Sunday, April 3, 2005

Taking Steps toward Solving the Anxiety Problem

Depression and Anxiety in Law Students: Are We Part of the Problem and Can We Be Part of the Solution?  

MckinneyThis article by Carolina Law's Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Learning Resources Center, Ruth Ann McKinney , appeared in the 2002 edition of the The Journal of the Legal Writing Institute.  (8 Legal Writing 229 - new as of April 11: web link available)

The article begins with an introduction to the basic tenets of self-efficacy theory, a brief exploration of what that theory tells us about people's feelings and behavior, and an explanation of how self-efficacy beliefs are acquired.

In Section II, the traditional law school environment is examined through the lens of self-efficacy theory, leading to the observation that much of the emotional distress experienced by law students would be completely predictable to a social scientist versed in the theory.

Section III suggests that the choices we make daily in our classes can and do affect our students' emotional states and intellectual achievements. "We can point to the myriad of causes of the many problems in modern legal education and hope for major reform," Professor McKinney writes, "or we can take a leadership role in legal pedagogy by instituting positive changes in our own classrooms." This third section offers concrete examples of lesson plans, program policies, and teacher behaviors that will help law students select appropriate goals and inevitably increase their beliefs in their abilities to achieve those goals.

The last section of the article presents the conlcusion that professorial use of the methods suggested may reduce students' anxiety and depression, and increase the probability that law students will excel with energy and confidence. (The foregoing description borrows heavily from Professor McKinney's introduction.)  (djt)

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