Friday, January 31, 2014
Hat tip to David Nadvorney for alerting ASP'ers to a conference that we can contribute to in many ways.
First LegalED Conference – Igniting Law Teaching
CALL FOR TALKS
LegalED, with the generous support of American University, Washington College of Law and its Pence Law Library, is organizing a one-day conference about Legal Education and Pedagogy and we would like to invite members to participate. The conference, part of WCL’s Founders Program, is Friday, April 4, 2014 at Washington College of Law, in Washington D.C.
Given the current market conditions, law school administrators and faculty are being asked to do more with less -- to teach more practical skills, to establish learning outcomes, to provide students with formative assessment, to graduate practice-ready lawyers. Many of these requests ask members of the academy to stretch beyond our typical ways of teaching and to add more to our curriculum generally and to each individual course.
Recognizing that many professors are not trained to teach in this new way, this conference will gather leading law school educators together for a conference about law school pedagogy. Each presentation will be videotaped and uploaded to LegalED for professors around the country and the world to watch at their own pace. Instead of having panels of speakers, the conference will be structured like a TED conference. During the conference, each speaker will be asked to stand on the stage alone and speak for anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes, preferably without a podium. If a podium is used, it is not to read a written script, but to refer to brief notes. If powerpoint is used, it is mostly for graphics and images, with little text on the screen.
This presentation format is different from what we are used to at academic conferences. It calls for speakers to have given thought to their content, practice out loud in advance for substance and length, for powerpoints with more graphics than words, and for more of a sensitivity to presentation styles (like intonation, pause, emphasis) than are typical in academic conferences.
Here are some examples of TED talks by law profs using this presentation style: Larry Lessig and Bryan Stevenson. Additional material on how to prepare a TED Talk and other good presentation preparation tips will be shared with our selected speakers.
The goal of the conference is to create a collection of short, 10-minute videos, on law school-related pedagogy that will inspire innovation and experimentation by law professors around the country and the world to bring more active learning and practical skills training into the law school curriculum. The videos will be available for viewing by the larger academic community on LegalED.
Interested in presenting at the conference?
The value of making short presentations is that we can hear a lot of different ideas/speakers in one conference. Once the speakers are selected, we will arrange them into panels (of not more than 4-5) and then organize a break between panels during which the audience could talk among themselves and with the speakers. There will not be a Q&A during the formal presentations. Presenters will be asked to be available for smaller conversations with participants during the breaks.
Topic ideas to get your juices flowing:
• 5 things every law professor should know about learning theory
• the value of reflection in learning
• beyond quizzes: 5 formative assessment tools for legal education
• top 5 things to consider when using a portfolio to teach writing skills
• faculty teaching rounds: how they work and why you should host them
• what I learned about flipping the law school classroom
• flipping my 1L course
• flipping my upper level course
• who are these digital natives anyway?
• teaching collaboration
• how to add a negotiation/mediation/interviewing/oral advocacy/drafting exercise into a course
• 5 things that make a simulation successful
• how to bring cross-cultural lawyering into a doctrinal course
• top 5 tips for training externship field supervisors
• what I’ve learned from being a law professor for years
• 5 things I’ve learned about advising students
These topics are just illustrative; the value of this format is we can be open to ideas brought forth by potential speakers.
If you are interested in presenting, please submit a one-page summary of your topic to Professor Michele Pistone email@example.com and Assoc. Dean Billie Jo Kaufman firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, February 14th. Those who are selected will be asked to script out, practice and be ready for video-taping, preferably without any notes, by the day of the conference.
Thursday, January 30, 2014
Florida Coastal School of Law (Coastal Law) is seeking candidates for the position of Director of Academic Success.
Coastal Law offers a dynamic, professional, and collegial work environment for employees in addition to state of the art facilities, cutting edge technology, and a competitive and comprehensive compensation and benefits package. To be considered for this opportunity, please submit your cover letter and resume to HR@fcsl.edu.
The Director of Academic Success performs academic support functions essential to promoting students’ success in law school and to the successful growth of the institution, including working with students seeking to improve academic performance and prepare for the bar examination. The Director is responsible for all program design, implementation, and reporting. The position is a full- time non-faculty member of the academic staff. This position reports to the Dean.
Responsibilities include, but are not limited to:
- Designing, implementing, managing, and reporting on all academic success and bar prep programming (including the Law School Foundations Program) and managing ASP staff.
