Friday, January 29, 2010
Let's face it, part of success in law school is all about strategies and techniques. How one studies can be the difference between a C grade and a B or A grade. It pays big dividends to evaluate one's study habits at the beginning of each semester. Ask yourself how you can get more "oomph" from your efforts. Ask yourself what worked and what did not work last time around in your studies.
Here are some of the study skills that you should reflect upon during your evaluation. The questions suggested are not exhaustive. Make notes as you consider each study skill to indicate what you want to continue because it worked and what changes you want to make to improve your learning.
Reading cases. Did you allow enough time to read the case for understanding rather than mere highlighting to learn later? Did you focus throughout your reading or "zone out" at times? Did you preview the case before reading it? Were you an active reader, asking questions while you read? Did you think about the questions your professor usually asked in class so that you could look for those answers? Did you make margin notes to condense your reading to the important points? Did you answer the editor's questions on the case?
Briefing cases. Did you read every case whether or not you expected to be called upon by the professor? Did you brief or merely book brief? Did your briefs contain the essential points rather than everything? Did your briefs go beyond details and consider the "big picture" of the cases and how they fit within the topic and related to cases on the same topic? Did your briefs use bullet points, abbreviations, headings, and other methods to save you time? Did you critique your briefs later to see what you missed according to class discussion so that you could prevent future mistakes in your briefs?
Note-taking in class. Did you review your briefs, cases, and prior class notes (on continuing topics) before class so that you had seen the material twice? Did you focus on taking notes on the essential points rather than taking verbatim notes? Did you answer silently in your head the questions asked of other students so that you stayed engaged in the class discussion? Did you "zone out" in class? Did you focus on class rather than surf the net, play solitaire, or IM during class? Did you review your class notes within 24 hours to fill in gaps, re-organize them, and begin to condense them towards an outline?
Outlining course material. Did you make your own outlines so that you processed the information yourself rather than use someone else's outlines? Did you outline every week or at least at the end of every topic so that the material was fresh in your mind? Did you focus your outlines on topics and subtopics with the cases as illustrations rather than focus on the cases? Did you supplement your outlines with charts, tables or other visuals if they are helpful to you? Did you supplement your outlines with your own homemade flashcards if they are helpful to you?
Reviewing for exams. Did you review for exams all semester so that you could benefit from the way learning and memory work? Did you regularly review your entire outline for each class to keep everything fresh? Did you intensely review subtopics and topics to gain deep understanding of them? Did you spend enough time on memory drills to learn the rules, exceptions, methodologies, and terms of art precisely? Did you complete lots of practice questions so that you checked both your ability to apply the law and your ability to IRAC (or choose the "best" multiple-choice answer)?
Test taking of fact pattern essay exams. Did you spend 1/3 of your time reading, analyzing, and organizing an answer and 2/3 of your time writing the answer? Did you adhere to the format requirements from your professor (word or page limits, IRAC or some other style, client letter or motion format)? Did you adhere to the time parameters for the exam (spent the time indicated for each question, used all of the time allotted for the exam)? Did you "show your work" in your analysis so that the reader could follow all of the steps of your argument? Did you write everything you knew about a topic rather than answer the question asked? Did you apply the law to the facts and argue both sides? Did you use policy arguments appropriately? Did you refer to cases appropriately?
Test taking of multiple choice exams. Did you study the material in enough depth so that you could see the nuances in answer choices? When you completed practice questions did you look for patterns in your wrong answers (misread the question, forgot an element of a rule, etc.)? Did you budget your time well throughout the exam? Did you analyze each answer option rather than pick by gut? Did you avoid second-guessing right answers? Did you "mis-bubble" any answers if using a scantron answer sheet? Did you waste time looking up answers if the exam was open book/code?
