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At the time it was introduced, andragogy did offer benefits over “chalk and talk;” where most law students passively took notes while one student at a time actively engaged with their professor in a Socratic dialogue. While andragogy has sustained several modifications and revisions over the last fifty years, it does not reflect the life stage or life experiences that blur the boundaries of childhood and adulthood for over half the current student body in most law schools. Andragogy, designed as a teaching methodology for traditional adults seeking continuing education or to gain credentials for upward mobility in their current profession, fundamentally differs from legal education, where students do not yet know the requirements for successful lawyering or effective representation of clients. The tremendous diversity of law students signals a need to adopt teaching methods to better reach students who look like no generation before them, as well as law students who look very similar to law students of prior generations. To develop better teaching methods, we need a better understanding of who are students are and what they need to succeed as students and professionals. Expanding on the work of sociologists Jeffery Jensen Arnett and Katherine Newman, this article will explain how law students are fundamentally different than prior generations, and how the development of a new life stage, that of “emergent adulthood,” is operating within law schools. This new stage of life, along with the dramatic demographic changes within the law student population, require a more inclusive teaching and learning methodology in law schools. This article will discuss and analyze the demographic changes within law schools as well as the features of emergent adulthood, describe how we can better meet the needs of all law students by understanding who they are. Drawing on research on cognitive science and learning, education, sociology, and economics, this article suggests that laws schools move from teaching methods developed for another demographic and adopt more inclusive term, andragogy, to describe teaching and learning methods designed to engage all students.


Originally published by Connecticut Public Interest Law Journal in 2019.