Narrative Psychology and Changing the Narrative About the Legal Profession

Here is the slide show for my presentation at SEALS for the Jurisprudence, Statutory Interpretation, and Constitutional Law New Scholars Showcase.

My theory is that if we use narrative psychology concepts to influence more positive narratives about law school and the legal profession, we can improve lawyers’ and law students’ mental well-being and improve public perceptions about the legal industry.

This is a work in progress and was awarded a 2020 ALWD/LWI Scholarship Grant.

Nifty Office Features: PowerPoint Closed Captioning

This is the first in my series on nifty Microsoft Office features that teachers may not know about, like using PowerPoint to create a website banner.

With students and colleagues, especially during the multi-day SEALS Conference via Zoom, it occurred to me that most of us never dig deep into application menus. If we muster some courage and explore, we can make our work much more efficient and ensure accessibility – for visually impaired students and to approach universal design. Seriously, just click around. You can’t break it. If you could break an Office app, they wouldn’t let you have access to the menu item.

I could post screen shots, and there may be points in the Nifty Office Features series at which screen shots offer a better explanation. However, as we tell legal writing students, “why reinvent the wheel?” Microsoft has very helpful tutorials. YouTube seems to have a tutorial video for anything under the sun.

Today, real-time closed captions for your PowerPoint presentation.

For Windows: Requires Windows 10, and PowerPoint for Microsoft 365 version 16.0.11601.20178 or higher on Current Channel


For Mac: PowerPoint for Microsoft 365 for Mac version or higher.). The feature isn’t supported if you’re using an earlier version of Windows


Web: Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome 34+, Mozilla Firefox 25+

This screen shot is from the web-based version.

For a video, see here. Or here.

I hope you found this helpful. More Nifty Office Features to come!

PowerPoint MAGIC!

I was today years old when I learned that you can create a banner, as in for a website, in PowerPoint. I hope this will be helpful to those creating online courses but who don’t have a graphics design program or know how to use a graphics program, such as Photoshop. Check it out!

Here’s the PowerPoint 2016 for Mac step-by-step, screenshots follow:

Design ribbon > slide size (far right) > page setup > click the “slide sized for” menu > select banner > ok > select “scale images”

It’s very easy! NOTE: I work on a Mac. The Windows version of PowerPoint may have a slightly different menu, but you get the point. Whether to scale the images depends on if you have already designed the slide; if it’s blank, your selection for that issue doesn’t really matter.

Happy designing!

Legal Education Model: Community of Inquiry

In the classroom, I like to think of myself as a guide, not as an authoritarian, all-knowing, fountain of knowledge to be revered. I learn with my students every day; as I help them realize new skills and how to self-teach, I find new realizations for myself. I’ve always called it a collaborative philosophy, but it has a name, so I recently learned. Community of Inquiry.

Primarily inspired by online learning, the Community of Inquiry model emerged over the last couple of decades and is based on a social-constructivist philosophy, influenced by John Dewey, Jean Piaget, and Lev Vygotsky  Though there are differences between each of these philosophers’ education theories, they were aligned with the concept of education as a process involving social and personal dimensions. CoI, a collaborative-constructivist theory, calls upon the educational institution, faculty, student body, and community to “collaboratively engage in purposeful critical discourse and reflection to construct personal meaning and confirm mutual understanding.”

Purposeful Critical Discourse. I like it!

The CoI theoretical framework advances three educational process elements:

  • Social Presence – Social presence involves open communication, affective expression, and group cohesion. Social presence theory not only studies how social cues are transmitted, but also how desirable personal, social, and psychological traits facilitate building trust.
  • Teaching Presence – the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the realization of meaningful learning. This involves the (1) instructional design and organization of the course and activities, (2) facilitation of the course and activities, and (3) direct instruction.
  • Cognitive Presence – the extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse.

The ultimate goal of the Community of Inquiry is to build a solid foundation of social presence and teaching presence to stimulate cognitive presence in a course. Purdue University

The Community of Inquiry

According to research, there is a relationship between the three presences and students’ perceived learning, satisfaction with the course, satisfaction with the instructor, actual learning, and sense of belonging. Akyol & Garrison, 2008; Arbaugh, 2008; Richardson, et. al., 2017. Though these studies have only focused on the community of inquiry in online learning, especially helpful during the COVID-19 online teaching norm, the principles would bear fruit in traditional classrooms. For example, mindfulness to social presence should influence how we use and ask students to use technology during in-person class time; can we maximize social presence if the lecture relies entirely on a PowerPoint presentation while students are buried in their laptops?

There is room and need to expand the model, given the current health crisis and astounding technological innovations. As Terry Anderson explained,

The march of progress over the past two decades has also seen the call for additional ‘presences’ with a goal of more completely describing the educational experience. These include vicarious presence (Sutton, 2001), emotional presence (Cleveland-Innes & Campbell, 2012) and autonomy presence (Lam, 2015). There have been efforts to expand the social presence category in the COI model (especially for application in blended contexts) to include affective association, emotional presence, community cohesion, instructor involvement, interaction intensity, and knowledge and experience (Whiteside, 2015). I would argue that each of these already exists in the original model, but further definition helps focus on particular salient components of social presence.

None of these proposed additions has received wide adoption and there is certainly something to be said for the parsimonious advantage of only three presences.

Terry Anderson 

I am excited to explore the Community of Inquiry model in the legal skills classroom, and I suspect more of us use this approach without labeling it. If you’re using the CoI framework or some variation thereof, I’d love to chat with you about it.

Check out this CoI survey that could serve as a guide for course development.