Thursday, September 27, 2007

Positive Feedback! Efficient & Effective

I have found this to be a wonderfully useful tool. It saves your time while providing an extraordinarily high level of feedback and/or instruction for your students. The tool?  Microsoft’s “Sound Recorder.”  It’s probably sitting on your hard drive right now. It’s easy to use … with a headset mike or just talking into your computer’s microphone.  Did you know your laptop has a microphone built in? (Maybe yes, maybe no … ask your tech support helper if you can’t determine. If it doesn’t have one, ask for a mike to plug in.)

Suggested uses . . .

· Tip of the day, tip of the week – in an email sent to a specific person, specific group or all students, let them know that if they open the sound message they’ll receive a helpful tip by listening (for example) only 20 seconds.  Send them something amazing so they’ll open the next one!

· If you are lucky enough to receive written student work from time to time, this is an excellent way to comment on it. In the body of your email, encourage the student to have a copy of her/his work on the desk, and make notations while listening to your vocal feedback. You’ll find you can say much more than you can write in margins … and you don’t need to make an appointment with the student to deliver the feedback. Result: more personalized help for more students in less time.

· You’ll find it’s a great way to encourage students to attend your presentations, others’ presentations, or off-campus conferences. Mention the conference in an email, and include “I’ve included a 20-second message about how this can help boost your GPA … just click here!”

· If you have the tech-capability at your school, you can store bunches of tips and information on a site that all students can access whenever they want.

Microsoft's is not the only recorder, of course.  I use others as well ... but if it's on your computer already, this might be the best way to begin to get used to recording messages for your students.

Caveat 1: Keep the vocal messages short.  Students don't want to listen to a rambling "tip." (I think it's different in the case of feedback on a piece of writing, however.  Line-by-line positive feedback ... "This is a great way to introduce the rule of law! You should do this more often!" ... will keep them listening ... then you can slip in something like, "What would really help is if you included all four ways of proving malice ... here's how I would suggest you could do that...." A recording like this can go on for several minutes and keep the student's attention.)

Caveat 2: It’s critical not to overuse this method. Remember, emails are easy to delete without opening. (djt)

September 27, 2007 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, Study Tips - General, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Left Brain / Right Brain

{Click on image to view.) Prop_diagram_3

All of us who are blessed with sight have some degree of visualization capability.  Often, accessing that right-brain function can bring clarity to a text-based problem that borders on incomprehensible during the stress of an examination.

Do you tell your students to draw diagrams during the pre-writing stage of exam-answering?  Consider showing them how.  Of course, the illustration above (based on a standard Blueacre & Whiteacre real property problem) has more actual words in it than the diagram the student would make in the rush of an exam session – these words are for illustrative purposes here.  If you demonstrate how to convert a Property exam problem into a sensible (literally) representation, be sure to stress that abbreviation is essential! (djt)

September 24, 2007 in Exams - Theory | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Scholarship Funds for Wingspread VIII P20 Pipeline Conference

There are Texas scholarship funds available for Texas law school team members that do not have other funding to attend the conference.  If you have a Texas law school team with the public/private schools or with colleges that works on a pipeline program, you may qualify for the scholarship funds.  The Texas Bar Foundation has provided a generous $20,000 grant to fund Texas teams.  There are also some limited funds available for California teams and teams from other states.  First come, first served for scholarships! 

Information on the conference is given below including the link to the web site.  If you want more information specifically about any possible scholarship eligibility for your team, contact Dr. Amy L. Jarmon, Assistant Dean for Academic Success Programs, Texas Tech University School of Law at amy.jarmon@ttu.edu.

The Wingspread 8 Conference information can be found on the web site for Texas Wesleyan School of Law.  Just click on the conference link on the home page for the law school.  The conference general announcement is included below:

Wingspread VIII, Fort Worth, TX
Texas Wesleyan University School of Law
October 4, 5, 6, 2007

Cost:
$125, which includes all meals beginning with dinner on Thursday evening through lunch on Saturday.

Starting Thursday evening, ending Saturday after lunch
PLUS Saturday meeting with medical and dental school team

About Wingspread: Wingspread is the collaborative national organization for professional school involvement in pipeline initiatives, an informal consortium with distinctive appeal, strengths, and impressive loyalty among its participants. It offers a highly placed and visible constituent base for national policy leadership and success in conceptually framing and drawing attention to the issues around diversity and the law community and the need for systemic and systematic change; enhancing the intellectual presence of law schools and their sister professional schools in the field of pipeline issues as participants, conveners, and collaborators; emphasizing, inspiring, and creating teams to work along the educational pipeline in site-specific projects; and assuring that lessons learned are lessons shared.

