many very liberal students tell me how much they enjoyed the course. Many of them are willing to make jokes right back about Newt or whatever. Again, as far as the course is concerned, students do not have to accept any particular political viewpoint to do well. It's also true, however, that I will point out when I think one side or the other in an argument is being inconsistent, hypocritical, or generally making a weak argument, and that goes for folks on both sides of any given issue.
I thought Prof. Hagle was an outstanding instructor. A true professional in his field. He is a library of information & I enjoyed his teaching this knowledge. He is dedicated to this course & this course with this teacher should be made a model for effective classes. More teachers should be as knowledgeable in their field as Hagle is. A pleasure to be his student!
More blushing. I enjoy all the courses I teach, but I must say that this one is my favorite and this student apparently picked up on it.
My only comment is that the level of difficulty in the tests was good but the mode is bad. Multiple choice is very limiting and easy to get mixed up due to rhetoric. Short answer or a longer essay, sort of like the paper, that meshes topics and cases would be a real test of knowledge.
This is not an uncommon sentiment. I realize I am bucking the norm by using multiple choice tests, but I have several reasons for doing so. In brief, here are some of the reasons. First, I can cover a broader range of material in a multiple choice test than on an essay/short answer exam. Second, I structure many of the questions so that students have to run through a mini-essay in their thought process to reach the correct response. Third, the multiple choice format is more objective for scoring, unlike essays, and does not penalize students who do not write quickly, or well, under pressure. Fourth, essay tests do not foster good writing skills. Fifth, I do give the paper assignment to reach the factors the students mentions and I think it better to have a variety of types of assignments. Sixth, students planning on law school have to take a multiple choice test to get in (the LSAT) and most will have to take a multiple choice test to practice law (the multistate bar exam), but may not see this type of material in a multiple choice format anywhere else.
The questions on the tests seem to play word games. I'm not sure if this additional component of difficulty was really necessary. While lawyers play word games, it (? couldn't make it out) be unnecessarily complicate the understanding of the material. Also, essay exams might be more useful.
The material is complex and this complexity is reflected in the questions on my tests. My goal for the students is to move beyond merely repeating back the course material to me on an exam or in the paper. It would be doing students a great disservice if I just told them, "Here's The Law, memorize it." The other thing the students sometimes forget is that the difficulty level of the questions is built into the way the test is scored. As I mentioned in the regular questions section, I usually ask 40 questions to get 30 points, which effectively accounts for the additional difficulty of my tests.
I found this course to be extremely interesting and extremely challenging. I feel overloaded in all my classes usually, but when I do the work it shows in my grade. In this class, I learned quite a lot of stuff but I still failed the first test and struggled with the paper somewhat. This is extremely frustrating as a student even thought I learned so much. I'm sure everyone feels that the tests are very difficult so have you ever considered making them more realistic? I also think you should require the designated speakers for the day to sit towards the back because even though you tend to reiterate a lot of points, it is still hard to hear and follow what others have said. Overall all I think you're a great teacher and (the rest was cut off my copy).
Not much more to add here that I've not said above.
The midterm was a "shock to the system" although in retrospect I think I could have prepared differently. The Socratic Method is great in certain respects, however, I thought that more class time should have been devoted to explicitly stating the main constitutional questions, reasoning, and holding of each case. That is, the questioning sometimes dominated the lecture time and which took away from getting reinforcement of out of class reading of the cases. With regard to the paper assignment I which we could have chosen our own topic to write on. I had a personal interest that I would have like to explore more deeply.
I tell students that I expect them to have read and briefed (taken notes on) the cases before class and that class time will be spent analyzing the cases. Even so, a good part of the time is actually spent going though what this students wants. The problem may be that it's not laid out in some formulaic fashion. Again, one of my goals in this course is to get students to move beyond merely memorizing information. As for the paper assignment, one reason everyone gets the same assignment is to ensure that someone is not penalized or rewarded for a "bad" or "good" topic. Another reason is that the topic is fashioned to see how well the students can work with the specific course materials. Third, sometimes you have to work on topics that are not of particular interest to you.
A good teacher and I would recommend him because of the difficulty of his class and tests. A difficult test is a good test, despite what grade a person receives. That test just makes people (or should make them) study harder for future tests.