Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Remember the awkwardness of middle-school and high school dances if you weren't attending as half of a couple? Males stood on one side while the females hung out on the opposite side of the gym. To walk across the divide to ask for a dance was intimidating. And mortifying if you got turned down flat under the watchful eyes of everyone else.
Some students had the herd instinct and stuck with a group of other unattached attendees. At best they would get out on the dance floor en masse. At worst they would chat with friends while being among the non-selected.
I was thinking today about how so many things in law school echo back to those days of social uncertainty. (For some, college was no better; however, most felt a bit more daring and socially adept by then.)
For example, you are herded into an auditorium during Orientation with hundreds of other new 1Ls and expected to get acquainted or at least fit in somehow. There may have been a major welcome luncheon on the first day. If seats were not assigned by section, then the undergraduate friends who are now attending law school together clumped into little groups at the tables, secure in having "dance partners." Everyone else felt as though a flashing, neon sign with an arrow exclaimed "unpaired." If seating was by sections, then at least the unfamiliar 1Ls at the table knew they had something vague in common and could swap rumors about their professors and courses.
Socratic Method is a bit like a dance invitation - except you really shouldn't take the option of turning down the professor (pass is not any more exceptable than no thanks). And at times students feel they are trying to follow their professor dance partner without any idea of the dance, let alone the actual steps. Some professors are strong leaders - question by question as they show students the steps and lead them through the analysis. Others seem to whip you around the dance floor until you are dizzy. A few others even step on your toes so to speak as they point your errors out to the class. Only a few students are brave enough to venture out on the dance floor by volunteering.
Then there is the legal research and writing dance. One is supposed to learn the steps to an alien type of analysis and writing by doing it. For those with two left feet in legal analysis and legal writing style, learning by doing seems totally unhelpful. Research paths are supposed to be dance lessons for research, but some students are improvising too much to end up with the correct moves. Arguing both sides of the issue seems a lot like not being able to decide who should lead. And then second semester appellate briefs feel a lot like doing choreography before one knows all of the dance steps and appropriate rhythms.
Sections help with the herd instinct because you are all in it together. Then with 2L and 3L years, everyone scatters to different courses, certificate programs, dual degrees, and student organizations. Many law students find themselves in new courses with new professors and law students from other sectioins or upper-division students that they don't know except as vague faces in the halls. They have to decide whether to stay alone in the experience or turn to other students and ask "Do you wanna dance?" (Amy Jarmon)
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
This is the posting for the undergraduate portion of my job at UConn. There is tremendous overlap between my pre-law work and experience in ASP; someone with ASP experience would be a wonderful fit for this job.
I cannot speak highly enough of the students, my colleagues, and the environment here at UConn. My four years here have been magical. It is truly a job where I have been excited to come to work everyday. The right person will find an unparalleled level of professional and personal support, not just from supervisors and colleagues, but from the students and alumni you will be serving. If you have any questions about the position, please feel free to contact me personally (firstname.lastname@example.org).
University of Connecticut
Academic Advisor II, UCP VI
Under the general direction of designated supervisor, advises undergraduate students and alumni interested in attending law school from the beginning exploration of their options through the law school admission process.
CHARACTERISTIC DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
1. Advise students in developing academic plans to prepare for law schools and the legal profession.
2. Advise students in application process and assist students in gaining admission to appropriate law schools.
3. Provide outreach to prospective undergraduate students during Orientation, regional campus visits, and recruitment events.
4. Disseminate information to students, advisors, and others, including: creation of a pre-law resource area with print and electronic information about the legal profession, law school application timetables, information about the LSAT exam, schedules for on- and off- campus events, etc.; development and maintenance of a pre-law advising website.
5. Oversee and coordinate Special Program in Law for undergraduates admitted provisionally to UConn School of Law at time of admission to University.
6. Teach a first-year seminar on law-related topics.
7. Maintain assessment data on student applications and admissions in appropriate formats, including electronic. Maintain databases on pre-law students during their undergraduate and post-graduate stages.
8. Develop a peer advising program for upper-class students to work with first- and second-year students interested in law and, when needed, speak at orientations and recruitment activities.
9. Working with other University offices, develop and organize workshops and information sessions on relevant topics, including general admission, applications, letters of recommendation, and strategies for writing personal statements. Develop and supervise an annual law school fair.
