Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Art of Living: "Talk Less; Listen More" says Columnist Writer

I'm a clipper.  That's right.  I keep an assortment of articles that intrigue me and then I return to them periodically to reflect on what I have learned.  One article caught my attention today...and...just in the nick of time.  You see, I'm just plain tired out.  Perhaps you are too, trying to do too much and to be too much.  Just spread out too thin to make much of a difference in the world, it seems.

So with classes starting to come to a close for many of us and our law students, I thought I'd take a pause to reflect on some principles that might help me become better at being better.  Here's what I mean by that.  Rather than being better at doing things, perhaps I might become better at being, in short, at being human.  I love that word "being" because it deals with the "hear and now" rather than the tomorrows.  It's loaded with action...in the present moment.  So, what action did I take that helped me get back to the present today?

Well, I've been carrying around an article that I clipped out dealing with New Year's Resolutions.  With so much stress right now as I try to finish teaching my courses, preparing for finals, and getting ready for the summer bar passage season, I thought that now was the perfect time to reflect on what I had learned about being a better person from an article entitled "Set the Bar High for Your 2018 Resolutions" by Jason Zweig (Wall Street Journal dated December 30-31, 2017), available at:   https://blogs.wsj.com/lessismore  Here are some of the quotes:

  1.  "Talk less; listen more."  Unfortunately, much of the time, I'm talking but not listening.  I love the advice here because it helps remind me to appreciate the other person, to value the other person, to embrace the other person.  On a personal note, within the world of academic support, I find that I am often too quick to provide solutions before I've yet to even understand the problem. So, this is great advice when working with students too.
  2. "Learn something interesting every day."  That's right; be curious.  As I drove to school today, I was passed by a school bus.  That's right - a school bus.  Yes, I am a slow driver (at least usually when I'm headed to work; much faster when I'm headed home!).  As the bus passed me by, I happened to notice something strange about the school bus.  It was from a public school that was named something like "The School for Expeditionary Learning."  That got me thinking.  Perhaps that's the way that I might better describe the learning process with my students.  Be courageous in your learning. Be daring in your learning.  Be expeditionary in your learning.
  3. "Get home 15 minutes earlier. It will make you 15 minutes more efficient the next day."  To be honest, I'm not quite sure I understand this advice. But, here's my take nonetheless.  Much of my day is hurried and busy because I let it be that way.  Take for instance email and messaging.  Rather than disabling notifications, I just keep getting these pop-up alerts, right from the get-go of my day, taking me off message from what my first priorities ought to be.  So, here's my take on this quote.  Disable notifications.  Only look at email in the middle of the day after I've already worked on the big tasks at hand.  Don't let the little things get in the way of doing the great things each day.
  4. "Stop walking with your phone in your hand all of the time. Look up and see how beautiful and strange the world is."  I did one better, at least I think so.  I am practicing leaving my phone in my car while at work.  That's because I find that even if I just carry my phone with me I feel drawn to it.  So, I make it unavailable to me in order that I can't fall prey to its tantalizing alerts and beeps that so often distractingly beckon for my attention.
  5. "Introduce yourself to all the people at your job [school] whom you see every day but haven't met yet."  As a corollary to no. 4 above (leaving your phone behind while at school), you'll have a lot more time to actually take note of the people around you.  So, share a smile with them.  Look one another in the eyes.  Maybe even say a friendly word or two.  You see, I suspect that one of the loneliest places in the world is right in the midst of the crowd, especially a law school crowd.  If true, there are many people all around us that are yearning for a place of fellowship, a place of relational togetherness, a place to belong.  That's definitely me.  So, rather than wait for others to say hello, I thought I'd just take the initiative and extend a friendly greeting to those I know...and those I don't too.  The more the merrier!  

 With all of the stresses and strains of our busy law school lives, I was so glad that I happened to clip this article.  It reminded me that often its the little things of the here and now that are really the great things.  Unfortunately, so often I have it backwards.  I'm busy, so busy that I don't have time to do anything meaningful at all.  So, I took a brief pause today to remind myself of what it means to be a human being in relationship with others.  That sure looks much more exciting that staring yet again at my phone.  So, have fun smiling...and being too!  (Scott Johns).

 

 

April 12, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Professionalism, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

I’m Over It: End of Semester Blues

It is about that time of the semester when students are simply tired. Most, if not all of their major commitments are completed and the final commitment is probably to finish off the semester. At this time, moaning and groaning are common. Some students simply want classes to end so they can begin to prepare for exams while others would rather skip exams and begin the summer break.

3Ls

From this group of students, I hear: “I am over it!” “I don’t care anymore.” “I am ready to graduate.” “Get me out of here, I have completely checked-out.” For many 3Ls, fatigue seems to weigh them down as the end approaches; commencement marks the end of their legal education and the beginning of their professional careers. As students, they worked hard for almost three years as they assumed leadership roles, were members of student organizations, worked with various legal entities, participated in legal clinics and a number of co-curricular and extracurricular activities, and have almost completed the requirements for graduation. These students are simply tired! Completing and submitting bar applications seemed to mark the end but they are quickly reminded that they still have final exams ahead. Gearing up for commencement by ordering graduation regalia, notifying family and friends, and planning graduation celebrations are exciting activities that seem to serve only as a distraction from the inevitable, exams. I try to remind students that “their journeys are not over until they are over,” they still need to pass classes to obtain their degree. They probably do not want to return to the same institution after walking across the stage at commencement or self-sabotage by failing to complete one of the requirements necessary to sit for most bar exams, completion of a law degree. This reality check appears to provide temporary motivation for some.

2Ls

For this group of students, 2Ls, the thrill of the first semester of the second year of law school has disappeared. They began the academic year excited and motivated because they got to select their course schedule and participate in all of the activities they hoped for in law school. Many probably overcommitted themselves to a variety of extracurricular and co-curricular activities they ambitiously thought they could simultaneously undertake. They were initially motivated by the excitement and energy earned from study abroad, externship, legal work, and courses completed over the summer. New extra-curricular and co-curricular activities that motivated them now appear routine and in retrospect, many realize that they overcommitted themselves. At this point, 2Ls are desperately trying to re-energize in order to finish the semester strong. Those who already have summer opportunities lined-up seem less motivated. My reality check to this group is: “you did it to yourself, you committed to these activities so you need to finish your commitments.” 

