Monday, August 29, 2005
Have you seen this new announcement from Kelly Lynn Anders, Associate Dean for Student Affairs at Washburn University School of Law?
WASHBURN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW invites applicants for the position of Director of Academic Support. This position is tenure-track and also includes classroom teaching responsibilities. The duties of the Director would include designing and administering an academic support program to enhance students' learning, including meeting students' special needs.
Applicants should have a distinguished academic background; academic support or law school teaching experience will be preferred. Washburn University School of Law values diversity in its faculty and encourages applicants whose backgrounds would enrich the school. Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the positions are filled.
Interested candidates should send a resumé, listing three references, and a cover letter. Contact: Professor Alex Glashausser, Chair, Faculty Recruitment Committee, Washburn University School of Law, 1700 S.W. College Avenue, Topeka, Kansas 66621. E-mail: email@example.com.
Saturday, August 27, 2005
Having taken the Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics course in 1967 (okay, so I'm a little rusty at it now), I suspected the student may be confusing "speed-reading" with "not-reading."
So I went to my favorite research resource: the World Wide Web.
My first stop was at a site operated by "Reading Genius, Ed Strachar." When I notice that he advertises by telling students: "Learn more by studying you (sic) Law texts faster!" ... I wondered about Ed's attention to detail. The site advertises: "Law School: A Survival Guide to Success at Law School." Regular readers of this blog are probably aware of my allergic reaction to the "survival" concept. (I don't want my attorney whispering to me - at the start of my trial: "I sure hope I survive.") I was gratified to see that the $395 price has been reduced to $297.
I was thrilled to find Vernellia Randall's advice to beginning law students: "Find out how fast you read complex material and with what comprehension. Then spend the summer working to bring your reading speed of complex material up to between 200-300 words per minute and your comprehension 85-100 percent on one-time reading. ... Please note, I am NOT talking about speed reading but merely a decent reading speed with high comprehension."
Next, I found that both Vernellia and the Marshall-Wythe Law Library at the College of William and Mary suggest (the now out of print) Reading Skills for Law Students by Craig Mayfield (Michie Company, 1980). According to the library's description, this material was "...developed from a speed reading course for law students at Brigham Young University as a workbook for enhancing reading speed and comprehension skills of legal materials. Organized into three parts, each with reading selections followed by questions to gage comprehension. Time conversion tables are available in the appendix to convey (sic) time taken to read to words read per minute." Note that the material is developed from a speed reading course, but is not a speed reading method.
Yet another commercial enterprise advertises: "Our Law School Survival Skills [argh! (ed.)] programs cover the basic techniques required for students who wish to survive [argh again. (ed.)] and excel in the law school environment. Lawyers report that they would have done better in law school and had reduced stress levels if they had learned these skills before beginning law school. ... [including] ... speed reading." If you know these lawyers who reported to this company, let me know. I'd like to learn from them.
Then I stumbled upon the Law Nerds. Included under the heading "speed reading" are these expert pieces of advice:
- Skipping: As a result of pre-reading, you can determine which paragraphs you can skip altogether. ... skipping can actually increase overall comprehension.
- Skimming: ... use skimming when you are basically familiar with the material but need more information than what you got out of the overview.
- Reading: Reading doesn't mean that you have to read every word. ... Once the semester starts, you will be hard pressed to read every assignment during your first semester.
The bulleted material is quoted (admission: it's also lifted out of context for the sake of brevity). After reading the text in its entirety, I remain a skeptic.
Query: Should we be teaching our students how to "speed read?" Your thoughts? Send me an e-mail and I'll post it. (djt)
Thursday, August 25, 2005
From Joe Landsberger's site ...
As Academic Support people, we are interested in learning styles. Earlier this year, some learning style surveys/questionnaires appeared on this blog ... here is another group, distilled from Professor Landsberger's site (which was featured in my earlier August 25 posting, below).