- Counseling and advising students regarding; bar exam preparation, bar coaching, students on academic probation, academic alert, and any other student seeking to improve academic performance.
- Teaching at least one section of the Advanced Florida Bar Studies course each fall and spring.
- Assisting in preparing and presenting the Academic Success workshops (as applicable) and bar prep workshops.
- Assisting students in reviewing answers to practice exams (including bar exam essays) and providing advice regarding exam strategy.
- Serving as a member of the Academic Outcomes Best Practices group and performing various duties as assigned by the group.
- Serving as a member of the Bar Preparation Committee and/or Academic Standards Committee and performing various duties as assigned by the Committee.
- Tracking subjects’ tests on bar exams and keeping personal knowledge of those subjects current; attending each Florida Bar Exam administration.
- Preparing and overseeing Academic Success budgets.
- Serving as a member of the Academic and Student Services Team and assisting the Team as needed.
- Assisting Career Services and the Academic Team in planning and executing Rising 2L and 3L Orientations.
- Attending meetings as necessary within the law school, and performing other duties as assigned.
- Attending seminars and conferences to improve ability to provide appropriate services at the law school.
- Performing other duties as assigned.
Education & Experience Requirements:
- Juris Doctor Degree required.
- Minimum 2-3 years legal practice experience.
- Prior academic support experience (either professional or as part of a graduate or law school program) or teaching experience (i.e., legal writing or comparable teaching experience in writing and analytical skills training) is preferred.
- Licensed by a State Bar Association; however, Florida Licensure is preferred.
Job Knowledge, Skills & Abilities:
- Ability to create and deliver effective workshops on bar exam topics.
- Possess a professional, rigorous, respectful, supportive, energetic, and reliable commitment to excellence in student outcomes, in teaching and in mentoring of Academic Success Department staff.
- Demonstrate excellent management/leadership skills and a strong track record of effectively handling policy and program development as well as high-level decision making.
- Effectively model professionalism.
- Demonstrate high level of organization, reliability, creativity, motivation, resourcefulness, and initiative.
- Demonstrate ability to work collaboratively and collegially with faculty, staff, students, and administrators from diverse backgrounds.
- Demonstrate ability to relate well to students, possess strong interpersonal skills, and demonstrate exceptional ability to communicate professionally through both verbal and written means.
- Possess ability to work well under pressure, including managing multiple priorities under tight deadlines.
- Possess a dedication to Florida Coastal School of Law’s unique philosophy, strategic plan, goals, and doctrine. Coastal Law values emotional intelligence, a commitment to continuous improvement, interdependence, and healthy conflict.
- Possess a strong working knowledge of PowerPoint and Excel.
Represent core beliefs, principles, or qualities that guide individual behavior toward attainment of the organization’s vision, mission, strategic initiatives, customer objectives, and mission pillars.
- Continuous Improvement – This value is reflected by use of objective data to assess performance, identify opportunities to improve, and achieve progress rather than perfection.
- Interdependence – This value is grounded in mutual responsibility for shared goals and outcomes without concern for personal gain or appearances.
- Passion for Excellence – This value is evidenced by a singular and intense commitment to outstanding performance and outcomes pursuant to continuous innovation and improvement, hearing and responding to the voice of the customer, process excellence, and a culture that inspires and reflects personal growth and development.
- Personal Humility – This value is evidenced by a humble and modest manner and consistent habit of crediting others for successes and blaming himself or herself first for failures or shortcomings.
- Dedication to the Greater Good – This value is evidenced by a dedication to higher purpose that supersedes self-interest and prioritizes outcomes that best serve the customer or organization.
Represent core beliefs, principles, or qualities that guide group interaction toward attainment of the organization’s vision, mission, strategic initiatives, customer objectives, and mission pillars.
- Vulnerability-Based Trust – This value is grounded in the ability to acknowledge, comfortably and without prompting, mistakes, weaknesses, failures, and needs for help. It is an essential element of honest and effective interaction and, ultimately, security of position.
- Healthy Conflict – This value is evidenced by open, honest, and robust discussion of ideas and issues, so that diverse views are aired without the tensions, passive-aggressiveness, and back channel processes incident to conflict avoidance.
- Clear Commitments – This value is reflected by unambiguous responsibility for achievement of an agreed-upon result within a specified time frame.
- Accountability – This value is indicated by the willingness of a team member to provide direct, honest, and specific feedback with respect to actions or behaviors that may impair individual, group, or organizational achievement.
