Friday, April 30, 2010
I would like to thank Ruthann Robson, Co-Editor of the Constitutional Law Prof Blog, for alerting us to her April 22, 2010 post on that blog. Ruthann is Professor of Law and University Distinguished Professor at CUNY: Ruthann Robson Profile.
Her post lists numerous hints for professors as they draft their exams. Number 12 in the list mentions that faculty may wish to ask ASP staff for support when working on end-of-the-semester exams. The post also gives a nice compliment to David Nadvorney and his ASP colleagues at CUNY. The full post can be read here: Constitutional Law Exam Drafting. (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Director of Bar Preparation and Academic Support
Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Cleveland State University
Minimum requirements include a J.D. degree and admission to the practice of law, experience working in a higher education setting in the areas of teaching, academic assistance, academic advising, or similar administrative, teaching or practice experience. The successful candidate must also have demonstrated experience in program planning, implementation, and assessment, excellent written and verbal communication skills, and the ability to work effectively with a wide range of constituencies in a diverse community. Experience working with programs and services designed to improve bar passage performance of law graduates is preferred, as is a demonstrated proficiency with relevant technology.
The successful candidate will report to the Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Student Achievement and will supervise the Manager of Academic Support Programs. The Director is an integral part of the overall Academic Excellence Program at C|M|LAW. Although C|M|LAW has a successful, fully functioning bar preparation program, the successful candidate will have the flexibility to change and adapt the existing program. The Director teaches the Ohio Bar Exam Strategies and Tactics course, advises students on issues concerning the bar exam, plans and carries out programs in support of bar preparation efforts, collects and analyzes data related to the bar exam, manages the law school’s bar preparation and academic support web pages, and works with faculty and staff to support the law school’s bar preparation and academic support efforts.
Compensation is commensurate with experience. This position is a 12 month, non-tenure track position, with a renewable contract. For more information, and to apply for the position, please go to https://hrjobs.csuohio.edu and search under College of Law
Assistant Director of Academic Development (0.5 FTE)
Santa Clara University School of Law
2010-11 Academic Year
The half-time Assistant Director of Academic Development works closely with a fellow half-time Assistant Director, under the supervision of a Director of Academic Development and the Assistant Dean for Academic & Professional Development ("APD") to address the academic success of Santa Clara University Law School’s students from orientation through bar passage. These four faculty members, along with the Director of Externships and Professional Development and a Program Coordinator, make up the school’s APD Department.
The Assistant Director will teach the equivalent of at least one credit-bearing skills course targeting first and/or second year students in academic difficulty, ordinarily one class of 20-30 students each semester. The Assistant Director also administers the selection and registration of students in these courses, and the hiring, training, and supervision of upper division students and adjuncts.
In addition, the Assistant Director will perform the equivalent of one additional course of instruction in the form of: intensive one-on-one academic tutoring and advising of at-risk students, contributions to the design and teaching of large-scale skills workshops and programs aimed class-wide from orientation through the first year and on through Bar passage, and participation in miscellaneous university programming and professional conferences.
Finally, the Assistant Director must work closely with the APD team, as well as with doctrinal and legal writing faculty to design, coordinate, implement, evaluate, and improve the supplemental academic skills curriculum. In addition to long-term vision, the Assistant Director must embrace day-to-day administration. These duties may include, and are not limited to, organization and management of student eligibility determinations, course enrollments, practice examinations, individual and mass feedback, and collection, management, and analysis of sensitive student performance data.
* J.D. and a state bar admission.
* Prior teaching and/or academic support experience desirable.
* Experience in program management desirable.
* Ability to excel in teaching, counseling, and advising students from diverse backgrounds.
* Ability to think imaginatively, critically, and collaboratively about how to measurably improve student academic development.
This position is a half-time, non-tenure track, non-voting lecturer position, with pro-rated benefits and the possibility of multiple-year contract renewals after the first year. Summer service in residence is required, with supplemental compensation provided. Professional development is supported, and scholarship is welcome but not required.