1Ls

These students are simply in shock that legal writing is officially over or will be over within a matter of days.  They have spent so much time with their appellate briefs and it was a major aspect of their second semester.  A task that seemed impossible at first manifested in the completion of the appellate brief, oral argument, and the legal writing course.  Many tell me that for the first time in months, they happily and restfully took naps or slept for a full eight hours. Many are also excited to devote their complete attention to preparing for final exams.  Some students whom I have not seen in a while are suddenly appearing in my office to discuss final exams.  The realization that the end of the first year of law school is in sight seems overwhelming. My reality check to this group is: “you have a lot of work to do because you somewhat disengaged from your doctrinal classes and now have limited time to get on track so plan wisely and maximize the time you have remaining.”  (Goldie Pritchard)

April 11, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 9, 2018

Understanding How to Create and Modify Habits

Routines are critical for me to get anything done in a day. I wake up at the same time every morning. I hit snooze 1 time, read my daily devotional after the next alarm, then start my shower routine. I turn the coffee pot on at the same time, grab breakfast, and have “shoe race” with my kids before driving them to school on the same route. The days I follow a solid routine at work with to-do lists, I am more focused and accomplish more. Sound familiar?

My routine and habits help me get through law school and overcome struggles. I knew what I planned to accomplish and finished my tasks even when life was difficult. I tell students every semester that having a routine makes doing additional MBE questions in face of failure, navigating life circumstances, and accomplishing anything else much easier, especially when confronting obstacles during studying. However, I didn’t know much about the research on habit formation until recently. The research could help all of us working with students.

I started listening to The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg recently while driving, and so far, I love the book. It is a great combination of explaining habit research and providing anecdotal stories of how the research worked in particular situations ranging from large corporations to individuals. I plan to purchase a desk copy to highlight and take notes.

Law students could benefit from the research. The early parts of the book discuss creating and modifying habits. People have cues and rewards for situations, and changing the routine or response to the cue while still receiving the reward helps habit formation or modification. I am already thinking about how I can teach specific responses to certain cues to help 1Ls build habits for law school and reinforce the habits right before the bar exam. Individual meetings may be the best way to inculcate routines, but I am also thinking about how I could integrate the information into my classes.

The section I am listening to right now is about willpower. Research indicates people can increase willpower, and small gains in willpower in one area of life can spillover to other areas. The willpower discussion overlaps with Angela Duckworth’s Grit research. The book indicates willpower can be built with pre-programmed responses to challenging circumstances, which creates routines. Starbucks receives high customer service reviews because they developed training programs for routine responses. Employees use a specific tactic when rude or angry customers come to the counter. Even if an employee is tired, upset, or life is going poorly, the pre-programmed response provides the willpower to help the customer in spite of the rudeness. Response routines can drastically improve willpower.

Students need pre-programmed responses to challenges. Many of us encounter students who dislike professor feedback on assignments, perform poorly on oral questions, or fail another set of MBE questions. Telling students to overcome the obstacle and not worry about the performance may be true but probably not specific enough to help. Helping students determine a clear roadmap for the response is what will help the next time. When faring poorly on the MBE, help them come up with a routine, which could include decompression, analysis, positive response, and another set of questions. We all know it is easy to continue when everything is going well. Responses planned before challenging events are more likely to help overcome those events. Just as lawyers do, plan for the worst.

I can’t wait to finish the book. I encourage everyone to listen or read it if you get a chance.

(Steven Foster)

April 9, 2018 in Advice, Books, Exams - Theory, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 29, 2018

A Quick Classroom Exercise to Jazz Up Student Learning!

Last weekend, I had the great pleasure of attending the Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference. Being exhausted from grading numerous writing assignments into the wee hours of the morning, Prof. Katherine Lyons and Prof. Aimee Dudovitz (Loyola Law School - Los Angeles) caught my attention with the title of their talk: "Integrating Quick Classroom Exercises that Connect Doctrine and Skills and Still Allow You (and Your Students) to Sleep at Night."  

Frankly, this was a presentation that spoke directly to me.  It was medicine for my tired heart and my hurried mind.  I needed sleep (and lots of it)!

My favorite tip was what I'll paraphrase as the "one-moment question."  

Just pop on the screen a one-moment research question and ask your students to get to work researching, drafting, and writing a quick 5-10 minute email answer.  That's right. Start with researching.  As the professors made clear, don't let them blurt out an answer.  Instead, make them work.  Tell them to start looking on the internet, digging into the legal research engines for their answers.  Then, based on their own research discoveries, direct your students to write out short emails to provide you with precise answers to that particular question.  Once submitted, now you can open up the classroom for a well-researched and informed conversation about the answer to the one-moment question. And, because the answers are super-short, it shouldn't take much time to at least make a mark or two on each answer as follow-up feedback.

As an example, Professors Lyons and Dudovitz suggested that one might ask - in the midst of a civil procedure class discussing the propriety of "tag" jurisdiction for instance - whether a plaintiff could properly serve a corporate defendant by serving the summons and complaint on an out-of-state corporate officer just passing through the local airport of the plaintiff's forum state.  As a tip, the professors suggested that you pick out a question that has a bright-line answer based on jurisdictional precedent (and one that can be easily researched).  And, as they suggested, as a bonus have the students keep track of their research trails in arriving at their answers.

That got me thinking.  In my own teaching this semester, perhaps I should ask my students - in the midst of  our studies of constitutional law - whether a state such as Colorado could hypothetically prohibit out-of-state residents from being licensed as Colorado attorneys and, if not, why not.  To confess, I'm pretty sure about the answer but not exactly certain of the reason. But, I think it has to do with the Article IV Privileges and Immunities Clause.  So, I better take heed of the professors' advice and start researching for myself.  In the process, I think that I might just become a better learner (and teacher too)!  (Scott Johns).

March 29, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Preparation, Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Study Tips - General, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Mid-Course Learning Opportunity!

It's not too late, at all.  

