Law Professor Eugene Volokh's view on Gunners

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nycparalegal
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Law Professor Eugene Volokh's view on Gunners

Postby nycparalegal » Wed Jan 13, 2010 3:11 pm

We talk to a lot of law students, and if there’s one universally shared sentiment, it’s that they despise gunners. How do professors really feel about gunners?

Imagine you’re a professor. You ask the class a question. The response: Dead silence.

You wait. Still silence. Then you wait some more.

Someone raises his hand and gives an answer. You feel happy. You feel some respect towards the person who offers the answer. (You feel some respect even if the answer is wrong since the person was brave enough to try; you feel even more if the answer is right.) You also feel annoyed by the silent students. Did they not do their reading? Are they not paying attention? Or if they do know the answer, are they deliberately free-riding on the effort (and willingness to risk public embarrassment) of their classmates?

Law school classes are deliberately aimed to be interactive, and not just lectures. They only work if students are willing to interact. Those who do that are pulling their share of the load.

Then along come the class evaluations, and inevitably some students write as one of the criticisms of the class, “Some students dominated the class discussion.” Well, duh. If only 10 students out of 80 are willing to talk, then those 10 students will “dominate the class discussion.” But the only way to solve that is by having the other 70 students be willing to talk. But they aren’t—and then they complain about a problem that they themselves caused, by their silence.

Now of course I’d prefer it if more students talked. If I have several raised hands to choose from, I’ll choose first the students who have talked less than the others. But if only one hand is raised, that’s the person I’ll call on.

And of course some student participation can be counterproductive… For instance, if it digresses unduly from the topic. If you want to limit the term “gunner” to such counterproductive class participation, then, by definition, it’s bad. But if you’re asking more broadly about students who frequently participate in class discussions, then I just wish more students were like them.

Also, my sense is that most students learn better when they actively participate, so I think that participating is actually good for those who participate, as well as being good for class discussion.
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vanwinkle
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Re: Law Professor Eugene Volokh's view on Gunners

Postby vanwinkle » Wed Jan 13, 2010 3:12 pm

Isn't that what cold calling is for?

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Dick Whitman
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Re: Law Professor Eugene Volokh's view on Gunners

Postby Dick Whitman » Wed Jan 13, 2010 3:14 pm

This supports my assertion that people who refuse to ever volunteer are gunner-enablers.

As to his last point, I've always found that I learn better by listening than by talking. It has also been my general experience that my professor knows the subject better than my classmates.

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apper123
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Re: Law Professor Eugene Volokh's view on Gunners

Postby apper123 » Wed Jan 13, 2010 3:42 pm

I had a professor accuse me of "ducking down and hiding behind my laptop" whenever he cold calls today. I am the anti-gunner.

Connelly
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Re: Law Professor Eugene Volokh's view on Gunners

Postby Connelly » Wed Jan 13, 2010 3:53 pm

Maybe professors should ask better questions and/or figure out how to increase student involvement if it's such a problem.

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utilitarianjac
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Re: Law Professor Eugene Volokh's view on Gunners

Postby utilitarianjac » Wed Jan 13, 2010 3:54 pm

Dick Whitman wrote:This supports my assertion that people who refuse to ever volunteer are gunner-enablers.

As to his last point, I've always found that I learn better by listening than by talking. It has also been my general experience that my professor knows the subject better than my classmates.


I think you make a good point. It seems that law professors (more so than many others) seem to take for granted the differences in learning styles and personalities that are present in the classroom.

Maybe instead assigning all the blame on quiet students, professors could take part of the blame themselves. Maybe their lecture is mind-numbing. Maybe they failed to create an environment conducive for discussion. Maybe they are arrogant tools who view students as a bother.

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mallard
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Re: Law Professor Eugene Volokh's view on Gunners

Postby mallard » Wed Jan 13, 2010 3:59 pm

LOL. What "class discussion?"

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nealric
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Re: Law Professor Eugene Volokh's view on Gunners

Postby nealric » Wed Jan 13, 2010 4:01 pm

He's using a bad definition of gunner.

Just speaking in class a lot does not make one a gunner. A true gunner tries to make comments when inappropriate, tries to correct others who have volunteered, or used the class as a podium for expressing their own personal views or accomplishments. Such a person hurts class discussion by derailing it.

cubswin
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Re: Law Professor Eugene Volokh's view on Gunners

Postby cubswin » Wed Jan 13, 2010 4:06 pm

nealric wrote:He's using a bad definition of gunner.