DVC Learning Style Survey for College
... includes four categories of styles (visual/verbal; visual nonverbal; tactile/kinesthetic; auditory/verbal), and a self-assessment web-based tool. Results/scores are based upon 32 questions. (Previously featured on this blog ... from Diablo Valley College in California.)
Index of Learning Styles Questionnaire (Felder/Silverman)
... includes introduction, learning preferences on four dimensions (active/reflective, sensing/intuitive, visual/verbal, and sequential/global); and a self-assessment instrument self-scored. Results/scores are based upon 44 questions.
The SuccessTypes Learning Style Type Indicator (Pelley)
... this type indicator is based on the Myers Briggs Type Indicators (Extraversion, Introversion, Sensing, Intuition, Thinking, Feeling, Judging, Perceiving). Results/scores are based upon 28 questions.
Learning Disabilities Resource Community
... this is a self-assessment instrument based upon Howard Gardner's work on multiple intelligences (linguistic, mathematic, visual/spatial, body/kinesthetic, naturalistic, music, interpersonal, intra-personal). Results/scores are based upon 80 questions. (djt)
This all-inclusive site, developed by Joseph Landsberger (review his very interesting CV), cuts across academic, cultural, linguistic and age boundaries.
Right away, I was blown away by his Time Management "Learners' Day Planner." This interactive tool is at once simple and amazing. Try it.
His down-to-earth advice on "Concentrating" is well-worth distributing to students. ("Concentration," Professor Landsberger writes, quoting Stefan Zweig (1881 - 1942), "is the eternal secret of every mortal achievement." Tell that to the students you find "concentrating" in the cafeteria or on the classroom corridor sofas.)
Let me know as you discover other useful information out there on the Information Superhighways. (djt)
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
The first thing I like about this article was this: I searched for the word "survival" and discovered it wasn't there.
The second feature I enjoyed? The author's emphasis on learning the language of the law: "If I had realized that the law was going to be a new language for me, I think I would have been much more patient with myself. Knowing and accepting the great difficulty involved in learning this new language, the considerable amount of time required to master it, and the steep learning curve confronting new students, can be very helpful."
An admission follows: Bingo is ubiquitous. "In my law school, games of Bingo were sometimes played - with the squares representing the students who spoke up in class. I heard once that my own name was in the center of a board. That can hurt - but on reflection, not so much. Silent detractors are kind of pathetic."
This might be a good (quick) read for some of your struggling wunnelles.
Julie Hilden, a Yale Law grad, having also earned an MA in creative writing from Cornell, lives in New York city. After practicing law for several years, Ms. Hilden now writes (creatively) full time. Her regular law column appears in FindLaw.com's on-line magazine Writ and on CNN's Law Center. Her first book, a memoir, was entitled The Bad Daughter (1998); in 2003 she published 3, a novel which(according to one reviewer on Amazon.com) "...is both beautiful, and disturbing ... definitely not for the faint of heart ... extremely graphic [with] gut-wrenching scenes...." Doesn't this description sound like some students describe law school? (djt)
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
The recent posts on "grief" attracted this response from Denise Riebe, Senior Lecturing Fellow at Duke Law School . . .
I thought the grief topic was an excellent one to address on the blog. I have several comments, all of which you're welcome to send along to anyone that might benefit.
First, I think that we often try to overlook losses and the grieving process. And, often we try to limit "grief" to death situations.
In fact, it is natural for every single type of loss we experience in life to be followed by a grieving process. Other than death, losses may include the loss of a dream, the loss of a friend, the loss of a relationship, the loss of a goal, the loss of one's self-image (I thought I was "smart"), the loss caused by infertility or miscarriage ... the list is long.
Unfortunately, life is filled with losses, and the grieving response is a natural and healthy response (healthy because it helps you deal with and work through a loss and move on).
Support for working through a loss is also crucial. For those without a friend or family they can rely on for support, professional counseling is essential. It's also important to note that, in many situations, the persons that one would naturally rely on for support (example: close family) are unavailable. Why? They, too, are grieving.
I've heard that Hospice organizations have excellent grief group sessions -- where those who have experienced the loss of a loved one can be supported and work through their grief with others experiencing the same thing.