With most law students facing final exams in a month or so, this is the perfect time for your law students to reflect on their learning...with the goal of making concrete beneficial improvements right now, i.e., with plenty of time to prepare for their final exams.

There are many such self-evaluation learning techniques, but I especially like the questions that adjunct professor Lori Reynolds (Asst. Dean of Graduate Legal Studies at the Univ. of Denver) asks each of her students because the questions are open-ended, allowing students to reflect, interact, and communicate about their own learning with their teacher.  

In fact, just prior to spring break, I asked these questions of my own law students, and I am taking stock of their responses by making changes where needed in my own content and instructional methods too.  You see, learning is a team effort, so it is important to get concrete information from all of your team members (your students) to identify what is helping your students learning, what might be hindering their learning, and what goals have yet to be achieved for the course thus far.  

In my own course this semester, there were two questions that tended to be most valuable.  First, with respect to what might be most hindering learning, I received a number of responses questioning the value of the "think-pair-share" method as a tool to help activate meaningful classroom engagement.  Based on those responses, I am hard at work doing research and re-evaluating my own use of "think-pair-share" to confirm whether in fact the method is an effective learning tool for my classrooms this term.  

The final question also seemed to provide valuable information about my students' learning, namely, in asking them what they might do differently to improve their overall course grade.  To paraphrase their general responses, most students acknowledged that: "It's time to put some more elbow grease into my learning because learning takes curious, engaging, and enterprising hard work on my part."  I was glad to see so many take ownership over their learning.

But, as a word of caution, I was quite afraid to ask these questions.  You see, I have 123 students; that means that I was bound to receive news that I just didn't want to hear because, frankly, I like to be liked.  But, my job as a teacher is not to be liked but to be good at what I have been hired to do. That's my responsibility to my students.  It's my obligation to them.  So, rather than fretting and worrying about what my students might say, I found out.  Yes, some of the comments were a bit painful for me to read.  But, read them I did.  And, more importantly, I stepped back to take them to heart to see whether there might be things that I ought to change to improve my students' learning for the remainder of the semester.  

Looking back, I'm mighty glad I asked because it's already helping me to become a better teacher to my students this semester, while I still have time to make a positive difference in the learning.  So, feel free to use these questions with your students this semester.  (Scott Johns).

Photo of Evaluation

 

March 22, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Learning Styles, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Strive for Progress, Not Perfection, and Remember the Victories

      “Strive for Progress, Not Perfection” is the text on my laptop. Whenever I present a workshop or go before students using my laptop that is what they see. I selected this phrase because so many students are consumed with perfection at everything they do that they often lose sight of progress made. They forget about those obstacles they overcame which are fundamental to their knowledge base and ability. They are no longer novices because they have some experience. It is all about perspective.

      Perfection may seem like a worthy goal to work towards or even try to achieve but in reality, it sometimes does more harm than good. Perfection is often an unattainable goal that can halt progress. Perfection for law students often means receiving “A” grades in all courses, achieving a perfect GPA, and involvement in coveted extracurricular activities. Whenever one or more of these is not achieved, students are left feeling less than adequate and feeling as though they do not belong in this environment. They focus on their mistakes and challenges which highlight negativity. In reality, very few students achieve the perfection they yearn. Not striving for perfection as a goal means that students can endeavor to improve their competencies and abilities, better themselves, become more effective and efficient with each task, and so much more.

      Currently, several of my students have the “end of semester blues” as they grapple with project and paper deadlines, looming exams, and fear of not finding summer opportunities. This is usually when students express to me their overwhelming frustrations which may be summed up by one or more of the following statements:

“I have been told NO multiple times, I don’t know if I can fill out another application!”

“It appears that there is simply not enough time to complete everything I have to complete!”

“I am tired of having to work ten times harder than others and still fail to get opportunities that others seem to easily have access to with lesser credentials!”

“I feel like the environment is rejecting everything I care about right now. How do I realign my passions with what I am learning and doing?”

“I am rethinking whether I can make a difference.”

      It is my opinion that mistakes are the best way to learn, improve, or progress and it is imperative that students make mistakes and experience some challenges. Mistakes and challenges are necessary for learning, as well as building courage, perseverance, and problem-solving skills. In life, mistakes will happen and challenges will occur. It is the memory of each challenge and mistake that reminds the student of what they have overcome and their ability to prevail. It is my ardent belief that if students can honestly attempt their very best at whatever they do, then at the end, they will feel fulfilled even if they have not fully achieved what they perceive as success.

      It is important to repackage perfectionism. Perfectionism should be seen as incremental progress rather than a single ultimate goal. There is so much joy that comes with celebrating each achievement regardless of how small or big. Commit to honestly performing your best, slowly edging your life closer and closer to where you want to be. Celebrate each and every success, failure, challenge, and mistake along the way. You may sometimes fall but as long as you get up after each negative experience and keep trying, you will make progress. (Goldie Pritchard)

image from media.giphy.com

March 21, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Academic Advising Worksheets

Many of us are intimately familiar with ABA Standard 309(b), which requires a law school to "provide academic support designed to afford students a reasonable opportunity to complete the program of legal education, graduate, and become members of the legal profession."  But, today, I'd like to focus on subsection "(a)."  Standard 309(a) states that a "law school shall provide academic advising for students that communicates effectively the school’s academic standards and graduation requirements, and that provides guidance on course selection."

Typically, first-year students have little (or no) say in what courses they will take.  Upper-level students, on the other hand, have many different--and sometimes competing--options available to them.  The vast number of different course combinations can be overwhelming to even the most organized law students.  Here are a few tips to help rising 2Ls and 3Ls register for upper-level courses.

