Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Friday, October 31, 2008

Aesop's Fables for Law Students II

I have included below the second of the Aesop's fables that I wrote for my law students in my weekly tips e-mail.  Most of you will probably remember the original version of this well-known fable.

The Tortoise and the Hare:

Tortoise methodically thinks about every question and topic: considering the rules for each issue, laying out every step, and providing relevant details to analysis.  Tortoise often answers questions in class slowly.  Tortoise mulls over remarks in study group and is never quick to answer.  Tortoise sometimes worries because the Hares seem so adept in class or study group when answering questions.

Hare can think on his feet adroitly and is never at a loss in class when called upon by the professor.  Hare gets to the point rapidly without wasting words or time on aspects that seem unimportant.  Hare is often perplexed why Tortoise is so slow when the answers seem so obvious.  Occasionally Hare is asked by the professor for more information, but Hare has never actually been wrong on an answer.

Exam period arrives at last.  Tortoise carefully reads the instructions, reads each word of each fact pattern, and takes time to make an "outline" of each answer before writing.  Tortoise allots the maximum time for each question and moves to the next question when that time is up.  Tortoise stays to the end of the exam and finishes with only minutes to spare.

Hare ignores the instructions, sizes up the fact patterns quickly, and begins writing furiously within minutes of reading a fact pattern.  Without making many notes, Hare juggles all of the rules and facts in his head.  Hare sees that the issues and analysis are obvious for the right conclusions.  Although it is a four-hour exam, Hare crosses the finish line in a mere 2 1/2 hours.  Looking around the room after turning in the exam, Hare is astonished that nearly everyone else is still writing furioiusly.  Hare chuckles, congratulates himself on his right answers, and leaves the room.

When grades come back, Hare is startled to receive only low C grades.  During exam reviews, Hare finds out that the model answers have more detail, give in-depth analysis, and are more organized.  The professor's comments on the exam indicate that Hare's answers were "conclusory" without sufficient analysis and that Hare did not use the format in the instructions.  And, to Hares's astonishment, his "right" conclusion received only one point.

Moral:  The highest grades do not always go to the swift in exams or those who are most adept in class.  To do well on exams, a law student must read the instructions, spot the issues, state the law accurately, connect the dots in orgnaized analysis, and use relevant details and facts.  (Students who are too quick off the mark can learn how to correct exam-taking errors with new strategies.)

For those ASP readers who saw my earlier three columns on the processing learning styles (October 8, 9, and 13, 2008), you will recognize that Hare would be a very high scorer on the Global-Intuitive styles, and Tortoise would be a low to moderate scorer on the Sequential-Sensing styles.  (Amy Jarmon)

October 31, 2008 in Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

"The Law" and Academic Skills

One of the conundrums many ASP professionals run into is the use of “the law” to teach skills. Why is this a conundrum? If more than one professor teaches the same subjects (like two Torts classes taught by two different Torts professors) there are bound to be differences in coverage and interpretation of the law. This is an issue fraught with challenges, most importantly, what law do we use?  After dealing with this challenge each year, I have developed some basic strategies.

1) Use neutral law. What is neutral law? Contract formation requires offer, acceptance, and consideration. A prima facie claim of negligence requires duty, breach of duty, causation, and harm. These are very broad, general principles of law where very few professors will differ, although, as my own disclaimer, I have had a professor disagree with the harm element in negligence. I try to use examples that do not include nuances of law that are ripe for differing interpretations.

2) Always preface any discussion of law with a disclaimer about using the professor’s rules and interpretations on the exam. I frequently remind students that their teacher is writing and grading the exam, not me, and they need to use the law they are taught in class on their exams. This leads to discussion about ambiguity and interpretation in the law, which is another area where many first-year law students need reassurance that ambiguity is their friend, not their foe.

3) Use non-legal examples to illustrate legal principles. Mike Schwartz has some excellent examples that my students have raved about. Charles Calleros provides some fantastic examples in his Legal Method and Writing text. Non-legal examples provide a fabulous vehicle for discussing analogical reasoning and it’s relationship to the case method.

When speaking with reluctant professor’s, I strongly suggest explaining how ASP is using the law. Differentiate using the law as a vehicle for teaching skills from teaching the law itself. I leave plain vanilla law teaching to the doctrinal professors; that is their job, not mine. However, teaching skills to understand, apply, and demonstrate comprehension of the law is my job. It’s hard to teach the skills without a vehicle, akin to teaching car mechanics without parts of a car. I have found that even reluctant law professors are more amenable to ASP when you give them their due and reassure them you are not impugning their teaching methods or teaching skills. Once a reluctant professor is reassured you are not poaching on their turf, it’s helpful to define what you do in a way they understand. Let them know Academic Success in law school is an area of academic study just like Torts, Contracts, or Business Organizations. We have our own methods and goals. While some broad-based rules of law are necessary as vehicles for teaching skills, ASP professionals don’t need to teach the law to teach skills. (RCF)

October 30, 2008 in Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

2005 Post Revisited

Dennis Tonsing e-mailed me with a revised link for a column that he had published in April 2005 regarding non-traditional students.  In fixing the link, I read through the journal entry from Alice Marie Beard that was referenced.

Two thoughts came to mind.  First, the column reminds us of the struggles for non-traditional students.  Although written after Ms. Beard's first semester in law school in 2001, it is apropos to non-traditional students who are struggling this semester.  Second, we are fortunate that Ruth Ann McKinney has published her wonderful book Reading Like a Lawyer since this column and Ms. Beard's experience in 2001. 

Rather than just fix the link, I decided to re-publish the column that Dennis wrote.  It appears below with the corrected link to Ms. Beard's diary entry/essay.  (Amy Jarmon)   

April 1, 2005: One Hell: February Thoughts on Law School

Alice Marie Beard, a recent graduate of George Mason University School of Law, wrote this essay during her first year of law school, while attending The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law.

Although this particular essay (diary entry)was written in February 2001, it is still instructive to those of us who deal with students, especially with "non-traditional" students.  Are we, too often, out of touch with what is going on with our students? 

This morning, I worked with a non-traditional student who was about to "jump out of her skin" with anxiety.  She hails from another state.  She has a husband, lots of bills, and an extremely annoying landlord.  She is in her first year of law school.  Her husband is still job hunting.  Her first semester grades are lower than she anticipated.  She never saw a "C" in college, was accustomed to nearly all A's.  She did the right thing: she asked for help.  (Academic support often includes more than an IRAC rehash - I referred her to professionals who will be of great and immediate assistance to her.)  In order to comprehend the profundity of the emotional impact of law school on ALL of our students, we need to become familiar with what they are going through. 