- Commitment to Results – This value is evidenced by a relentless focus upon specific objectives and clearly defined outcomes.
Coastal Law is an equal employment opportunity employer.
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Hat tip to Jan M. Levine for reminding us about a Spring 2013 article in The Law Teacher. The article that Professor Levine wrote is based on a letter from a former student who had left law school years before and wanted to share his thoughts with the perspective he had gained. The issue of The Law Teacher can be found here with the article near the end of the issue: It's OK to Leave Law School.
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
LOYOLA UNIVERSITY CHICAGO SCHOOL OF LAW invites applications for a clinical faculty position, Associate Director of Writing Programs and Academic Support. Loyola is a student-focused law center inspired by the Jesuit tradition of academic excellence, intellectual openness, and service to others. The Writing and Academic Support Programs are vital parts of the School of Law's curriculum and mission.
The Associate Director will assist in administering both the School of Law's Writing Program and Academic Support Program. The Writing Program includes a required three-semester curriculum, and advanced writing electives. The courses are skills-based and the staff is entirely comprised of experienced practitioners who serve as adjunct professors. The Academic Support Program includes an academic tutor program open to all first-year students and staffed by student tutors, an Academic Enhancement Program for targeted students, and upper-division electives focused on bar exam skills.
Key responsibilities include assisting the Director in:
- Administering and growing the existing Academic Support Program.
- Teaching an exam skills program for targeted first-year students.
-Training and supervising student tutors in the Academic Support Program.
-Designing and developing bar exam preparation resources for students, including workshops, courses, and online resources.
- Administering the curriculum for the required writing courses, including syllabi, problem files, lesson plans, and other course materials.
- Coordinating courses electives and programming in both the Writing and Academic Support Programs, including Advanced Writing for Legal Practice and Bar Exam Writing Skills courses.
- Training and supporting adjunct faculty and training and supervising student tutors in the Writing Program.
- Providing individual counseling to students.
- Collecting and assessing data relating to the administration of both the Writing and Academic Support Programs.
Minimum Education or Experience Qualified applicants will have a J.D. degree from an ABA-accredited law school, relevant experience including previous teaching experience or equivalent administration experience, and a strong commitment to working with students. Previous experience teaching in bar preparation programs or academic support is a plus. Applications can be submitted at the Loyola University Chicago Human Resources website: www.careers.luc.edu/applicants/Central?quickFind=56751 and are requested by February 28, 2014.
Legal Research & Writing Faculty Teaching Position
Job Posting Disclosure Form
for the Dircon and LRWPROF-L Listservs
At least one option must be checked for each of the four items below; but all options for any item may not be checked to avoid giving a specific answer, or in an effort to avoid specifying a legitimate range. Space is provided for additional textual explanations after each item. The completed form must appear within the body of an E-mail posting about a posting, and the completed form must be included within the text of any file attachment.
1. The position advertised:
__ a. is a tenure-track appointment.
_x_ b. may lead to successive long-term contracts of five or more years.
__ c. may lead only to successive short-term contracts of one to four years.
__ d. has an upper-limit on the number of years a teacher may be appointed.
__ e. is part of a fellowship program for one or two years.
__ f. is a part-time appointment, or a year-to-year adjunct appointment.
Additional information about job security or terms of employment, any applicable
term limits, and whether the position complies with ABA Standard 405(c):
2. The professor hired:
_x_ a. will be permitted to vote in faculty meetings.
__ b. will not be permitted to vote in faculty meetings.
Additional information about the extent of the professor’s voting rights:
3. The school anticipates paying an annual academic year base salary in the range checked below. (A base salary does not include stipends for coaching moot court teams, teaching other courses, or teaching in summer school; a base salary does not include conference travel or other professional development funds.)
___ over $120,000
___ $110,000 - $119,999
___ $100,000 - $109,999
__x_ $90,000 - $99,999
__x_ $80,000 - $89,999
___ $70,000 - $79,999
___ $60,000 - $69,999
___ $50,000 - $59,999
___ less than $50,000
___ this is a part-time appointment paying less than $30,000
___this is an adjunct appointment paying less than $10,000
Additional information about base salary or other compensation:
4. The number of students enrolled in each semester of the courses taught by the legal research & writing professor will be:
_x_ a. 30 or fewer
__ b. 31 - 35
__ c. 36 - 40
__ d. 41 - 45
__ e. 46 - 50
__ f. 51 - 55
__ g. 56 - 60
__ h. more than 60
Additional information about teaching load, including required or permitted teaching outside of the legal research and writing program:
Note: The Association of Legal Writing Directors requires and the Legal Writing Institute recommends that this disclosure form accompany all E-mail postings of teaching opportunities for legal research & writing professors sent to subscribers of the DIRCON and LRWPROF-L listservs. This form is not required for notices of academic support positions, for notices for writing specialists, or for other academic teaching opportunities, unless those positions require the teacher to teach courses required of a legal research & writing professor at the law school (however, we strongly encourage the optional use of the form for such appointments). A subscriber’s failure to comply with these requirements on DIRCON may result in the loss of subscriber privileges.
