Saturday, April 2, 2011

Use common sense when preparing for exams

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) 

April 2, 2011 in Exams - Studying | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Do students know what is good for them? Do they care?

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.

(RCF)

April 1, 2011 in Current Affairs, Exams - Studying, News, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Golden Gate Bar Exam Services Position

Rod Fong has posted the following position information to the ASP listserv:

Golden Gate University School of Law is expanding its Bar Exam Services Program.  It has created a new position of Bar Exam Counselor to work with students in their preparation for state bar examinations, with particular emphasis on the California Bar Examination.

 

Qualified applicants will have a JD and membership in the State Bar of California; experience in preparing students for the bar exam, at least two years preferred; experienced using Word, Excel, and PowerPoint; and experience grading California bar exam is preferred, but not required.  Attached is the full description of the position with a listing of the essential functions.

Candidates can apply on-line at http://www.ggu.edu/about/Employment or by sending a resume and cover letter to me at rfong@ggu.edu.  The deadline is April 15, 2011.

 

Golden Gate University is an Equal Opportunity Employer. The university has a strong commitment to the principles of diversity and inclusion, and to maintaining working and learning environments that reinforces these practices. The university welcomes and encourages applications from women, minorities, people of color, persons with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQI community.

  

 

 

March 31, 2011 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Position Opening at University of Denver Sturm Law in Academic Achievement/Bar Passage

Scott Johns, Lecturer and Director of Bar Passage, recently posted the following information on the ASP listserv regarding a job opening:

The University of Denver Sturm College of Law is searching for a person to serve in a faculty position as a law-lecturer in the law school's academic achievement program or bar passage program.

Position details and application instructions are available at

 

https://www.dujobs.org/postings/14675.

In addition, please feel free to visit us at http://law.du.edu/index.php/sturm-college-of-law-videos/du-law-programmatic-videos to view short video presentations for an overview of program initiatives including the academic achievement program (currently available for watching) and the bar success program (video available soon).

In the interim, please feel free to directly contact Mary Steefel, Director of Academic Achievement, at 303-871-6405, or Scott Johns, Director of Bar Passage, at 303-871-6763, for more information about the position, the programs, and the law school. Finally, please feel free to forward the announcement to friends and colleagues who might be interested.

March 30, 2011 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Job Openings: 2 jobs in disability services (related to ASP, but not ASP)

Below are two job listings related to ASP, but not in ASP. Disability services are often a part of an ASPer's duties, and these jobs require a working knowledge of the ADA and FERPA.

Assistant Director of Disability Services, Suffolk University

Suffolk University is seeking an Assistant Director of Disability Services. Our office works with approximately 350 undergraduate and graduate students. The position is available immediately. For more information please follow this link. http://hire.jobvite.com/CompanyJobs/Careers.aspx?c=qg19Vfw5&page=Job%20Description&j=od1FVfwy.

Coordinator, Student Life/Disability Services for Students, University of Rhode Island

This is a fulltime, permanent position.  Visit our website at https://jobs.uri.edu to apply and to view complete details for job posting (#6000422).  Applications for electronic submission will end on April 7, 2011, and will require two attachments in PDF format: 1) a cover letter, and 2) CV which includes the names and contact information for three references, one of which should be a previous supervisor.  The University of Rhode Island is an AA/EEOD employer and values diversity.

March 29, 2011 in Disability Matters, Job Descriptions, Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)