Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Reviewing Outlines

One of the toughest challenges when reviewing and giving feedback on student work is commenting on outlines.  I require students on academic probation to turn in copies of their outlines to me on a rolling basis.  One question I hear every year, but don't have a complete answer to, is "How can you 'correct' an outline when every outline should reflect the individual's learning style and you don't correct for content?"  It's not a question I have a precise answer to because the student is correct; outlines should look very different depending on the student, and their teacher. I try to reframe the question; I don't really "correct" outlines; I give feedback designed to help the student make the most of the outlining experience.  One of the  reasons I require outlines is to impose external discipline on the student. They have to complete the outline because it is due, and that itself is helpful for students who have a hard time completing work on time. Another purpose of outlining is to see if the student is getting the big picture of the course.  This is a challenge for me because I don't have the time to sit in on each class more than a couple of times a semester, so I am not conversant in the methods of each professor.  However, I can tell when a student is getting lost in the details.  Amy's post on Friday was a great way to conceptualize cases for a student who gets lost in the details of cases.  And although I don't correct for content, I can tell when a student is going off the rails. If a student has only two prongs for the Lemon test in a Con Law outline, they need some serious help substantively. If I see they are having major issues with content  when I review their outline, I can direct them to see their professor before it is too late in the semester.  (RCF)

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