An Idea That is Growing on Me

As I prepare next year's lecture notes, this idea keeps growing on me.

But if it failed, it would fail horribly….

One of my favorite professors in college was a self-confessed liar.

I guess that statement requires a bit of explanation.

The topic of Corporate Finance/Capital Markets is, even within the world of the Dismal Science, a exceptionally dry and boring subject matter, encumbered by complex mathematic models and obscure economic theory.

What made Dr. K memorable was a gimmick he employed that began with his introduction at the beginning of his first class:

“Now I know some of you have already heard of me, but for the benefit of those who are unfamiliar, let me explain how I teach. Between today until the class right before finals, it is my intention to work into each of my lectures … one lie. Your job, as students, among other things, is to try and catch me in the Lie of the Day.” And thus began our ten-week course.

This was an insidiously brilliant technique to focus our attention – by offering an open invitation for students to challenge his statements, he transmitted lessons that lasted far beyond the immediate subject matter and taught us to constantly checksum new statements and claims with what we already accept as fact. Early in the quarter, the Lie of the Day was usually obvious – immediately triggering a forest of raised hands to challenge the falsehood. Dr. K would smile, draw a line through that section of the board, and utter his trademark phrase “Very good! In fact, the opposite is true. Moving on … ”

As the quarter progressed, the Lie of the Day became more subtle, and many ended up slipping past a majority of the students unnoticed until a particularly alert person stopped the lecture to flag the disinformation. Every once in a while, a lecture would end with nobody catching the lie which created its own unique classroom experience – in any other college lecture, end of the class hour prompts a swift rush of feet and zipping up of bookbags as students make a beeline for the door; on the days when nobody caught the lie, we all sat in silence, looking at each other as Dr. K, looking quite pleased with himself, said with a sly grin: “Ah ha! Each of you has one falsehood in your lecture notes. Discuss amongst yourselves what it might be, and I will tell you next Monday. That is all.” Those lectures forced us to puzzle things out, work out various angles in study groups so we could approach him with our theories the following week.

(there's more)

Previously: I Wonder if this Teaching Technique Would Work In Law School

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2 Responses to An Idea That is Growing on Me

  1. ilikeit says:

    this sounds awesome. it might be a little too much fun for the professor but it certainly requires attention to detail and actual thinking, two things somewhat during the law school semester until exams.

  2. Andrew DeWeese says:

    I love this idea and really wish some of my law professors had used it. Imagine how fun it could have been in secured transactions. Actually, now that I think about it, that would have been the perfect class for it.

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