10. Act as spokesperson and liaison for the program both within the University and with pre-law departments at other universities, with law schools, and other relevant audiences.
11. Engage UConn faculty in support of pre-law students and activities and encourage course development on topics related to the legal profession. Work with interested faculty to develop the Pre-Law Advisory Council.
12. Contribute to the professional community of law school advisors at the regional and national level.
13. May supervise support staff and/or work-study students.
14. May work closely with the UConn Law School on special projects.
15. Perform related duties as required.
MINIMUM ACCEPTABLE QUALIFICATIONS
1. Master’s degree in relevant field.
2. 3 – 5 years’ experience in advising undergraduate students or in the legal profession.
3. Ability to travel in a professional capacity.
4. Ability to host and participate in programming and events on evenings and weekends.
5. Experience working with diverse constituencies.
1. JD strongly preferred.
2. Experience in legal education or practice.
3. Demonstrated understanding of law school admissions landscape.
4. Excellent written and oral communication, interpersonal, and counseling skills.
5. Knowledge of pre-law student population.
6. Excellent organizational skills, including the ability to prioritize responsibilities and meet deadlines.
7. Demonstrated experience with databases, web applications and electronic communications.
For full consideration upload a letter of application, a resume, and a list of 3 professional references with contact information via Husky Hire (http://www.jobs.uconn.edu/). Include search number on all correspondence. Screening of applications will begin immediately and continue until position is filled.
The University of Connecticut is an EEO/AA employer.
Friday, April 19, 2013
A huge thank you to Myra Orlen, who wrote this summary of events for the blog.
The 2013 NY Academic Support Workshop was held on Thursday, April 2013, at Brooklyn Law School. Thanks – once again -- to Linda Feldman and Kris Franklin for organizing and convening a totally successful event. This workshop consistently convenes a dynamic group of presenters in a supportive setting in which everyone participates and comes away inspired. This year’s event was no exception.
David Nadvorney, of CUNY School of Law, began the day with a presentation entitled “Teaching Students Legal Reading.” David demonstrated methods of working with students on law school reading that I will use with my students. He stressed that the best method of delivering ASP is across the curriculum, i.e. in a doctrinal context. David shared materials from his close case reading workshops. In these workshops, he teaches students to recognize rhetorical devises that will enhance their comprehension.
Next Shane Dizon, of the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hosfstra University, gave a presentation entitled “Professional Advisory: Explicit Content! Make Labeling Mandatory.” Shane’s presentation focused on the importance of students’ ability to spot issues on exam questions. Shane led us in an exercise; with scissors and preprinted labels in hand– we marked up a constitutional law essay question. The labels corresponded to the issues that the professor wanted students to identify on the exam question and will ideally come from the students’ course outlines. This exercise teaches close reading and can serve as an intermediate step between the professor’s memo on the exam and the students’ understanding of the exam question.
Robin Boyle, of St. Johns University School of Law, addressed critical reading skills and placed those skills in the exam context. She noted that our legal writing colleagues are noticing that students are evincing increased difficulty in critical reading this year. Robin shared her experience in working with students on exam taking skills – with a focus on critical reading.
Zelma Rios, of Cardozo School of Law, shared her idea of having students annotate portions of briefs: the question presented and the statement of the case. In doing so, students focus on language structure, word choice, and tone. Students then meet in groups to discuss their annotations. This exercise affords students the opportunity to see cases in context. The cases are the continuation of the story presented in the brief. When asked how to use this exercise in the ASP context, Zelma had a ready answer; she distributed the briefs copies of the Palsgraf briefs. As one person noted, this exercise allows students to see themselves as lawyers from day one.
Jeremiah Ho, of the U. Mass. School of Law - Dartmouth and Rebecca Flanagan, currently of the U. Conn. Law school and soon to be at the U. Mass. School of Law- Dartmouth, explained how to use Jerome Bruner’s Spiral Curriculum in 1L Contracts. Using the process that Rebecca described in her April 12, 2031 entry to this blog, she and Jeremiah demonstrated how the Spiral Curriculum can be used in Contracts to teach the mirror image rule.
Angela Baker, of Rutgers Law School, presented on the development of summer pre-law programs for law students. She told us about the development and implementation of Rutgers’ program which brought diverse, rising sophomores to Rutgers for a four-week program. The program was an intense mixture of classes, speakers, and field trips aimed at encouraging participants to consider law school.
