March 30, 2012
Bullying in Law School
This Friday, the important and controversial movie "Bully" comes out. If I wasn't a scholar of bullying, it would be exactly the type of movie I would avoid: painful, honest, and scary. A review of the movie focused on the ignorance and complicity of adults that allowed bullying in schools, which reminded me of how much bullying behavior is allowed in law schools. In ASP, we are the adults that students are most likely to turn to when they are in pain and struggling. It is our job to address the problem, and not ignore the source of the pain. Like in elementary, middle, and high schools, bullying can be caused by classmates. In this job market, it is increasingly likely that students are responding to stress by belittling and demeaning classmates. More insidious, and more dangerous, is the bullying that comes from professors and administrators, which is sometimes unintentional. I have heard of law professors blaming students for being unable to find post-graduate employment ("you didn't work hard enough to get the grades for a job" and "if getting a job was why you wanted a law degree, you should have spent more time studying"), as well as professors who have blamed students for the crushing debt they acquire to finance a law degree (insidious, because debt is far more complicated for many students than just signing up for loans). These professors may not intend to be bullying law students, but the message received by many students is the same as if a professor called them names. Even in the most charitable light, this sort of behavior is ignorant and cruel, and undermines our students.
The emotional and mental health of our students has an impact on their grades. Students who feel bullied and belittled are less likely to succeed academically. It is important for ASPer's to listen carefully to what students tell them about bullies in law school, and to believe students when they say the feel bullied. Bullying doesn't go away when students graduate from high school, and the pain and anguish caused by bullies isn't diminished because the target is a young adult. (RCF)
March 29, 2012
Assistant Director Position at Golden Gate
POSITION: Assistant Director of Academic Support Services
Golden Gate University School of Law invites applications to fill one long-term contract law faculty position beginning with the 2012-2013 academic year. We are seeking experienced applicants capable of teaching in our Academic Development Program, as well as assisting with first-year Legal Research and Writing courses as needed.
The Assistant Director will work to support student learning in the law school by administering and participating in a program of academic support services, including teaching courses on legal study skills, providing individual tutoring to students, participating in new student orientation activities, and presenting workshops on study skills. Assist with the planning, scheduling and execution of training programs, lectures, workshops, meetings and special events that serve to enhance the serves of the program. Work with law students placed on Academic Supervision and Academic Probation to develop individual academic improvement plans and monitor student progress.
The Assistant Director will work collaboratively with other members of the Academic Development Program team and the Office of Law Student Services to improve the development of student study skills and ensure the academic success of all GGU law students. The Assistant Director will also supervise the work of student teaching assistants who work in coordination with the Academic Development Program.
- J.D. degree required.
- Five or more years of teaching experience in a law school academic support program required.
- California Bar membership is a plus.
- Strong academic and professional qualifications, as well as a demonstrated interest in teaching students with diverse backgrounds.
- Strong interpersonal, writing, and public speaking skills.
- An understanding of learning disabilities
- Ability to work independently, organize simultaneous projects, demonstrate initiative, and exercise professional judgment under minimal supervision.
- Maintain school’s strict confidentiality policies.
- Ability to handle and keep confidential a variety of different student questions and concerns.
E-mail applications may be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact: Professor William Gallagher, Chair, Faculty Appointments Committee, Golden Gate University School of Law, 536 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105.
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.
Course Outlines as Master Documents
Making course outlines is a tradition at law schools. However, not all students get the most benefit from their outlines because they do not understand why they are making outlines and how to use them most efficiently and effectively for exam study. Here are some thoughts on outlining:
- If an outline is constructed properly, it will include all of the essential information from one's briefs, casebook, and class notes. In short, one should not have to go back to those materials again. The outline is truly the master document for exam study.
- The outline should be formatted to give the student a 360-degree view of the course: what is the big picture of the course; what are the main concepts and interrelationships among concepts as well as any relevant policy; what are the steps/rules/tests/questions to ask for analysis; and what are the details/fact examples/case names to flesh out the outline.
- The outline should flip the student's thinking from individual cases and minutia to synthesis of the material and the solving of new legal scenarios with the law that is learned through the cases. Except for major cases, cases should become illustrations rather than the focus of the outline.