Step one: check the law school's website or academic handbook for advising information.  Virtually every law school's website boasts an academic advising section.  For example, the University of California at Irvine's academic advising website offers some good suggestions for course selection:

  • Take the classes that interest you the most.
  • Take classes from professors you would like to study with, even if the subject matter is not one you think will appeal to you. There are practice fields you have not considered that will actually capture your interest.
  • Take classes from professors you enjoyed and whose teaching style matches your learning style.
  • Take classes that will give you a strong foundation in the practice field you intend to enter.
  • Take a class in an area of law that interests you, even if you never intend to practice in that field.
  • Takes classes with a mix of different methods of evaluation (e.g., exams, papers, in-class exercises).
  • Take a mix of skills and doctrinal courses.
  • Take a broad range of classes. Life is unpredictable. You may discover you do not enjoy the work you do, or business in your practice area may dry up. Choose courses that will expose you to various methodological approaches to the law and that prepare you to be a well-rounded lawyer able to take advantage of opportunities as they appear.

NYU Law's website echoes these same recommendations.  You may also want to consult Professor Jarmon's 2013 "Academic Advising and Registration" blogpost for some additional helpful tips.

Step two: make a list of all the academic requirements needed for graduation.  Check for specific course requirements, minimum/maximum credit limitations both at the semester level and cumulatively, writing or seminar requirements, and concentration requirements.  Put all of that information on a single sheet of paper.   You are welcome to Download Graduation Requirements Checklist that I use at my school and then make adjustments to the document to reflect your school's requirements. 

Step three: create a two-year plan.  Frequently, elective courses are offered during either the fall semester or the spring semester, but not both.  And, some specialty elective courses are only taught once every two years, meaning students will only have one opportunity during their upper-level to enroll in the course. Therefore, it is critical to know when, and how often a course will be offered.  Once you know which courses are offered when, chart them out.  It may feel like a complicated LSAT logic game (e.g. you can't take Wealth Transfers the same semester you that take Family Law), but it's worth the effort.  Again, you are invited to Download 3-Year Course Sequence Planning Worksheet to get the process started.

Step four: take draft versions of your worksheets to your academic advisor and academic support professor for approval.  Once you get the thumbs-up from your academic advisor about the mechanics, turn your attention to the bigger picture - goal setting.  For more information on what that conversation should look like, read Professor Jarmon's 2015 blogpost entitled "The Missing Piece: Academic Advising."  Finally, stop by your Academic Support Professor's Office for some deeper insights.  They are always full of helpful information, especially as it relates to your current academic achievement and future academic goals.  After all, there is a reason that ABA Standard 309 includes academic advising in part (a) and academic support in part (b) of the same rule!  (Kirsha Trychta)

March 20, 2018 in Advice, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 19, 2018

Re-Discover Your Why for Success

Have you ever completed a task you didn’t want to do?  Of course you have.  We all do.  Think about how you felt during the process.  Were you encouraged about the accomplishment or were you just ready for it to be over?  Did the feeling depend on your ultimate end goal?  Grit researcher Dr. Angela Duckworth would suggest passion for the ultimate end goal makes a huge difference in perseverance and success.

Headlines and quick recitations of research indicate grit is a common denominator of successful people.  Individuals, especially stressed and busy law students, can make assumptions about what grit entails based on a common understanding.  Many people, myself included, heard small pieces of information and assumed grit meant hard work and perseverance in face of all obstacles.  However, Dr. Duckworth suggests grit contains more than the common understanding.  She argues perseverance is a major component, but perseverance combined with passion is critical for long-term grittiness.

Dr. Duckworth’s research into passion with perseverance resonates with me.  I love playing golf.  I am not uniquely good at golf, but I continue to play.  After the glory of DST, I can go to the driving range once a week after my kids go to bed.  I set goals and continually try to improve.  However, I only improve about 1 shot a year on average, but I keep working hard on the process.  Contrast golf with my low desire for running.  Running is a great activity, but I tend to get bored and winded.  Some OCU faculty and staff form relay teams to participate in the Oklahoma City Bombing Run to Remember in April.  I participated last year and trained just enough to make it through the 5k leg.  My desire to complete a run associated with the largest tragedy in my community keep me training and helped me complete the race.  After April, I didn’t run again until November to start training for a 10k leg this year because I didn't have a larger reason to overcome my lack of desire to run.  Even now, training is hard.  My body hurts, so I keep making excuses to not follow my regimen.  My desire is low, so I will not put in as much effort as I should.  I also predict I won’t keep running after April again.  Most of my running gains will be lost by next year.

Passion is a critical ingredient to get through law school.  At orientation, I make first-year students write down why he/she wants to be an attorney.  I tell them halfway through the semester they should read their why statement again.  Any time they are stressed or finding classes difficult, I suggest going back to the why statement.  Passion and the why can provide enough motivation to continue through struggles.  No one will like every assignment.  No one will like every class.  Re-reading the reason for attending was to help unrepresented groups or provide a better life for family can be enough to complete the assignment in a way to learn the material to retain it for success on finals and the bar exam.  Combining the why with perseverance can help overcome many of law school's challenges.

Learn how to tap into passion now because it will be critical in the practice of law.  No one will like every deposition, client, case, discovery request, or contract.  Trudging through it without passion won’t provide the best advocacy or work product, and that is not the grit that leads to success.  Finding your passion for the end goal and persevering is what leads to long-term success.

(Steven Foster)

March 19, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 5, 2018

Spring Break! Time to . . . Prepare for Finals!

The sun is breaking through the clouds.  Rain and thunderstorms picked up the last couple weeks.  Ice is melting away, and temperatures are steadily rising.  Spring is right around the corner, which also means Spring Break for most schools will be in the next few weeks.  Plan to have fun, relax, and spend time preparing for finals to maximize the effectiveness of Spring Break.

For most students, spring break starts on a Saturday and finishes the following Sunday.  9 glorious days not being in class.  9 amazing opportunities to get mentally fresh and ready for the stretch run into final exams.  Plan your Spring Break now to utilize all the time effectively.

My suggestion is to spend 4 of the days doing non-law school fun activities.  4 days not thinking about classes, outlines, or exams.  Play golf, watch bad movies, catch up on TV shows, watch an entire new series on Netflix, exercise, hang out with friends, or whatever will provide energy to make it through May.  Rest and recharge is key.

The other 5 days, assuming a normal 5 class schedule, are preparation for final exams.  My suggestion is to devote 1 day to each class.  Spend the morning catching up on the outline.  Make sure it is as up-to-date as reasonably possible.  Spend 1-2 hours on practice questions in the afternoon.  Outlining and practicing will begin critical finals preparation.