Santa Clara University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer, committed to excellence through diversity, and, in this spirit, particularly welcomes applications from women, persons of color, and members of historically underrepresented groups. The University will provide reasonable accommodations to all qualified individuals with a disability.
Submit applications to:
Joan Harrington, Director, Academic Development
Academic & Professional Development Department
Santa Clara University School of Law
500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95053-0448
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
The University of Southern California Gould School of Law seeks applicants for the position of Assistant Dean and Dean of Students. Responsibilities include overall administration of student services, including student affairs, financial aid and scholarships, and registration and records. The Dean of Students provides students with personal support including counseling students facing difficult personal issues or academic difficulties and supervises the Director of Registration and Records and the Director of Financial Aid and their staff. J.D. and higher education administrative experience strongly preferred. USC offers competitive salaries and a comprehensive benefits package. Interested candidates can apply online, through the following web link: https://jobs.usc.edu/applicants/jsp/shared/frameset/Frameset.jsp?time=1272323849846 (Requisition Number: 004552).
The University of Southern California Gould School of Law seeks applicants for the position of Assistant Dean and Dean of Students.
Responsibilities include overall administration of student services, including student affairs, financial aid and scholarships, and registration and records. The Dean of Students provides students with personal support including counseling students facing difficult personal issues or academic difficulties and supervises the Director of Registration and Records and the Director of Financial Aid and their staff.
J.D. and higher education administrative experience strongly preferred.
USC offers competitive salaries and a comprehensive benefits package. Interested candidates can apply online, through the following web link: https://jobs.usc.edu/applicants/jsp/shared/frameset/Frameset.jsp?time=1272323849846 (Requisition Number: 004552).
Saturday, April 24, 2010
I find as an ASP'er (and a faculty member when I wear that hat) that I regularly have to decide where to draw the line between offering assistance and allowing students to make their own decisions (and sometimes as a result, mistakes).
Take for instance the chronic "no show" student. This person has a standing appointment on my calendar (usually because of probation status) but part way through the semester disappears. It usually starts innocently enough - one of us has to re-schedule because of illness or out-of-town commitments. Our school does not have any immediate penalty with teeth to it if a probation student does not attend appointments. I make the gesture of a reminder e-mail encouraging the student to return to our scheduled appointments. But, I ultimately allow the student to decide if she wants to accept the assistance available.
Another example is the student who tells me that she is going to attend a workshop or make an appointment to discuss a particular study problem. Sometimes the student neither show ups for the workshop nor contacts me for an appointment. If I later bump into the student in the hallway, I'll follow up with encouragement to make an appointment so we can address the issue. After that, I drop the matter.
A final example pertains to the elective courses that I teach. I always have 30% of the grade connected to a presentation. I strongly encourage students to meet with me the week before their presentations so that I can alert them to any problems with their planned PowerPoints or handouts. If a student chooses not to meet with me, then the presentation may be incomplete or inaccurate and cost the student points that could have been gained with some additional pointers from me. When a student does not make an appointment within the expected time, I do not interfere since it is the student's choice (and responsibility) to request assistance or not.
The dilemma, of course, is that some students who most need the assistance are the very ones who do not take advantage of it. If I go beyond offers of assistance and encouragement, however, I end up playing a parental role. And lessons about asking for assistance are perhaps better learned in law school than later in life when the stakes are higher. The reality is that students will be on their own when they leave us. Employers and judges are not going to hold their hands. (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, April 22, 2010
We have seven class days left. I am meeting lots of students who are brand new to my ASP services. These students are usually panicky. For the most part, they are extremely behind. We are talking no outlines or, best case, last outlined in Week 4 of the semester. If I am lucky, they have at least been reading for class (though usually not briefing).