Alice Marie Beard has graduated from law school, and (in more recent essays linked to her web site) looks back on her years at "Catholic."  (djt)

October 28, 2008 in Miscellany, Reading, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Aesop's Fables for Law Students I

As I was contemplating some common student problems recently, I realized that Aesop had covered similar behaviors in some of his fables.  So, I rewrote some fables to apply to law students and distributed them through my weekly study tips column.  I thought that the fables might be of interest to others, so I shall include a fable in each of my next few postings.

The Ant and the Grasshopper:

The Ant works all semester long at studying for exams and spends hours reveiwing knowledge to store it away in long-term memory.  The busy ant reads for every class, reviews before class, makes personal outlines, goes to the professors with questions, reviews all outlines regularly, and practices many questions to apply the material.

The Grasshopper visits with friends over long lunches and dinners, goes away on weekend trips for fun, spends hours on weight training, attends a variety of organizational meetings, and volunteers for multiple committees.  Having been called on for the semester quota in all classes, Grasshopper merely scan reads the cases for class.  Grasshopper delays outlining because it is such drudgery.

In October, Grasshopper sees Ant in the library yet another day.  "Why do you toil so diligently on learning the law, Ant?"  "Because I want to understand and remember what I learn, Grasshopper."  "But that is so much work, Ant.  Surely, you are overdoing it!  I shall enjoy the semester far more than you and still have time for learning closer to exams."

Ant has reviewed all but a few days of new material when the exam period begins.  Thre is plenty of time for more practice questions.  Ant is not stressed because the work has been done over several months.  Ant gets A and B grades on the exams.

When Grasshopper gets to exam period, a frightening amount of material is still unlearned.  Grasshopper is anxious in the exams and cannot remember some rule variations because short-term memory is fuzzy.  Grasshopper cannot choose the "best" answer on multiple-choice questions because the nuances are beyond his understanding.  Grasshopper gets only low C grades and mourns that "The Great Middle of the Class" will be his eternal destiny.

Moral: The law student who works hard throughout the semester will reap rewards including less stress.  The law student who plays away the days will reap lower grades than could have been earned with diligence.  (Procrastinators can morph into consistent studiers by changing study habits.)

At the end of the weekly e-mail, I always encourage students who are having problems with that week's skill to make an appointment for assistance.  A number of Grasshoppers have taken advantage of individual appointments since the posting.  (Amy Jarmon) 

October 27, 2008 in Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Real-World Examples: Heller and Dissent Among Justices

I always love it when I see the skills and concepts I try to teach being applied in the real world. One of the key messages I try to impart with 1L’s is the obligation to form an opinion about the cases they read. Ruth McKinney does a wonderful job in Reading Like a Lawyer explaining to students why they need to dialogue with cases they read and honor their opinions of decisions they read. This skill is being applied in real life; two prominent federal judges are expressing their disagreement with the holding in Columbia v. Heller, the D.C. gun case. Judges Wilkinson and Posner have expressed their discontent not only with the holding, but specifically with the reasoning used by Justice Scalia. This presents a fabulous teaching moment; two lower federal court judges are openly disagreeing with the reasoning of a Supreme Court Justice. This disagreement illustrates that it is okay to disagree with people “above” you. Most 1L’s don’t know the outstanding reputations of Judges Wilkenson and Posner; I know many people in the legal community would agree neither judge is less knowledgeable than the current Supreme Court justices. Regardless of your opinion of the people involved, this disagreement presents a valuable teaching moment for students reluctant to disagree with holdings. (RCF)

 For more on the disagreement; see Ruling on Guns Elicits Rebuke From the Right by Adam Liptak, New York Times, October 20, 2008.


October 23, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Falling into temptation

It is the time of the semester when students are surrounded by temptations.  Of course, temptations were present earlier in the semester.  But now, temptations have greater negative consequences: lost time in exam studying; greater stress about tasks unfinished; greater concern about doing well.  And, some temptations are not as innocent as they may first appear.

Law students tend to have their individual lists of tempting distractions.  Some skip studying to e-mail and IM friends constantly.  Some turn the half-hour sitcom into multiple hours in front of the television.  Some "political junkies" watch hours of television commentary on the presidential campaign. Some play video games for hours.  Some decide to mega-clean the apartment rather than outline income tax. 

I spend a great deal of time with self-tempters.  We identify the temptations, raise awareness of the patterns and self-justifications, construct time management schedules, and implement strategies to turn temptations into rewards for completed work.  Many students can gain the self-discipline to corral their individual temptations.

However, I have noticed that  other law students are becoming more prevalent as the "tempters" during this time in the semester.  It seems that by luring fellow law students into wasting time, some are able to justify their own time wasting. 

The tempters have a variety lead-ins.  "Come join me for lunch.  You can't get anything done in an hour."  "What do you mean you are starting your memo.  It isn't due for three weeks."  "You aren't really reading for class are you.  You are a 'Z' and won't get called on for weeks."  "Come on, exams are six weeks away.  You have plenty of time."

The tempters also have a variety of ploys.  "I don't want to eat dinner alone.  Come with me.  We'll be back in no time."  "Take a break and come see the movie with me.  You deserve it."  "We always go out Friday night.  You can study over the weekend."  "You told me yourself you need to shop for a dress for your parents' Christmas party."

Often, these types of tempters are merely procrastinators who want someone else to procrastinate with them.  One can recognize that they have a time management problem and forgive their need to find a co-dependent relationship.  It is easier to say "no" to these tempters because the temptation is really more about them than the person they are trying to get to join them.   

However, some tempters are more dangerous and truly ill-intentioned.  A few students see a competitive edge in tempting others.  Usually these tempters are on top of things academically themselves and want to undermine others' studying.  They tend to be more sly in their attempts to cause others to falter. 

Some will lure another by appealing to that student's desire to be seen as bright.  "That class is so easy; surely you have time to play raquetball with me."  Another inroad might be: "You obviously understand that class, so don't worry about missing the study group session with me."  Some will try to shake the good student's confidence by boasting:  "I read every one of Professor Smith's law review articles.  Did you?  No!  You really should have.  You won't have time now."  Or, they might raise unimportant information at the exam room door to psych out another student: "Did you understand X (not covered in the course)?  I hear from 2L students that he always asks one question on it." 

At their meanest level, these tempters will prey on the "weaker" members of the class.  Although these weaker students are not really competition, tempters gain a sense of satisfaction in defeating their study efforts.  Some will denigrate others to crush their confidence: "You must be the only person in Torts who doesn't understand everything already.  It's nice to know who the class 'F' will be."  Some will use another's tragedy to defeat them: "I hear that Dan dumped you this week.  Too bad.  No wonder you are a mess with all the gossip.  I heard that he told...."  Some will smirk, laugh, or whisper to others every time the weaker student goes by to make her uncomfortable.          