Spend the evenings of those 5 days having fun and getting ready for summer.  A couple of those evenings, do nothing.  More resting and relaxing.  Spend 1 of the evenings updating your legal resume.  Spend another evening deciding which employers you want to contact for potential summer internships.  Lastly, don’t forget to spend at least 1 evening reading for the first day of class after Spring Break. 

Planning now can make Spring Break both fun and effective.  Take time to enjoy life.  Recharging will have a huge impact on studying in April.  Catching up on outlines and practicing now provides more focused time in late April to understand the nuances of each subject.  Success requires a good plan.

(Steven Foster)

March 5, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Congrats February 2018 Bar Takers!

Congratulations Feb 2018 Bar Takers!

It’s a great time for you - as this week’s bar takers - to reflect, appreciate, and take pride in your herculean work in accomplishing law school and tackling the bar exam.

Let's be direct!  Bravo! Magnificent! Heroic!  Those are just some of the words that come to mind…words that you should be rightly speaking to yourself…because…they are true of you to the core!

But, for most of us right now, we just don’t quite feel super-human about the bar exam. Such accolades of self-talk are, frankly, just difficult to do. Rather, most of us just feel relief – plain and simple relief – that the bar exam is finally over and we have somehow survived.  

That’s because very few of us, upon completion of the bar exam, feel like we have passed the bar exam. Most of us just don’t know.   So now, the long “waiting” period begins with results not due out for most of us for a number of months.

So, here’s the conundrum about the “waiting” period:

Lot’s of well-meaning people will tell you that you have nothing to worry about; that they are sure that you passed the bar exam; and that the bar exam wasn’t that hard…really.

Really? Not that hard?

Really? You know that I passed?

Really? There’s nothing for me to worry about?

Let me give you a concrete real life example. Like you, I took the bar exam. And, like most of you, I had no idea at all whether I passed the bar exam. I was just so glad that it was finally over.

But all of my friends, my legal employer (a judge), my former law professors, and my family kept telling me that I had absolutely nothing to be worried about; that I passed the bar exam; that I worked hard; that they knew that I could do it.

But, they didn’t know something secret about my bar exam. They didn’t know about my lunch on the first day of the bar exam.

At the risk of revealing a closely held secret, my first day of the bar exam actually started out on the right foot, so to speak. I was on time for the exam. In fact, I got to the convention center early enough that I got a prime parking spot. Moreover, in preparation for my next big break (lunch), I had already cased out the nearest handy-dandy fast food restaurants for grabbing a quick bite to eat before the afternoon portion of the bar exam so that I would not miss the start of the afternoon session of the bar exam.

So, when lunch came, I was so excited to eat that I went straight to Burger King. I really wanted that “crown,” perhaps because I really didn’t understand many of the essay problems from the morning exam. But as I approached Burger King, the line was far out of the door. Impossibly out of the door. And, it didn’t get any better at McDonalds next door. I then faced the same conundrum at Wendy’s and then at Taco Bell.

Finally, I had to face up to cold hard facts.  I could either eat lunch or I could take the afternoon portion of the bar exam. But, I couldn’t do both. The lines were just too long. So, I was about to give up - as I had exhausted all of the local fast food outlets surrounding the convention center - when I luckily caught a glimpse of a possible solution to both lunch and making it back to the bar exam in time for the afternoon session – a liquor store.  There was no line. Not a soul. I had the place to myself. So, I ran into the liquor store to grab my bar exam lunch: two Snicker’s bars. With plenty of time to now spare, I then leisurely made my way back to the bar exam on time for the start of the afternoon session.

But, here’s the rub:

All of my friends and family members (and even the judge that I was clerking for throughout the waiting period) were adamant that I had passed the bar exam. They just knew it!

But, they didn’t know that I ate lunch at the liquor store.

So when several months later the bar results were publicly available on the Internet, I went to work for my judge wondering what the judge might do when the truth came out – that I didn’t pass the bar exam because I didn’t pack a lunch to eat at the bar exam.

To be honest, I was completely stick to my stomach. But, I was stuck; I was at work and everyone believed in me. Then, later that morning while still at work computer, the results came out. My heart raced, but my name just didn’t seem to be listed at all. No Scott Johns. And then, I realized that my official attorney name begins with William. I was looking at the wrong section of the Johns and Johnsons. My name was there! I had passed!   I never told the judge my secret about my “snicker bar” lunch. I was just plain relieved that the bar exam “wait” was finally over.

That’s the problem with all of the helpful advice from our friends, employers, law professors, and family members during this waiting period. For all of us (or at least most of us), there was something unusual that happened during our bar exam. It didn’t seem to go perfectly. Quite frankly, we just don’t know if we indeed passed the bar exam.

So, here’s a suggestion for your time right now with your friends, employers, law professors, and family members.

1.  First, just let them know how you are feeling. Be open and frank. Share your thoughts with them along with your hopes and fears.

2.  Second, give them a hearty thank you for all of their enriching support, encouragement, and steadfast faithfulness that they have shared with you as walked your way through law school and through this week’s bar exam. Perhaps send them a personal notecard. Or, make a quick phone call of thanks. Or send a snap chat of thankful appreciation.  Or, Instagram them.  Regardless of your particular method of communication, reach out to let them know out of the bottom of your heart that their support has been invaluable to you. That’s a great way to spend your time as you wait - over the course of the next several months - for the bar exam results.

3.  Finally, celebrate yourself, your  achievement, and your true grit....by taking time out - right now - to appreciate the momentous accomplishment of undertaking a legal education, graduating from law school, and tackling your bar exam.  You've done something great, and, more importantly, something mightily significant.  (Scott Johns).

March 1, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Finances and the Bar Exam

Even though we talk to students at the start of their law school journey about planning financially for the bar exam, it is not until their 3L year that they begin to pay attention and ask questions. Reminders about bar applications and the bar exam seem to either motivate students to further assess their finances or totally avoid them. Some students paid attention early and by the end their 1L year, have already made financial plans for the bar exam. Students without a plan are often distracted throughout bar review usually pondering how they will pay for various expenses.