Welcome to ASP triage work. I want to ask "What were you thinking?" I don't. First of all, we do not have the time right now for that discussion. Second, I do not want to risk sending them "over the edge" and flat-lining any chances we have of fixing the situation to some extent.
Here are a few of the emergency measures that I suggest to them:
- Make every minute count. Do not waste time. Only undertake studying that gets results. Always consider what the payback will be for the exam (or paper or project) when starting a task.
- Keep up with current class reading. Many students are tempted to stop reading for class to find more study time. This strategy is a bad idea because then they are then lost on the current material which will also be on the exam.
- Continue going to all classes. Many students are also tempted to skip class to find more study time. This strategy does not work because the professor will now be pulling the course material together, will give out information about the exam, and will test on the new material.
- Develop a structured time management schedule. Block out times for the week when reading for class, writing any papers, and reviewing for exams will occur. Label each block with the course related to the task. Spread the time for exam review among all exam courses so that progress can be made on every one of them. Few people can work more than a few hours on a paper at one time. Use breaks from a paper for reading or reviewing for exams.
- Prioritize your courses and topics within courses. Some of the things to consider are:
- Determine the level of understanding in each course.
- Determine the amount of material to learn for the first time in each course.
- Determine the amount of material already reviewed for each course.
- Evaluate which topics are most likely to be heavily tested, moderately tested, and slightly tested for each exam.
- Determine whether course topics need to be studied chronologically as presented (because they build on one another) or can be isolated for study in any order.
- Check to see the order of your exams within the exam period.
After we avert this crisis as much as possible, we have the "next semester" conversation about using sound study habits from the first day of the semester. (Amy Jarmon)
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Some interesting science to report...at least one presenter at every ASP conference mentions that students feel that red pen makes it look as if the paper is "bleeding" negative comments. A new spin: teachers actually grade more harshly when using red pen. Another reason why green, pink, purple might be better bets when giving student feedback.
(I realize this link doesn't look like it fits with my post...it does.)
And a link to the full study is here:
The pen is mightier than the word: Object priming of evaluative standards
by Rutchick, Slepian, and Ferris
Monday, April 19, 2010
When I discuss exam writing with students, I have noticed that mentioning the possibility of "policy points" usually elicits some concern. I often get a glazed stare, a deer-in-the-headlights look, or a furrowed brow in response. Over the years, I have decided that these responses come from several sources.
What does "policy" mean? For some students, the responses are based on the peculiar fact that faculty members talk about policy readily without ever actually explaining the term. As lawyers, we all know what it means, but do not connect with the fact that students (especially 1L's) do not. Once students realize that "policy" is the purpose behind a law, a light bulb goes on for them.
They relax once they understand that courts may use policy discussion to reason through (some would say justify) law in new areas or changes to the existing common law. It will make sense to them that attorneys may argue policy to convince a court to alter the existing law to a small degree. It suddenly becomes obvious that legislatures may use policy reasons for enacting a law that impacts society in a new way.
Why should I care about it? Professors often enjoy the discussions of policy that accompany their courses. If they are "idea" people, they may even get a "buzz" from discoursing on policy implications. Some courses (or at least topics within courses) are traditionally taught with lots of policy discussion.
Students who are intuitive learners tend to understand innately policy's important place in legal thinking. They like dealing with concepts, abstractions, and theories. They see the inter-relationships among various policies and how to use those policies to further their arguments.
However, students who are sensing learners do not always understand why policy should be important. These learners are very practical people who hone in on facts and details and direct applications to problems. They may only pay attention to policy if they see how policy impacts the law. If a professor merely discusses policy on a very theoretical basis without actual examples of its use, these students may miss the point entirely. They need more information: How can the plaintiff's or defendant's attorney argue this policy? Would the parties choose different arguments based on competing policy choices? How have policy changes actually altered the law over time?
Will my professor care about policy? It depends. Some courses are so codified that policy has become relatively unimportant; there may be little or no policy discussed by the professor. Some professors will relate the historical policy discussions as background, but see them as unimportant for exams. Some professors will ask pure policy questions on their exams.