Students are beginning to realize who their "real" friends are.  They are beginning to sort out who really wants them to succeed.  Real friends encourage one another to study.  Real friends help one another with difficult material.  Real friends give pep talks.  Real friends do not gossip, snipe, or sabotage. 

Students need to recognize their own temptations and take action to gain control over them.  Students need to "just say no" to the procrastinators looking for co-dependents.  And they need to give the scheming tempters a very wide berth.  (Amy Jarmon)      

October 21, 2008 in Advice, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 20, 2008

More on evaluating research on new programs

Based on some of the feedback I have received about  my post from Wednesday, I am expanding my discussion about why we need to consider our students when we are implementing new programs based on research. This is an area where I have personal experience, in two different ways.  I am in the unique position of having attended classes at or worked at six different law schools in four areas of the country; UNC Law (my alma mater), Duke Law, UCONN Law, Whittier, ASU--Sandra Day O'Connor, and Vermont Law School.  But I also have personal experience evaluating the research from peer institutions when making decisions about new initiatives and classes.  Based on my experience, the single most important variable when evaluating whether a program will achieve desired results is the students.  Students aren't a monolithic, one-dimensional variable. There are multiple sub-variables to consider.

It would be more than a blog posting, more like a journal article, for me to detail why I would suggest considering each and every factor I listed in my last post. I will examine a couple of key factors as examples of how and why to careful evaluate research before implementing new programs based on research from other schools.  I will be making some generalizations based on my experience; your experience may be different.  My goal is to encourage you to look carefully at how students may impact the research results, and how this may impact the success of a new program. 

One of the critical factors to examine is whether the research was conducted at a school with day only, or day and evening students.  Day and evening students have some dramatic differences.  Demographically, evening students tend to be older, have more work experience, are more likely to be supporting a family, and much more likely to be working while in law school. There are great benefits to schools having evening programs; my experience is they are more focused students, devoted to becoming lawyers, and more mature than their daytime counterparts.  But time is at an even greater premium for these students than for day students. Evening students with families or working even part-time don't have any extra time to relax, let alone participate in supplemental programs, even when it will be of great benefit in the long run.  Time and money constraints have a dramatic impact in the programs they will attend, how they respond to new programs, and the time they can put into extracurricular programs, such as Bar/Bri and PMBR.  I haven't seen any research on the success of evening students as compared to day students on the bar exam, but my guess is there would be a difference.  If a supplemental bar program or bar prep class is evaluated using evening students or day and evening students, I would expect the success rate to be much lower than if the same class is evaluated using day law students only.  It's not a measure of the program, but an outcome of the time constraints of the students.

The location of the law school is also a significant factor to be considered when evaluating research. A city school with numerous other schools in the area is going to be very different from a rural school with few or no other law schools within hundreds of miles.  A school without other schools in the area is more likely to serve a student body with a diverse range of abilities.  If a law school is the only one within a hundred mile radius, some students will attend, even if they could have gone to a higher-ranked law school, because they are locked to the region.  Evaluating programs in a school that has an LSAT range of 147-165 is different from evaluating programs at a school where the LSAT ranges from 150-153. Let me emphasize that LSAT is not destiny, but it is a factor when evaluating whether a program will work with your students. Teaching to a wide variety of abilities results in different teaching methods, and in some cases, different outcomes.  This factor overlaps with the public/private issue; if the only other law school in the area is private, or much more expensive, you will see some of these effects as well.

The history of the law school is a very important factor, with multiple variables.  A new law school is creating a culture and a legacy. They don't have alumni war stories about the bar exam to rely on for student buy-in of programs.  Without a strong culture and legacy, students also don't have misinformation to the same degree as students who have a wealth of bad advice built into the culture of the school.  New law schools also don't have the stigma, or burn-out, if they don't have a great record with the bar exam.  An older law school with more than a few lackluster years can develop a culture of failure than sends self-defeating messages to the students. One such message is that no one from Law School X passes the bar exam on the first try, so take it the first time as a trial run, or just for practice. If a school is implementing a new program while simultaniously trying to overcome the burden of law student stigma, the results of a new program will not be reliable for a couple of years.  The results of the program need time to be decoupled from the efforts to change the law school culture. 

Another variable relating to the history of a law school is the history of the academic success program. A law school with a well-established, reputable ASP program that has outreach during the 1L year will find it much easier implementing a program for 3L's.  When the students already trust ASP, they will buy-in sooner, and put more effort into what you are asking them to achieve.  Similarly, if a law school has not had ASP, but is looking to establish a 3L bar prep program for the first time, they need a  different marketing strategy and should expect a more conservative student response.   I am a strong advocate for starting ASP programs incrementally, starting with 1L's, and gradually introducing programs for upperclass students.  The other effect ASP will have on the success of a new program relates to the skills base of the students. Law schools with a well established 1L ASP that focuses on basic skills will have 3L's with a better foundation for bar courses. It's hard to build a foundation when students have already made it through 2-3 years of law school; you wouldn't try to pour a foundation after building a superstructure.   Any program that is starting with 3L's without a 1L program will need more time to achieve results, and an even longer time if the school isn't planning on creating a 1L program to introduce skills to students at the beginning of law school.

This is not an exhaustive list of factors to consider when thinking about implementing a new program. I hope I have provided an illustration of the kinds of factors to consider when considering implementing new programs based on the research of other schools.   I made some generalizations about students based on my experience, and you may disagree with some of them.

Lastly, if your school is considering implementing a new program, and would like to talk to me about some of the things to consider, I would be happy to chat with anyone on this topic.  (RCF)

October 20, 2008 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Program Evaluation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Keeping up with the research

This is a supplement to Amy's post on the bibliography of bar exam articles.  I wanted to add my two cents about the incredible value of the article, and about keeping up with th research in the area of bar support.  I am incredibly lucky; I have a phenomenal administrative assistant who was able to pull all the articles from the bibliography when the compendium came out last spring.  It was an impressive list, and I think the stack of articles was between 6 inches and 1 foot thick.  I made it through many, but not all, of the articles over the summer.  This was in addition to the articles I have stacking up, read and unread, about ASP issues in general.   Despite the amount of time required to read the research, it's an important function of our job that is best not ignored.  The research is ever-changing, and in the area of bar support, it is moving faster than ever. I expect that the adoption of 301-6 will inspire even more research on what works and what does work with our students. Some of the material can be extrapolated to work at our school, some of it is just too specific to be valuable in practice.  Here is a short list of considerations when evaluating whether to implement policies and practices from other schools:

1) Student bodies differ enormously, and what works for one type of student body won't necessarily work for another group of students. 
    a) Is the school public or private? 
    b) Were day, evening, or combined programs evaluated?
    c) Was the school religiously affiliated, or have some other focused mission? 
    d) Is the school the only law school in the state or area?
    e) Is the school new (less than 30 years old)? This is very important if evaluating the conduct and                involvement of alumni.
    f) For-profit or not-for-profit?
    g) How many students work during their law school career? 
    h) Does the school attract large numbers of students with families?
2) Was the research on the student body at only the author's school, or the author's school and other's nearby? Was the author using the research to promote a course under evaluation at their school? 
3) Did the school have a "bar pass problem" before the research was conducted?  If yes, was their "bar pass problem" limited to the state where the school sits, or did all students have problems with bars from many states? 
4) Did the school have an ASP department before 2005? This seems to be the tipping point for ASP programs nationwide.
5) Is the ASP department comprehensive, serving all students, or targeted to only select students? If only a select group of students receive support from ASP, it will have an impact on the results of the research. 
6) Was the program being evaluated conducted in-house, by faculty and staff of the school, or was the program purchased from a vendor? 

These are just some of the things to think about when evaluating which programs to implement at your school. I love the fact that so much research is coming out, and some of the most interesting research doesn't have immediate applicability to my school. That does not mean the research was not important in shaping my thinking, but bar passage issues are multi-dimensional, and what works best for one school may not work best for your school. (RCF)

October 15, 2008 in Bar Exam Issues | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Annotated Bibliography of Bar Exam Articles

On April 7, 2008, I reported on an annotated bibliography on bar examination articles.  I am including the text of the original post below in case you are new to the blog and missed this item. 

I am now attaching a PDF of the article that you can download.  If you prefer, the link to the article is here: Annotated Bibliography on Bar Exam ArticlesDownload be_annotated_bibliography.pdf

I would like to thank Joe Hodnicki of the Law Librarian Blog for the PDF file and the link.  Hopefully, this added access will help those of you who have not been able to get a copy of the bibliography.  (Amy Jarmon)

April 7, 2008: Annotated Bibliography of Bar Articles

Arturo Torres, Associate Dean of Law Library and Computing, at Texas Tech School of Law and Bryan J. Guymon, a second-year student at Texas Tech School of Law, have compiled a twenty-page annotated bibliography of articles from 1998 to 2007 that deal with the bar exam and admission to the bar.  The article appears in the February 2008 issue of The Bar Examiner (Volume 77, Number 1).

Any ASP professionals who deal with bar exam issues will find this article valuable to their work. 

October 14, 2008 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Processing Learning Styles Part III

In this final segment in the series, I want to describe the differences between active and reflective learners.  In addition, I shall give some practical ways in which these two types of learners can better use their particular styles in law school.  Again, I shall focus on "strong scorers" on these characteristics because it is easier to see the differences between them that way.

Active thinkers are people who say "let me do something with this concept to think about it."  The "doing" may be talking it through, asking lots of questions, working out a practice question, or some other active mode of dealing with the information.  Active thinkers may fearlessly start talking about something they know little about; by the end of the conversation, they will have a better understanding than at the start of the conversation.  They may ramble in that process or change their minds completely before they get to a final answer or statement.  Active thinkers tend to participate in discussions whether in meetings, study groups, or other settings.  They are happy to work through any topic without forewarning.  They tend to be excellent brainstormers.  They may write quickly during an exam without a great deal of planning to their answers. 

Reflective thinkers are people who say "let me think about this concept before I have to do anything with it."  These thinkers need time to reflect before they talk, write, or work on practice questions.  They will often sit quietly in meetings, study groups, or other settings and listen.  They tend to be adept at summarizing material.  They may not give all of the steps in their analysis when they speak because they have internally reflected on the material and consider the end result to be more important.  Very strong reflective thinkers may not like open-ended questions because they give too little structure for their reflection.  If asked a "yes" or "no" question, a reflective thinker may just state "yes" or "no" without any explanation.

Depending on their other processing styles (global-intuitive or sequential-sensing), the active and reflective learners may vary by type.  The active-global-intutive learner may discuss in more general and conceptual terms; the active-sequential-sensing learner may discuss with more steps and details.  The reflective-global-intuitive may internally process the overview and concepts, provide less of that process out loud, and focus more on the overview and concepts in the response.  The reflective-sequential-sensor may internally process in a more methodical way with more attention to detail, provide less of that process out loud, and focus more on steps and details in the response.

Active thinkers sometimes are also high scorers on oral learning and kinesthetic/tactile learning because these preferences focus on participation and application which are both very active modes of learning.  Reflective thinkers sometimes also score high on aural learning and verbal learning because these preferences provide greater opportunity to be a reflective observer.  However, both types of thinkers come in a vary of learning style combinations.

Active and reflective learners can sometimes irritate each other because their approaches are so very different.  Here are some of the conflicts that they relate about one another if they do not understand that both learning styles are legitimate:

  • Active learners are attention seekers because they always want to talk whether they know anything or not.  Reflective learners are not team players because they listen to everyone else's ideas rather than participate.
  • Active learners take forever to get to the answer and waste everyone's time with their rambling thinking.  Reflective learners never explain their analysis fully and only offer their conclusions.
  • Active learners have no structure to their study group sessions and want to talk about anything and everything in no particular order.  Reflective learners want everything in study group to be over-organized and are control freaks.
  • Active learners get bored in study groups that are just one member lecturing to the other members.  Reflective learners are willing to teach a topic in study group once they have had time to prepare.
  • Professors sometimes think active learners are disorganized or unprepared because they ramble to an answer.  Professors sometimes think reflective learners are unprepared and undisciplined in their thinking because they pause so long to answer and then do not give all of their thought process.