Kris Franklin, of the New York Law School, led us in an exciting game of TabooTM Law. The objective of the TabooTM is to get your teammates to guess a word, without using a set of words that are listed on the card as “taboo.” After providing a demonstration, Kris distributed Civil Procedure cards that her students made. In making the cards, students knew which words to put on the cards to “screw” their classmates. The game illustrated that law school can be fun and that one need not be afraid of the law. To give good clues, students use legally descriptive terms. Thus, the students learn to explain and, thereby understand the terms.
Ann Forlino, of the U. Mass. School of Law – Dartmouth, spoke about the necessary relationship between ASP and Disability Services. Through the discussion that Ann led, we learned of some of the different ways that these two areas are treated in law schools.
Last – but certainly not least – Elizabeth Corwin of Pace Law School spoke on her experiences working with at-risk 2Ls. In her presentation Elizabeth described the course that she teaches to at-risk students: Overview of Legal Analysis. The course is designed to enhance students’ exam taking skills. Elizabeth noticed that her students had problems with logical thinking and introduced us to a series of videos that explain concepts in logic:
(Myra Orlen, WNE Law via RCF)
Thursday, April 18, 2013
As Amy stated in her post regarding Academic Advising, thinking about whether a course is bar tested is an important aspect of registration planning. Often, I am asked, “Should I take all of the courses that are bar tested?” My answer (as it is in many situations) is: “It depends…”
Therefore, when confronted with this question from students, I ask them a series of questions in return. This self-assessment helps students to become experts in their own learning and helps them to set appropriate learning goals for their future. Here are a few sample questions for your students to consider:
- How have you performed in your first year?
- Was legal writing difficult?
- Do you prefer multiple choice exams or essay exams?
- Can you identify characteristics you valued in your first year professors?
- Can you identify characteristics you disliked or did not work for your learning style?
- Did you have closed book, timed exams in your first year? If yes, how did you perform?
- Do you prefer large classes or small seminars?
- If your first year was (extremely) challenging, have you been able to assess why?
- What areas of law interest you most?
- Do you have a clear career plan? Practice area/job prospects/jurisdiction?
- What would be your ideal law school schedule?
Once these questions have been answered, I can more specifically address whether students may need to take certain bar tested courses or whether they need to work on other skills to help them succeed in law school and beyond. Taking bar tested courses merely for the bar exam is unwise. However, there are situations where taking more bar tested courses may be helpful.
If you do not have time to meet with students individually, you can give them a list of questions like these to review on their own. Once they have taken some time to reflect, you can post general advice regarding the skills necessary to pass the bar exam, how specific courses may help build those skills, and the specific subjects tested on the bar exam in your jurisdiction. This will help guide their course selection and will give them a better idea of what to expect on the bar exam.
Thank you to Jeremiah Ho for alerting us through the listserv about Rebecca Flanagan's receiving the Honors Teacher of the Year award at the University of Conncecticut. The award selection is on the recommendation of students and faculty.
We have all benefited from Rebecca's insights on teaching throughout the years. It is well-deserved that she is being recognized by her university for her excellence. Congratulations!
Saturday, April 13, 2013
The following information was on the listserv from Staci Rucker about this position in 2013-2014 and the job search for a full-time Director for future years:
The University of Dayton School of Law is looking to hire an Interim Director of Academic Success for the 2013-14 school year. You may access the job posting here: http://jobs.udayton.edu/postings/6293.
I have served as the Director of Academic Success at UDSL since 2007. Effective May 16th, I will become the Assistant Dean of Students, hence the need to hire an Interim Director. The Law School will conduct a search to permanently fill the Director of Academic Success position during the 2013-14 school year. The person in the Interim Director position will be eligible to apply, if interested.
UDSL is a wonderful place to work, led by a Dean and many faculty who are extremely supportive of the academic support program. I will gladly speak with anyone who may be interested in the position.