Wingspread involves a group of over 40 law-schools working with teams that includes P-20 educators, the bench, and the bar, all committed to working collaboratively across the educational continuum to improve the participation, persistence, and success of diverse students in high school and college. The goal of the group is to enhance these students’ aspirations and capacity to move into positions in the legal profession and in the leadership of the nation.

The 8th meeting of the group is focused on team-building and on action plans for collaborative improvement in outreach along the pipeline. The meeting also brings the law pipeline group together with their colleagues in medicine and dentistry. Specific sessions will include Wingspread for Newcomers; Law-Themed Curricula and Schools including both elementary and law magnet programs; Perspectives from our Sister Professions; Prelaw Programs; and the View from the Bench and the Bar. And, of course, Texas barbecue!  (Amy Jarmon)

September 21, 2007 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Hustle and Bustle

Each week seems to fly by faster than the one before it.  I keep thinking that the semester will hit a nice routine.  However, study skills workshops have now joined student appointments, walk-ins, special projects, class sessions, and meetings on my calendar.  It is times like these that I remind myself that ASP professionals also need to use stress busters.  Here are some things to consider:

  • Increase your number of hours of sleep each night by one to wake up more refreshed.
  • Go out to eat lunch occasionally so that you get a break rather than eating hurriedly at your desk.
  • On the days that you pack a lunch, close your door so that you can have some undisturbed down time without questions and walk-ins (and indigestion!).
  • Take the stairs to give yourself a bit of exercise during the day.
  • Walk to a meeting on main campus instead of driving for some exercise as well.
  • Mark off project time on your calendar during each week so that you can have uninterrupted time to focus.
  • Break your "to do" list into smaller steps so that you have a greater sense of accomplishment crossing off stages of a larger project.
  • Do a few relaxation exercises throughout the day to ease your computer posture.
  • Remind yourself at the end of a day of three ways that you helped make a difference for your students.
  • Read some inspirational sayings or scriptures each day to promote a positive outlook.
  • Talk to five students in the student lounge and encourage them - you will feel better for it.
  • Limit the number of hours you will stay late or the work you will take home so that you have more time for yourself and your family.
  • Make a crock pot your best friend for your nutritional freedom from "what's for dinner" decisions.
  • Pick an empty day on your calendar in two weeks time to keep clear from appointments and treat yourself to a vacation day (even if you will just sleep late and stay at home).
  • Attend a conference with your wonderful ASP colleagues to get renewed and supported in your work.
  • Telephone someone who will be happy to hear from you and will not ask you for anything at all.

Ahhhh...I feel better already.  (Amy Jarmon)

September 19, 2007 in Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Using Minute Papers to Assess Student Understanding Mid-Semester

By Hillary Burgess, Adjunct Professor, Rutgers School of Law

Law students often complain that the only way they know whether or not they understand the material is by their final grade.  Similarly, as faculty, we face frustration that “we know we discussed this topic ad nauseam,” so why didn’t the students get it right on the exam? 

When I first started teaching, I used “minute papers” to get feedback from students throughout the semester.  In class, I distribute a handout that has 3-5 questions on it.  The questions were sometimes topical (explain such and such a concept that we learned last time), meta-topical (explain what you still don’t understand about such and such a topic), or administrative (what about the lectures is/is not working for you).  I give the students 3-5 minutes to write the papers.  I’ve found this method allows me to evaluate how well I’ve taught the ideas we’ve discussed as well as what the students like and don’t like about the means to get there and the means of evaluation.

While minute papers don’t provide direct feedback to the class, I do summarize the results for the students, which gives students feedback relative to the rest of the class.  Summarizing the results lets students who are not getting key concepts become aware that they are one of a few.  I always welcome these students to my office hours (or since I’m currently an adjunct, to email or call me) for additional guidance.  I’ve found those students tend to feel supported whether or not they take me up on the invitation.  I’ve also found that summarizing the results can reduce the impact that one disgruntled student can have by letting him or her know indirectly (provided its true) that most of the students are excited about whatever that student is disgruntled about.  If many students are disgruntled about a particular aspect of the course, I can address the issue directly and explain its pedagogical soundness or, more likely, come up with an alternate pedagogically sound solution.   