Here are some ways that the two types can be more productive but still reflect their differences:

  • Both types of learners should spend more time when reading cases to reflect on what the professor may ask in class for both the case-specific and synthesis aspects of what they have read.  Reflective learners will be more confident if called on in class, will not be as startled by the questions, and will be more likely to include their thought processes in their answers if they have reflected before class.  Active learners will be more prepared in class to give organized answers rather than rambling answers and can write down clearly the questions they need to ask in class rather than ask the professor partially formed questions.
  • Both types of learners should learn actively in class rather than be passive learners.  Reflective learners will be less likely to volunteer unless they are "comfortable."  However, they can self-monitor and engage in class by silently answering any question, comparing their answer to the answer of the reciting student, and listening to professor comments in reponse.  Active learners are typically more apt to volunteer in class and talk through the analysis with the professor to stay engaged.  However, they can also use the silent method to stay engaged if a professor only calls on students and does not take volunteers. 
  • Both types of learners should spend 1/3 of their time on an essay question thinking about the analysis and organizing the answer and 2/3 of their time writing the answer.  Their exam writing will improve with adequate analysis and organization.    Reflective thinkers will allow themselves the reflection time they need to notice all of the aspects to include in an answer and to organize their analysis completely.  Active thinkers will provide themselves with time to analyze so that they will not forget aspects that should be mentioned and will not meander in their written answers.
  • Both types should have input into the format of a study group.  Reflective thinkers truly need time to reflect on the material before the study group.  If the study group sets an agenda beforehand for the main topics to be discussed and which practice questions will be discussed, the reflective learner will be able to prepare and participate more effectively.  Active thinkers need some flexibility in the study group to discuss topics that were not on the pre-planned agenda.  If the study group allows for some time within the meeting for questions about any topic, the active learner can have time to ask what has suddenly popped into his head.
  • Both types of learners can benefit from practice questions.  When both types of learners share a study group, they may want to do practice questions separately as well as together to account for their learning differences.  Reflective learners may prefer to use practice questions only after they have thoroughly reviewed a topic so that they feel prepared to do something with the material.  After review and individual working of questions, they will be ready to discuss them in a study group session.  Active learners may prefer to use practice questions to help them think through a topic after some review while not having fully learned the material yet.  They then will want to add more questions after a thorough review of the material.  They may use the study group setting at either of these stages in review. 

Active and reflective thinkers need to consider their other absorption and processing styles to combine their multiple modes of learning.  As with other learning types, active and reflective learners are unique individuals within their general categories.  (Amy Jarmon)   

October 13, 2008 in Learning Styles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Notes from the Bar Pass Conference

Bar Passage Training Lesson: More Experiential Learning

By Hillary Burgess

Hillary.burgess [at] hofstra [dot] edu

I am on my way back from the LSAC Academic Support Bar Passage Programs Topical Workshop. I cannot believe how much I learned, especially about questions that I didnt know to ask. However, the biggest lesson Ive taken away from the workshop had nothing to do with bar support or bar passage.

The biggest lesson for me was that no matter what percentage of experiential learning exercises I incorporate into my Academic Success workshops, I can always include more and talk less. My new teaching mantra is going to be, Stop talking to start teaching. I can apply the same lessons to my skills-building workshops that I apply in my casebook courses: no content is so important that it cant be cut in favor of an exercise that teaches students how to learn the content on their own. This principle is true, even when my content is how to learn. Exercises simply do the job better.

I cant thank this community enough for creating the open, caring, and supportive environment we have, from the incredibly supportive wise (surprisingly young) elders to the people who have been around just long enough to not feel new (at least to the new people like me). Both groups don't seem to be afraid to put it all out there if doing so will better serve our community and especially our students.

October 10, 2008 in Guest Column | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Processing Learning Styles Part II

My prior column focused on four of the processing styles (global, sequential, intuitive, and sensing) and three categories of learners based on the combinations of those four styles: "Top-Down" (Global-Intuitive), "Bottom-Up" (Sequential-Sensing), and "Middle-Out" (Global-Sensing or Sequential-Intuitive).  I explained the general characteristics of each processing style and each category of learner.   

It is important to realize that all four types of processing (global, sequential, intuitive, and sensing) are essential for the best results in studying and on exams.  We must use all four processing styles no matter which are our actual preferences.  Thus, one needs to see the overview (global), understand the parts and the steps of analysis (sequence), realize the inter-relationships among concepts (intuitive), and recognize the important facts and details for the analysis (sensing).  Although one will use one's preferences first in learning, one then must "lean back" and use the opposites. 

In this column, I want to discuss how the main two categories of learners (global-intuitive and sequential-sensing) take advantage of their strengths and avoid the possible pitfalls of their preferences by using their opposite styles.  With practice one can take advantage of preference strengths and compensate for styles that may be initially overlooked. 

Global-Intuitives can assist their learning by considering the following strengths that they have and using them consistently:

  • Always keep the big picture of a course or topic in mind so that the parts of the whole will make sense.  This way you never get stuck on a sub-topic or topic without understanding its importance to the overview.
  • If the professor or casebook does not provide a preview of the material, look at the table of contents or a "big picture" study aid to gain a roadmap.  By previewing the material, you will be able to fit each part more naturally into the whole even if the professor initially isolates it as a separate unit.
  • Always think about the inter-relationships between the concepts for synthesis into the whole.  For example, consider how the elements of negligence are related, how four cases on dominant tenant's rights are similar and different, how the intentional torts are similar and different from one another, or how two separate hearsay rules might interact.
  • Use graphics to see the big picture of the sub-topic, topic, and course.  The type of graphic used will vary with the course, topic, and ways the visual learner personally "sees" material. 
  • Structure outlines by one's natural tendency to use topics and sub-topics rather than focus on indivdual cases.  These learners immediately realize that most cases (unless they are major ones) become mere illustrations of the concepts rather than the "be all and end all" in an outline.
  • Use your natural abilities to not get bogged down in minute details and to emphasize the essentials of a course.

However, global-intuitives must realize potential pitfalls in learning and take action to minimize them.  Here are a few suggestions for improving one's studying and exam performance:

  • Read cases and other materials for depth of understanding rather than for the gist of the material.  Avoid scanning and highlighting to learn later; instead focus on learning while you read.
  • Avoid canned briefs as a shortcut.  You need to focus on learning legal reasoning skills yourself rather than relying on someone else's work.  In law practice, you will not have canned briefs, and headnotes are not always dependable or in-depth.   
  • Beware of glossing a topic rather than learning it at enough depth to provide detailed analysis and to understand nuances.  Make sure you could explain the topic to a non-lawyer with clarity and detail.
  • Drill regularly on rules and steps of analysis to increase retention so that you do not paraphrase the law or skip steps in the analysis of a problem.
  • Use practice essay questions with model answers to determine whether you really know material as well as you think you do.  If you consistently miss points made in the model answers, then you are skipping steps or avoiding important details.
  • Practice essay writing techniques as well as the content during practice questions.  Organize the exam answers first in outline or chart form to force a more detailed analysis.  Write out a number of questions in full and compare them to the model answers.Connect the dots in essay analysis by using several techniques: 1) write to a non-lawyer audience such as a relative rather than to the professor so that the analysis has to be more complete; 2) at the end of every sentence ask "why" to check if the statement is merely conclusory or has been explained.
  • Use practice multiple-choice questions that supply detailed answer analysis to determine whether you really know the material well enough to see nuances.  By analyzing your mistakes, you can self-correct for missed nuances in the law or sloppy reading and thinking.
  • On multiple-choice exams, beware of picking "by gut" instead of reading each answer choice carefully.  Analyze each choice methodically being careful to consider all of the relevant facts and all of the elements of the rule. 
  • Read fact patterns, questions, and answer options carefully rather than scanning.  Read all exam instructions instead of assuming you know what the instructions will say.    
  • Time chart for all exams so that you use all of the time provided rather than rushing through the analysis for multiple-choice questions or the analysis and writing for essay answers. 
  • Ask a sequential-sensing study partner to point out when you are glossing material, skipping steps of analysis, paraphrasing rules too broadly, missing nuances in the law, etc.

