December 20, 2012
Team-Teaching: Constant Conversations about Teaching
If you have the opportunity to team-teach a course at your law school, jump at the opportunity.
With the close of this semester, I've had a chance to think about how team-teaching has worked in one of the new courses a colleague and I teach. Two advantages to the team approach were obvious: the broadening of the students' learning experience, and the broadening of the teaching experience for those of us at the front of the room (yes, I know, asp-ers, you are all over the room!).
This new course, “Practical Lawyering Skills,” was created to fill a gap in our academic support offerings. While we had plenty of academic support offerings in the first year, and a newly introduced third-year “just-before-you-take-the-bar” course for graduating students, the second year (or third year for our part-time students) was empty of academic support opportunities. Intervention in the second year seemed a natural extension of academic support offerings.
It also seemed natural to me to design the course as a team-taught enterprise in order to bring as much diverse experience to the class as possible, both in teaching style as well as in legal experience. My co-teacher in the fall semester is a senior faculty member, highly respected by faculty and students alike. As well as having impressive criminal law experience, she is also an experienced doctrinal professor having won “best teacher” awards several times. The two of us, having team-taught in other courses over many years, are comfortable together in the classroom.
In the spring I teach with a newer professor, but one with plenty of civil practice experience. While our experience teaching together is not as deep as that with my fall colleague, the teaching relationship is quickly maturing after just one semester together. I think students enjoy this ”double treat,” something we carry over into the grading of their assignments so that students get a broad spectrum of evaluation.
The "carry-over" effect of team-teaching reaches outside the classroom as well. My colleagues often ask about the "how" of our team-teaching, about the logistics of how we do it—the choreography. (More about that at another time.)
What I tell my colleagues, however, is that the strength of our team-teaching is more about what happens outside the classroom--in our preparation, debriefing, and shared evaluation of students--more so than in our dual presence in the classroom. While many of us have had someone observe our classes to receive feedback on our approach, the team-teaching model creates a constant stream of observation and evaluation, as well as a constant conversation about how we approach the course and, on any given day, how we approach and deliver specific, daily classroom goals.
That conversation provides endless opportunities for evaluating global teaching approaches as well as the individual components of a class session. So you can have a continual discussion and evaluation from the creator's point of view, and you don't have to wait for the student reviews some time after the final exam to make some navigation corrections. What I have learned from this experience has given me greater confidence in the classroom and a greater willingness to take risks.
NECASP Winter Conference Update
We in the Northeast had a wonderful conference on Dec. 10, on counseling students. Marty Peters, PhD, and professor emeritus of Elon Law School, led us through several exercises designed to help ASP professionals counsel students during one-on-one appointments. The conference was attended by ASPer's from up and down the East Coast. I think I speak for everyone at the conference when I say it was incredibly valuable.
Thank you to Marty Peters, and NECASP co-chairs Sunny Mulligan and Elizabeth Bloom. (RCF)
December 19, 2012
More on AALS
To piggy-back on Lisa's post today on getting the most out of AALS, I wanted to post an e-mail that was on the listserv from Herb Ramy reminding all of us of days/times/rooms for the sessions at AALS. (Amy Jarmon)
Just a quick reminder that the AALS Section on Academic Support will be presenting our first section award to Kent Lollis during the section breakfast on January 5th. The breakfast begins at 7:00 AM in the Grand Salon 9 & 12, First Floor, Hilton New Orleans, Riverside. This is a separate fee event, so please be sure to purchase your tickets in advance. Tickets are available online through the AALS Website (pre-registration is required) and at the AALS meeting site until Friday evening, January 4th, if space is available. No tickets for the breakfast will be sold at the door.
In addition to the section breakfast and the awards ceremony, here is an updated list (including locations) of other events related to our section:
Saturday, January 5th, 1:30 – 2:30 PM
Court Assembly, Third Floor, Hilton New Orleans Riverside
Sunday, January 6, 4:00–5:45 p.m.
AALS Section Program, Assessing Our Students, Our Success and Ourselves
Grand Ballroom C, First Floor, Hilton New Orleans Riverside
In response to a growing need within the legal academy, many institutions and individuals have developed programs to assure the success of law students as well as techniques to assess those programs. Increasingly, law schools are interested in institutional assessment but lack the expertise to reach beyond the obvious measures to fully evaluate the relationships between programs and outcomes. Each of these presentations highlights a different aspect of assessment to inform participants about sources of existing data, methods of gathering additional information, and uses of that information to create new programs and assess existing ones.