If you feel that your strategies and techniques for studying were deficient, begin immediately to make improvements. Your faculty members may be able to give you tips for studying the specific areas of law that they teach. Visit your academic support office for assistance if those services are available to you at your school. (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, January 28, 2010
I have spent the last month talking with students whose grades were not good after last semester. In many cases, something unexpected happened to the student during the fall semester. That unexpected happening threw the student into a tailspin that meant that law school was not the student's focus.
The circumstances vary greatly. A close friend or family member may have been killed in a car accident. A parent may have been diagnosed with cancer. A long-term relationship may have ended in acrimony. A student may have become homeless. The student became very ill. Money may have run out. The list could include many other circumstances as well.
One can easily understand how these events could derail a student's attempts at studying. My concern is that the student often tells no one what is going on and "toughs it out" rather than seek assistance. Some students react in this way because the event is embarrassing or highly personal. Some students choose this path because they have always been able to overcome obstacles on their own. Some students are from cultural backgrounds that discourage one from talking about family or personal matters. Others are so overcome by the circumstances that they just do not know where to turn for help.
Unfortunately, most of these students had options that they could have considered. Most law schools have a variety of policies, procedures, and people to help students cope with adversity. After the fact, it is impossible to salvage a semester. However, at the time of the incident/tragedy, the law school may have been able to assist.
In hopes of helping law students seek help rather than go it alone, I am offering some suggestions should the unexpected occur this semester. Each law school will differ on the services and assistance available, but a law student coping with the unexpected should consider the following:
- Many law schools have policies and procedures that offer a variety of academic options. The timing in the semester may determine which options apply. Possibilities include: leave of absence, withdrawal from school, withdrawal from one or more courses to reduce the student's course load, delayed exams, paper or project extensions, incomplete grades, in progress grades.
- Many law schools have staff members whose duties specifically include working with students who have unexpected events suddenly impede their academics. Even if the student initially contacts the "wrong" person, these persons will be able to refer the student to the correct office. Staff members with these duties likely include: the associate dean for academics, the associate dean for student affairs/dean of students, or the academic support staff members.
- Choosing among options may require financial aid advice because of implications for loans, scholarships, or grants. Some law schools have a financial aid counselor specifically for law students. Law schools may instead use the university financial aid office on main campus for advising students about how options will affect their financial circumstances (and any deadlines that may affect financial aid).
- If the circumstance is purely financial, the financial aid officer may also be able to document the situation for re-packaging the student's aid for eligibility for more dollars. Emergency loan procedures at the law school may provide for quick loan dollars to cover car repairs, the deposit on a new apartment, or other smaller amounts needed to correct a problem.
- The law school may have information on local housing to assist a student who suddenly is without a place to live. Private parties may contact the law school with information on rooms or houses for rent. Law schools may also have "roommate wanted" listings or a bulletin board system for posting housing opportunities. Universities connected with the law school may have "off-campus housing" offices that can assist.
- Student health or counseling services may be included within student's fees to provide access to these professionals. These services may well be available at law schools connected to universities.
In short, there are ways to get help in a crisis. I encourage law students to let someone in the law school administration know what is going on so that services and options can be explored. (Amy Jarmon)
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Academic Success Counselor
Charlotte School of Law (CharlotteLaw) seeks applications for an experienced Academic Success Counselor.
NEW POSITION DUE TO GROWTH
This is a non-faculty full time administrative position starting immediately, at a salary commensurate with qualifications and experience.
The Academic Success Counselor reports directly to the Director of the CharlotteLaw Program for Academic Success. He or she will work with students seeking to improve academic performance or experiencing academic difficulty. The Counselor performs other academic support functions essential to promoting students’ success in law school and to the success and growth and of the institution.
The school is a member of The InfiLaw System, a consortium of independent law schools committed to making legal education more responsive to the realities of new career dynamics. Its mission is to establish student-centered, American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law schools in underserved markets that graduate students with practice-ready skills, and achieve true diversity programs aimed at student academic and career success.
