Thursday, April 21, 2011
The School of Law seeks two full-time Academic Success Counselors to conduct one-on-one student counseling and tutoring, give presentations and/or workshops to groups of students, prepare and administer practice exams, maintain student records, participate in research and new initiatives, assist in the teaching and administration of Applied Critical Thinking and Legal Analysis and bar preparation courses, and perform other academic success duties as required. Position is located at the Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, Florida starting August, 2010. Starting salary is 45k annually.
Juris Doctor degree; member of any state bar; excellent law school academic performance; strong interpersonal skills; effective public speaking skills; professional interest in academic success theory and practice; experience counseling, teaching, and/or mentoring students in higher education; ability to work some evenings and weekends. Recent law school graduates with exceptional academic records and demonstrated interest in academic success will be considered.
Please submit resume, cover letter, unofficial transcripts, and list of three references to Brett Brosseit, Director of Academic Success, email@example.com
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Helpful tips for students:
1) We learn better from re-working the material.
This piece of gold is hidden on the second page of the article. It's saying what we have said in ASP for ages; reading a canned outline, or memorizing the outline of a 2L who booked the course, will not increase learning. Re-working your own notes into an outline will help you learn the material.
2) Try one of the unusual font types for your outline.
"Think of it this way, you can’t skim material in a hard to read font, so putting text in a hard-to-read font will force you to read more carefully"
3) We overestimate our own ability.
One of the great lessons from law school exams: if you feel like you nailed it, you probably didn't. The material you are being asked to learn and apply on a law school exam is difficult and complicated. The majority of exams you will encounter as a law student have more complications and nuanced issues than you have time to answer. You should feel as if you didn't hit everything. If you feel like you knew everything on the exam, you probably oversimplified the issues.
4) We all take shortcuts. We all forget we take shortcuts.
Students should always take practice exams before finals. Actually taking the exam is important. Many students will read the fact pattern, "answer it in their head" or take a couple of notes, and then read the model answer. This is more harmful than helpful. Students will unconsciously overestimate what they understood if they have not taken the test and written a complete answer. This gives them a false sense of confidence. Students need to take a cold, hard look at what they understood and what they missed. the best strategy is to take the practice test under timed conditions with a study group, and correct answers as a group. This gives students a chance to discuss what they did not understand. It's easy to lie to ourselves, it's harder to lie to a group.
Summary of the article:
"Concentrating harder. Making outlines from scratch. Working through problem sets without glancing at the answers. And studying with classmates who test one another." These are the keys to learning more efficiently and effectively. (RCF)
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Director of Academic Success Program
Pepperdine University School of Law
Pepperdine University School of Law seeks applicants for the position of Director of the law school’s Academic Success Program, to begin August 1, 2011. The School of Law is committed to student achievement, and the Director will be primarily responsible for developing, leading, coordinating, and implementing programs that support the School of Law’s goals of improving students’ law school academic success and success on the bar exam.
Minimum requirements include a J.D. degree and admission to the practice of law. Ideal candidates will have experience working in a higher education setting in the areas of teaching, academic assistance, academic counseling, or similar administrative, teaching, or practice experience. The successful candidate also must have excellent written and verbal communication skills, and the ability to work effectively with a wide range of constituents within the diverse law school community, including students served by the Academic Success Program (“ASP”), student teaching fellows who work within ASP, faculty members, and the law school administration.
The successful candidate will report to the Associate Dean for Academics.