Thanks again for addressing a very important topic.
Monday, August 22, 2005
Yesterday, I posted an article on grieving over the loss of a loved one. The posting struck a chord with a law student who had experienced enormous losses during law school. With the writer's permission, I post the student's letter . . .
My name is ______, and I will soon graduate from _____ Law School. Unfortunately, I have first-hand experience with grieving in law school. My mother died from a rare disease on my second day of orientation, and my father died 7 months later from cancer. The word "difficult" obviously does not adequately describe that time for me.
I found it helpful that the school immediately expressed sympathy and support. During that first meeting, the administration also clearly explained my options. Because I wanted (needed) to be in (city) with my father while he was in hospice at home, it meant I necessarily had to miss some classes. The administration let me know that if I missed more than a certain number of classes, it would be up to each individual professor as to whether I would be allowed to sit for the final in that class. While this caused me concern, I let it go almost immediately because I realized my first semester of school would either be a wash and I would have to reapply or I would make it through somehow. The school's position was clear, so I didn't have to worry about it and could concentrate on being with my family.
I made it through that time, though I didn't do as well as I felt I could have. But I was able to grieve and say goodbye, and that was the most important thing. The rigors of academics and my parents' strong desire that I finish law school helped me to get on with life. I anticipate a second form of grief to accompany my unwinding after I take the bar in February. I actually look forward to that time.
I'm not sure how many schools have an internal policy on how to deal with grieving students, but from my perspective it should be required. A carefully considered procedure can make all the difference for a student during this kind of tough experience. We have enough to deal with, and the administration has a duty to make that time easier, rather than inadvertently causing more anxiety.
A Law Student
Sunday, August 21, 2005
From time to time, I encounter students who are having academic difficulty caused or exacerbated by circumstances outside of the law school adventure. One of those circumstances is death. What do you say to the student who has lost a parent, a sibling, a child?
Today I read "Stress, Change and Loss," the draft of an article by Stephen Marsh, a Texas lawyer who has experienced devastating family tragedies. This article represents one person's point of view about what hurts and what helps.
"If you are on the outside, helping someone who is experiencing grief," Mr. Marsh writes, "express sympathy and feel free to express that you do not know what to say. The statement 'I'm so sorry, I don't know what to say, but I want you to know that I am so sorry and I wish I could do more. We are praying for you and thinking of you...' is just fine. It is truthful, honest and direct, doing no harm and much good."
I was not able to find the article in its finished (published) form. If you are able to find it on-line, please send it along, and I'll include it on the blog.
Does anyone else have some advice to contribute for students dealing with grief? Send me an e-mail and I'll post it here. (djt)
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Have you noticed that many of the students who appear in the Academic Support office and ask for academic assistance appear stressed and depressed? Many who have not yet figured out how to handle the rigors of law school get caught in the debilitating cycle of working harder, longer and less efficiently ... then becoming increasingly frustrated with the poor results.
Today I read an article by Nancy Byerly Jones, an attorney, certified mediator, and legal management consultant. She lives in the North Carolina Mountains where she conducts retreats for attorneys and staff.
The article, "The Dangerous Link Between Chronic Office Chaos, Stress, Depression, and Substance Abuse," was first published in the ABA's GP SOLO magazine (July/August 2001) ... the version you will read when you click on the article's title is on the Missouri Bar's Law Practice Management website.
Here's what struck me: the article has two applications for ASPers ...
1. For us. Read it with yourself in mind.
2. For our students. Substitute "student" for "lawyer," and "school" for "office."
Saturday, August 13, 2005
If you know Ruth Ann McKinney, and her work, you know what I mean when I say that when I read this sentence, I knew the author who wrote it was on the right track: "Professor McKinney's approach is as close to perfect as I've found and is well worth copying." (The same author includes material from, and praise for, Professors Cathaleen Roach, Kris Knaplund, and Paula Lustbader.)