 

I often encourage students to refrain from tapping into private loans as their first resort to finance their bar exam expenses but consider it a last resort. The primary reason being that many of our students who have resorted to private loans have had challenges either obtaining one for a variety of reasons or paying it off. The interest rates differ and the terms differ from one lender to another. With this information in mind, I offer the following few suggestions for students to consider as they prepare to financially manage their bar exam journey.

 

(1) What’s my budget and what are my expenses?

• List current monthly/weekly expenses

• Take stock of necessities such as rent, apartment related bills, food, car maintenance and repair, gas, etc.

• Consider all obligations including current debt

• Anticipate Bar Exam related expenses such as Bar application fees (registration, application, character and fitness, fingerprints, criminal history records, driving record, birth certificate, credit reports, laptop fee, notary fee, etc.); MPRE (registration fee and reporting fee); Bar review course and possible supplemental bar review program; Bar exam day accommodations and necessities (hotel for 2 to 3 days; transportation to and from exam by plane, rental car, or personal car; meals and snacks for 2 to 3 days; parking; etc.); and relocation costs after the bar exam

(2) What savings?

I often hear from students: “what can I save? I am barely making it.” In response, I tell them “a dollar or more here and there that is set aside on a regular basis can amount to quite a bit.”

  • Distinguish between what you need, what you want, and what can wait. You might not need to purchase all items immediately. Strictly assess your use of money and leave credit cards alone.

 

  • Embrace couponing and other cost savings options for groceries and necessities. A few of my students started a couponing group and they have saved and shared items and coupons.  The money saved goes toward they bar exam fund.

 

  • Bring your lunch and coffee to school. Instead of purchasing food on campus, you could probably save a few dollars that you can set aside.

 

  • Consider “staycations” for spring break and save your money. When I ask students how much their spring break trips cost, it is often a good chunk of money that could go to their bar review or bar application costs.

 

  • Save monetary gifts. Birthday money from grandparents, holiday money, graduation money and other such monetary gifts can be set aside for bar exam needs or emergencies.

 

  • Be specific with those who want to support you. Family and friends are usually elated to hear about individuals graduating from law school and typically want to offer support to you in their own way.  I have had students who were very specific about their requests, asking for monetary support to assist with bar applications, bar review programs and expenses during bar study.  It is often surprising how many persons are willing to assist once they become aware of specific needs.

(3) Sources of Funding

Inquire about sources of funding at your law school and from students who recently sat for the bar exam.

  • Are there scholarships offered to assist with bar applications or bar review programs?                 

       •   Are there funds created by students or alums to assist?

  • Are there opportunities for discounts or reduced costs from bar review programs?

If you never try, you will never know. (Goldie Pritchard)

February 28, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 26, 2018

Expect Struggles. Decide How to Respond.

Can you remember the first time trying a new sport or hobby?  Do you remember how it felt to be terrible and completely fail at first?  I can easily remember my first summer playing golf.  I started playing while in college at a 9 hole, short, play all day course.  I spent round after round searching for my ball hundreds of yards away from my target.  The joy was finally getting one near where I was aiming, but I only remember a few of those shots.  More often, I vividly remember shots where my beautiful swing perfectly compressed the ball straight into a tree to ricochet over my head and behind me.  I am now on my 14th year playing golf, and my current experiences are only marginally better.  My 7 year old can beat me from his tee box on most days.

I didn’t expect, nor do I expect now, to be Jordan Spieth just because I played sports throughout my life.  However, I see many students with unrealistic expectations coming in to law school.  The expectation is that legal study is similar to all other forms of education, so success in prior experiences means success should happen in law school.  When final exams don’t go as expected, some students’ motivation decreases and a cycle of poor performance ensues.  My hope is to change that expectation and promote treating law school like any other sport or skill.  Failing now is critical to success as an attorney.

Law School and Undergraduate study are as similar as baseball and golf.  Baseball and golf are sports where a person swings and hits a ball.  However, the technical motion of the wrists, hips, shoulders, etc. tend to be very different in the swings.  Athleticism transfers, but the specific skills are different.  Law study does require understanding vast amounts of information, recalling it on an exam, and studying like Undergraduate study.  The specific skills are very different.  The self-regulation of additional work, applying learned information to new hypotheticals, and the lack of many assessments make law school a different kind of academic endeavor. Legal analysis requires deductive and inductive reasoning.  Many times, undergraduate exams require memorization and recitation.  Deep reasoning is much more difficult.  There is a reason Bryce Harper (professional baseball player) isn’t also a professional golfer.  Different skills must be developed to succeed at a new endeavor.

The above analogy is helpful for entering students, but why should most students think about it now?  Now is the time to remedy problems from the fall to achieve a higher level of success.  Many famous sports figures will say failure is how they learned what was necessary to succeed.  The recent Gatorade commercial is a great example.  Don’t let failing to meet expectations decrease motivation.  Previous study skills are different than what is necessary for law school.  Treat law school the same as any other activity that you started new.  Don’t expect to be the greatest or best the minute the doors open.  Legal study and legal analysis are specific skills that must be developed and nurtured over many years to become proficient.  Don’t let one semester derail a dream, especially since each semester adds more information necessary for the bar. 

Using failure to continually improve is a life skill.  All law firms expect fifth year associates to be better than first year associates.  Firms care as much about the ability to improve as how much law someone remembers from law school.  Now is the time to learn how to improve.  Michael Jordan didn’t make the varsity basketball team in his first attempt.  Jordan Spieth didn’t win the US Kids Golf World Championship as a teenager.  Tom Brady was a late (extremely late) round pick in the NFL draft and couldn’t beat out Drew Bledsoe for the starting QB job his rookie year.  Success isn’t determined by where you start.  Success will be determined by how you respond.

(Steven Foster)

February 26, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The "Key" to Golden Success - Being "Super Chill?"

