August 24, 2007
Our Skills 5: Integrating into Our Institutions
As the semester begins, my calendar is filled with appointments with anxious 1L students. My probation students are beginning to sign up for their regular weekly appointments. And, there is the flurry of meetings and beginning-of-the-year events. It is also the time of year when I weigh my commitments for my full-time ASP duties with possible opportunities to become more integrated into my law school and my university.
Each law school has its own culture. However, in every law school, there are opportunities for ASP professionals to become more visible at the law school. By becoming more involved outside our own offices, we can provide our skills in service, become better known to our colleagues, and be seen as "team players." Here are some possible ways that you can get involved:
- If you are not already assigned to committees, offer to be an ex officio member of appropriate groups. For example: student affairs committee; admissions committee; orientation committee; bar preparation committee.
- If you have a doctrinal expertise and your curriculum process provides the opportunity, offer to teach a course one semester per year or in the summer.
- If there is a passion that you have, offer to take on a special project that relates to the law school. Examples: pipeline efforts with local schools; work with the campus pre-law advisors; a summer institute for pre-law students.
- If there is a law student organization that interests you, offer to be the faculty co-advisor for the group. Alternatively, help students start a new student organization.
- If you like to write, offer to write feature articles for the law alumni association magazine or law school newsletter.
- If you are interested in career services, offer to collaborate on workshops on time management, organizational skills, or other topics of interest to students working for the first time in the summer or entering their first job after graduation. Alternatively, you might be able to assist with mock interviews or with advising students interested in the practice area that you had as a lawyer.
- If fund-raising interests you, offer to help the law school alumni and development office or your student organization for public service.
- If the teams are soliciting judges for competition practices, offer to participate.
- If the law school hosts pro bono clinics for which you are eligible, offer to take part.
- If the law school is soliciting people to attend community or local bar functions, offer to take one of the spots.
If your law school is part of a larger university, also look for ways that you can use your expertise to benefit the university as a whole. In addition, become familiar to the resource people on the main campus. Again, here are some ideas:
- Meet the professionals in the counseling center, student health services, pre-law advising center, writing center, and other offices that have overlapping concerns for and expertise with students.
- Offer to assist on university-wide task force groups that match your expertise; many times the law school needs a representative for such groups. Examples: mental health task force; student assessment task force; alcohol education task force.
- Participate in teaching and learning workshops held on main campus and offer to present a workshop on a topic in which you have expertise.
- Become an advisor for an undergraduate student organization on campus.
- Offer to be a mentor in one of the campus programs for diverse students, pre-law students, or other groups.
- If there is a freshman seminar program for undergraduates, offer to teach a section of the course if it is open to faculty across campus to teach.
- Participate in university-wide groups that match your interests. Examples: faculty book discussion groups; university ski club; Faculty Women's Caucus; Christian Faculty and Staff; Hispanic Faculty and Staff.
Obviously, you need to make sure that you can cover your job duties before you become involved. And, you need your dean or associate dean to approve any participation. But, by broadening your experiences and contacts, you will enrich your own life, increase the visibility of ASP and the law school, and benefit your own students through your new knowledge and expertise. (Amy Jarmon)
August 20, 2007
Keep Them Thinking and Doing
The start of a new semester is a good time to take stock of our teaching methods and make conscious improvements. One place many of us need to begin is with techniques for increasing active learning among our students.
Because students remember about ten percent of what they hear and about ninety percent of what they do, those things that encourage active participation in classroom discussions can be exceptionally effective in helping our students retain concepts and develop sound reasoning skills. Several fairly simple techniques can greatly increase active learning even for those not directly called upon to respond during a particular class period.
For example, while your teaching method may be to focus primarily on one student while discussing a case, you can draw the rest of the class into that discussion by frequently asking other class members to comment on what they are hearing: "Ms. Jones, what is your reaction to Mr. Smith's characterization of the court's reasoning?" You need not spend much time with Ms. Jones before returning to Mr. Smith, but all students are immediately on alert that they cannot afford to drift during the discussion.
You can also pull everyone in by "beaming" questions to the entire class: "When I call on you, be prepared to explain the IRAC syllogism." Give the class thirty to forty seconds to think about the answer, and then call on a particular student. By the time that student is called on, most of the class will have formulated a response that is correct and will be better able, as a result, to retain the concept and evaluate their colleague's response.
Sometimes, having students take sixty seconds brainstorm on paper a list possible answers to a question (for example, possible causes of action springing from a complex hypothetical) can put them in a much better position to answer the question more thoughtfully.
Similarly, posing a question and having students discuss potential answers briefly with those sitting next to them can deepen their thinking and enrich the conversation when individual students are subsequently called on to respond before the whole class.
A number of other effective strategies exist, of course; but these few are easy to implement, take little class time, and need be used only infrequently to have a significant effect on students' learning. (Dan Weddle)