Primary Duties & Responsibilities:
The Academic Success Counselor is responsible for the following:
• Assists in counseling and advising students on academic probation, students “at risk,” and any other student, seeking to improve academic performance;
• Assists in preparing and presenting the Academic Success workshops;
• Advises students on various academic issues, including academic probation matters, and the petitioning process to obtain additional probationary semesters;
• Tracks the academic progress of “at risk” students and students on academic probation. Updates and maintains spreadsheets used for tracking;
• Assists in planning and executing New Student Orientation;
• Assists students in reviewing answers to practice exams;
• Assists in maintaining Academic Success website and TWEN site devoted specifically to Academic Success;
• Participates in Best Practice Meetings for Academic Outcomes;
• Attends meetings as necessary within the law school; and
• Attends seminars and conferences to improve ability to provide appropriate services at the law school.
• Applicant must be a licensed attorney with one to three years of legal experience.
• Prior academic support experience (either professional or as part of a graduate or law school program) or teaching experience (i.e., legal writing or comparable teaching experience in writing and analytical skills training) is preferred.
Licensed by a State Bar Association
Salary is commensurate with experience. CharlotteLaw offers a full benefits package. For more information about Charlotte School of Law, please visit www.charlottelaw.edu.
If helping others and working in a dynamic workplace is what you feel passionate about and you are looking for a new challenge and a chance to put your experience to work in an innovative environment – Charlotte School of Law may be the place for you.
Please send a resume, the names of three references (including addresses and phone numbers) to firstname.lastname@example.org or via mail to:
Charlotte School of Law
2145 Suttle Avenue
Charlotte, NC, 28208
Charlotte School of Law is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
Monday, January 25, 2010
This is the point at which most students have received most, if not all, of their first semester grades. So this is also the point in the semester when they start to meltdown. They never received anything lower than an A- in their life, their parents will think they didn't work if they see these grades, they feel--especially in this climate--that they will never get a job because first semester was not what they hoped it would be. Outside of the concrete steps we can take to help them pull up their grades, there are things we can suggest to take the edge off the stress.
1) Provide a list of spas or other places where students can go for a massage. Because "massage" services can be shady if one just looks them up in the phone book, providing a list of reputable massage therapists can help students find what they need. If you live near a major metropolitan area, see if their are any massage schools in the area that provide no-charge or discount massages on weekends as training for their students.
2) Remind them to keep up their appearance. Sloppy clothing, unkempt hair and nails, and for men, remaining unshaven can be the start of a slippery slope. They feel bad about themselves so their grooming habits decline, people see their outward appearance and respond to it negatively, which makes them feel worse about themselves, and a shame spiral sets in. It's much harder to get a job if one looks like they don't care about themselves.
3) If you are a part of a university with mental health services, ask a counselor to come in for a lunchtime chat with students about the signs and signals someone may be at risk. Presenting mental health services as something for everyone instead of a service for only "crazy" people helps take away the stigma of seeking help. As long as they don't feel like they are the ones on the spot, students will be more likely to seek out the help they need.
4) Tell them to get back in touch with someone who encouraged them to go to law school but is not invested in their success. A college professor or a pre-law advisor who helped them through the application process would love to hear from them, even if they are struggling. These are people who don't have a personal stake (unlike parents, siblings, or spouses) in a student's law school career, and they can remind students of why they wanted to attend law school in the first place. I am the director of the Pre-Law Center as well as an ASPer, and I would love to hear from former students, even if they are struggling. A fresh perspective from someone outside of their normal circle of support can be enlightening.
5) If extracurricularswere not the source of student struggles during their first semester, suggest they take up a sport or play on an intramural team. Having something in their life they can feel good about, somewhere were they can achieve their goals and receive instant gratification for their effort, can go a long way towards lessening law school stress. While it is helpful for law students to exercise, the goal of playing a sport or joining a team is different. Feeling like they have something to celebrate when they win a game or score a goal can remind them that their are things in life to feel good about.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
We are excited to announce this year’s full-day NY Academic Support Workshop, to be held from 9:30 to 5:30 at New York Law School on Friday, February 26. As usual, this will be a small and rather intensive gathering of academic support professionals and colleagues actively working to learn from one another. While most are from the New York area, we invite and have welcomed ASP folks from across the country. In order to share ideas most effectively, we cap attendance at 20 participants.