Sequential-sensors can assist their learning by considering the following strengths that they have and using them consistently:

  • Use your natural ability to organize in your understanding and memorizing of methodologies, bright line tests, and other steps of analysis.  You will be methodical in working through each exam question this way.
  • Use your natural ability to notice facts and details in reading essay exam fact patterns carefully and noticing nuances in multiple-choice answer options.  You will make few careless mistakes this way.
  • Use your natural ability to organize and recognize important facts by outlining/charting exam answers with the necessary information to apply the law to the facts.  Note the facts, policies, case analogies, and other aspects that need to discussed for each party in the answer outline/chart.
  • Use your natural abilities at organization and detail to connect the dots in your written analysis so that the professor is able to find the points in your essay answers quickly.  You maximize points by "showing your work."
  • Use flashcards, acronyms, or other methods to memorize the rules and elements so that they are recalled automatically during the exam.
  • Understand the parts or units before trying to jump to the big picture.  Understand the separate cases, the separate sub-topics, and separate topics before synthesizing them.

However, sequential-sensors must realize potential pitfalls in learning and take action to minimize them.  Here are a few suggestions for improving one's studying and exam performance:

  • Before reading a case, take a couple of minutes to survey for important information: plaintiff-defendant categories; thumbnail sketch of the dispute; the level in the appellate process; whether the case will focus on precedents, statutes, policy or a combination of these; the holding; the judgment.  Surveying is not the same as scan reading the case. It is quickly finding pieces of information to give yourself a framework for reading the case.
  • Keep your briefs brief so that you do not get bogged down in minute detail.  Use your casebook margins to note important information as you read the case.  Then condense to the most important information in your brief.  Thus, your brief and margin notes complement one another rather than duplicate work.
  • Use additional techniques to shorten your briefs.  Use bulleted or numbered lists of phrases rather than sentences and paragraphs.  Use paraphrases rather than long quotes.
  • After reading cases on a sub-topic, synthesize them.  How are they similar and different from one another?  How do they relate to the sub-topic?  How do they relate to the topic as a whole?
  • After studying separate sub-topics, synthesize them.  How are the sub-topics similar and different from one another?  How do they relate to the topic as a whole? 
  • Use graphics to see the overview of a topic and the inter-relationships of concepts as well as the separate parts and steps of analysis.
  • Try to condense material to the essentials before you outline.  If you cannot curb your tendency to include minute detail, condense your outlines further several times during the semester to focus more on the overview and inter-relationships.
  • Practice lots of questions to become more efficient in your test-taking strategies.  You want to have your techniques on auto-pilot so that you do not waste time in an exam trying to decide what to do.
  • Stay within the four corners of the fact pattern during your analysis.  If "what if" and "how about" predominate your thinking, you have probably wandered outside the fact pattern as written.  You may be considering a phantom issue that is not in the fact pattern.  Writing about phantom issues wastes time and gains no points.
  • Time chart on all exams so that you do not spend too much time on some questions and then have to rush through the final questions (or, even worse, not finish all questions). 
  • Ask a global-intuitive study partner to point out when you bogged down in minutia, are worrying over unimportant points, have missed the inter-relationships among concepts, have missed the overview of a topic or the course, etc.

As mentioned previously in Part I, the "Middle-Out" learners need more individual evaluation because of the crossover in styles.  However, using the descriptions in Part I to understand the particular combination of styles, a Middle-Out learner can use today's suggestions to determine which techniques seem to best match that person's crossover combination.

The final part in this series will focus on the active and reflective learners.  Part III will discuss the characteristics of these learners and practical ways for them to use their styles more effectively.  (Amy Jarmon)   

October 9, 2008 in Learning Styles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Processing Learning Styles Part I

A great deal has been written about the absorption learning styles: Visual, Verbal, Oral, Aural, Kinesthetic, Tactile.  However, the discussions often overlook the processing styles: Global, Sequential, Intuitive, Sensing, Active, and Reflective.  These styles are critical to how students process information, perform on exams, and work together in study groups. 

Although much more could be written about these learning preferences, here are some highlights.  I shall describe each type as to the "strongest scorers" because it is easier to understand the preferences in those who exhibit them at high levels.

Global learners prefer to have the "big picture" first so that they can know how to insert the parts within that overview.  In a sense, the global learner is looking for the roadmap to the course and its various topics.  If a professor previews the material in a topic, the global learner will gain from that "here is where we are going for the next two weeks" perspective.  Global learners also benefit from looking at a table of contents to see how the topic relates to the whole course and how the sub-topics relate to the topic.  Global learners can also benefit from a topic-subtopic syllabus from the professor.

Sequential learners prefer to look at each unit first and only seek the bigger picture after they are comfortable with the parts.  For sequential learners, each case is a separate unit and each sub-topic and topic are separate units initially.  Sequential learners only seek the bigger picture or overview after they are comfortable with the parts.  Sequential learners must remind themselves to synthesize material.  Thus, a professor who summarizes the material in a topic will help sequential learners by that "let's look at where we have been the last two weeks and pull it all together" perspective.  Sequential learners are sometimes uncomfortable that a professor starts in the middle of the casebook instead of going in the sequence that the editor determined.

Intuitive learners prefer ideas, policies, theories, abstractions, and the inter-relationships among these concepts.  In a sense, they love ideas no matter how useful the ideas are and become excited by innovations.  They can quickly manipulate and retain concepts.  Intuitives can sometimes understand the concept or provide the "answer" without knowing how they arrived at the insight.  A policy-driven course is often a delight for the intuitive learner.  The law school mantra of "it depends" is less burdensome to intuitive learners because they deal well with ambiguity. 

Sensing learners, however, prefer facts, details, and practicalities.  They will notice each fact in a long fact scenario.  They will know far more details about the cases and the "black letter law" than their fellow students.  They are not particularly interested in the theoretical and abstract aspects of the law unless they can see practical uses for those aspects.  A policy-driven course is often drudgery for the sensing learner.  Ambiguity is frustrating because these students often come from academic disciplines that required right answers.