The Director’s specific duties will include, among others:
- Working with faculty and administrative staff to support the academic support efforts at the law school;
- Conducting an orientation to ASP for, and introducing the case briefing method to, first-year students during first-year orientation;
- Coordinating and conducting fall and spring semester ASP workshops for first-year students on topics such as effective note-taking, outlining, multiple choice, and essay exam preparation, etc.;
- Teaching the spring semester Supplemental Class for academically at-risk first-year students;
- Teaching (or co-teaching) the spring semester Bar Exam Workshop course for third-year students;
- Coordinating, teaching, or co-teaching winter and summer bar preparation workshops;
- Holding regular office hours and individual counseling sessions, and developing individualized remediation and referral programs, for law students in need of academic support services and alumni in need of bar preparation services;
- Gathering student and professor feedback regarding ASP offerings;
- Gathering, compiling, and reporting statistical data regarding student participation in, and impact on student performance of, the various ASP offerings;
- Assisting the law school’s diversity recruiting and retention efforts;
- Maintaining a library of academic support and bar preparation books and materials for use by students and alumni;
- Managing the ASP web pages on the law school’s website; and
- Participating in the greater academic support and bar preparation professional community in order to stay apprised of best practices through regular attendance at conferences, participation in relevant listservs and blogs, and study of relevant books and other resources.
Compensation is commensurate with experience. This position is a 12-month contract position, with the possibility for longer term renewals.
Applicants should email a statement of interest, in the form of a cover letter, and resume to Carol Chase, Associate Dean for Academics, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any questions also should be directed to Dean Chase.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
If you have not completed the ASP survey sent by John Mollenkamp, please take the time to do so now. Or, as they say, the beatings (or harassing emails) will continue until morale improves (or until all ASPer's have responded to the survey).
I have made a plea over the listserv, as have a number of my illustrious colleagues, to finish the survey for yourself. I stand by that plea. But if you are more civic-minded, please complete the survey for all of us. We hear lots and lots about the growth of empirical legal studies, but ASP has no empirical data on the state of our own existence at other schools. Right now, we have no hard data on what we are, who we are, or what we do for students. If we want to prove how important we are to student success, we need to know what is going on at other schools as well as our own.
So please, respond to the survey. If you should have received a link to the survey, but did not receive one, please contact Ruth McKinney at email@example.com.
For those of you in the Northeast...finish the survey now because the weather is FINALLY! looking good. The sooner you get the (very quick) survey out of the way you can go and play outside. (RCF)
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
I read Amy's post on exhaustion, and I felt like someone was speaking to me. Then I read Amy's post on not having enough time, and I felt as if someone was answering my un-vocalized concern. Her posts inspired me to add to Amy's suggestions (which are all brilliant, by the way).
Like many of the students who make us want to pull our hair out, I am a "when I feel ready/when I'm in the mood" worker. I can't predict when that time will come, but I do need to match tasks to mood or I don't do them as well as they need to be done. I am disciplined enough so that everything that needs to get done gets accomplished. But emotional and mental energy play a large role in how I schedule my day and when I complete tasks. At this time of the year, my energy reserves are pretty low, and my stress level is pretty high. Scheduling tasks in a way that gives them the time they deserve without completely burning me out is critical to maintaining my own health.
- If I know I have a day of busy work ahead of me, I come in an hour or so early and try to knock a couple of high-mental energy tasks off my list as soon as I walk in the door. I know I can't do more than one or two of these tasks at a time and I need to psych myself up to get them done. Because these types of tasks suck the mental energy out of me, I choose to do them on mornings when I know the rest of the day will be busy, but not difficult.
- If I have a high-emotional energy task (such as an angry student) that I cannot choose to schedule when I feel most prepared, I find a close colleague who will give me a pep talk before the task. I am very lucky in that I have a number of wonderful colleagues I can turn to when I need someone to tell me that "this too shall pass" or that I just need to get through the meeting, and then we will go buy some chocolate.
- Don't fear the mental health day if you need one. It's easy to think of all the things that need to get done and convince yourself that it's impossible to take a day to take care of yourself. But you are no good to the students if you are ready for a meltdown. Last week, after driving 2 hours to a regional campus, and getting stuck in more than 3 hours of traffic on my way home, I chose to take the next day off from work. Did I have 100 things that needed to get done? Yes. Would I have been effective? No. I was exhausted, frustrated (I hate driving), and I had pressing personal matters (doing my taxes) that were weighing on me. I got twice as much accomplished when I came back to work the following day because I took care of myself first.
