Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2022


This article fills a critical gap in the family law literature by arguing that teaching doctrinal family law in conjunction with the application of established learning theory and pedagogy yields a deeper engagement with the subject matter and leads to more practice-ready lawyers. ABA Standards 301, 303, and 304 do not clearly articulate the distinction between experiential education and experiential learning; doctrinal law classrooms are often bereft of experiential learning activities. By incorporating active learning and inclusive pedagogy in the doctrinal classroom and following recommendations from the MacCrate Report and Family Law Education Reform Project, students will be better prepared to address issues of professionalism and equity in their future practice.

In particular, this paper reports on an experiential learning assignment in my Family Law class in which students visited domestic relation court settings to “marry” theory and doctrine with the practice of family law. I describe how incorporating a courtroom observation activity in Family Law stimulates higher-order thinking as categorized by Bloom’s Taxonomy. I discuss trends in learning theory, share the questions students answered in the assignment, and explore some of the students’ observations of and reflections on the family law courtroom, including the effects on litigants, children, and lawyers.

I conclude that courtroom observations and written reflections can better prepare students for their future experiences in legal clinics and initial law practice and can be implemented in other doctrinal courses as well. Providing law students with an opportunity to observe court settings helps them integrate theory and practice in doctrinal classes, supports robust learning outcomes, is relatively easy to implement, and is highly rewarding for the student and legal education as a whole.


University of South Carolina

Publication Title

Journal of Law and Education





First Page


Last Page



Legal education, Learning theory, inclusive pedagogy, equity, experiential learning, experiential education, active learning, ABA Standards, curriculum, learning outcomes, Bloom’s Taxonomy



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