Brandeis Law professor developing generative AI toolkit to aid legal writing instruction
While many are wary of artificial intelligence and its feared effect of supplanting the human creation of content, one University of Louisville professor is leading an effort to help her colleagues use it in the classroom.
Susan Tanner, assistant professor of law at UofL’s Brandeis Law School, has won a teaching grant from the Association of Legal Writing Directors to develop a toolkit that law professors anywhere can use to incorporate generative artificial intelligence (genAI) into their legal writing curricula.
GenAI is technology that can create text, images, videos and other media in response to prompts inputted by a user – otherwise known as a human being. Of the various types of genAI software currently available, ChatGPT is probably the best known.
Over the next year, Tanner and her team will design, develop and test resources that will become open-source materials for use in teaching legal writing and other law subjects. As the word infers, “open-source” means the materials will be open to anyone, free of charge.
Tanner wants the legal community – particularly those, like her, who teach legal writing – to accept that genAI is becoming part of the teaching environment, and having resources that enable an instructor to use it is key to making it work effectively in the classroom.
“Generative AI will change the way we teach. Some professors worry that a sea change is on the horizon – that we will not be able to assess student learning the way we did pre-ChatGPT,” she said. “Undoubtedly, we will have to adapt. And though generative AI will challenge the way we teach, there is also significant potential for innovation.”
The toolkit will help curious teachers without much prior preparation in genAI to develop knowledge and skills that will help them to embrace it in a way that enhances rather than deteriorates their sense of competency. “A law professor who teaches legal writing will be able to use the toolkit to continue developing their teaching identity rather than be threatened by the increased tempo of technological change,” Tanner said.
“We intend to show instructors how to frame teaching objectives that either work around or embrace generative AI, giving them a framework that is adaptable to evolving technologies. We also will provide examples of how to align teaching objectives with student outcomes.”
The toolkit also will enable those who use it to customize their use of genAI. “We do not intend for this to be a prescriptive approach to legal writing instruction nor one-size-fits-all writing assignments. Instead, it will focus on principles that each professor could adapt for their own purposes.”
Working with Tanner on the project are Tracy Norton, professor of law, and William Monroe, assistant director for instructional technology, of the Paul M. Hebert Law Center at Louisiana State University.
The toolkit is expected to launch in fall 2024.