Keep your head up. Even when you feel like putting your head on your desk would be really comforting, or when the exhaustion makes you want to cry. Remember that smiling, even if you don't feel like it, can improve your mood. And we are all in this together, in an exhausting, but wonderful, enriching field. (RCF)
Monday, April 11, 2011
Teaching Legal Writing Effectively to Prepare Students for Practice
Friday, May 13, 2011
Hosted by St. John’s University School of Law to be held at 101 Murray Street, Manhattan (Downtown)
ALWD Scholars’ Forum
May 12, 2011
Thursday, May 12th, ALWD Scholars’ Forum: Looking for participants to present their scholarship ideas or works-in-progress to legal writing scholars. Lisa Eichhorn and Marilyn Walter will be providing critique during the workshop, in addition to St. John’s Robin Boyle. Lisa Eichhorn is Professor of Law and Director of the Legal Writing Program at University of South Carolina School of Law. She serves as a Member of the Editorial Board for the Journal of the Legal Writing Institute. Marilyn Walter is Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School and Director of the Legal Writing Program. She was the 2005 recipient of the AALS Legal Writing Award. She also served on the Editorial Board of the Journal of the Association of the Legal Writing Directors. Robin Boyle is the Assistant Dean for Academic Success and Professor of Legal Writing at St. John’s. She currently serves on the Editorial Board for the Journal of the Legal Writing Institute and on the Board of Directors for the LWI. PLEASE SEND ALWD SCHOLARS’ SUBMISSIONS TO ROBIN BOYLE: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, May 13th, Second Empire State LW Conference will focus on creative teaching ideas attendees can implement immediately in their own classroom. Our keynote speaker, Professor Tina Stark, will illuminate key points in teaching transactional drafting. The conference will feature over 50 presenters from around the country. Various themes will be intertwined throughout the day, such as the following: ethics, professionalism, and plagiarism; reaching today’s millenials; grading efficiently; perspectives from the bench, bar, and clinical programs; experiential techniques; polishing drafts; oral presentations; lessons from international law; and current-day email memos.
Registration: Registration is free for both the Empire State Conference as well as the Scholars’ Forum. Participants will be able to register on-line. Here’s the link : http://bit.ly/hKG0WF.
(Please note: hotel information has been cut for space in the blog post. Please contact the conference for more info on hotel)
Times of the events:
The ALWD Scholars’ Forum will begin on Thursday, May 12th at 11:30 AM and end by 5:00.
The Empire State Conference on Friday, May 13th will open with Registration and Continental Breakfast at 8:15 AM. The Dean’s Welcome is at 9 AM. The first session will begin at 9:30 AM. The last session will conclude by 5:20 PM. There will be six 50-minute sessions with four simultaneous presentations. Lunch and coffee breaks will be provided.
The Empire State Legal Writing Conference Program Committee:
Robin Boyle, Conference Chair; Assistant Dean for Academic Success and Professor of Legal Writing, St. John’s University School of Law, email@example.com.
Ian Gallacher, Associate Professor of Law; Director, Legal Communication and Research, Syracuse University College of Law.
Tracy McGaugh, Associate Professor of Legal Process, Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center.
John Mollenkamp, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Academic Support, Cornell University Law School.
Stephen Paskey, Lecturer in Law, Legal Research and Writing Program, University at Buffalo Law School.
Amy R. Stein, Professor of Legal Writing, Coordinator of the Legal Writing Program, Assistant Dean for Adjunct Instruction, Hofstra University School of Law.
Marilyn Walter, Professor of Law, Brooklyn Law School.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
This point in the semester is always difficult for me as an ASP'er.
