Submitted by editor
Editor's Note: Ms. JD is pleased to feature Judith Pond, winner of Ms. JD's Public Interest Summer Scholarship. Here is her winning essay submission:
I knew before beginning classes that Georgetown Law has one of the country’s largest student enrollments. What I did not realize, however, was how its size would affect my experience. During college, most of my courses enrolled twenty students or fewer; those with larger enrollments divided into smaller sections, ensuring interaction with professors and teaching assistants. In law school, however, my first-year section of 100 students took five of our eight courses en masse, which presented a challenge to me in two ways. First, our professors’ pedagogy is geared toward teaching a large group of students at once, rather than focusing on individual student experiences. Second, developing relationships with professors becomes a difficult proposition.
Professors who teach large groups face a complex task in ensuring that all students are engaged in discussion and comprehend the material. In law school, this challenge becomes more pronounced because students are expected to distill the relevant rules and ideas primarily from the reading assignments, and only secondarily from classroom teaching. In class, professors might call on two or three students for discussion. Everyone else listens to the conversation without being an active participant. Even in classes where several students raise their hands to volunteer, some professors will not deviate from their system of focusing on only a few students each class. After the first few weeks of school, I noticed that many of my classmates read this dynamic as a tacit release from their obligation to learn. Some students routinely skip class, while others use class as a time to browse the Internet or catch up on other assignments. The temptation to cease paying attention is great; after all, students are not held accountable for having done their homework until the final exam.