If students are both global and intuitive, they are often termed "top-down" learners.  They work from the overview with inter-relationships of concepts as their first step and then fit the pieces in place with some detail.  Global-intuitve learners sometimes think they understand a course because they have the gist of the material, but actually lack a depth of knowledge for closer analysis.  Class notes for these learners often comprise just the main points and have little detail.  These learners tend to make shorter outlines because they readily condense material and discard details before they outline a section.  They can get impatient with the details of an assignment.   In an exam they may misread questions because they are not reading closely or may forget the details of what they read because they focus on the general idea.  These learners may not read test instructions at all because they assume they know what the instructions will be. 

Global-intuitive learners may remember that a rule has six elements but have trouble remembering a different element each time they recite the rule.  Alternatively, they may paraphrase a rule too drastically.  These learners tend to not connect the dots in exam analysis to receive the maximum number of points because they write to the professor (s/he knows that so I do not have to include it).  They are less prone to organize an exam answer carefully before beginning to write.  Consequently, they juggle material in their heads and forget to discuss some facts, mention cases that apply, or consider all the steps of analysis.  In addition, they may think they wrote something in the answer when they did not or repeat part of an answer because they forget they already said it.  On multiple-choice questions, they may pick by gut rather than carefully analyze each answer choice.  They commonly finish exams earlier than other students: essay exams because there is nothing more to say although their answers were "conclusory"; multiple-choice exams because there is no inclination to review "gut" answers.

If students are both sequential and sensing, they are often termed "bottom-up" learners.  They learn each case as a separate unit with an eye for details.  They are loathe to finish reading a case until they understand every word and every detail.  They tend to write very detailed briefs, sometimes with extensive quotes.  Each sub-topic is a separate unit to be understood in detail.  Sequential-sensing learners sometimes stay bogged down in the separate parts and details and forget to learn the overview and inter-relationships of concepts for a topic or the course as a whole.  These learners tend to have "mega" outlines because they are reticent to condense material and leave any details out as they outline a section.  They are methodical in their thought and tend to notice methodologies, steps of analysis, and bright line tests.  They rarely misread anything.  These students often teach their global-intutitive friends the law in depth.  To their frustration, those global-intuitive friends often get higher grades because they have promptly discarded any details that seem unnecessary and find the big picture of the material.

Sequential-sensing learners tend to retain the organization of analysis whether it is the questions to ask whenever a topic comes up or the specific elements of rules.  They tend to be organized in their exam writing and to outline an answer naturally before writing.  Sometimes they see phantom issues because they know so much detail that they are sure the issue must be there somewhere in a question.  They might write more on a correct issue than will actually receive points because they have included everything they know about the topic.  They may second-guess themselves with constant "what if" and "how about" questions which are outside a multiple-choice question and fact pattern.  As a result, they will change correct answer choices to wrong answer choices.  These learners tend to have time management problems in exams because they spend too long on individual questions (whether essay or multiple-choice) and then rush through the final questions or never get a chance to answer some questions because time has been called.

"Middle-out" learners also exist which crossover the styles.  These leaners would be Global-Sensing or Sequential-Intuitive.  In a sense, the crossing over means that they process in both directions at once rather than in one direction.  For these learners, the crossover tends to act as a balance between the two opposite dimensions.  There appear to be fewer "middle-out" learners.  "Middle-out" learners are often older students with work or educational experiences that have tended to support this bi-directional learning.  For these learners, it is harder to generalize their characteristics.  Instead one needs to read the type descriptions and discuss the types in light of that learner's specific scores on each dimension.

For all of these types, they can frustrate each other greatly if they do not understand the different processing types and the legitimacy of all learning styles.  Opposite types sometimes "take it personally" when someone does not explain things the same way in a study group because they assume the other person is just being difficult or that they have the only "right" way to learn.  Members become exasperated that the other person drones on about unimportant details or paraphrases rules or other transgressions.  In addition, when professors teach to only their own learning styles, the students who are opposites struggle more to follow what is happening in class and to learn the material.  Without an understanding of different styles, a professor may inadvertently misjudge a student's class performance merely because the student processes information in a very different way.   

So how do these learners use their preferences to advantage and avoid the negative tendencies of their learning styles?  My next column (Part II) will address strategies and solutions.  Part III will talk about the active and reflective dichotomy among learners.  (Amy Jarmon)


October 8, 2008 in Learning Styles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 6, 2008

High Anxiety

If I were to put a label  on this semester, it would be high anxiety.

As an Academic Success professional, I feel fairly insulated from the turbulence of the outside (corporate) world. After all, we have all heard (or seen) that students go to graduate school when the economy takes a downward turn. But in the past few weeks, a palpable sense of worry and anxiety over the economy has invaded the relatively safe harbor of law school.  I am not talking about the 3L's that are looking for employment. They are worried and anxious even in the best of economies. I am feeling anxiety about the economy gripping 1L's who never intended to get a paying job between their 1L and 2L year, but who are now worried they won't find any positions for the summer.  I am seeing an unusual type of anxiety among the 1L's that both encourages and dismays me: anxiety that if they don't do well in law school, they are looking into an abyss.  I am normally excited whenever I see a trend within 1L's that encourages them to do the things they need to succeed.  But this anxiety dismays me because it is not motivated by a desire to succeed, but by a fear of failure that risks overwhelming students as the prepare for exams.  There is a very real risk for most law students at most schools that they may not be able to continue their law school career if they do not complete their course work in satisfactory manner.  The anxiety I am seeing among students is the type that can paralyze students if they receive even modest constructive criticism. This is a dangerous condition that can sink well-prepared students unless it is managed before midterm exam grades come out. 

I don't have any suggestions for students struggling with the impact of the economy on their finances or their future, but I do have advice regarding how to cope with stress and anxiety when outside forces threaten to overwhelm them emotionally.  If students are doing everything they can to succeed, which includes going to class, reviewing their notes or "purble blurb-ing", outlining, seeing their professors when they have questions about the material, and doing practice questions, then they should take a deep breath.   By telling students to take a deep breath, I do not mean to minimize the gravity of  recent events.   There are things we can control in this world, like our own effort towards reaching a goal, and things we can not control in this world, like the economy.  Taking a deep breath should remind students that they are doing everything in their power to succeed.  And if students are doing everything they can to succeed and it does not show on midterms or exams, then there are bigger problems that need to be addressed, problems that would cause great stress and anxiety regardless of the economy.  (RCF)

October 6, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Accommodations for ADD/ADHD and LD Students

Most of us work with multiple students who have been diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, or learning disabilities of some type.  In fact, with each new 1L class, our Student Disability Services usually sends letters of accommodations for at least 5 or 10 students. 

Those numbers reflect the students that we know about first semester.  The numbers increase the second semester as grades come out, and additional students come forward.  A few more students come forward at the end of the first year when further probations and academic dismissals are announced.  I suspect even then that we have seen the tip of the iceberg, and some other students may hover just above our academic minimums without being identified.

