Can the Professor Come Out To Play? Scholarship, Teaching, and Theories of Play


In January 2008, the authors presented an Open Source program at the National AALS Conference in which they explored the applicability of cognitive/developmental theories of play to our work as scholars and teachers. The authors sang, lectured on theories of play, and involved over 100 law professors in an exercise in which participant groups employed either visual art or music to explain the tort concept of "lost chance."

In this article, we build upon that program and present an extensive analysis of the literature on childhood play, focusing on those aspects of the type of "play" which enhances development of creative problem-solving and innovation. We then explore the adult manifestation of this childhood cognitive activity, what John Dewey called a "playful attitude," assessing its implications for our scholarship and teaching. As it turns out, these implications are significant, as we detail in the last two sections of the article where we focus on the nexus between play theory and our work as professors of law.


teaching methods, learning theory, legal education pedagogy, legal scholarship

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58 Journal of Legal Education 481 (2008)