There will be two parts to this year’s workshop. In the morning session we will hold individual “rounds” on our work with ASP students. Last year we had a wonderful presentation from David Nadvorney and Mary Lu Bilek of CUNY Law School, who demonstrated how holding “rounds” discussions can help us look carefully and critically at our own ASP work. The session was such a hit that we thought it would be enormously valuable to expand the project and have several of us present rounds on particular issues or interactions with our students. For more background about the “rounds” concept, I am attaching an article by Sue Bryant and Elliot Milstein about rounds in clinical teaching. Faculty in other schools have adapted the method to looking at their own teaching, and we found it equally helpful for all aspects of ASP work.
In the afternoon we will follow our usual format of an agenda based on the interests of those attending. Those planning to attend should let us know if there are particular materials you would like to demonstrate or share, or particular topics/ issues you would like to lead a conversation about.
No one who attends is allowed to be a back-bencher. If you’d like to come, please let us know whether you would like to present or facilitate during the morning rounds, have a particular topic for the afternoon agenda, or both. Once we have a clearer sense of who is coming and what the participants would like to cover we will send out a more completed agenda. RSVP to Kris at email@example.com.
Since this is not a formal conference there is no fee to attend. If you would like advice about hotels, etc., please let one of us know. And if you’d love to attend but just don’t have the budget to stay overnight, talk to one of us and we’ll see if it is possible to help you find someone to stay with.
Hope to see many of you soon!
Kris Franklin Linda Feldman
New York Law School Brooklyn Law School
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Here is a list of non-traditional (i.e., "ASP") books that I would recommend ASP professionals check out. These are books that you might find helpful when planning for classes and learning a bit more about teaching and learning.
What Best College Teachers Do by Ken Bain
Read this in anticipation of Mike Schwartz's upcoming book, What Best Law Professors Do. I think we will see considerable overlap between what good teachers of any discipline do in the classroom.
Teaching Law By Design by Schwartz, Hess, and Sparrow
By three of the great thinkers in humanizing legal education and ASP.
Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin
I often start spring semester ASP classes with some of the science behind great achievement. The truly fantastic--Michael Jordan, Steve Jobs--have more than talent. The start with some talent, but they use deliberate practice to hone their skills. Great achievement is more about intense, correct study and practice in a discipline than some amorphous, intangible "thing" only some people have. This puts students back in control of their education, and helps move them past some of the self-pity that accompanies less-than-stellar grades. For most struggling students, they can change if they use the right study habits, and giving them some science to back up that assertion gives it more weight.
Changing Minds by Howard Gardner (yes, the same one behind Multiple Intelligences)
This is a book that is about changing established patterns of thought, entrenched beliefs, and attitudes.Inflexible beliefs are the downfall of many during their first year; breaking them of emotional, illogical thought patterns and teaching them dispassionate analysis without breaking their spirit and motivation in the process is one of the toughest parts of ASP. Law school is about learning how to think in a new way; this puts educational theory behind what we are supposed to be facilitating.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
This is an update from an earlier post I had written about the concept of students as customers. Some schools openly refer to students as customers; it seems to start with HR, move to the administration, and become a settled way of looking at law school education, especially ASP. I am vehement, and remain so: treating students like customers is a disservice to the profession, to the students, and to ourselves. A customer buys a product: they don't put any work into it's creation. A product is judged by how happy the customer is with the product. Sometimes that includes quality, sometimes it does not, because sometimes all it needs to be is flashy or fashionable. When this is applied to legal education, it changes education because the end result matters more than the process; the diploma becomes more important than learning and acquisition of skills.