The sentence was not written subsequent to publication of Ruth's recent book Reading Like a Lawyer. No, this was written after publication of Ruth's brief article, "Using Small Groups to Solve Big Problems," in the Winter 1994 edition of "The Learning Curve" (back in the Days when Kris Knaplund was the Learning Curve Editor).
Who wrote these essays? Stephen R. Marsh, who describes himself as a "dedicated teacher with multiple publications, significant practice experience and diverse research interests." (Read his CV)
The first essay, "Why A Solution Is Necessary," provides an historical context, explaining what (in the author's opinion) is wrong with legal education, and why.
"Reaching Solutions" addresses the teaching of substantive law, legal writing skills, and legal skills.
"Applications" provides the nuts and bolts of how to implement the solutions proposed in the prior essay, including what can be done and what should be done.
The appendix to this collection contains the perspectives of other authors and commentators.
Provocative? Oh, I don't know. See what YOU think. Example: "...one group is even worse than doctors. That group is law professors. Just like the doctors, the profs know, or should know, that the methods they use to teach actually make it harder to learn the material. That is, law professors provide a net negative input into the learning process. Is it any wonder that some professors have developed an incredible level of arrogance, have displaced themselves, and treat the students and support faculty like dirt, isolating themselves from all others?"
Agree? Disagree? Correspond with attorney Marsh by email to discover his many other writings.
(If you are unfamiliar with "The Learning Curve," visit the April 14th blog entry featuring the Curve and its current editor, Natt Gantt.) (djt)
Tuesday, August 9, 2005
Attending this past week's AHEAD (Association on Higher Education and Disability) conference in Milwaukee, I wondered about the question of the legal obligation to provide accommodations for students with disabilities – and the limitations inherent in rules associated with the legal obligation – versus the moral obligation, if any, to provide accommodations.
After "googling" for a while, I found Professor Vernellia Randall's page entitled, "A Proactive and Holistic Approach." The page contains excerpts from Professor Kevin Smith's article, "Disability, Law Schools, and Law Students: a Proactive and Holistic Approach," which appeared in the 1999 edition of Akron Law Review (pages 1-106).
"In most disability matters," Professor Smith writes, "the law school reacts to a student's request for accommodation rather than acting proactively. After self-identifying and documenting her disability, the student will request one or more ... accommodations .... The law school normally grants the request and that ends the matter. Few people would disagree with placing the responsibility on the student to initiate the process .... A student should not be forced to self-identify and thus disclose non-obvious impairments such as AIDS, an LD, or a mental illness. ... The law protects both the disabled student's right to equal opportunity (by permitting the student to self-identify and request accommodations) and her right to privacy and self-determination (by permitting her to not self-identify or to not have 'accommodations' forced upon her by the law school). But can and should law schools do more than they are currently doing to accommodate disabled law students? Even if not required by the Rehabilitation Act or the ADA, does the status as an educational institution place a moral obligation upon the law school to take a more proactive position with respect to disabled students?" (emphasis added by djt)
Professor Smith's article espouses the proactive position and proposes a model program for assisting disabled law students.
Leaping beyond the legal requirements, Professor Smith outlines "...a model program for working with disabled law students. The nucleus of the program is a written Individualized Accommodation Plan (IAP) for each disabled law student."
The IAPs, he asserts, should not be limited to those students who arrive in law schools with diagnosed disabilities. Rather, Professor Smith maintains, "The law school should maintain a formal, but non-intrusive screening program for students with undiagnosed learning disabilities [because] ... the student body may contain individuals with undiagnosed learning disabilities. An active part of the law school's disability program will be to screen for these students. Identifying a learning disability in the first semester of law school may prevent the student from ending up in academic difficulty."
After diagnosis, development of an IAP, and development of a supportive network (including support for "practical matters" ... paying bills ... assisting in the maintenance of a sense of perspective), for each student, a program of support should be designed by the Academic Support professional at the school, Professor Smith suggests. "Though legal educators must be careful not to create the double stigma of disability and participation in an ASP, the school's ASP should be made available to students with relevant disabilities. The ASP's administrator, in conjunction with on-campus learning-disability specialists, should modify the ASP curriculum to fit the needs of disabled students, particularly those with LDs, ADD, and ADHD."