Monday, January 27, 2014
Assistant Dean and Director of Bar Admission Programs
Western New England University School of Law is seeking candidates to become our Assistant Dean and Director of Bar Admission Programs. This is a full time, year round position. The Director will design, administer, and oversee the Law School’s bar examination preparation efforts and activities, including, as appropriate, teaching classes (for-credit and/or non-credit), counseling and tutoring students on an individual and group basis, and developing/implementing/monitoring programs and services.
The Director will work with law students to help them prepare for success on the bar examination; will design and implement an effective bar passage program, including strategies to assist all students, particularly students whose academic indicia are predictive of challenges in passing the bar; will track the academic progress of students, particularly at-risk students, to insure that students are receiving necessary bar passage services; will track students’ bar examination results to focus better the Law School’s efforts and to satisfy accreditation reporting; will teach a supplemental bar review program or for-credit course or courses; will oversee the bar pass course taught by an outside contractor; will coordinate interactions with the State Board of Bar Examiners in various states and with commercial bar exam providers; will develop programs and services to encourage awareness of bar exam and bar admissions requirements; and will work closely with the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Enrollment Planning, the Director of Academic Support, the Academic Support and Bar Pass Committee and other members of the faculty and staff to help students achieve success on their bar exams.
Qualifications: The successful candidate will have a J.D. degree from an A.B.A. approved law school, admission to at least one state bar, and experience in teaching in and administering bar exam preparation programs and courses.
Application Process: Nominations and applications should be received by February 1, 2014, although nominations and applications may be accepted until the position is filled. All applications should include a letter of interest and résumé, together with the names, addresses, telephone numbers, and email addresses of at least three references. Applications should be addressed to Joanne Ollson, Assistant Vice President and Director of Human Resources at the Career Center, Western New England University, 1215 Wilbraham Road, Springfield, MA 01119. Electronic resumes may be sent to Donna Martin at email@example.com. Although not mandatory, candidates are strongly encouraged to submit materials electronically in MS Word format.
Western New England University is an affirmative action, equal opportunity employer. Applications from, and nominations of, women and minority group members are strongly encouraged.
Friday, January 24, 2014
Whenever I meet with students who have done poorly in the first semester, I tell them about the first English paper I turned in in college. I had never gotten less than an A in anything in my life, I was the “English” guy for big state contests, I’d won several creative writing awards, and I really thought I wanted to major in English. On my first paper, I got a C. When I went to talk to the professor, a man who wore seersucker suits and looked like a cross between Mark Twain and Colonel Sanders, he said in his genteel Virginia-tidewater accent, “Is English your first language? Your name is Russian. Are you translating as you write?”
The unfortunate thing was that he was genuinely curious and English is my first, and only, language.
And the thing was, he was right. The paper was too clever by half, full of elevated verbiage and ideas that got started but then petered out. Split-infinitives were everywhere, the Oxford Comma had apparently decided to hop a bus to Cambridge, and the whole thing rested on a very faulty argument I'd cribbed from an R.E.M. song. But, I took his advice and comments seriously, readjusted my writing process, and, in the words of my seventh grade science teacher, "Got back on the A-train."
I go on to tell my students that I bet most of their professors have a similar story somewhere back in their academic careers, so they should realize that 1) they’re not alone, 2) they can bounce back, and 3) this is an integral part of the learning experience that is often overlooked (as in, “Hell, I’m never taking Crim Law again! Let’s toss that exam and never look at it!”).
I honestly believe hitting a roadbump can sometimes be the best thing that can happen to a student. It forces the student to reflect on their learning and forces them to get better. If I had continued on my merry way without hitting that first bump I might still be scribing in bloviated sentences constructed entirely in the aether and intertwined with the thoughts and errs of beknighted folly -- or something.
So, I try to present a first semester failure as opportunity. I ask them to go over their exams with their professors to see where they fell short, then I meet with them and we make a plan to fix those holes.