Section Business Meeting, Windsor, Third Floor, Hilton New Orleans Riverside
Sunday, January 6, 7:00 – 7:30 p.m.
Court Assembly, Third Floor, Hilton New Orleans Riverside
The Section Business Meeting did not appear in the AALS Preliminary Program or in the programs that were mailed to AALS members. It does appear in the online version of the program.
I look forward to seeing all of you in New Orleans!
Herb Ramy, Section Chair
AALS Section on Academic Support
Professor Herbert N. Ramy, Director
Academic Support Program
Suffolk University Law School
120 Tremont St.
Boston, MA 02108
Making the Most of AALS 2013
Going to the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Conference is a huge perk for someone in Academic Support. The registration cost is astronomical and the cost of travel and accommodations often pushes this event out of reach and out of budget. Thus, if you do get a chance to attend AALS, you want to make the most of it. I have included a few ideas about how to maximize your experience.
- Review the Program ahead of time. I read the Program and flag all of the presentations that I must attend and the ones that I would like to attend. There may not be enough time in the day to attend all of the presentations that look interesting to you but you should at least commit to making it to the ones that you must attend. If at first you do not find enough sessions, I suggest taking another look. Look not only at the Presentation Titles or the Sections offering the presentations, but also look at the specific presenters. You may find familiar names among the presenters or moderators. Even if the topic does not interest you, seeing particular speakers in their element can make attendance worth it. If you do not have a hard copy, you can access it here AALS 2013 Annual Meeting Program.
- Calendar all of the presentations in your phone or on a list that you can easily carry with you. Believe me, you will thank me later. When someone asks you to join them for a cup of coffee or at another presentation later in the day, you can quickly check your list to see whether you are available.
- Try to connect with others in the field. This year our section program is not being given until late Sunday. Personally, that is too long for me to wait to find “my people”. Try to touch base with a few others before arriving in New Orleans or approach someone from ASP at another earlier presentation. Or better yet, attend the Academic Support Breakfast on Saturday morning (more later on this).
- It’s NOLA! New Orleans is one of the most fascinating cities. It is rich in tradition, culture, and history. And….the food is amazing! Take advantage of soaking in a bit of the jazzy nightlife, the sinfully delicious po’boys and infamous Café Du Monde beignets, and the French Quarter architecture. I still remember the incredible flavors of the roasted duck and buttery cornbread pudding that I ate at NOLA (one of Emeril’s restaurants) two years ago. Now, I am getting hungry!
- Attend the Academic Support Breakfast on Saturday morning. (Yes, I know I already mentioned this above.) I want to mention this breakfast again because it a great way to network, vent, generate ideas, make dining plans for the weekend, and make new friends. Warning, this will not be a culinary experience to remember. Instead, this is a wonderful reunion of friends and colleagues and an exchange of ideas and support. It is well worth the cost. You can work up an appetite for lunch and find someone new to share it with. Jambalaya anyone?
- Make plans, be a joiner, and be inclusive. ASPers are known for being fun, inclusive, and movers and shakers. Do not be a loner at AALS! Go site seeing, enjoy a group meal, or maybe a late night game of Taboo with old (or new) friends;) If you are new, introduce yourself; if you are seasoned, find a newbie to befriend. My first AALS in 2009 was so overwhelming! I literally got lost at the hotel while trying to find a presentation. This was not fun and I was late for the presentation. Plan ahead and leave extra time for detours.
- Do not forget to attend the Poster Presentations. This year they are on Saturday from 1:30-2:30 in the Court Assembly, Third Floor, at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside. This is a great way to connect with ASPers, support our colleagues, and learn something new.
- Attend our Section Program: Assessing Our Students, Our Successes, and Ourselves; and, don’t forget to stay for the Business Meeting. This is a great way to discuss assessment and get involved with others in Academic Support.
I look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones.
Laissez les bon temps rouler!
December 18, 2012
How should you spend your semester break if you are a law student?
We finish our exam period tomorrow afternoon. The first-year students finished yesterday. The building has emptied significantly since 5:00 p.m. after the last 1L exam.
Some students (especially 1Ls) have been asking what they should do over the semester break to get ready for second semester. For the most part, I advise them to relax, rest, recharge their batteries, and renew their relationships with family and friends.