I can think of two professors who taught the same topics from the same case book, but had totally different expectations for final exam answers. One professor expected policy discussion on every question while the other was uninterested in policy discussion unless it was the only argument a party could make. "Know thy professor" is the best tack to take for determining the potential for policy points on exam answers.
When I get one of the looks of concern, I explore the student's reaction to see if one of these aspects is the reason. We then discuss further whether or not policy points are an appropriate strategy. (Amy Jarmon)
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Elon Law School is seeking a Dean of Student Affairs. The Elon Law School is part of Elon University, though our campus is in downtown Greensboro, NC, about 20 miles from the main campus that is in Burlington, NC. The law school’s website is: http://www.elon.edu/e-web/law/. We are in our fourth year and have provisional accreditation. We currently have 318 full time students in our student body. We do not have a part time program. We admit about 120 per year. Our first class has a bar pass rate of 92% combining the results from first time takers (83%) and second time takers. Our initial class of 107 students graduated in 2009 and has a job rate of 90%. Like our parent university, we emphasize Leadership and Engaged Learning.
The Dean of Student Affairs is responsible for enhancing the quality of life and educational experience of the School of Law's student body. Key responsibilities of this new position include; serving as a liaison for students with faculty and administration; advising and supporting students; overseeing and advising student organizations; developing and implementing School of Law policies and procedures; and developing and implementing events and programs designed to enrich life for law students and to deepen students' understanding of law school procedures. Bachelor's degree required; Juris Doctorate preferred or an equivalent combination of education and experience may be substituted as appropriate. Relevant administrative experience in higher education strongly preferred. Strong interpersonal and organizational skills, demonstrated ability to work with diverse populations, ability to efficiently and effectively solve problems with attention to detail are essential to the success of the position. Application deadline is April 30, 2010. Send cover letter, resume and list of three references to Office of Human Resources, 2070 Campus Box, Elon, NC 27244, electronic submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elon University is a dynamic, comprehensive institution of 4800 students, 70% of whom come from outside North Carolina. The University is consistently ranked among the top colleges and universities in the South. Elon is located on a campus of extraordinary beauty adjacent to Burlington, a town of 50,000, and is 20 minutes away from Greensboro and within 45 minutes of Winston-Salem, Durham, and Chapel Hill. For more information about Elon University, please visit the university's web site at http://www.elon.edu.
Elon University is an equal employment opportunity employer.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Having just attended a dinner reception for newly admitted students, I happily reminisced upon my first year as a 1L. For understandable reasons, the members of my dining table were more interested in my experience as a law student rather than my experience as the Bar Studies Program Director.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
I have been meaning to write this for a while, but it came to my attention today. Amy and I write blog posts between students meetings, teaching, administrative tasks, and myriad other responsibilities. We do our best to catch typos and grammar mistakes before posts hit the site. However, there is not always time to catch every mistake. The blog is not like law review; we don't have months (or even days) to write, proof, and double-check everything that is written and posted. At times, getting a post published is more like a race-to-the-finish law school exam. We do our best given time constraints. The alternative is to post less frequently. Please keep in mind that what we type is not always what shows up on the blog; at times technical glitches cause typos we can't erase or fix.