As described by reporters Sara Germano and Ben Cohen, Norway might have a secret weapon in winning so many gold medals at the Winter Olympics in Korea this month, namely, being "super chill."  https://www.wsj.com/mostchillnationiscrushingit

Surprisingly, even just a few hours before a big competition, the Norwegian athletes are still living life, speaking freely with reporters and chatting & laughing it up.  Indeed, the Norwegians are even taking time off to, well, to play video games, have fun, and to socially relax with others.  Yep, they watch TV, they play jigsaw puzzles, and they even have a day or two prior to their big events to be completely "100% free."  You see, according to Norwegian coach Alex Stöckl: "It's important [in achieving success that the athletes] can turn off their minds."

There's an important message here for those of you taking the bar exam next week.  It's A-okay for you to take Monday off before your big event next Tuesday and Wednesday in sitting for your bar exam.  

I know...  

It's REALLY hard to take anytime off, let alone all-day Monday.  But, as illustrated by the success of Norway's athletes, rest strengthens us, rest empowers us, rest restores us.  So, take a lesson from the Olympians and feel free to give your mind a day of rest before the bar exam.  You've earned it...and...you've got golden proof that it works, especially in preparation for high stake events.  (Scott Johns).

 

February 22, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Struggling with Reading Comprehension? It Just Might Be Related to "On Line Reading!"

Are your students struggling with reading comprehension difficulties?

Well, it might be just related to something quite surprising...the ever-increasing emphasis in on-line reading over paper-based reading.  

You see, according to educational researchers in Norway, even controlling for learning differences in student populations, on-line readers statistically underperform in comparison to paper-based readers (as ascertained by test results concerning reading comprehension).  Anne Mangen, et al, "Reading Linear Texts on Paper Versus Computer Screen: Effects on Reading Comprehension," International Journal of Educational Research, 58:61-68 (2013), available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com

According the article, at least based on my own reading of the article, there are several possible reasons for the disparate tests results between on-line readers versus paper-based readers such as:

First, on-line reading often requires scrolling, which seems to negatively impact spatial orientation of the text because it disrupts our abilities to mentally represent and recall the material.

Second (and closely related), on-line reading lacks the visual certainty of knowing where to re-locate material that one is struggling with because on-line text is fluid (with different parts of the text never occurring preciously on the same page of the screen) in comparison to paper-based texts (in which we often visually recall a certain passage from its spatial position, for example, in the upper-left hand-side of the page in the text book).  In other words, paper-based readers might perform better in comparison to on-line readers because paper-based readers can more easily reconstruct a mental image, leading to more efficient recall during assessment of the material previously read.  Those same clues are often lacking in on-line text presentations.

Third, on-line reading seems to impair our overall metacognition abilities (our abilities to monitor and assess our own learning) because on-line reading tends to be perceived by us -- at the outset -- as a familiar way to glean information quickly (and almost effortlessly). In contrast, paper-based reading tends to be perceived by us -- from the get-go -- as requiring much more effort on our part in order to make sense of the text, which by implication suggests that paper-based reading pushes us to better monitor whether and to what extent we are learning through our reading as we move back and forth through the text.  In other words, in on-line reading, we tend to overestimate our reading abilities.

If the article's conclusions are true, then that leads us to wonder whether, the next time we see one of our students struggling with reading cases, dissecting statutes, or analyzing multiple-choice or essay problems, perhaps we should first ask about their reading. Are they primarily reading using on-line text or paper-based text?  The answer to the question might just lead to a memorable breakthrough in one's success in law school.  

That leads me to one final thought.

I wrote this blog trying, as best I could, to read the Norwegian article online.  So, please take what I've written as a grain of salt...because...I might have well have overestimated my own metacognition of the research findings.

In fact, writing this blog has been mighty hard work on my end because it's required near-endless multi-tasking as I switched screen shots between the article and the blog.  In short, I very well might have demonstrated the merit of this research based on my own, perhaps mistaken, paraphrases of the research findings. I'll let you be the judge. Just make sure you print out the article before you read it! Oh, and if you're not sure if you can recall how to read old-fashioned paper text, here's a funny video clip that'll serve as reminder:   https://www.youtube.com/medevialreadinghelpdesk   (Scott Johns).

 

 

 

February 15, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Reading, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Highest Stakes

The bar exam is slightly less than two weeks away and as academic support professionals, we can feel it even though it is business as usual in the law school.

One way we are reminded that the bar exam is approaching is through hearing from bar study mentors and bar support individuals. Some mentors are discovering that their mentees failed to take full advantage of resources and support available to them in preparation for the bar exam. Most likely, they are concerned about their mentees’ ability or simply excited about progress and wish to check-in. Whatever the cause, it is always great to hear from supportive individuals who have rallied around bar takers. These individuals usually serve as secret weapons, giving bar taker the extra boost of confidence necessary to bring them closer to passing the exam.

Another way we are reminded that the bar exam is fast approaching is through countless expressions of fear and panic from bar studiers through phone calls and email messages seeking advice on how to improve essays, Multistate Bar Exam questions, and Multistate Performance Tests. Bar studiers are also simply seeking last-minute advice and pep talks as they take the final preparatory steps for the bar exam.

Most students in the law school building appear unaware that the bar exam is this month, let alone a few days away. They are mainly focused on their day to day activities and academic endeavors. Students who are aware that the February bar exam is upon us are either currently completing their bar exam applications or students with friends who are former classmates who will sit for the February bar exam. Current 3Ls who anticipate taking the July 2018 bar exam have some familiarity with fears and challenges bar studiers experience and are therefore attempting to minimize those concerns, ask more questions, and strategize for their bar exam.

The fear of being unsuccessful on the bar exam is equally a motivating force and a source of stress. Lately, 3L students are alluding to having nightmares and awaking in a panic consumed with thoughts about the bar exam. In my opinion, it is too early to exhibit these emotions. I advise them that although the bar exam is a high stakes test as employment, opportunities, and livelihood are all at stake; nevertheless, many other students before them have successfully survived the journey and made it to the other side. I am confident they can too.

All the very best to all the students taking the bar exam this February! You can do it! To the current 3Ls, you still have time. (Goldie Pritchard)

February 14, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Power of Practice with Feedback!

Here's great research news that you can bank on, whether you are an ASP professional or a law student!