They are often surprised that I do not tell them to read a study aid for each new class or start to read their casebooks. I realize that some of them are eager to "get ahead" and "have a leg up on their classmates" for the next semester. However, I caution them to not get too gung-ho.
Here are some reasons why I do not suggest a bookish break:
- Most law students are worn out after the semester and need time away from the law school routine.
- Many law students have become myopic over the semester without a life outside of law school and need to regain perspective on life outside the law school walls.
- Family and friends have endured the "loss" of their law student for 15 weeks and want to reconnect.
- Brain cells are often gasping from exertion and need a Florida vacation from the heavy-lifting of cases, hypotheticals, and legal analysis.
- Many law students have had too little sleep, too few nutritious meals, and minimal exercise for the entire semester - good habits need to be re-established.
- Professors will skip topics in the casebooks, take a different perspective on a course from a study aid, and emphasize different angles on a course - studying/reading ahead may cause a student to go off track before the course even begins.
- Reading a casebook or study aid without class discussion can lead to emphasizing the wrong material or, even worse, serious confusion about the material.
If a student really feels compelled to prepare for the second semester, I suggest that reading a good book on law school study skills might be more beneficial than a book about a course subject area. Books by Michael Hunter Schwartz, Herb Ramy, Dennis Tonsing, Ruth Ann McKinney, Andrew McClurg, John Delaney, Charles Calleros, Will Huhn, or other ASP'ers and professors will likely assist students who want to become better law students during the next semester.
Why do I say that? Many law students read "how to succeed" books before they arrive at law school. That is useful preparation, but I seriously think they get even more out of the books if they re-read them after they have at least one or more semesters under their belts. What previously was merely theoretical to them now has real context.
Students who are in their 2L and 3L years can also benefit from these books because they now realize they have specific, repeating areas of weakness that need to be addressed. If they do not know where they are weak, then the books will help them to evaluate changes that they may need in multiple study areas.
Most of all, I think students need to have a break - that is why it is called a semester break. It is fine to do some general evaluation of study skills and preparation to do better as a student. However, burning oneself out with studying before the next fifteen-week marathon is just asking for trouble. (Amy Jarmon)
December 17, 2012
Early Bar Prep
Not taking the bar exam until summer but curious about what to expect? Thinking about ways to get a head start on your bar prep over the break? Want to have a better idea of what is required in your state when applying for the bar exam? Great! Advance planning is an essential ingredient in your bar exam preparation. Here are a few ways to get started without causing anxiety, taking too much time, or causing you to feel overwhelmed. In fact, these helpful ideas will help reduce the brewing stress that the bar exam produces and will help you feel more in control when you are studying for the bar exam this summer.
1. Plan financially for the bar exam. This could mean stocking away money every week reducing your current spending (forgo that extra latte, brown bag it, or take the bus instead of paying forparking), or creating a budget that incorporates your bar review expenses. Taking the bar exam can be an expensive endeavor. So even if we avoid the fiscal cliff, a substantial expense is still in your future. You should anticipate spending approximately $2000-$6000 for your bar preparation.
2. Make your hotel reservation. It may seem too early to call the hotel closest to the bar exam testing center, but it is not. Hotels book quickly and you want to have a choice as to where you stay when you take the most important exam of your life. Find out where your state bar will take place and research the hotels in the area. Once you have made your selection, call them directly and ask for the group rate, use your AAA discount (or other discount), or search online for the best deals.
3. If you have not already, sign up for a commercial bar review. In these economic times, many students ask me if taking a bar review is really necessary. Resolutely, my answer is always yes, a bar review is necessary to achieving success on the bar exam. Take your time to determine your options and how they will suit your individual needs. Bar prep courses are an investment, see item #1 above, but one that is wholly worth it.
4. Check out The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) web page at www.ncbex.org. You will find information regarding the MBE, MEE, MPT, MPRE, and UBE. There are also helpful articles and resources regarding every aspect of the bar examination process from bar exam application information, character and fitness issues, and psychometrics and scoring of the bar exam. Even if you have a limited amount of time, I highly suggest becoming familiar with the NCBE’s website.
5. Similarly, think about where you want to sit for the bar exam. Once you have thought through where you want to be licensed, determine the jurisdictional requirements in that state. Contact the licensing entity and review the Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admissions published by the NCBE and the American Bar Association. In this document, you will find information regarding every aspect of the bar examination and contact information for state bar admission agencies.