I have so many student appointments that my calendar looks like a major airport with circling planes waiting to land. Not only do my regulars come in, but now is also the time for triage appointments. It is when I do crash consultations in the hallways, at the coffee pot, and in the parking lot. I regularly expand my slots by coming in early, eating lunch at my desk between appointments, and staying late.
Group workshops are still on the schedule. Hmmm, those handouts for next week need to be revised.
There are three application and interview processes that I am involved with in some way for student positions for ASP. It is great working with students who want to be Tutors, TAs, or Dean's Community Teaching Fellows - but the paperwork end is a drag.
Several major project deadlines are on the horizon. It seems that after 5 p.m. and on weekends are the most ideal times for those to get done. Ahhh, more administrative support would help - is anyone out there listening?
Of course, there is committee work. It is crunch time for those duties as every committee tries to wind down for the academic year.
And, I am teaching EU law: juggling student presentation appointments with finishing Power Points, writing my exam, grading assignments, and planning review sessions. I really enjoy my seminar students, but often shake my head at the extra hours needed in my day.
It is the time of the semester when I have so many coughing, sneezing, flu-carrying students sitting in my office that I inevitably fall deathly ill at least once. Ah, that puts me behind on an already crammed schedule!
There, I have that off my chest (literally and figuratively). So, I manage this time of the semester by doing what I tell students to do:
- Use windfall time during the day when a student shows up late for an appointment or the appointment ends earlier than I expected.
- Match small tasks to small time slots. Even 5 or 10 minutes can be useful for an e-mail or phone call or administrative task.
- Evaluate five or six times a day what my priorities are and how to re-organize my time.
- Work on major projects in small increments to get forward progress.
- Let no one task consume my entire day so that I do not get hopelessly behind on all other tasks.
- Negotiate deadlines to remain as realistic as possible in what can get done when.
- Cut out the non-essentials: what is mere frills, what provides little payback, what can wait until the summer.
To all of you getting tired at this point of the semester, I understand your plight. May your time and stress managment skills conquer! (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, April 7, 2011
As you know, we are in the midst of a national survey effort to learn more about Academic Support Programs at the nation's law schools. Our legal writing colleagues have just finished up their survey with something like 187 of 199 schools responding. Our ASP response rate, as of this morning, is lagging at something under 100 schools. I know legal writing professors are helpful people, but are they really more helpful than ASPers? I have my doubts.
We know it is a busy time. We know you have more demands on your time than time to meet the demands. But, we also know that a survey like this is going to gather precisely the sort of data that will persuade deans about the need for additional staffing, the scope of appropriate programming, and the benefits to the entire legal community of having Academic Support (and Success and Strategy and whatever your "S" stands for). Please, if you are the person who received the survey link for your school, take a few minutes to fill out the survey. If you are missing the link, please contact Ruth McKinney (firstname.lastname@example.org) so that we can get you connected to the right information to help out.
Thank you. John Mollenkamp Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Academic Support Cornell Law School 607-255-0146
Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Academic Support Cornell Law Schooljohnemail@example.com
A common theme in my discussion with students this week is that there are not enough hours in the day. Many of them are starting to get stressed over the amount of work to fit into the amount of time left in the semester.
Part of the problem is that they are trying to juggled end-of-the-semester assignments and papers with ongoing daily tasks and review for final exams. It can seem overwhelming if one does not use good time management skills.
Here are some tips:
- Realize that you control your time. With intentional behavior, a student can take control of the remainder of the semester rather than feeling as though it is a roller coaster ride. Make time for what really matters.
- Work for progress in every course. If one focuses on one course to the detriment of the other courses, it creates a cycle of catch-up and stress. A brief might be due in legal writing, but that should not mean dropping everything else for one or two weeks. Space out work on a major assignment over the days available and continue with daily work in all other courses.
- Use small pockets of time for small tasks. Even 15 minutes can be used effectively! Small amounts of time are useful for memory drills with flashcards or through rule recitation out loud. 20 minutes can be used to review class notes and begin to condense the material for an outline. 30 minutes can be used for a few multiple-choice practice questions or to review a sub-topic for a course.