I am always glad to see accommodations letters from Student Disability Services before fall semester begins or during that semester in time for at least exam accommodations if not classroom accommodations.  It means that those students have a level playing field in place.  The Associate Dean for Students and Diversity meets with them, and many students will follow up for discussions with me. 

It is the students who go through the procedures to gain a level playing field after bad grades that concern me greatly.  The damage to their self-esteem, the stress of probation, and the academic hole from which they have to dig out exacerbate their situations.  With new accommodations and hard work, we see them succeed at new levels.  But some are unable to turn it around because of the extremely low grades before they received accommodations. 

Occasionally a new diagnosis is made for students who surface after bad grades.  The problem never showed up in prior education because the student could compensate and do very well.  Let's face it, the national statistics tell us that high schools, colleges, and universities often have grade inflation and require little work for bright students to excel.  When undiagnosed students start law school they suddenly come up against an overwhelming amount of reading, the need to stay focused for longer periods of time, course grades based on one exam, exams with strict time mangement requirements, and competition from the best and the brightest.  It is no wonder that they get surprised by bad grades.

However, I have found more and more that the students were previously diagnosed with one of these disabilities and had prior accommodations, but decided not to ask for assistance as law students.  Some students (with their doctors agreement) decided to discontinue medication before law school to be "like everyone else."  Other students decided to forego accommodations because they did not want anyone to know.  Some students decided that dropping prior accommodations would create a level playing field because it would be unfair to other students if they had accommodations.

I can understand these students wanting to be like everyone else and not wanting anyone to know.  However, the potential damage to their academics makes these desires high-risk for some of them.  Because they do not realize the many ways in which law school will be a different academic experience, they make their decisions on insufficient information.  There is a summer communication to all students about accommodation requests.  In orientation, an announcement is made to all students to encourage disabled students to apply through Student Disability Services for accommodations if they have not already done so. 

Some undiagnosed students or students who had initially decided against accommodations will be identified during the first semester.  Our Legal Practice professors often recognize problems because of the intensive writing assignments and the small class sizes.   Others are identified by doctrinal faculty or administrators.  Timing is important if accommodation requests are to be processed before the semester ends (especially for undiagnosed students who must also undergo testing) .

A new twist has developed regarding identified students who have acommodations for laptops in the classroom.  Several students have told me that even though a laptop helps their learning they will not use this accommodation if a professor has banned laptops.  Other students will realize that they must be disabled if they are allowed to have a laptop when everyone else cannot.  It is very sad that students who need this legitimate accommodation have to make this decision.  The banning of laptops is vogue right now, but the consequences for students with disabilities (and different learning styles for that matter) are not always recognized.                

As an academic support professional, I can refer students for accommodations, work with students on strategies to improve their learning, and advocate for them.  Hopefully, more students will self-identify or be discovered before the semester results in bad grades.  (Amy Jarmon)   

October 3, 2008 in Disability Matters | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Revised Job Description for UNLV ASP Position

An incorrect URL link was given in the final paragraph of this posting instead of the correct e-mail address.  The correction is included in the revised job description below:

The University of Nevada Las Vegas (Boyd School of Law) is hiring a new Director of Academic Support.  Nancy Rapoport is the appointments chair and has information on her blog at Nancy Rapoport's Blogspot on UNLV Hiring about the selection committe, the position, and nominations or applications.  The job advertisement is included below.  (Posted by Amy Jarmon) 


The William S. Boyd School of Law of the Unviersity of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) invites applicants interested in joining our faculty as an Assistant Professor in Residence – Academic Support.  The qualifications for the Director of Academic Support position include a record of academic success in law school and experience suggesting the aptitude to direct a creative and ambitious academic support program.  The faculty also expects that the Academic Support Director will be a resource for the faculty to increase teaching effectiveness. The existing program is administered by the Director, with the assistance of an Associate Director, and includes workshops, tutoring, special classes, orientation programs, bar preparation classes, counseling, and other strategies to enhance the learning environment at our law school.  The Director may teach substantive, non-bar, non-ASP related classes.  The position is a 12-month, non-tenure track, renewable contract position. 

The Boyd School of Law, a state-supported law school, is the only law school in Nevada.  Located at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in one of the fastest growing cities in the country, the law school commenced classes in August 1998.  It has a faculty of 42 new and experienced legal educators drawn from law schools around the country, and is located in a state-of-the-art facility in the center of the University campus.  With nearly 500 students, the law school offers a full-time day program, a part-time day program, and a part-time evening program. 

The Boyd School of Law is a diverse community of faculty, students, and staff who work together, collegially and respectfully, to maximize the potential of its students and to help the law school fulfill its aspirations.  We welcome applications from those who wish to participate in this sort of community, and we strongly encourage women and people of color to apply. For more information on the Boyd School of Law, see our website at  Please contact Professor Nancy B. Rapoport at (702) 895-5831 or if you have questions about the position. 

APPLICATION DEADLINE:  Review of credentials will begin immediately and the search is to remain open until the position is filled.  If you are interested in applying for this position please apply on-line at: and submit a letter of interest, a detailed resume that highlights relevant professional experience and qualifications, salary history, and the names, addresses and telephone numbers of three professional references who may be contacted. 

For assistance with UNLV's on-line applicant portal, contact Jenn Martens at (702) 895-3886 or  UNLV is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action educator and employer committed to excellence through diversity.

October 3, 2008 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Germ Warfare

The law school has been attacked by the first onslaught of cold and flu season.  I have been tempted to replace the large candy bucket in the office with an enormous vat of steaming chicken soup.  I am constantly dispensing tissues as well as advice during appointments.  I find that my advice has started to sound very much like my mother. 

Although much of what I say is common sense, my law students have forgotten these tried and true measures because they are so intent on doing well and not missing too many classes.  I find myself repeating the following litany multiple times a day:

  • Do yourself and everyone else a favor and stay home in bed while you are contagious.
  • Go to see the doctor if the illness pesists.
  • E-mail your professors to let them know that you are ill and will not be in class.
  • E-mail any appointments to let them know that you are ill and will have to reschedule.
  • Get notes from classmates as soon as you return to school.
  • Go in to see your professors to ask questions about the material once you have reviewed the notes.
  • Wash your hands throughout the day to avoid a new germ contingent that is on the prowl.
  • Start getting more sleep, eating better, and taking vitamins so you will not have a relapse.

After the stream of sick humanity through my office, I started to succumb myself.  I went home early to chicken soup and extra sleep.  So far, crisis averted.  Knock on wood.  (Amy Jarmon)

October 2, 2008 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)