February 26, 2011
The Educational Bookends
Two teaching techniques are known as the educational bookends: previews and summaries. The idea is that you present a preview of the material ("Let me preview adverse possession for you. We will be studying the topic for the next 2 weeks."), teach the material, and the summarize the material ("Let's pull together what we have learned about adverse possession over the last 2 weeks.").
Global learners (who need a road map of the topic before they can understand the sub-topics within the topic) will appreciate the preview step. It helps them to understand how to fit the parts into the whole as the material is covered. They will feel that they know what the "road trip" will be about and can enjoy the journey.
Sequential learners (who need to first understand each sub-topic before they can think about the overview) will appreciate the summary step. It helps them to know where they have been and how the parts fit into the whole now that they understand the material in its segments.
In short, each type of learner gets to the same destination in a different way. By providing both a preview and a summary, the teacher starts or ends the journey appropriately for each type of learner.
The trick as a professor is to remember to do both steps and not just the one that matches your own style of learning! (Amy Jarmon)
February 25, 2011
Part-time Adjunct Positions with NYLS Academic Skills
The NYLS Academic Skills program is looking for one or more experienced adjunct faculty members to teach Principles of Legal Analysis ("PLA"), a 3-credit required course in legal reasoning for beginning law students who are underperforming academically. The course provides frequent and rigorous feedback on weekly writing projects, and uses a variety of teaching methods to help students articulate the building blocks of legal thinking.
The most successful candidates will have demonstrated ability to identify strengths and weaknesses in students’ written work, insight to diagnose difficulties students may be experiencing, and a desire to work individually with each student to develop a plan for improvement.
Adjunct faculty may be needed for both day and evening sections of PLA. The course meets twice each week. Consideration of applications will begin immediately, and will continue until the positions are filled. Applicants should send a statement of interest and resume by email to Kris Franklin at firstname.lastname@example.org or by hard copy to:
Professor of Law and Director of Academic Skills
New York Law School
185 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013
A Great Website That Helps Us Keep Students Interested
A colleague of mine at UConn, Professor Mark DeAngelis, has created a great website on teaching legal studies to undergraduates. I think the website is useful to ASPer's who have a role in teaching undergraduates (a number of us do this, and our numbers are growing) as well as doctrinal professors looking to provide examples to give life to cases.
I would have LOVED to have seen a photograph of the note in Lucy v. Zehmer when I was reading the case in law school. Evidence would have been more relevant if I had the opportunity to see some ghastly examples of depositions gone wrong. The songs in here are great, and a lot of fun. (RCF)
February 23, 2011
Bar Applications: Deadlines, Disclosures, and Determinations
Even though I teach a two credit class to 3Ls for early bar preparation, as Director of the Bar Studies Program at Seattle U, I also need to make sure that students unable (or unwilling) to take my class get the same important information regarding the bar exam before they graduate. Therefore, I provide several workshops during spring semester introducing them to the bar exam and the bar application process.
As weknow, the bar exam application process is time consuming and can pose significant challenges for some students. However, without our prodding, some students do not realize this until the eleventh hour. In light of the AALS presentation “Character and Fitness: To Disclose or Not to Disclose, That is the Question” and the ensuing discussion regarding our role as academic support professionals and the counseling we give to students, it seems necessary for all schools to adopt a similar workshop revolving exclusively around the bar application process.
While meeting with every 3L to discuss their bar application is nearly impossible, holding a short workshop for all 3Ls is easily doable and accomplishes the same goal. Providing accurate information regarding the application process and deadlines and conveying the importance of full disclosure, serve several objectives. Students will be more apt to meet the application deadlines (and not line up outside your office the day they are due), feel supported by their law school during this somewhat tedious process (a good way to end their law school career), and to understand that professional ethics is not just a class they took their second or third year of law school (instead they are standards by which they will be called to live by…starting now). Above all, students in attendance with additional questions or past indiscretions will know whether to schedule a one on one appointment to discuss their application further.
Essentially, the best advice we can give our students is to be open and honest when completing their bar application. During the AALS presentation, Margaret Fuller Corneille, Director of the Minnesota Board of Law Examiners, stated that successful applicants are candid, show no malice when mistakes are made on their law school/bar exam applications, accept responsibility for their past conduct, and show that they have made positive social contributions. Bar Associations act at as “Gate Keepers” to the legal profession. In this capacity, they are determining whether an applicant has the ability to handle the responsibilities of being a lawyer. Instilling the notion that candor on their applications reflects on their present moral character is crucial.
Our role as educators in this process is significant. However, this role may vary depending on how you define your purpose and what your institution determines to be their responsibility. Questions presented by Susan Saab Fortney, Interim Dean and Professor of Law at Texas Tech University School of Law, at the AALS presentation are good starting points as you (and your institution) consider how to characterize this role. I have paraphrased some of Professor Fortney’s thoughtful questions below.
- Are we partners with the bar associations when it comes to character and fitness determinations?
- Should law schools be “Gate Keepers” to the profession?