I do fix typos when I see them. Please be gentle on us. If you find an error so egregious you feel it changes the meaning of the text, email the person who wrote the post so it can be corrected. Most typos are the product of typing too fast and trying to get ideas down before the next student appointment interrupts the thought process. (RCF)
Monday, April 12, 2010
I stumbled upon this blog post at Above the Law (I read ATL daily to keep up with what my students are reading about law school and legal careers). I am posting the link at the bottom of the page. It is written by a lawyer-turned-therapist who works with lawyers who are miserable because of their jobs. Disregarding the comments posted by readers, I found this is excellent advice for law students who are really, really unhappy being law students. Some unhappy students did not know what they were getting themselves into, or they were pressured into law school by well-meaning family members, or they are simply in crisis and need to take some time to sort out their life. No, this is certainly not a blog post that simply slams law school or being a lawyer (the WSJ just ran an article on the number of blogs devoted to that topic). It does have a very tough-love tone to it. I would rather have students who are miserable leave law school after one year of law school with 30, 40, or 50+k debt, than see them miserable three years later,150-200k in debt, and getting the type of negative feedback from senior associates and partners that is mentioned in the post. I would never pressure or even suggest to a student that they should leave, but if they open the door in a conversation with me, I don't have a problem showing them this article and discussing their options with them. These are not easy conversations to have with a student. No one relishes the thought of talking with a depressed student about leaving what they thought was their life's work and planning to pay off five-figure debt without a degree to show for it. But talking students through the bigger picture helps them find their own way: this is their life, and they need to be happy because they won't get a second chance. (RCF)
Thursday, April 8, 2010
ASP'ers want students to succeed. We want them to live up to their academic potential. We want them to get A's and B's as often as possible. We want to congratulate them on their hard work. We want to see them blossom as they learn management skills to deal with stress, time, and organization.
Let's face it, most of us are practical problem solvers at heart. We desire to point students in the right direction. We suggest strategies and techniques that are based on learning or memory research. We teach all of the basic legal study skills. We brainstorm with students for possible solutions to their unique issues.
A few students get sidetracked by obstacles beyond their control: undiagnosed learning disabilities, hospitalization, family emergency, personal tragedy. They may have chosen to succeed but had their efforts cut short. These students' resulting academic difficulties may well reflect their exceptional circumstances rather than a choice to fail.
However, other students choose failure rather than success through a variety of daily decisions. They choose not to attend ASP workshops. They choose not to ask their professors for help. They choose not to attend structured study groups or tutoring sessions as 1L's. They choose not to use appropriate study aids to clear up their confusion. They choose not to complete practice questions for feedback. Even students who are required to participate in ASP can choose not to implement what they learn.
Some students compound these choices with other behaviors. They skip appointments for the flimsiest excuses. They do not prepare for class. They take their maximum absences without concern for learning. They party rather than study. A few may even feel entitled to good grades merely because they pay tutition and have succeeded in the past. A few may try to coast on their gifts of gab and ingratiating charm.
At law schools where there is not a second chance, students are suddenly faced with the consequences of their decisions. At law schools where a period of probation allows "rehabilitation" for prior decisions, many students will make new choices to succeed so that the consequences will not be dire. However, some probation students will have damaged their GPA's so severely that academic dismissal will become an almost certain mathematical conclusion.
ASP'ers can offer services, warn about bad choices, and counsel students about behaviors. But, sad as it may be, we cannot stop some students from exercising their personal right to fail. (Amy Jarmon)
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
After my post of Geoff Colvin's Talent is Overrated, I received emails asking for non-ASP-specific book suggestions. I am a voracious reader. I will be giving this much more thought over the next couple of months, but these are some of the books that are on my reading list (meaning I already own them, but have not yet finished them) or books that I have finished, and jump out at me when I think of great non-ASP books:
(I am including links for a couple of them...they are not links to the book, but links on information from the books that is specifically relevant to ASPer's)
Drive:The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink: Just starting this one. For those of us who work with students who have lost their motivation, this is a synthesis of the best psych research on how to rekindle love of learning. And a great way to reinforce the importance of Larry Kreiger and Ken Sheldon's work on law students to colleagues.
What Best College Teachers Do by Ken Bain: Read this a couple of years ago. A fabulous, non-discipline-specific study of what popular, and more importantly, effective teachers do so their students learn and stay excited by learning.
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell: Covers similar territory as Talent is Overrated, but Malcolm Gladwell is fun to read. This is the beach-book that feels more like mind candy than education.