I used these papers more when I was starting out as an adjunct because I wanted to make sure that what I thought was good teaching was actually reaching the students.  In my undergraduate courses, I have to admit, I give so many tests and papers (usually one or the other every other week) and have so much one-on-one contact with students, that students give and receive all the feedback they want. 

I’ve been fortunate enough to have small enough classes that I’ve been able to continue my undergraduate school’s philosophy that “every class is a writing class, regardless of the topic” in both my undergraduate and law school classes.  However, in my law class, I’ve found that students become used to the “no work until finals week,” and despite that they complain that they don’t get feedback mid-semester, some of them will complain about mid-semester assignments!  Minute papers might be the best solution to this dichotomous problem – it allows me to communicate with each student while taking very little of their time (and gives me less to grade). 

In any case, I wanted to share (and remind) you about this idea as I recently reminded myself about it.  I welcome comments and feedback.  Prof@hillaryburgess.com.

September 17, 2007 in Guest Column | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

External and Internal Motivations

My first-year students are starting to show signs of stress as they become overwhelmed at the faster pace in class, the increase in Legal Practice assignments, and the realization that they are behind in their reading and/or outlines.  My second-year students are starting to show similar signs because they are juggling job hunts for summer job spots with studying for very difficult required courses.  And, my third-years?  Well, they are either so unmotivated that they have few life signs or they are totally stressed because they are worried about a job after 3L year and/or the bar exam - especially my December graduates.

When the stress hits, many students question why they are in law school and why they ever thought they wanted to be lawyers.  The old certainty of August has faded into the misery of mid-September.  Our conversations often re-examine their motivations for being here.

Students have to sort through their external and internal motivations for being in law school and wanting to become attorneys.  External motivations, for example, may be earning lots of money, following in the footsteps of four generations of lawyers, not getting into medical school, not knowing what else to do, or having a very high LSAT score that made law school inevitable.  Examples of internal motivations may be wanting to help people in specific groups (the elderly, immigrants, or others), wanting to practice a particular field of law because of an interest, having loved undergraduate courses that covered legal topics, or wanting to use law school to meet another goal (law librarian perhaps).

We know from the literature on stress that internal motivations are more sustaining in stressful situations than external motivations.  If the reasons for being in law school focus on what others expect or only on outside factors, the law student has little to hold on to during this period of questioning.  However, if the motivation is tied to personal goals, attributes, and values, the law student is able to find the reasons for continuing along the law school path.

By helping my law students focus on their internal motivations, they can renew their desire to be attorneys and continue in pursuit of their goals.  And, for those who seem to have only external motivations, I can help them re-focus on why this path is important to them as individuals and find their own reasons for being here.  Depending on the student's situation, I may refer them to the university career services for assessments to determine their best career options or I may refer them to the university counseling center for discussions. 

There will be a few who discover that they really do not want to be in law school.  However, if they leave law school to pursue their real desires in life, that result is not a bad one.  (Amy Jarmon)   

   

September 13, 2007 in Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Humanizing Legal Education Symposium

The following posting is from Michael Schwartz at Washburn School of Law:

Washburn still has 15 or so remaining slots for its Humanizing Legal Education Symposium, October 19-21.  The list of 32 presenters includes leading experts in the humanizing field, in the comprehensive law movement, and in the teaching and learning field.  The plenary speakers will be: Professor Larry Krieger of Florida State, Professor Susan Daicoff of Florida Coastal, Professor Barbara Glesner-Fines of UMKC, Professor Gerry Hess of Gonzaga, and Professor Paula Lustbader of Seattle.  The list of attendees already includes representatives from more than 40 law schools and includes a Canadian law professor, a Canadian dean and an Australian law professor.

The conference is free to all attendees.  Because space is so limited, please register as soon as possible.  The conference schedule and registration are online.  There are two ways to access the schedule and the registration form: either go to the Wasburn School of Law  homepage and find the link to the conference materials under “Upcoming Events” or go directly to Humanizing Legal Education Conference.  Register by clicking on the link labeled “Register Online” and then completing each of the fields in the registration form.