And, happily, this year many, many second year students have been coming in to tell me about how they have been able to turn around their grades. While their egos may have been bruised, they have gained necessary insights into themselves and their education. And I know these insights will make them better lawyers. (Alex Ruskell)
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
The University of Pittsburgh School of Law seeks applicants for the position of Director of its Academic Success Program (“ASP”), to begin in February 2014. The School of Law is committed to student achievement, and the Director will be primarily responsible for developing, leading, coordinating, and implementing programs that support the School of Law’s goals of improving students’ law school academic success and success on the bar exam.
Minimum requirements include a J.D. degree and admission to the practice of law. Ideal candidates will have experience working in a higher education setting in the areas of academic assistance or academic counseling or will have equivalent administrative, teaching, or practice experience. The ideal candidate will also have direct experience in preparing students for success on the bar exam, with an emphasis on substantial knowledge and experience regarding the Pennsylvania bar exam. The successful candidate must have excellent written and verbal communication skills, strong organizational and interpersonal skills, and the ability to work effectively with a wide range of constituents within a diverse law school community, including students served by the ASP, faculty members, and the School of Law’s administration. The Director will report directly to the Dean of the School of Law.
This position is responsible for working with faculty and professional staff to design and implement an Academic Support Program at the School of Law.
Saturday, January 18, 2014
Assessment Across The Curriculum
Institute for Law Teaching and Learning
Spring Conference 2014
Saturday, April 5, 2014
“Assessment Across the Curriculum” is a one-day conference for new and experienced law teachers who are interested in designing and implementing effective techniques for assessing student learning. The conference will take place on Saturday, April 5, 2014, at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Conference Content: Sessions will address topics such as
- Formative Assessment in Large Classes
- Classroom Assessment Techniques
- Using Rubrics for Formative and Summative Assessment
- Assessing the Ineffable: Professionalism, Judgment, and Teamwork
- Assessment Techniques for a Legislation or Statutory Interpretation Course
By the end of the conference, participants will have concrete ideas and assessment practices to take back to their students, colleagues, and institutions.
Who Should Attend: This conference is for all law faculty (full-time and adjunct) who want to learn about best practices for course-level assessment of student learning.
Conference Structure: The conference opens with an optional informal gathering on Friday evening, April 4. The conference will officially start with an opening session on Saturday, April 5, followed by a series of workshops. Breaks are scheduled with adequate time to provide participants with opportunities to discuss ideas from the conference. The conference ends at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. Details about the conference will be available on the websites of the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law.
Conference Faculty: Conference workshops will be taught by experienced faculty, including Michael Hunter Schwartz (UALR Bowen), Rory Bahadur (Washburn), Sandra Simpson (Gonzaga), Sophie Sparrow (University of New Hampshire), and Lyn Entrikin (UALR Bowen).
Accommodations: A block of hotel rooms for conference participants has been reserved at The DoubleTree Little Rock, 424 West Markham Street, Little Rock, AR 72201. Reservations may be made by calling the hotel directly at 501-372-4371, calling the DoubleTree Central Reservations System at 800-222-TREE, or booking online at www.doubletreelr.com. The group code to use when making reservations for the conference is “LAW.”
Michael Hunter Schwartz | Dean and Professor of Law
UALR William H. Bowen School of Law
(o) 501.324.9450 | (f) 501.324.9433
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Save the Date – March 6-7th, 2014 for the
2nd Annual Southwestern Consortium of Academic Support Professionals Workshop
From Admission to Bar Passage: Increasing the Reach
of Your Academic Support Program
St. Mary’s School of Law
in San Antonio, Texas
The Southwestern Consortium of Academic Support Professionals will host a one day conference focused on increasing participation and awareness of academic support among students, faculty, and administration. The workshop will be a collaborative working experience where colleagues will discuss the important factors to consider when creating pre-law school orientation programs, marketing to students, and asking faculty for assistance.
Registration is now open to anyone interested. There is not a registration fee. Participants are responsible for their travel and hotel costs. If you plan on attending, please fill out the attached form and return to either Patricia Solano (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Kevin Robinowich (email@example.com) at St. Mary’s.
St. Mary’s negotiated a great rate at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio Hotel, 600 E. Market Street, San Antonio, TX 78205, which is near Thursday night’s dinner. This hotel is located downtown on the San Antonio River Walk. The rate is $189.00 per night. Please be advised that this block will release and the price will expire on February 13, 2014. You can book your room online at https://resweb.passkey.com/go/stmarysuniversity, or by phone by calling (888) 421-1442 and referencing St. Mary’s and the Grand Hyatt San Antonio.
