Document Type



This article grapples with whether Harvard’s adoption of the casebook method over 150 years ago was correct. It contrasts the reading of judicial decisions for principles with the pedagogy of other disciplines: reading assignments, lectures, and exams that test whether students have learned the information set out in those textbooks and lectures. It details recent research from educational psychologies suggesting that the casebook method is not particularly effective in helping students learn either the law or to how to use the law to solve problems. At the same time, the casebook method may be an extremely effective method of helping students develop what researchers call “adaptive expertise” if, after questioning students about the cases, professors present a lecture that summarizes the concepts that the cases were selected to illustrate. This article models the process that the researchers advocate: in the first section undertakes a “data analysis” exercise, in the second part it provides the reader with a “lecture,” and in the third part it asks the reader to apply what they have learned to determine whether Harvard got it right.