September 13, 2007 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 7, 2007

Wingspread 8 Conference for Law School Pipeline Projects

The Wingspread 8 Conference information can be found on the web site for Texas Wesleyan School of Law.  Just click on the conference link on the home page for the law school.  The conference general announcement is included below:

Wingspread VIII, Fort Worth, TX
Texas Wesleyan University School of Law & the Hilton Fort Worth
October 4, 5, 6, 2007

Cost:
$125, which includes all meals beginning with dinner on Thursday evening through lunch on Saturday.

Starting Thursday evening, ending Saturday after lunch
PLUS Saturday meeting with medical and dental school team

About Wingspread: Wingspread is the collaborative national organization for professional school involvement in pipeline initiatives, an informal consortium with distinctive appeal, strengths, and impressive loyalty among its participants. It offers a highly placed and visible constituent base for national policy leadership and success in conceptually framing and drawing attention to the issues around diversity and the law community and the need for systemic and systematic change; enhancing the intellectual presence of law schools and their sister professional schools in the field of pipeline issues as participants, conveners, and collaborators; emphasizing, inspiring, and creating teams to work along the educational pipeline in site-specific projects; and assuring that lessons learned are lessons shared.

Wingspread involves a group of over 40 law-schools working with teams that includes P-20 educators, the bench, and the bar, all committed to working collaboratively across the educational continuum to improve the participation, persistence, and success of diverse students in high school and college. The goal of the group is to enhance these students’ aspirations and capacity to move into positions in the legal profession and in the leadership of the nation.

The 8th meeting of the group is focused on team-building and on action plans for collaborative improvement in outreach along the pipeline. The meeting also brings the law pipeline group together with their colleagues in medicine and dentistry. Specific sessions will include Wingspread for Newcomers; Law-Themed Curricula and Schools including both elementary and law magnet programs; Perspectives from our Sister Professions; Prelaw Programs; and the View from the Bench and the Bar. And, of course, Texas barbecue!

September 7, 2007 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Why students do not achieve the success they want

Whether we work with all law students, just 1L students, or only invited students, we begin to see patterns as to why students do not succeed at the levels they wish.  Whether it is a student who wants to get higher grades ("As" instead of "Bs" or "Cs") or a student on probation, I find that the student usually have one or more study skill problems that need to be overcome.

During orientation, I try to alert students to these problems.  And, I offer workshops during the semester to help them on the necessary skills to avoid problems.  However, too many students only seek help after their grades have disappointed and discouraged them.   

Here is a list of common problems that I help students work on in their pursuit for better grades (in no particular order and not an exhaustive list):

  • They treat law school like undergraduate school (or other graduate programs) and do not adjust their strategies and techniques to the new law school learning environment.
  • They have poor (or no) time management skills and need to learn how to use weekly schedules, daily "to do" lists, and monthly schedules for meeting deadlines on projects or papers.
  • They have one or more major procrastination styles which they need to curb through good time management schedules and other strategies.
  • They do not make law school a priority in their lives and are consequently pulled away easily from studying when something fun is on offer.
  • They participate in too many organizations and activities because that is what they have always done without any adverse academic effects.
  • They do not use their learning styles to advantage and do not know how their learning styles may make it important to "compensate" or "convert" in some study tasks.
  • They depend on shortcuts rather than learning the material themselves: they use canned briefs; class scripts; other people's outlines.
  • They are inefficient and ineffective in their studying because they do not focus on "payoff" instead of "doing time" over tasks.
  • They memorize the law, but do not know how to apply the law to new facts.
  • They focus on cases and never gain the "big picture" of the course with its inter-relationships and methodologies.
  • They "gloss" the law and know it generally rather than learning it to more depth for true understanding.
  • They do very few practice questions during the semester and only a few at the end of the semester.
  • They wait until the last 2 - 6 weeks of the semester to study for exams rather than reviewing and applying material all semester.
  • They do not have adequate exam taking strategies for fact-pattern-essay exams, multiple-choice exams, and/or take-home exams.
  • They have extenuating circumstances (such as personal illness, family death, undiagnosed learning disabilities) and try to cope without assistance from staff members who could help.

The good news is that only the last item on the list of common problems is outside the student's control.  (And, even then, the students can get assistance from the law school staff members and utilize the policies and procedures within the law school.)  All of the other problems can be corrected by implementing new strategies and techniques.

Now, if we could only get them to come in earlier....   (Amy Jarmon)

September 7, 2007 in Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)