Bond University

Article Title

Fred Keller Goes to Law School


It seems axiomatic among some law teachers that small group “Socratic” teaching in one form or another is a superior teaching method. 1 Unfortunately, when taught to small groups it is also an expensive teaching method. While new and/or well funded schools have been able to embrace it, others find that they cannot afford the method. The Law School at the University of Sydney is one of the oldest in Australia. For many years, it has also been one of the worst funded. Our exploration of other teaching methods was driven by our dissatisfaction with the traditional lecture method of teaching, fuelled by these economic restraints. Our explorations led us to consider the Keller Plan teaching method. Educational research suggested that the Plan could be at least as effective as intensive small group teaching, but available at a price that we could afford. The Keller Plan, also known as a Personalised System of Instruction (PSI), is a teaching method which combines “mastery learning” with principles of reinforcement learning theory. Since we find that few law teachers are familiar with these concepts, the first part of this paper will be an introduction to mastery learning and its particular refinement in the Keller Plan. We will then describe some of the research which compares the Keller Plan with other teaching models, and finish with a description of a particular implementation of the Keller Plan which we used in 1990 at the University of Sydney, in a class of 130 students.