The view of student=customer has other pedagogically disturbing qualities. If a student is the consumer of a process, like a haircut, we are assuming they come in as blank slates (heads of hair) and we will fill them up with knowledge (the cut), of which they are satisfied or unsatisfied. They come back if they are satisfied, they don't if they are unsatisfied. Pedagogically, education just doesn't work that way. We just get one shot; they can't come back to re-learn if we do a poor job the first time around. I don't believe I am overstating things when I say this view of legal education can destroy livelihoods and dreams.
It would be easier if law school was a product, students just consumers. I would tell them whatever made them happy and make my job easier. This thinking encourages the pernicious model of ASP where we make law students dependant on us; if they are just customers and we want repeat visits for our services, it is in our best interest to break students down, tell them they can not succeed without us, and foster the idea that we are instrumental to their success. We get better evals, after all, we have made them believe they would not reach their potential without us. In this model, we can report back to HR and administration that we have many customers for our services, and the school's return-on-investment for our services makes us cost-effective. However, this is a model of ASP that is deceitful and causes real harm to students. In this model, I would not care if students were harmed or they could actually function as lawyers; only that they purchased a product (ASP services) that would keep them happy. And yes, there are ASP and bar prep programs operating with this model.
With ASP, this is a trap. We can tell them the things that will make them happy, but it would be un-truths. We can get great evaluations that say nothing about our ability to actually help them succeed in law school, because they are gone or flunked out before they can really assess our help. Many of us have received scathing evals from students who believed ASP would teach them short-cuts through their legal education, butwe believed in something more than job-approval and gave advice they needed, not what they wanted. We can do things that get them through law school, but don't help them learn lifetime-learning skills necessary to be a high-quality attorney. Our goal is not, to quote Edward A. Snyder of University of Chicago Booth School of Business to "orchestrate an experience from which good customer feedback is sought." Our job is at the macro-level to produce good lawyers for society. On the micro-level, our goal is to assist students struggling with the rigors of knowledge they create, thinking skills they develop-not purchase-throughout their law school career. (RCF)
For more on the debate about students as customers, check out Are They Students? Or ‘Customers’? in Room for Debate, New York Times.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
This is a short post for those of you who are looking for positions in ASP, or who are looking to make a switch to another school. If you made it here, this is a great start for your job search. However, there are other helpful places for you to look:
The ASP listserv
Consortium of Higher Education (by region)
Additionally, if you are geographically limited or want to work at a particular school, search the school's internal job site and if they have a job listserv, sign up. Personally, I found my position at the University of Connecticut on their internal job site (with help from word-of-mouth); it did not show up on mass listservs.
Go to conferences; you never know who you will meet and who knows of a job that will be opening up soon. I got every academic support position I ever held through word-of-mouth; someone met me or knew me and gave me a call or a link about a position. The ASP community is enormously friendly, and most everyone will be very happy to help with a job search.
For those of you out there looking for a new position, good luck! (RCF)
Thursday, January 14, 2010
It was another successful year at AALS. Here are some of the highlights of our section and the section program:
1) The section program featured:
Barbara McFarland (NKU), Sophie Sparrow (Franklin Pierce), and on team-based learning
Susan Keller (Western State) and Hillary Burgess (Hofstra) on peer feedback
Pavel Wonsowicz (UCLA) on engaging students in class*
Tanya Washington (Georgia State) on using bar questions in doctrinal classes
*Please see the Chronicle of Higher Education piece on Pavel's presentation
2) New Section Board:
Chair: Robin Boyle (St. Johns)
Chair Elect: Michael Hunter Schwartz (Washburn)
Secretary: Paula Manning (Whittier)
Treasurer: Rebecca Flanagan (UConn)
Executive Board: Jeff Minetti (Stetson), LaRasz Moody (Villanova), Emily Randon (UC-Davis)
Herb Ramy (Suffolk)
3) New Section Committees:
The section added these new committees:
Exploratory Committee on a Mid-Year AALS Meeting for ASP
4) Hillary Burgess and Corie Rosen (editors) distributed copies of the newest edition of The Learning Curve, the AALS ASP section newsletter. Please look in your inboxes for electronic distribution of the newsletter in the near future.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
All of us in academic support want to know what is working and what is not. Our very nature as ASP'ers is that we want to improve our work so that we can help our students more effectively.