Staci P. Rucker
Lecturer in Law and Director of Academic Success Programs
University of Dayton School of Law
007 Keller Hall
Dayton, OH 45469-2772
Phone: (937) 229-4072
Fax: (937) 229-4769
Friday, April 12, 2013
If you have been trained in educational theory or the philosophy of education, you made have heard the phrase "spiral curriculum" during your studies. The idea of a spiral curriculum comes from the work of Jerome Bruner, a highly influential professor of education, who went on to mentor Howard Gardner, the father of Multiple Intelligences. The spiral curriculum posits that students learn best when exposed to material repeatedly. As students gain understanding of the material, it is revisited with added depth and complexity. Another element of the spiral curriculum is that teaching should begin by building upon current knowledge.
Law school curriculum would be improved if it borrowed from the idea of a spiral curriculum. The first step, discovery, posits that students learn best when they "discover" knowledge on their own. Bruner wrote quite a bit about using discovery methods when teaching math. He even wrote about using the Socratic method when teaching math. When learning is based on a speaker and a listener (as is often the case in the law school classroom) the listener has to create their own knowledge. But most of the time, the listener gets bored and distracted. The listener is not engaged with the process of learning, they are not thinking of how to explain, expand, question, or criticize. The speaker is learning. If you change the dynamic, you change the learning process. Instead of telling students about a concept, create an environment where they can discover the concept on their own. This is the first step in a spiral because the discovery must be elementary. Students can revisit the concept in more depth, later.
How can we use discovery in the law school curriculum? Think about an introductory contracts class. Instead of lecturing on the elements of contracts, ask students to bring in a contract they have recently signed. Ask them to find the consideration in the contract. Then ask them to read cases on consideration. Make sure you return to the contracts they brought to class; now ask them to define the benefit of the bargain for each party. Students are building knowledge of contracts by using what they know; a contract they have already signed. This also adds relevance to the material. It allows them to engage with what they are learning, and keeps them engaged in the class. No one likes to be bored in class, and no teacher (that I know) likes to lecture to blank faces tuned into computer screens. The spiral curriculum can help all of us stay engaged. (RCF)
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Jane La Barbera, Managing Director of AALS, recently e-mailed the following announcement. If you are faculty or professional staff from AALS memer and fee-paid law schools, you would be able to access the podcasts. Please notice the restrictions on access and use. (Amy Jarmon)
"Over 70 sessions from the 2013 AALS Annual Meeting in New Orleans were digitally audio recorded. These recordings are available at no charge to faculty and professional staff from AALS member and fee-paid law schools.
Visit www.aals.org/am2013podcasts to download and listen to these podcasts from the 2013 Annual Meeting.
A user name and password is required to access the podcasts. Your user name is your primary e-mail address. If you do not have or do not remember your password, click the 'forgot password' link on the bottom of the login screen.
The podcasts are listed chronologically. You can browse by scrolling down, or search for a specific session by typing "Ctrl F" and then typing a keyword.
Click "listen" underneath the session you are interested in and your media player should open and begin playing the recording. Or you can right click and save the link to download the file.
AALS makes its podcasts available for exclusive use by members of AALS for teaching and related purposes. Commercial and unauthorized use or distribution is prohibited. The podcasts may not be altered in any way without written permission from AALS and the speakers."
With the stress at the end of the semester, I am seeing more students make poor decisions because they have misplaced their common sense. Here are some things that students all know but tend to overlook when overwhelmed:
- Attend classes and prepare for them. Skipping class to gain more study time may mean that you miss important information about the exam or the wrap-up of major topics for the course. Not reading and briefing in order to save time only mean that you have the gist of the course without real understanding.
- Avoid spending lots of time organizing to study rather than actually studying. If a clean desk, organized bookshelves, and a code book with a thousand colored tabs do not increase your actual learning, you have been inefficient (used time unwisely) and ineffective (gotten minimal or no results).
- If you are sick, go to the doctor and follow the doctor's advice. Multiple negative repercussions follow from coming to school sick and refusing to get medical attention: you infect others with your illness; your illness becomes more debilitating than it should; you ultimately lose more class and study time than you would have with prompt treatment.
- Get enough sleep; do not get less sleep during the remaining weeks of the semester. Without sleep, your body and brain do not work well. You absorb less material, retain less material, zone out in class or while studying, and are generally less alert.
- Eat regular and nutritious meals; do not skip meals to save time. Your body and brain need fuel to do the studying you have to do. Dr. Pepper and Snickers bars are not a balanced diet. Neither are pizza and soda.