- The outline is building a toolkit to solve new legal scenarios that will show up on the exam. Include the essential tools (each course may have different types of tools): rules, exceptions to rules, variations on rules, definitions, steps of analysis, questions to ask, bright line tests, policy arguments, etc.
- Additional information from supplements may also go into an outline. However, remember that students want to learn their professor's version of a course and not a supplement's version. If a student understands a topic fully, s/he may never look at a study supplement.
- The student wants to set aside time each week to review a section of an outline intensely - this is the review to learn the material as though the exam were next week. This intense review should be the time to gain full understanding and grapple with the material. Any questions that remain should be answered as quickly as possible by visiting the professor on office hours.
- In addition, a student wants to read the entire outline for a course through at least once a week - this is the review to keep all of the topics fresh (long after the intense review of early topics and before one has intensely reviewed some topics that are newly added to the outline).
- After one has intensely reviewed a section of the outline, it makes sense to do some practice questions to see if the material is really understood and can be applied to a new legal scenario. However, wait several days before doing practice questions. Otherwise, getting them right will happen because the material was just reviewed.
- After a topic in the outline is intensely reviewed and practice questions on the topic have shown that the material is truly understood, condense that portion of the outline by at least half. Start a second document that is the condensed outline so that the longer version is never lost.
- Approximately one - two weeks before the exam, condense the entire outline to 5-10 pages of essentials for the material so far. The essentials will bring back the more detailed information if the material has been studied properly. Use the condensed outline to recall the information.
- Condense the shorter outline again to the front and back of a sheet of paper. This condensed version can be memorized as a checklist. When the proctor in the exam tells you to begin, quickly write your checklist on scrap paper and use it as a guide throughout the exam.
Remember that the goal is to learn the material for an exam that is limited in time and will test students' knowledge solving new legal problems based on the semester's emphases. Students are not learning the material to go out and practice in that legal specialty the next day. If students tend to get bogged down in minutia, they need to remember that studying outlines has a specific goal in mind. (Amy Jarmon)
March 28, 2012
Dweck's Book on Mindset
Carol Dweck is a psychologist who has done extensive research on how mindset influences our risk-taking, learning, and success in life. Her research defines two types of mindset: fixed-mindset and growth-mindset. Her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, looks at how these two groups differ in academics, business, sports, and relationships. She also looks at how parents, teachers, and coaches influence mindset.
The fixed-mindset individuals believe that one is endowed with certain abilities that cannot be changed. Activities then become "tests" of their intelligence and ability. Challenges are often avoided because one may be "shown up." Hard work is only needed for those who are not talented. Failure is devastating; fixed-mindset people may blame others or make excuses for failure because to do otherwise would mean a reflection on one's abilities.
The growth-mindset person, on the other hand, believes that one can improve on one's ability. Activities become opportunities to learn and develop. Challenges are often embraced because one has a chance to gain new expertise. Failure merely means that one has to work harder and learn from one's mistakes.
Dweck makes interesting observations about the damage that the "you are special" environment has caused millenials. By focusing on intelligence, natural ability, and talent, parents and teachers have encouraged young people to become fixed-mindset individuals who are less able to cope with constructive criticism, feel that they should get praise for any effort rather than true hard work, and give up when they do not achieve automatic success.
The encouraging thing about Dweck's research is that fixed-mindset individuals can become growth-mindest indiviuals. In fact, Dweck was initially a fixed-mindset person before she began her research and became aware of the benefits of the growth-mindset. She talks about how to change mindset in the last chapter in the book.
If you think about what we do every day as academic support professionals, we focus on the growth-mindset. Whether we work with students who are on probation or students who want to improve on test-taking skills, we help students learn strategies that improve their grades. With probation students, we encourage them to change in positve ways rather than get stuck in a negative mindframe because of poor grades. We help them to see themselves as valuable people with the ability to work hard for success. We treat them as more than just test scores that are equivalent to success or failure.
As I have read Dweck's book, certain things about my students' reactions to law school have really clicked for me. I think I knew those things before in a different context, but now I have a new perspective to understand each student better. (Amy Jarmon)