- Capture wasted time and consolidate it. Students often waste up to an hour at a time chatting with friends, playing computer games, watching You Tube, answering unimportant e-mails, and more. Look for time that can be used more productively. If several wasted blocks of time during a day can be re-captured and consolidated into a longer block, a great deal can be accomplished! For example, reading for class can often be shifted in the day to capture several separate, wasted 30-minute slots and consolidate them into another block of perhaps 1 1/2 hours.
- Use windfall time well. It is not unusual in a day to benefit from unexpected blocks of time that could be used. A ride is late. A professor lets the class out early. A study group meets for less time than expected. An appointment with a professor is shorter than scheduled. Rather than consider the time as free time, use it for a study task.
- Realize the power of salvaged blocks of time. If a student captures 1/2 hour of study time a day, that is 3 1/2 extra hours per week. An hour per day adds up to 7 hours per week. Time suddenly is there that seemed to be unavailable.
- Break down exam review into sub-topics. You may not be able to find time to review the entire topic of adverse possession intensely, but you can likely find time to review its first element intensely. By avoiding the "all or nothing mentality" in exam review, progress is made in smaller increments. It still gets the job done!
- Evaluate your priorities and use of time three times a day. Every morning look at your tasks for the day and evaluate the most effective and efficient ways to accomplish everything. Schedule when you will get things done during the day. Do the same thing at lunch time and make any necessary changes. Repeat the exercise at dinner time.
- Cut out the non-essentials in life. Save shopping for shoes for that August wedding (unless perhaps you are the bride) until after exams. Stock up on non-perishable food staples now rather than shop for them every week. Run errands in a group now and get it over with to allow concentrating on studies for the rest of the semester.
- Exercise in appropriate amounts. If you are an exercise fanatic spending more than 7 hours a week on workouts, it is time to re-prioritize. You may have the best abs among law students at your school, but you need to workout your brain cells at this point in the semester.
- Boost your brain power in the time you have. Sleep at least 7 hours a night. Eat nutritional meals. Your brain cells will be able to do the academic heavy lifting in less time if you do these simple things.
So, take a deep breath. Take control of your time. And good luck with the remainder of the semester. (Amy Jarmon)
Monday, April 4, 2011
Each year I have a few law students who work with me as they adapt to disabilities that are either new or newly discovered. A new disability might occur when a student has lost an arm in a car accident. A newly discovered disability might occur when a student is diagnosed with ADHD or learning disabilities after successfully compensating in earlier education but under-performing with the overwhelming amount of work and one-exam system in law school.
Depending on the timing of the new or newly discovered disability, some students will be adjusting to the diagnosis itself still as well as trying to determine different strategies for their studies. They may have some hurdles to get over before they are comfortable with their circumstances.
Some students are shaken by the fear that they are "no longer just like everyone else." They are not certain how to proceed. As time progresses, I see them grow more comfortable in their new circumstances. They learn to manage the disability, whatever it is, through physical therapy, medication, accommodations, and other appropriate methods. Some turn to our university counseling center for assistance in their adjustment. Later in the year, they will often tell me that they have accepted the circumstances and moved on from the initial uncertainties. They also comment that they have rediscovered themselves and realize that they are just like everyone else, but have a unique circumstance to manage.
Some students worry about using accommodations because they fear accommodations mean "having an unfair advantage" rather than "levelling the playing field." They do not want others to resent them because they get extra time on exams, laptop use in classes where they are banned for others, or note-takers in class. It is sometimes hard for them to realize that the accommodations are very fair - after all, that is why they are given. Even if some other students' reactions are negative, those reactions merely indicate the immaturity of those other students. After all, none of those other students would opt for the disability; none of them would give up accommodations if they had the same circumstances.