Does Professor Smith go too far, or not far enough?
Your thoughts? (djt)
Friday, August 5, 2005
This week I am in Milwaukee at the AHEAD (Association of Higher Education and Disability) annual summer conference.
Watch for posts in the coming days about issues we all face ... helping students with visible and invisible disabilities cope with the rigors of the law school curriculum. The conference includes presentations by attorney disability specialists from the Office of Civil Rights and private firms, as well as a plethora of presentations and workshops hosted by Disability Support Specialists (example: Dr. Jane Thierfeld Brown from University of Connecticut School of Law) bringing us up to date on the latest law, technology and trends in providing academic support for this segment of our diverse students.
In the coming posts, I will acquaint you with some of the lessons I have learned, and provide direction about where to turn when you run into a difficulty in handling situations in this area. (djt)
Even though I live in country in Vermont, where cell phone reception is so random that my monthly phone bill can often feel more like a donation rather than compensation for service, I still have a thing for gadgets and advances in technology.
Yet, I'm not into gadgets just for the sake of the gadget. My interest is always with an eye toward how to use the latest technology to help me to do my job faster, more efficiently and more in sync with my personal learning style.
And, hey, it is cool that I can have my calendar, phone book, family pictures and any documents that I am writing in a tiny gadget that fits in my pocket. (A cumbersome paper calendar? Haven't kept one since 2001).
My latest purchase? An IPod. Yes, my husband rolled his eyes when I purchased the pink leather cover and the hip arm band to use the IPod while exercising, but there's more than just the neat accessories that attracts me to the IPod. I'm becoming aware of the tremendous opportunity to use the technology to help law students to learn better and to help me to work smarter.
For example, it can function as an external hard drive, with incredible memory capability. For the ADHD student who needs music in order to focus, the player is pocket size and can hold an audio library. It can slip into a pocket and be brought anywhere. (My IPod has 476 songs and an audio book that I purchased and downloaded and still has 1.4 gigabytes free of the 4.0 GB capacity).
The capacity to use the IPod to become a more efficient attorney is available. For instance, one can record onto the IPOD with additional accessories. Interested in reading more, you might want to read this article about the use of an IPod in law practice. (els)
Wednesday, August 3, 2005
Recently, after reading advice about reviewing exams with professors, a student complained:
Having reviewed my exam answers each semester, I must tell you that I learned absolutely nothing from the tests themselves or from inquiries to professors (to be fair I have only visited about 4 professors regarding my exam grades). The exams that I have reviewed (all of them) had no or few comments. When I visited professors to ask what my strengths and weaknesses were (and that is exactly how I have presented my inquiry), the response from each went something like this... "Well, it isn't that you did anything wrong. In law school, grading is subjective and you are competing against other smart students ... it's just that some of your classmates did a little bit better" ... leaving me with a greater sense of ambiguity about my strengths and weaknesses than when I went in. In one instance where the professor gave me that response, my grade was a D+! ... and she provided no indication what efforts can be made that might lead to better results.
I'm sure you have heard similar stories ... or you will.
Let me share (an edited version of) my response.
I think your professors could have been more helpful, had you approached your conferences differently. When you put a stack of pages in front of a professor and ask what your weaknesses are, you are asking too vague a question to get an answer ... particularly if you wrote a pretty poor answer. Also, "your weaknesses" probably don't appear in your answer. The answer you wrote is a result of a misunderstanding of [or incapability to produce] what is required of you on an exam, rather than a display of your weaknesses. One of the services the Academic Support Program performs for students is this: helping them discover the "weaknesses" in their approach to preparing for exams (which begins the first day of the semester, of course).
Professors can best help when students walk in with very specific questions about particular parts of the examination answer. Examples:
"Professor, you wrote in the margin here, 'conclusory.' What does that mean with respect to the sentence, 'Jake was a minor therefore he was immune from liability'?"