Agenda and Speakers:
6:30 – Dinner at The Tower of Americas’ Chart House Restaurant
8:30-9 – Breakfast
9-9:50 – Assessing ASP Programs to Find Expansion Areas - Jennifer Carr
10-10:50 – Building Relationships Prior to Law School by Creating Pre-Matriculation Programming - Kevin Robinowich and Preyal Shah
11-11:50 – Working with Faculty to Enhance Academic Support - Paula Manning
12-1 – Lunch
1:10-2 – Gaining Support and Assistance from Administration - Associate Dean Rey Valencia
2:10-3 – Getting Students into Bar Prep Programs - Steven Foster
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact:
Steven Foster (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Director of Academic Achievement at Oklahoma City University
Kevin Robinowich (email@example.com)
Director of Academic Support at St. Mary’s School of Law
Preyal Shah (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Director of Bar Studies at St. Mary’s School of Law
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
The membership of the AALS Academic Support Section voted on the officer and board member nominations at its 2014 business meeting at the recent conference in New York City. The following is the list of officers and board members (both new and continuing positions):
- Chair: Amy Jarmon (Texas Tech University)
- Chair-Elect: Lisa Young (Seattle University)
- Immediate Past Chair: Louis Schulze (Florida International)
- Secretary: Melinda Drew (Northeastern University)
- Treasurer: Chelsea Baldwin (Oklahoma City University)
- Board Position A (expires 2015): Helen Albertson (Loyola, Los Angeles)
- Board Position B (expires 2015): Jamie Kleppetsch (John Marshall)
- Board Position C (expires 2016): Linda Puertas (University of California - Irvine)
- Board Position D (expires 2016): Alex Ruskell (University of South Carolina)
Congratulations to everyone on their positions! I look forward to working with the new officers and board members during the coming year. (Amy Jarmon)
Monday, January 13, 2014
Alex and Rebecca have made very valid points in their posts regarding grades and reactions to grades last week. I would like to add some additional observations.
Our law students with few exceptions have always beeen at the top of the heap. A and B grades have come easily to them during their educational lives. In addition they have been campus leaders, successful athletes, officers in community youth groups - and for the non-traditional students, community leaders and exemplary employees. Whether their grades are good for law school (but just not good enough for them) or in the great middle of the class (those ever present C grades) or at the bottom of the heap for law school (probation or dismissal), the shock is there when their expectations are not met.
To be very honest, I find that many law students have not learned good study habits in prior educational settings even though they got excellent grades. A variety of factors play into that situation:
- grade inflation (one study showed that 75% of college grades are As and Bs),
- multiple-choice "just recognize the right answer" exams,
- no papers or only short papers written,
- papers that focus on just ideas and not writing style/grammar/punctuation,
- spoon feeding of what will need to be regurgitated on the exam,
- multiple exams that allow for cramming pieces of a course rather than comprehensive understanding of material,
- grading that allows for the lowest grade on exams/assignments to be dropped,
- group work that allows slackers to coast for the same grade as the others who did the work,
- and many more aspects.
When students are suddenly confronted with the amount of material in law school courses and the one-grade phenomenon of many courses, their old study habits no longer work. This reality is especially true if they came from educational backgrounds that were not competitive for grades and handed out accolades for basically showing up and doing the minimum.
The good news for all law students is that solid study strategies can be learned and make a difference in one's grades. More efficient and effective reading, briefing, note-taking, outlining, and exam-taking can all boost grades. Time management and organization are key skills that can also be learned.
Attitude is critical as well. Realizing that one can change and improve is important to future success. Willingness to work hard and change one's habits are major steps. Some law students get discouraged and settle for being average or below average as though their destiny is fixed after grades come out.
Do not give in to that mindset! Students can change their academic study strategies and reach their academic potential. Students can improve their grades wherever they currently fall in their classes. All students can change their strategies and gain greater learning with less stress.
Why do I believe this? I work weekly with a number of probation students each semester to help them find more efficient and effective ways to study. Look at some statistics for grades this past semester from probation students who met with me regularly, changed their study strategies, and worked smarter. Some made greater strides than others, but improvement resulted. (I have not included information for 3 probation students whose grades for one course are still unreported.)