- If you have an emergency during the exam period, tell the academic dean or registrar. You may be eligible for delayed exams because of the circumstances (medical illness, family illness, death in the family). Most law schools have procedures/policies dealing with emergencies and will work with students who have exceptional circumstances.
Take time to use your common sense to help you make wise study and personal decisions during these last few weeks of the semester. Do not put yourself at a disadvantage by blindly taking action fueled by panic - think about the consequences of your choices. (Amy Jarmon)
Sunday, April 7, 2013
The end of the semester is approaching at break-neck speed right now for most students. A common lament is that there is not enough time to get everything done before exams. Students are frantically working on papers and assignments while trying to find time for extra final exam studying.
Here are some ways to carve out time when you feel that you have none:
- Look for time that you waste during each day and corral that time for exam studying or writing papers: Facebook or YouTube or Twitter time; e-mail reading and writing; cell phone time; chatting with friends in the student lounge. Most people fritter away hours on these tasks.
- Become more efficient at your daily life tasks: prepare dinners in a slow cooker on the weekend to heat up single servings during the week; wear easy maintenance clothes to save ironing/dry cleaning tasks; pack your lunch/dinner to take to school instead of commuting time to eat at home; clean the house thoroughly once and then merely spot clean and pick up. You can garner ample study time if you cut down on these types of daily tasks.
- Curb excessive exercise time, but do not give up exercise time entirely. Your normal gym workout of two hours five times a week is most likely a luxuary at this point in the semester. Cut it back to two times a week or make it one hour three times a week. The guideline for exercise is 150 minutes per week. You need to focus on strengthing your brain cells rather than your abs right now.
- Consider getting up earlier each day, but do not get less than 7 hours of sleep per night. If you tend to sleep in on weekends and days when you do not have early classes, you are losing productive study time. Go to bed at the same time Sunday through Thursday nights and get up at the same time Monday through Friday mornings; do not vary the schedule more than 2 hours on the weekends. You will be more alert and better rested if you have a routine.
- Decide whether you could study an hour or two longer on a Friday or Saturday night if you currently end at 5 or 6 p.m. You want some down time, but may be able to go a bit longer than previously in order to gain more study time.
- Set up a schedule so that you delineate for each day when you will read/brief or outline for each of your courses. Then repeat the tasks at the same days/times each week. You will waste less time asking yourself what to do next.
- Break tasks down into small pieces. Small pockets of time (under an hour) can then be used effectively to complete tasks. You may be able to study a subtopic for a course in 20 minutes but would take 3 hours for the whole topic. Any forward movement is progress!
- Use windfall time when you gain unexpected time: a class is cancelled, your friend is late picking you up, a meeting ends early.
Instead of getting overwhelmed by everything you have to do, take control of your time. Conquer each course one task at a time. (Amy Jarmon)
Friday, April 5, 2013
This summer, I will be moving from UConn and UConn Law School to UMass-Dartmouth School of Law, where I will become tenure-track faculty. The move also means I will be shifting back to ASP full-time. As much as I love UConn (and more on that below), I could not turn down the opportunity to work with Dean Mary Lu Bilek, who was a pioneer in ASP at CUNY before becoming dean at UMass. I found the faculty at UMass to be incredibly supportive and genuinely excited to be at the law school, and I was encouraged by the mission of the law school, to provide an affordable option for students seeking to work in public service.
It was an incredibly difficult decision to leave UConn. Not only do I love my job and my students, but I am alum of the school (both my BA and MA are from UConn). I have had amazing opportunities here that I would not have had anywhere else. My experience working with undergraduates has been invaluable. My experience has changed how I view ASP and the types of supports needed by students. I now see the essentiality of ASP-undergrad partnerships, and the growing need for ASP to move outside of the legal academy. To truly understand the challenges facing our incoming students, we need a better understanding of where they are coming from. It's no longer adequate to recall personal memories of our pre-law days, and superimpose our challenges on our students.These students are "digital natives" who are not afraid of the rapid pace of technological change--it's all they have ever known. These are students scarred by the Great Recession, which has shaped their worldview. Their undergraduate experience has shown them that education is not the ticket to security and stability. Incoming students are savvy and informed in ways that were unthinkable just four or five years ago; "buy-in" to the law school pedagogy will require us to prove ourselves and our value to students. ASP should not be afraid to embrace this new generation of law students and their challenge to our curriculum. These students will force us to up our game, to become better, more effective teachers and scholars. Personally, that is a challenge I embrace and encourage. While we work with students to become the best version of themselves, they will force us to better versions of ourselves.
