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)

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