GRADE POINT PRIOR SEMESTER'S COURSES GRADE POINT FALL SEMESTER COURSES
(last enrolled regular semester GPA; not cum GPA) (fall semester GPA; not cum GPA)
- 1.321 2.666
- 1.428 2.750
- 1.571 3.045
- 1.607 2.678
- 1.642 2.607
- 1.642 2.678
- 1.714 3.000
- 1.733 2.250
- 1.750 2.650
- 1.857 2.500
- 1.892 2.785
- 2.107 3.384
- 2.250 2.333
And here are the statistics for 2 other probation students:
- 1.642 1.857 (cancelled many ASP appointments; up for dismissal)
- 1.866 3.600 (did not meet with ASP)
Intervention by the Office of Academic Success Programs is not the only variable that determines improvement as can be seen by the last example. The number of strategies implemented, the number of hours studied, motivation, individual appointments with professors for help, personal circumstances, sleep/nutrition/exercise, and other variables also have impacts.
The point is that for all of the students who implemented more efficient and effective study strategies, improvement happened. Once all the grades are in for the remaining 3 students, will all of the students I met with meet academic standards? Maybe not, but 13 probation students have already exceeded the standards they needed and are on the road to future success. By honing their new study strategies, they should be able to continue at their new academic levels and beyond.
The take away from this post: Put last semester's GPA behind you and move forward by seeking assistance from ASP and your professors so that you can implement new study strategies to help you improve your grades and live up to your academic potential. There is no magic bullet or guarantee, but there is hope. (Amy Jarmon)
Friday, January 10, 2014
Hat tip to Kimberly Holst and Darin Fox for information regarding possible partial or full refunds for inability to attend AALS because of flight cancellations. Visit the link for the AALS refund request form and specifics at http://aals.org/am2014/refundrequest.pdf. The deadline for requests is January 31, 2014. (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, January 9, 2014
The woman sat on the other side of the desk from me. She looked angry, and I was starting to get sick as I saw all the things within easy arm-reach that she could club or stab me with -- my 1983 Safety Patrol award (marble), my "Bonecrusher" nameplate (sharp-looking wood and brass), two pairs of scissors (why do I have two pairs?), a tape dispenser, and a stapler.
She was mad, she was failing, and she was pretty sure it was her professor's fault. "He doesn't tell us what the law is -- EVER -- we have to figure it out for ourselves! If he's not going to teach us or tell us anything, what is he doing up there?"
My initial gut reaction was that the student was simply looking to be spoonfed the information, and that she had to learn that law school was not going to work that way. Part of me (probably my right ankle) started to think that this was due to laziness or a lack of intellectual curiousity or training -- all things I was going to fix with weekly meetings to keep her on track. Probably lots of practice questions. Maybe some multiple choice. Maybe some sample outlines.
But then, another part of me (my index finger on my left hand) began to think that maybe her problem, deep down, is that we live in an amazing world where techology has made everything instantly available. And then another part of me (forehead, just above the bald spot), thought -- SHE MAY NEVER REMEMBER A WORLD ANY DIFFERENT AND THAT MAY HAVE WARPED EVERYTHING.
A few years ago I was teaching a class on copyright (mainly music sampling), and I was sitting in front of the class playing them songs and samples. Someone brought up the mashup artist Girl Talk, and someone brought up Danger Mouse's Grey Album, and then we were off, bouncing around the Internet, finding this song and that sample so we all understood exactly what the cases and parties were talking about, and exactly what artists were trying to create.
And every time it took the three seconds or so to bring up whatever thing we were looking for, you would have thought we were sentenced to 10 years in a penal colony. Eyes rolled up to the ceiling, pencils tapped -- even I, the guy running the show who still remembered "4-6 weeks delivery" for a Boba Fett action figure, was getting frustrated with these minimal holdups.
I think this amazing, techno, jet-pack world we live in is actually doing a number on thinking and education. Students are not getting more needy or less intelligent or less prepared. They just can't wait.
The amazingness of our world makes many of the basic tasks of law school incredibly difficult because those tasks take time -- reading long and dry opinions, sitting in one place, listening to someone in front of you explaining something, looking at a tax code -- when one's mind wants to wander and ...