"When I wrote, 'The benefit of the bargain goes for plaintiff rather than for the offeree, therefore there is no consideration,' you wrote 'Huh?' in the margin. Why?"
"I mentioned lots of cases in the answer. Professor Smithers taught me we ought to do that. You drew little lines through all my case references. What's up with that? Shouldn't I have mentioned cases?"
"You wrote at the end, 'Answer the Question!' These six pages ARE the answer to the question! What do you mean by 'answer the question'?"
You shouldn't expect the professor to either (a) remember your entire exam answer, or (b) sit there in front of you and read the entire answer slowly, critiquing each phrase as she reads. So asking an open ended (vague) question like, "What are my weaknesses?" is asking for the (nearly) impossible. Also, keep in mind, if you received a "D" on an answer, the entire answer represents a weakness. Here's what I mean:
Think of the fellow who is trying out for the basketball team, who double-dribbles to the wrong basket, walks a few paces, then awkwardly throws the ball way over the backboard. After he is told he didn't make the cut, he runs the video for the coach and asks, "what are my strengths? What are my weaknesses?" I think the coach might simply say, "You ought to go back to basketball camp and re-learn the fundamentals. It's not like there are a couple of flaws we can address and turn you into an NBA player."
On the other hand, if you received a B+ ... the appropriate response from the professor may well be just what you have heard ... "That's a pretty darn good answer; unfortunately for your grade, we have some incredibly bright people in that class who were able to delve deeper into the economic principles underlying the theory, and thus produce incredibly persuasive arguments in support of their positions. Yours was merely 'very good.' I suppose if they weren't in the class, you might well have earned at least an 'A-' ..."
I hope this helps. If you want to discuss this a bit, make an appointment and we'll kick it around.
How would you respond? Send me your responses via e-mail. (djt)
Yesterday I posted a study critiquing the methodology behind the U.S. News & World Report rankings. The topic must be in the air.
The New York Times reported on the shady work of stacking up law schools, including tales of some rather creative accounting principles to drive up the per pupil expenses by one Midwestern school.
Thanks to a sharp reader, Laszlo Szabo, for bringing this article to my attention. (els)
Tuesday, August 2, 2005
We're not talking about layers of wedding cake, either. It's about the law school rankings compiled annually by U.S. News & World Report.
Ever wonder what factors were considered?
You might want to refer to the study completed by Stephen P. Klein, Ph.D and Laura Hamilton, Ph.D entitled, "The Validity of the U.S. News and World Report Ranking of ABA Law Schools," and dated February 18, 1998.
Commissioned by the Association of American Law Schools, the report describes and critiques the factors considered by U.S. News, including speculation that the difference in median LSAT scores are inflated and that the rejection rate of applicants could be manipulated. An interesting read. (els)
Monday, August 1, 2005
Kirsten A. Dauphinais, Director of Legal Writing and Assistant Professor of Law, University of North Dakota School of Law, has produced a detailed and insightful article (11 WLLREALJ 1) about legal education in light of Howard Gardner's theory of Multiple Intelligences.
Writing in the most recent issue (Winter, 2005) of Washington and Lee's Race and Ethnic Ancestry Law Journal, Professor Dauphinais explains the Multiple Intelligences theory and endorses the proposition that taking a new, more expansive approach to recognizing and evaluating student capabilities could help legal educators provide a better education for aspiring lawyers.
Professor Dauphinais posits, "...just as we tend to admit law students who were just like we were, so too do we evaluate them in the way we were evaluated. ... Perhaps we should not hold ourselves out as the exclusive paradigm for 'how to think like a lawyer.' Law professors are but a narrow, and one might argue, not very representative, segment of the overall lawyering population."
Consider this bold assertion: "There should be movement away from legal education as a spectator sport, where students are relegated to the role of onlooker, while the instructor performs before the class. Under such a model, the more students are actively engaged in the learning process, the better they retain the knowledge."
Just a thought: after reading this article, consider passing it along to your teaching colleagues. (djt)