Thursday, October 4, 2012
This year, I have further modified my course design by requiring a writing project at the end of every class. Last year, I added an activity component to the end of many classes; this year, students have to practice what they learned in the class before they leave. The tweak is small, but it is enough of a change that it requires me to do significant additional work each week.
The benefit of using this method is that I know, much earlier in the semester, who is struggling, and where they are struggling (rules, mechanics, etc). A student who needs additional help organizing her thoughts can see me earlier in the semester to get extra support. I can find out if a student should be tested for a learning disability early enough in the semester that the student can schedule the testing, and get the test results, before final exams.
The tough part of this is that I have to design a writing assignment for each class, and give feedback within a week. I have found that my students really, really dislike group work, which makes it more difficult to use peer-grading. I think this is part of the dynamic of my class, because it is very small (8 students)--there is no chance for anonymity.
I am very lucky that I work within the super-supportive ASP community. I have invaluable help and support from colleagues who also teach hybrid ASP-Remedies courses. I trade PowerPoints, lesson plans, and exams with other professors, which helps keep the writing assignments fresh and relevant. (RCF)
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF ACADEMIC SUPPORT
AT SUFFOLK UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL
SUFFOLK UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL in Boston invites applications for a position as an Assistant Professor of Academic Support beginning in the spring semester of the 2012-2013 academic year or the beginning of the 2013-2014 academic year. Assistant Professors in the Academic Support Program (ASP) are responsible for assisting incoming students as they acclimate to the rigors of law school by teaching skills such as case briefing, course outlining, and legal synthesis. In addition, ASP Professors work with upper-division students in order to enhance their study skills and analytical abilities. Candidates must be available to teach both day and evening-division students, and are required to work with students both in the classroom and on a one-on-one basis. We welcome applications from all persons of high academic achievement with a strong commitment to academic support, and particularly encourage applications from women, people of color, and others whose backgrounds will contribute to the diversity of the faculty. Academic support or law school teaching experience is strongly preferred. Interested candidates must have a J.D. degree and be admitted to a bar. Interested applicants should address a cover letter, résumé, and a list of three references to: Chair, LPS and ASP Committee, at email@example.com. Alternatively, applicants may address their materials to the Chair and send them to our administrative assistant at the following address: Suffolk University Law School, ATTN: Patti Miceli, LPS Department, 120 Tremont St., Boston, Massachusetts 02108. The Committee will begin reviewing resumes in October of 2012 and will continue until the position is filled. Suffolk University is an equal opportunity employer.
Monday, October 1, 2012
There has been a shift in focus at many law schools across the country due to the ever changing legal market, the downturn in the economy, and the push for reforms in legal education. When change takes place as a reaction to outside forces, it is not always done thoughtfully with a deliberate action plan. Reacting is limiting and may lead to unfavorable results. Responding, rather than reacting, will lead to changes that are logical, intentional, and will help create a positive momentum system wide.
How does this shift affect Academic Support Professionals and the services we provide students? A reaction to the change in our student body, whether it is their LSAT scores, the numbers of students enrolling, or their undergrad GPAs, could deplete academic support services to students if the services provided are not highly valued or acknowledged as a benefit. Funding for such programs may be transferred to areas in the law school that directly feed advancement in US News rankings or to other programs that shine a spotlight on the school.
However, I submit that when academic support services are viewed as integral parts of the law school curriculum, students benefit, law schools benefit, and the legal profession benefits. It is counter intuitive to think that support services for students can be reduced during these changing times; but, I know it is happening. I am lucky that my institution values academic support but I know that many other ASPers face a more troubling reality. Yet, students, more now than ever, need academic support professionals to guide them through their arduous law school experience.
If students are entering law school with lower UGPAs and LSATs, Academic Support Programs should be expanded to meet the needs of their student populations not minimized to fit shrinking budgets. While budget issues are a real concern, providing much needed academic support and graduating practice ready students are arguably more important. Academic Support Professionals are uniquely situated to guide students throughout their law school journey, especially non-traditional students or those with risk factors that may impede their success.
How should we as Academic Support Professionals respond to these changing times? I think we can all construct a lengthy list in our minds as to why the services we provide are essential to the educational growth of our students. However, I urge you to go one step further. Write down your list and share it with as many members of the faculty and administration at your law school as you can. In doing this, you have enlightened others (that have power and influence) as to the many ways in which you shape the law school community. You have also identified ways in which you can help respond to the ever-changing nature of legal education and the makeup of your student body.
Another response is to assess and evaluate your program. While many of us do this already, we could all benefit from taking some time to revisit the idea and determine whether we are reaching our desired outcomes. How is your program currently being assessed? What can you learn from the data that has been collected? Is there something else that should be included? Reflecting on what is working and what needs improvement will enhance the quality and efficiency of your program and will keep you directly engaged with carrying out its mission.
Lastly, a great way to respond to the changing nature of legal education is to get more involved in the discussion. Think about presenting a new or innovative teaching method or step up to present a work in progress. The more that we as a community can support each other and highlight the essential nature of our work, the more valuable we are individually to our respective law schools and collectively as a whole. Consider collaborating with others and finding ways to get involved. By responding, rather than reacting, to the changing times, we will make a positive impact on our law students and on our profession.