The Lucifer Effect by Phillip Zimbardo: Read it. Loved it. An account of theStanford Prison Experiment in 1971, where ordinary students inflicted torture upon their peers in an experiment by Stanford professor Phil Zimbardo. A great introduction to situational psychology (we are not good or evil, but deeply and profoundly influenced by the situations we are in). Will really help you think about how the structure of law school, and ASP, can produce unexpected and sometimes toxic results. http://www.lucifereffect.com/index.html
SuperFreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner: Includes information on fabulous work being done on what creates great achievement. General-purpose smartness is essential, but deliberate practice is key. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/07/magazine/07wwln_freak.html
Sway:The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori and Rom Brafman: Haven't started this yet, but it is on my bookshelf. All of us have students every year who make us want to bang our head into a wall. They know what to do. You know they can do it. But they continue to make bad, self-destructive choices. We see the same bad, irrational choices every year, yet just can't seem to root them out of the student body, not matter how many programs you run to change behavior. I am hoping this book will provide me with a better understanding of why students make some of the frustrating choices that leave me scratching my head.
Monday, April 5, 2010
Amy's post on banquet season brought up something I have been thinking about for a while: managing the ASP workload. This is the season for all sorts of extra activities. It is wonderful to attend these for yourself and for your students. It's great when they get to see you as a real person, not just an ASPer.
For many of us, ASP is a labor of love. When we do something not for the paycheck, but because we feel it needs to be done, we can forget what our needs are, as an individual. We need to remember that just because it needs to be done, we don't necessarily have to be the one to do it. We help no one in the long term when we get burnt out or chronically sick because we have spread ourselves too thin (my personal aside: this coming from someone who is just making it back to work after nearly two weeks out sick, including a day in the hospital).
Choose the activities that will give you the most bang for your buck; where will you see the most students? Choose to attend activities where you can multi-task in a productive way: get credit for faculty attendance (required at some schools) and socialize with students. Think about your administrative tasks: do you need to do them, or can you get a student worker to help? Can you create joint programs, such as etiquette and professionalism dinners co-sponsored by Career Services? Think about asking for help or ideas from other ASPer's. You don't need to re-invent the wheel for every program; it's okay to contact an ASPer you trust and tweak their program or PowerPoint to meet the needs of your students.
I think what is more challenging is setting limits on ourselves when designing programs we want to do, not the programs we need to do. Many of us see the same problems year after year. We know how to create programs that can alleviate the issue before it arises. It can be frustrating to know how to solve or alleviate a problem and not have the human resources to devote to the solution. It's helpful, at the start of the school year, or the semester, to wish-list your own programs, and rank-order which ones you think will be the most important. You may need to cut a program or two not because they are ineffective, but because you are only one person. You shouldn't expect that you, on your own, can solve the problems of several hundred students.
I had a list of goals I developed for my 6-month review in December. By February, I realized that the goals need to be reviewed and re-organized. In the end, I had to cut a study program for college seniors because it would have spread me too thin, and would have fallen short of my expectations for the program because I would not have been able to devote enough time to it. Instead, I was able to devote more time and resources to the Pre-Law Prep Camp at UConn (think pre-orientation, but open to all seniors and alumni going to any law school, offered during the spring before law school commences). Did it hurt to cut the study program? Absolutely. If I could have given it 100%, or even 80% effort, I think it could have been a success. But looking at my schedule, I was already working 6 days a week (Pre-Law Prep Camp is Saturdays from 9-12), and spending at least 2 nights a week working until at least 9 on special enrichment programs for students. As much as I love discussing New York Times articles with students over dinner or going with them to see performances by the Connecticut Repertory Theater, it's exhausting. The study program would have received less than 50% of the effort it needed to be a success. In the long term, it would have turned students off to the idea because it would not have been well done. Instead, I am keeping the idea in my goal list, but I will implement it when I can do it right. (RCF)