Just speaking in class a lot does not make one a gunner. A true gunner tries to make comments when inappropriate, tries to correct others who have volunteered, or used the class as a podium for expressing their own personal views or accomplishments. Such a person hurts class discussion by derailing it.


Not that I've started law school, but that was what I took away from his response. I imagine some students share his inaccurate definition, however.

It was, at least, an accurate description of many undergrad classes I had. I get the impression that law school classes are a different beast, though.

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apper123
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Re: Law Professor Eugene Volokh's view on Gunners

Postby apper123 » Wed Jan 13, 2010 4:16 pm

Gunners are either:

A) People that derail class discussion away from the relevant topics.
B) People that raise their hand simply to show everyone how brilliant they are.
C) People who ask incessant and unending questions in an effort to get some sort of participation bonus from the professor on grading.

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mallard
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Re: Law Professor Eugene Volokh's view on Gunners

Postby mallard » Wed Jan 13, 2010 4:20 pm

It doesn't take an eminent legal reasoner to deduce that when law professors are lazy and ask absurdly open-ended ("So what do we make of this case?") or oddly menial ("Recite the facts of the case") questions, the people most likely to respond are attention-seeking.

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OperaAttorney
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Re: Law Professor Eugene Volokh's view on Gunners

Postby OperaAttorney » Wed Jan 13, 2010 4:41 pm

mallard wrote:It doesn't take an eminent legal reasoner to deduce that when law professors are lazy and ask absurdly open-ended ("So what do we make of this case?") or oddly menial ("Recite the facts of the case") questions, the people most likely to respond are attention-seeking.


+ 1.

I always rolled my mind's eyes when my civ pro prof asked the expert of the day to recite the facts of the case. Seriously?

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Objection
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Re: Law Professor Eugene Volokh's view on Gunners

Postby Objection » Wed Jan 13, 2010 5:02 pm

I'm not sure that gunner has ever been widely "defined" as someone who dominates class discussion.

Being a gunner is less about how often you say things than it is about how you say them.

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wiseowl
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Re: Law Professor Eugene Volokh's view on Gunners

Postby wiseowl » Wed Jan 13, 2010 5:03 pm

i become less impressed by the aura and mystique of Volokh by the day.

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Dick Whitman
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Re: Law Professor Eugene Volokh's view on Gunners

Postby Dick Whitman » Wed Jan 13, 2010 5:29 pm

OperaAttorney wrote:
mallard wrote:It doesn't take an eminent legal reasoner to deduce that when law professors are lazy and ask absurdly open-ended ("So what do we make of this case?") or oddly menial ("Recite the facts of the case") questions, the people most likely to respond are attention-seeking.


+ 1.

I always rolled my mind's eyes when my civ pro prof asked the expert of the day to recite the facts of the case. Seriously?


If you don't like to do it, imagine how the professor feels.

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OperaAttorney
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Re: Law Professor Eugene Volokh's view on Gunners

Postby OperaAttorney » Wed Jan 13, 2010 5:37 pm

Dick Whitman wrote:
OperaAttorney wrote:
mallard wrote:It doesn't take an eminent legal reasoner to deduce that when law professors are lazy and ask absurdly open-ended ("So what do we make of this case?") or oddly menial ("Recite the facts of the case") questions, the people most likely to respond are attention-seeking.


+ 1.

I always rolled my mind's eyes when my civ pro prof asked the expert of the day to recite the facts of the case. Seriously?


If you don't like to do it, imagine how the professor feels.


Meh. No one held a gun to the professor's head. Here's what made the question annoying: He used power point slides and always had the facts of the case on the slides.

baktalk
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Re: Law Professor Eugene Volokh's view on Gunners

Postby baktalk » Wed Jan 13, 2010 5:39 pm

Sounds no different from small LAC's in terms of discussion based classes. The same people always participate and the others do just enough to get by.

Ignatius J. Reilly
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Re: Law Professor Eugene Volokh's view on Gunners

Postby Ignatius J. Reilly » Wed Jan 13, 2010 9:55 pm

I agree that the professor used an inaccurate definition of "gunner." Not everyone who contributes in class is a gunner. I agree with the previous poster's definition of "gunner." I do agree with the professor that more people should contribute, though. When I was an undergrad, I bet I volunteered myself in class less than 5 times over the four years combined. The reason was because it was unnecessary. In law school, on the other hand, the class has to participate. I have yet to have a professor who uses lectures as his or her sole classroom teaching tool. Therefore, someone in the class has to raise their hand, otherwise the professor is just gonna get ticked off and start cold calling people, which isn't good for anybody. So, my rule of thumb is: raise my hand to contribute approximately once every two classes, but no more than that. I think that's a pretty sensible rule, and I consciously follow it even when I feel I have something worthwhile to contribute if I have already met my quota for the week.