Some students are concerned that accepting accommodations will mean that "everyone will know" when the disability is otherwise invisible. This concern is often harder for students because it resurfaces the concerns about not being like everyone else and being open to criticism from students who react negatively about accommodations for disabled students. Most students realize, however, that achieving their true academic potential is ultimately more desirable than hiding their disability. (An added aspect is that many boards of law examiners will look at accommodations in law school to determine accommodations on the bar exam.)
Each student adapts differently to a new or newly discovered disability. For some, the adaptation occurs rapidly. For others, it takes a bit longer. And, for others, it is an on-going process.
How can we help as ASP'ers?
- Listen carefully. There is often a sub-text if we are alert to it.
- Provide a safe environment. Allow the student to talk about concerns and fears as well as study habits.
- Work with the student on specific study strategies tailored to the disability. Often the doctor or testing report will suggest specific strategies. Brainstorming can assist the student in selecting possible strategies.
- Make referrals. Support from your university's student disability services, counseling center, or doctors can be valuable to the student.
- Turn to the experts on your campus if you need more information about a disability or suggestions on how to work with a student on study strategies.
All law students have adjustments to make during 1L year and throughout law school. And they make the adjustments at different speeds. By layering on a new or newly discovered disability, the students may need some additional time and assistance. (Amy Jarmon)
Saturday, April 2, 2011
In the stress of studying for exams, some students lose their common sense. They exhibit behaviors (either acts or failures to act) that seem illogical after the fact. They say things they will regret later. They make judgment calls that are inadequate.
To help students avoid a lack of common sense, the following list includes some observations and suggestions:
- Study the things you do not know and not just the things you are comfortable with already. Students often avoid the topics or courses that they see as confusing or difficult.
- Big blocks of time are usually unattainable at this point in the semester. A whole Saturday to outline Y course is elusive. Break large tasks down into small tasks and complete parts in smaller time slots so that there is progress on the task.
- Spend time studying rather than merely organizing to study. Students often waste time getting ready to study rather than just getting down to it.
- Unless a professor has indicated that something is not on the exam, study it. Everything is considered fair game by most professors if it was assigned.
- Attend all of the remaining classes for a course - even if allowed absences will be unused for the semester. Professors provide information about the exam and pull together material in the last weeks of class.
- Learn the professor's version of the course. Commercial study supplements are written for a national (or state) audience. They can be helpful in clarifying points. However, they may use different rule versions, different steps of analysis, or different emphases. The professor will find the points more quickly in an exam answer if it is formatted and explained to match what was taught in class.
- Complete as many practice questions as possible. Just knowing the law is not enough. Students need to apply the law to new fact scenarios on the exam. Students also need to practice any test-taking techniques so they will be on auto-pilot.
- Complete practice questions that are as similar as possible to the format the professor will have on the exam: essay for essay exams; multiple choice for multiple-choice exams; short answer for short-answer exams. First choice should be questions written by your professor if those are available. Second choice should be questions with similar format and complexity.
- Complete at least some practice questions under test conditions (on a timed basis, closed book, or other appropriate conditions). By practicing under similar conditions, one gets used to working within those constraints.
- One has to study thoroughly for open-book exams. There is never time to look up much material during an exam. Do not be fooled into lazy studying because of an open-book format.
- Individual study must take place even when one has a good study group. The study group cannot confer about the answers during the exam. It will not be helpful that everyone else in the study group was knowledgeable about X topic if the student writing the answer on the topic is not.
- Shortcuts are not the same as efficient and effective studying. Shortcuts usually focus on someone else's understanding (example, other students' outlines) rather than individual processing for understanding.
- Get help from professors, teaching assistants, tutors, or other academic support resources now. Student positions often end on the last day of classes because those students need to prepare for their own exams. Professors are often at home grading during exam periods. Some professors have cut-off dates for questions.
- Remember that others are listening and watching. Overly competitive actions, rude behavior, mean remarks, or other inappropriate behaviors and comments will be remembered. It is easier to think twice before speaking or acting than to apologize later.
