January 23, 2010
NY ASP Conference
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
January 21, 2010
Teaching and Learning Books for ASPers
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.
January 19, 2010
Students as Customers
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.