VincentChase
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Re: Law Professor Eugene Volokh's view on Gunners

Postby VincentChase » Wed Jan 13, 2010 10:00 pm

Ignatius J. Reilly wrote:I think that's a pretty sensible rule, and I consciously follow it even when I feel I have something worthwhile to contribute if I have already met my quota for the week.


Why? Why would you not contribute if you had something worthwhile to contribute?

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gatorlion
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Re: Law Professor Eugene Volokh's view on Gunners

Postby gatorlion » Wed Jan 13, 2010 10:04 pm

When I took a course at a highly ranked law school, I'd say 5 or so of us regularly contributed (out of 20-25), while everyone else just remained silent. I'll take soft-gunner status over top law school mute any day. It really made me think that a lot of students were just there because of a good LSAT score and not necessarily because they were engaged intellectuals. Gunners simply thin the herd...
Last edited by gatorlion on Thu Jan 14, 2010 9:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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JazzOne
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Re: Law Professor Eugene Volokh's view on Gunners

Postby JazzOne » Wed Jan 13, 2010 10:35 pm

Ignatius J. Reilly wrote:I agree that the professor used an inaccurate definition of "gunner." Not everyone who contributes in class is a gunner. I agree with the previous poster's definition of "gunner." I do agree with the professor that more people should contribute, though. When I was an undergrad, I bet I volunteered myself in class less than 5 times over the four years combined. The reason was because it was unnecessary. In law school, on the other hand, the class has to participate. I have yet to have a professor who uses lectures as his or her sole classroom teaching tool. Therefore, someone in the class has to raise their hand, otherwise the professor is just gonna get ticked off and start cold calling people, which isn't good for anybody. So, my rule of thumb is: raise my hand to contribute approximately once every two classes, but no more than that. I think that's a pretty sensible rule, and I consciously follow it even when I feel I have something worthwhile to contribute if I have already met my quota for the week.

That was basically my approach. I wanted to interact with my professors every class, but I tried to limit myself to an average of less than one comment per class.

Ignatius J. Reilly
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Re: Law Professor Eugene Volokh's view on Gunners

Postby Ignatius J. Reilly » Wed Jan 13, 2010 10:43 pm

VincentChase wrote:
Ignatius J. Reilly wrote:I think that's a pretty sensible rule, and I consciously follow it even when I feel I have something worthwhile to contribute if I have already met my quota for the week.


Why? Why would you not contribute if you had something worthwhile to contribute?


Because I don't want to talk too much and take away from my classmates chances to weigh in. And even if no one wants to answer, I just don't want to talk too much. Ideally, everyone would contribute a little rather than a few people contributing a lot. If I've already met my quota, and no one wants to chime in, then I figure that's the rest of the class's problem and I don't feel bad if someone gets cold called.

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wiseowl
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Re: Law Professor Eugene Volokh's view on Gunners

Postby wiseowl » Wed Jan 13, 2010 10:45 pm

gatorlion wrote:I'll take soft-gunner status over top law school mute any day. It really made me think that a lot of students were just there because of a good LSAT score and not necessarily because they were engaged intellectuals. Gunners simply thin the herd...


with logic like that you'll get in everywhere you apply, skipper

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kings84_wr
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Re: Law Professor Eugene Volokh's view on Gunners

Postby kings84_wr » Wed Jan 13, 2010 10:51 pm

Eugene Volokh is still my hero

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gatorlion
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Re: Law Professor Eugene Volokh's view on Gunners

Postby gatorlion » Wed Jan 13, 2010 11:22 pm

wiseowl wrote:
gatorlion wrote:I'll take soft-gunner status over top law school mute any day. It really made me think that a lot of students were just there because of a good LSAT score and not necessarily because they were engaged intellectuals. Gunners simply thin the herd...


with logic like that you'll get in everywhere you apply, skipper


Not really, but my experience at UCLA really firmed up the idea that what you are on paper does not necessarily translate into classroom performance. While I do not mean to denigrate my classmates, I found debate competitions in high school more intellectually stimulating than my experience in a law school class. Also, when it comes time to interview, ceteris paribus, the more socially adept student from the same law school will likely get the nod over the bookish church mouse with good scores but no social graces.




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