BING BANG BOOM -- I CAN INSTANT MESSAGE! WORDS WITH FRIENDS! A DRONE JUST DELIVERED MY NEW SHOES! I CAN INSTANTLY FIND OUT WHO WAS IN MORRISSEY'S FIRST BAND! I HAVE 400 BIRTHDAY MESSAGES AND 9 FRIEND REQUESTS! MY BEST FRIEND IS LIVE-TWEETING AND INSTAGRAMMING THE BIRTH OF HER FIRST CHILD! THIS CAT CAN JUGGLE FLAMING TORCHES! I CAN SEE AND SPEAK TO THE ENTIRE WORLD, GET ALL THE KNOWLEDGE THAT IS OUT THERE, RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW, QUICKER THAN IMMEDIATELY, FROM THIS VERY SEAT--I DON'T HAVE TO WAIT FOR ANYTHING!
We ask our students to swim deeply into the law -- we ask them to consider and calculate and ruminate -- all things that they will need in practice, but things they may have never had to practice in their lives.
"What should I do next semester? What do I need to know for the exam? Do you have an outline and practice questions I can do?" asked the woman, her fingers twitching just above Prosser and Keeton on Torts (oh no -- how'd that get there?)
"I think we need to work on waiting -- let's start with your daily schedule," I said, realizing we would need to start at the beginning, slowly. (Alex Ruskell)
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Anyone in ASP for longer than a year knows the grade meltdown; grades come out, students melt down. Here are some simple suggestions to manage the barrage of requests for appointments:
1) Triage. You will get requests from students in crisis as well as students who did not live up to their own standards, but actually did quite well. First, see the students in emotional crisis. There will be students who melt down emotionally, despite doing quite well. Many of these students just need a quick explanation of law school grading, where a B is not a sign of failure. Students in emotional crisis can be a danger to themselves and others, so it is important to see them before they self-medicate or self-harm. Next, focus on students in academic crisis. Some of the students in academic crisis are not aware that they are in crisis, and believe that their grades aren't really that bad. It is important to reach out to them without scaring or stigmatizing them.
2) Limit appointment times. Unless a student is in danger of harming themself or others, limit appointment times to 15-20 minutes per student. You can always have follow-up appointments.
3) Make sure they are seeing their doctrinal professors. While ASP is (and should be) the first stop, students should be making appointments to see all their fall professors to go over their exams. It is much, much easier to help students if they have met with their professors and have their exams.
What NOT to do with students in the midst of a meltdown:
1) Allow them to place the blame for their performance on their professors or their peers. This is a delicate balance. It is totally appropriate to explain that a professor has a different teaching style from the student's learning style. It is detrimental to you and your student to allow them to blame their professor for an unsatisfactory grade. Students need to feel like they have control over their learning; allowing them to blame their professor allows them to shift responsibility for their learning. This is the first step to learned helplessness.
2) Allow appointments to overwhelm your life. Self-care is critical. Make sure you take breaks between appointments. Make sure you have a lunch break. You are not good for your students when you are overtired, cranky, and overwhelmed. Appointments with students in crisis are emotionally draining. Take a few minutes to look at stupid, silly YouTube videos. Spend your weekends doing something that brings you joy.
Monday, January 6, 2014
For those of you unable to make the AALS or the Friday afternoon meeting with the ABA Council on Legal Education, the meeting did NOT discuss bar passage standards. Although it was on the official agenda, the discussion did not move past the proposed changes to the tenure standards. Leo Martinez suggested anyone with concerns about any of the proposed changes should submit comments to the ABA before the comment period closes.
Sunday, January 5, 2014
For those of you who were snowed out of AALS this year, here is an update on our section.
Our section program went beautifully. A HUGE thank you goes to the outgoing section chair, Louis Schulze, now of Florida International Law School, and our own Lisa Young from Seattle Law as Program Chair.
Alex Schimel and Joanne Harvest Koren of Miami Law presented on the definitions we use to find "at-risk" students, and the potential dangers in static definitions. The presentation was quite thought-provoking.
Chelsea Baldwin of Oklahoma City Law presented on stereotype threat and ASP. Chelsea's presentation included a FABULOUS handout on conceptual differences between law school subjects. I plan on stealing her handouts for my own students.
Jamie Kleppetsche of The John Marshall Law School-Chicago presented on creating your own bar exam skill course or program. I was blown away by the different courses offered at The John Marshall Law School, and I will definitely be taking her syllabus ideas back with me to UMass.
Alison Martin of IU-McKinney Law presented on hope and law school success. Alison presented some fascinating data from her snowed-out co-presenter, Kevin Rand.
Lastly, our new section chair is our own blog editor, Dr. Amy Jarmon. (Yeah!)