- Stay away from the law school for studying if it is too stressful. Study in another environment if it will be helpful: other academic buildings, the university library, a coffee shop.
- Stay away from law students who are procrastinating, whining, belittling others, or exhibiting other negative behaviors. Seek out those law students who are focused on productive work and will support your efforts.
- Sleep is critical to exam performance. A minimum of 7 hours is needed. Students often skimp on sleep and then realize in an exam that they are too tired to think.
- Nutrition is critical to exam performance. Brain cells need fuel. Caffeine, sugar, and carbohydrates do not equal a balanced diet. Students often turn to sodas, energy drinks, pizza, other fast food, and candy instead of keeping the real food groups on their plates.
- Exercise is a wonderful stress buster. Now that the weather for some of us has gotten nice (sorry about the latest snow for those of you in Massachusetts or elsewhere), it is a good idea for students to walk around outside for 15-30 minutes for a study break. 30-60 minutes of exercise three times a week can make a big difference.
Evaluating study choices carefully during this time period can have big benefits. Taking care of oneself also has a big payoff. (Amy Jarmon)
Friday, April 1, 2011
The ABA Journal and the National Law Journal reported on an law review article that studied laptop use among law students. The students self-reported their laptop use in class, including their feelings on whether laptops aid their learning. Students overwhelmingly reported using laptops, and overwhelmingly reported that they used thier laptops to "goof off" during class. I am going to bypass the issues that have been argued in other blogs (should laptops be banned in class, are professors failing to teach their students). Without a study that tracks laptop use in class and student grades, I am left to wonder, do students actually know what is good for them? If something feels good and it is satisfying, people will report that the activity helps them. Here, students reported laptops aided their learning, but that really means they find laptop use satisfying. What I want to see is an empirical study of the grades and attitudes of students who use laptops, comparing students who hand-write their class notes, students who use a laptop but do not goof off, and students who use a laptop and admit to goofing off in class. I would like to see their grade trajectory throughout law school, as well as their attitudes about goofing off, if it does have an impact on their grades. This study has yet to be performed (to my knowledge).
There are so many things we could learn from a study that tracks laptops and grades. It would be a wonderful diagnostic tool in ASP; having this information to share with students would help when students come to our offices to discuss lackluster performance. Assuming the data demonstrated a correlation between goofing off on a laptop in class and poor grades, I would have a better idea of what is behind less-than-stellar performance. I would approach a student who does not "goof off" in class, yet struggles, quite differently from a student who uses a laptop and plays during class while telling me that the laptop helps them learn. Right now, I don't make that assumption because I don't know if laptop use in class has a correlation with grades. I know playing on a laptop is rude and disrespectful, to me and to peers, but unless I have hard data showing a correlation between laptop use and grades, students are less likely to give up the laptop because of poor law school performance.
There is another issue hidden in laptop use that extends beyond exam performance; if students knew it had an impact on grades, would they care? I think this brings up issues about how we teach and student engagement in class. It also implies issues with motivation and depression. I know most of the pre-law students I work with are excited about law school, and motivated to do their best. If those same students become apathetic about their own performance, choosing to use a laptop even if it hurts their grades, we need a more serious examination of student mental and emotional health during their 1L year. Thanks to the amazing work of Larry Kriegar and Ken Sheldon, we know law school has a deleterious effect on law student mental health. But does depression extend to self-defeating behaviors, or is the effect limited to personal and professional outlook?
I wish we had more people doing empirical work on the behavior, motivation, and learning occuring in law schools. Larry and Ken are prolific, but we need more people doing more of this work. I think this is a problem resulting, in part, from the lack of research time and funds that go to law school professionals that work in legal writing and academic services. The people with the most time in the trenches with students, who would be best able to perform a large-scale empirical study, are the same people who are non-tenure track, and have least access to research funding. I am hoping some intrepid souls take on this challenge and produce more scholarship that relates directly to student academic success and health.