It is bittersweet for me to be moving on from UConn. I love my job, I love my students, and the colleagues I have here will become lifelong friends. But in this time of uncertainty and change in the legal academy, I am very excited to become to a part of a law school that is embracing the "new normal" and challenges ahead of us. (Rebecca Flanagan)
EDIT: 3:44 pm
This is a fantastic post by William Henderson from over at Legal Whiteboard. It dovetails on my message about students and growth.
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
The mandatory meeting for first-year students (optional for upper-division students) to discuss our registration process for next year's classes was held last week. Registration will start next week. For first-year students, the process can create a great deal of stress because it is another "unknown" to them.
The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs explained the ins and outs of the curriculum requirements beyond the first-year required classes. The Registrar explained the actual procedures for registration.
And then the rumor mill started to make the process even more stressful. The sources were sometimes upper-division students' comments but often just from imagination:
- Horror tales about registration for rising 2L students (computer freezes, no places in popular courses because rising 3Ls will take all the spots, long wait lists, etc.) while ignoring changes in the system and statistical realities.
- Rumors that students will fail if they get Professor X while swearing they will get an A with Professor Y - even though course statistics do not reflect these guarantees.
- Rumors playing up the fear factor of different professors' exams or teaching styles or course topics and ignore that different students learn and test better in different ways and have different backgrounds and interests.
- Moanings about the audacity of the law school's hiring of unknown visitors/new hires/adjuncts who cannot be easily pigeon-holed.
So what is the 1L student to do to survive registration and choosing the best class schedule? Here are some tips that I give students when they consult with me:
- Know the requirements for graduation: credit hours, normal course loads, required doctrinal courses, skills development courses, writing courses, certificate programs, dual degree programs.
- Think ahead beyond the next semester to the full academic year and the next academic year - how will fall 2L courses impact spring 2L courses and how will 2L courses influence the 3L courses.
- Consider summer school credits (including study abroad) if the student plans to attend and know the policies that are involved.
- Have alternate course choices in mind in case a class is closed out entirely or only waiting list spots are open at the time the student registers.
- Take a balanced course schedule by considering paper versus exam courses, required versus elective courses, large versus seminar courses, difficult topics for the student versus topics that come more easily, hands-on skills courses versus traditional courses, courses that interest the student versus ones that have less appeal, law versus dual degree courses (if applicable), and other factors.
- Watch out for prerequisites that are needed for later courses or clinics that the student wants to take.
- Talk to professors about elective courses that sound interesting but are only briefly covered in the course descriptions to find out more about the courses.
- Talk to professors in specialty areas in which the student may want to practice to get advice on courses that would be beneficial for background.
- Consider courses that will give background for the bar exam but which may not be required courses for one's law degree.
- Talk to multiple students who have taken a course/professor in the past because variety of input will likely highlight pros and cons rather than one-sided feedback.
- Look at the exam schedule to see what the grouping of exams will be like for particular combinations of courses (available at our school prior to registration).
With careful thought and planning, registration can be a less stressful experience for students. Faculty, administrators, and others can provide guidance as students weigh the pros and cons of different course choices. (Amy Jarmon)
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Global processors are always looking for the big picture, the overview, or the roadmap in learning - they want to know the essentials and the end result. Intuitive processors are curioius about concepts, abstractions, theories, and policies and seek out relationships among ideas - they are synthesis peole. When these two breadth-processing styles combine as strong preferences, the learners can sometimes assume they know a course when they only know the gist of a course.
These processors are more tempted to take shortcuts in learning: skim a case, read the canned brief, produce a cursory outline, and write conclusory memos. They often come out of exams with comments like "I guess I didn't know Torts as well as I thought." They are shocked when reviewing an exam to see that they never analyzed element three even though they knew the analysis. The analysis stayed in their heads instead of making it to the paper for the professor to grade.