There are multiple ways to evaluate our programs: questionnaires/surveys, suggestion boxes, unsolicited e-mails and notes, academic improvement of students with whom we work, bar passage improvement (for those who do bar prep), attendance at programs. Some of these are qualitative, and some are quantitative. Some might use both indicators.
I agree that numerical data can be helpful. However, in nearly 25 years of working in higher education, I have never been won over by the view that numbers alone tell the story. Why do I take that view? Let me give you some examples:
- Our work matters one student at a time. I do more than just parrot study advice. I listen. I encourage. I challenge. I confront. I pick up the pieces. I search for answers to that student's success. I rejoice in breakthroughs. A number does not evaluate those encounters.
- Rarely is my work a "one hit wonder" phenomenon. My work is based on assessment of issues, individual plans for improvement, monitoring of progress, and relationships with students. One appointment as a number means little in that on-going process.
- A student who achieves a modest grade increment may be succeeding at a level that was a mountain climb away from the student's starting point. Another student may "knock the ball out of the park" because the problems were study management issues rather than understanding how to analyze legally. Both students have shown success for their abilities and their issues.
- Ultimately, my students must want to succeed by doing the hard work that is needed in law school. I cannot impact their success with strategies and techniques if they choose to not implement them. A small increase (or even a decrease) is not about me. Likewise, I cannot take all the credit for major successes.
- Academic success is a work in progress. One semester's improvement may not show the full story. I have students who have worked with me over a series of semesters. By the time we are done, their efforts have maximized their success with A's and B's rather than their initial D's and F's.
- Students vary in the number of appointments that they need to improve. One student may need four or five appointments during the semester to achieve more effective and efficient time management. Another student might be able to implement techniques fairly quickly.
- Some of the ways we help students may not be easily calculated. For example, I send out weekly e-mails of study tips to all law students. I know that students benefit from the advice even though they might never attend a workshop or ask for an appointment. I get enough informal feedback to know the service makes an impact. But, a question on a survey about "how often do you read the weekly study tips e-mails" or "how many times have you implemented a technique from the e-mails" would probably garner little useful (or accurate) information.
- Numbers do not necessarily reflect quality. If I held 2,000 30-minute appointments instead of 1,000 1-hour appointments in 12 months, would it really reflect anything positive? I doubt it. In some cases, it would merely indicate that I saw the same student twice to cover the material that I used to cover in one longer appointment. It would often mean that I was short-cutting on assistance to the student (handouts that do not match the individual problems; a canned speech on a topic that did not consider the individual learning styles; a lecture rather than a discussion).
- Numbers in bar success can monitor trends when a full bar study is done (that is those who passed as well as those who failed). We can find out lots of quantitative indicators: bad grades, 1L gpa, bar courses taken, and so forth. That information is helpful. But only by talking to each person individually would we ever truly know what equaled success or failure for that graduate beyond mere numbers: techniques that worked; bar review courses used; any medical or personal obstacles; diligence in study; timing of study; work while studying.
Four students at a workshop who delve deeply into strategies and ask questions focusing on their issues with the topic may be hugely successful as a workshop. Thirty students at a workshop who barely pay attention and do not really want to be there may produce little improvement.
So, I would say we should look for both quantitative and qualitative measures when we seek to find out how we can improvement our programs. (Amy Jarmon)
Monday, January 4, 2010
AALS is right around the corner; if you are new to ASP, please introduce yourself (we all wear name tags). I am the Chair of Mentoring Committee for the LSAC ASP Project as well as an editor of the ASP Blog. Please let me know who you are, where you come from, and how I can help you as a new ASPer.
See ya in New Orleans!