- Should we be concerned with our law school’s reputation regarding the character and fitness of our students?
- Should law schools take the “ostrich approach” with the character and fitness issues of their students?
While all valid and though provoking, some of us may have differing opinions as to whether we should squarely align ourselves with the bar associations or whether our main goal is to be a “gate keeper” to the profession. David Baum, Assistant Dean in the Office of Student Affairs at Michigan Law School and a member of the State Bar of Michigan’s Standing Committee on Character and Fitness, raised equally compelling issues at AALS that uniquely influence our perspective regarding these bar application disclosures. He acknowledged that in our roles as educators, it would be difficult to engage in open conversations with our students if we were required to disclose every detail discussed within said conversations. He further stated, that these conversations are the vehicles by which we deliver sound advice and help shape the personal and professional development of our students. In turn, as Dean Baum points out, if we are obligated to disclose these details, a negative chilling effect could result and students in need of support, advice, and possibly further professional help may not reach out for it.
Contemplating the questions posed and viewpoints presented during the AALS presentation, as well as, considering your state bar’s requirements and your institution’s policies, should help you create a helpful and informative bar application workshop for your students. During the workshop, I walk through the application and instructions while pointing out areas where students typically have detailed questions or concerns. For example: how to request an accommodation; how to list past traffic infractions/citations/criminal charges or convictions, and how to disclose treatment for mental impairment or alcohol or drug dependency.
Although carrying this out in a group setting can be challenging, I have found that the group dynamic diffuses the potential stigma that a student may feel as a result of an affirmative answer to one of these questions listed on the bar application. Once again, this workshop opens up the opportunity for students to see me as a trustworthy resource and to understand the importance of taking this step seriously. I believe there is a way to be a dedicated advocate and guide for our students while maintaining the integrity of the legal profession…finding that middle ground is up to you or your institution to determine.
February 21, 2011
A metaphor for the role of ASP in student success
I have written posts in the past about students as consumers. I have very strong feelings on the topic, because I believethat viewing students as consumers dis-incentivizes students to achieve their personal best. However, it can be difficult to explain to students who see themselves as consumers what they should expect from ASP. I think this metaphor may be helpful.*
Home Depot and Lowe's hardware sell do-it-yourself kits for various small projects, such as bird feeders, picture frames, and shelves. They are designed to be parent-child projects, and the degree of complexity involved in the finished product depends on the skill and effort of the builders.
Education is much like one of these do-it-yourself projects. The boxes advertise a very basic project. The kit includes all the pieces necessary to build the project in it's most basic form. If built as designed, the product should function exactly as it is advertised. Similarly, law schools give students all the basic pieces to complete a law degree. Some students will use the pieces as a starting point, and build something magnificent, far exceeding what is advertised on the box. These students are using their own ingenuity, creativity, and talent to demonstrate their own potential. They write notes for law review, join mock trial and appellate advocacy teams, they take on big projects in clinics, and they work to know their professors and peers. Other students will not take the time to read the directions, fail to follow directions, or rush the project because they don't like it. Their project will not be as advertised on the box, because the box does not promise them a well-built project without their own hard work. They can't bring the product back to the store because they don't like the finished product; it is not the store or the manufacturer's fault they did not do what they needed to do. These are the students who fail to show up for orientation or spend orientation playing on a cell phone, the students who are smarter than ASP, and feel that outlining isn't "their style" of preparing for exams. But the trickiest consumers are those that genuinely give 100% of their effort to building the project, and just can not figure out how to get from disassembled pieces to a finished product. This is why most manufacturers have consumer help lines. Academic Success is the consumer help line of law schools. The help-line specialists are masters at building the product, but it requires the continued effort of the consumer to learn how to build the project. If the consumer gets frustrated and hangs up the phone, the help-line specialist can not be blamed for problems with the finished product. Nor can a consumer expect that a help-line specialist is in charge of magic fairies who can come out and finish the project for them because they are struggling. No where on the box does it say that the manufacturer is responsible for the finishing the project for the consumer.
Education, like a do-it-yourself project, is great because you can build something that fits your individual needs, and you decide the complexity of the finished product. Its flexibility is what makes it great, but it also makes it difficult. Students who believe that they are consumers and ASP is there to fix their problems for them are confused about their role.
This metaphor is incomplete in many ways, because ASP encompasses many more things than just helping struggling students. I still disagree with characterizing students as consumers, but I know that some students will see themselves as consumers, and it is helpful to have a metaphor to help them see what we can and cannot do for them. (RCF)
*I apologize if this is a metaphor that has been used by someone else. I have read hundreds of law review articles in the last few months, and I may have accidently picked it up from an article. However, the idea came to me when I watched my brother-in-law and 3 year old nephew put together a do-it-yourself picture frame. My nephew thought the pieces for the frame should be used to build a construction crane. It was not what the manufacturer promised on the box, but it made my nephew very happy. I saw the help-line number on the box, and thought, wow, I bet no one has called them and asked about how to use a picture frame kit to build a construction crane. Which got me thinking about the role of help lines, and ASP.