Global-intuitive students tend to make mistakes on exams that stem from their breadth of learning without sufficient depth of learning, thinking, and organizing. For example, on fact-pattern essay exams, they leave out the steps of their analysis because they think the professor will know how they got from point A to point D without having to lay it out. It is true that the professor knows how to get there, but the professor needs to know that the student knows how to get there (rather than a lucky guess) to give points on the exam. On multiple-choice exams, they tend to pick by gut rather than carefully consider every answer option. Consequently, they look at the options that match their conclusion (guilty, admissible, liable) and miss the best answer that is not guilty unless, inadmissible unless, or liable only if. Alternatively, they may not know which of two better answers is best because they do not know the nuances of the law on which the question turns.
There are several ways that global-intuitive students can help themselves to develop more in-depth understanding of the law and gain more points on exams:
- Avoid shortcuts that tempt one to only know the gist of a course: canned briefs, scripts, outlines of other students.
- Spend time memorizing the precise wording of the rules, definitions of elements, and other law so that one is not fuzzy on elements, factors, variations. or other items.
- For essay exams: Write out fact-pattern essay answers instead of just thinking about them; get feedback from professors, teaching assistants, or classmates on the depth of analysis.
- For multiple-choice exams: Complete lots of practice questions and read the answer explanations in the book to learn the nuances of the law rather than just the gist of the law.
- Take the time to read, analyze, and organize an essay answer. The rule of thumb is to use 1/3 of the time for a question to do these steps and then 2/3 of the time to write the answer.
- Use a chart to organize the essay answer rather than hold information in one's head. Rows can indicate the parties to the dispute. Columns can indicate the elements or factors that need to be discussed. One can enter facts, cases to be mentioned, and policy arguments in the appropriate cells as a careful read of the fact pattern is completed.
- When writing the essay answer, change the audience one writes to - instead of writing to the professor, write the answer as though explaining the law to a non-lawyer (your cousin, grandmother, little brother). Connecting the dots is easier when writing to a lay audience.
- When writing the essay answer, ask "why?" at the end of each sentence. If an explanation for the statement is not there, keep writing and add the "because" to the sentence.
- Carefully weigh each answer choice on multiple-choice tests; look for the best answer rather than the superficially right answer.
- Slow down in exams and use all of the time given. Global-intuitives tend to finish early which often indicates that they missed smaller issues, did not fully analyze the arguments, or did not read the questions carefully enough.
Monday, April 1, 2013
Sequential processors focus on the individual units before them (cases, subtopics, topics) rather than look at the bigger picture (how these units combine into a whole). Sensing processors focus on details, facts, and practicalities rather than look at ideas or synthesis (the inter-relationships of concepts, subtopics, etc.). When these two depth-processing styles are combined in a student as strong preferences, the students can become too focused on pieces and detail and miss the broader view, inter-relationships, and policy arguments.
Several strong sequential-sensing learners have mentioned to me in the last few weeks that they feel that the only time they are focused on what really matters is when they are reading and briefing for class. When they are outlining, reviewing their outlines, or doing practice questions (all of these steps are in their weekly schedules), they fear that they are not expending their energies on what really counts.
After several of these comments came close together, I decided to step back and analyze why these issues were surfacing after I thought we had discussed what one is trying to accomplish in law school courses. I realized that for these individuals we had not yet fully formulated what one does in law school versus what one will do in one's specialty in practice.
These students saw their job in law school as learning all the law in a course so that they were ready to practice that legal area later. They had missed the fact that they are learning topics for a course (but not all of the law for that specialty) to gain critical thinking and writing skills and general knowledge to solve new legal problems (for exams). Once they are in practice, they will focus on learning all they can about their own practice area(s). However, law school does not expect that level of in-depth study; it expects familarity with a variety of areas of law and application of the concepts to new legal scenarios.
Sequential-sensing students feel more secure in preparing for class because they mistakenly think that memorizing everything about individual cases is the most important task. Because synthesis and big-picture thinking are more uncomfortable for them (especially if policy is involved), they feel less convinced that outlines, review, and practice questions are full-fledged studying.
Once these students realize that class preparation is important but not the be-all and end-all, the light-bulb comes on for them. They are still less comfortable with the synthesis and big-picture thinking that lead to application, but they can see those broader study tasks as legitimate. By releasing themselves mentally from having to know every minute detail in each case and each sub-topic and each legal area, they begin to make the transition to the additional levels of learning that will allow them to succeed on exams. They push themselves to synthsize the material and fit it into the bigger picture. They realize that practice questions assist them in this process and help them to apply the law on exams. (Amy Jarmon)