In brief, just having one academic course with individualized feedback corresponds to an increase of about a third of a letter grade.  So, if you are a law student, make sure that you take advantage of your law school's resources - both in-class and out-of-class - to get individual feedback (and lots of it) each and every week.  And, if you are an ASP professional, what a great opportunity to encourage law students to learn by doing.

Not quite convinced...

Check out the research details in the article entitled "The Impact of Individualized Feedback on Law School Performance" by Daniel Schwarcz and Dion  Farganis at: Impact of Individualized Feedback

In the interim, here's a snapshot from the article's abstract:

"...[S]tudents in sections that have previously or concurrently had a professor who provides individualized feedback consistently outperform students in sections that have not received any such feedback. The effect is both statistically significant and hardly trivial in magnitude, approaching about 1/3 of a grade increment after controlling for students’ LSAT scores, undergraduate GPA, gender, race, and country of birth. This effect corresponds to a 3.7 point increase in students’ LSAT scores in our model. Additionally, the positive impact of feedback is stronger among students whose combined LSAT score and undergraduate GPA falls below the median at the University of Minnesota Law School."

So, get a power boost on your academic performance by getting lots of feedback throughout the semester about your learning.  As the research suggests, you'll be glad you did! (Scott Johns).

 

February 8, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Regret How I Started The Semester?

Lately, I have met with students with a variety of concerns about overall academic performance last semester. Many are assessing whether or not newly implemented strategies and approaches will benefit them during the spring semester final exam period. With the middle of the semester fast approaching, some students are already expressing regret regarding their academic performance and exam preparation thus far.

I have heard the word “regret” tossed around so many times lately. In exploring what students perceive “regret” to mean for them, I have discovered that it has different connotations for each student. For many of these students simply articulating their concerns and developing an action plan they can quickly implement has proven positive. Below are a few ways we (the students and I) have participated in addressing various student concerns:

Redirect Energy

Energy directed toward thoughts about steps one has failed to take, where the semester is going, or fears about failure is misdirected. That energy is better used when specific tasks are identified and implemented to yield expected results.

Eliminate Distractions

Students often panic when they see what others are doing or the work product that others have generated when they have nothing to show for the time that has now elapsed. Seeing what others do should be motivating rather than demoralizing. Furthermore, personal life issues, financial concerns, career concerns, summer opportunities, graduation, and the bar exam are some of the thoughts that consume time and prevent students from concentrating on more pressings tasks at hand. While all are valid concerns and considerations, they do not have to be simultaneously contemplated. Instead, they need to be prioritized.

Generate a Game Plan

Of course, this sounds very obvious but when I sit down with a student and really probe what a student’s plan is to address academic, life, and career concerns, often the student has nothing concrete to share. They have ideas and general plans but no timelines, deadlines, processes for setting realistic goals, systems for attaining goals, assessment mechanisms, and alternative options. All of which will help redirect energy and eliminate distractions because they have a process for addressing concerns which helps limit distractions and their energy is focused on implementation as they realize how much time they do have to accomplish goals.

Revisit Problem and Plan

Simply having a plan and implementing it is insufficient. Revisiting initial concerns to assess whether a plan addresses various elements is very important. A game plan may be effective for certain aspects but not for others. Simply adopting someone else’s plan may prove ineffective for one student, while requiring little or significant adjustment to suit another. Assessment keeps students on tasks, allows them to recognize successes, and encourages them to move forward. Being open and willing to make adjustments is necessary as well.

Expectation

A positive attitude and positive expectations go a long way. Of course, life is filled with unexpected events which can affect one’s positivity meter but a good attitude goes a long way.

Take Risks

Stepping outside of one’s comfort zone is always difficult but it challenges you with something you are not familiar or accustomed to and that challenge allows you to discover your potential. Trying approaches and strategies which might seem outrageous to you might yield positive results. Also, if you are simply repeating and doing what has not served you in the past, how are you ever to yield positive and different results?

Regret is simply regret unless you do something about it particularly when you still have lots of time to make significant changes that can yield positive results. Nothing is final until it is final and nothing is over until it is over. You still have ample time to turn things around. (Goldie Pritchard)

February 7, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 5, 2018

Overcomers Needed to Combat Negative Messaging

While I don’t consider myself old, I am starting to tell stories about “the good ole’ days.”  Days where I was taught to ride a bike by being pushed down the street and then my uncle let go.  I crashed, got up, probably cried about not wanting to continue, and then was forced to get back on for the next attempt.  My mom recalls that she was taught to swim by being thrown in a lake and told to swim back to survive.  Those are terrible parenting strategies (and probably exaggerations), but I do find myself telling my kids “we don’t say I can’t in this house” right before a huge meltdown struggle.  A key message was to overcome obstacles.

Now is the time in both bar prep and the semester where I see students psychologically disadvantaging themselves with the wrong perspective.  Bar takers are struggling with recent simulated MBE results.  My last semester 3Ls are struggling through their MBE homework.  The pain of multiple choice is high right now.  Many students will shy away from more work that illustrates they are not doing well.

Despite the current despair, my hope is everyone possesses a get back on the bike attitude, even if they are wailing.  Unfortunately, I am concerned we (including myself) are not teaching perseverance as well at all levels of education.  I fear our students aren't getting back on the bike due to their perspective of their own ability.

Students constantly receive messages from society, law school, and peers about their ability.  If students don’t receive instruction on how to overcome those obstacles before law school, schools should start overtly teaching how to overcome very real obstacles.  Some law schools’ demographics include students who constantly receive messages that they are not good at certain types of questions.  Research is clear that girls at young ages are as capable, if not better, at math than boys.  As kids grow up, societal messages and images tell young women they are not good at math.  This results, along with many other factors, with less women in STEM fields.  Many of our students experience the same phenomenon.  Schools with lower credentials have a student body who were told by the LSAT that they aren’t good at multiple choice tests, and many of those students were subsequently told by some law schools, through rejection letters, that they weren’t good enough on multiple choice tests to attend.  Limited options to unranked law schools sends messages of inferiority before students are even in chairs.

Students of historically marginalized groups attending those schools face even greater challenges.  Stereotype threat, not seeing many peers like themselves, and discovering statistics about group performance sends additional messages of limited chances of success.  The explosion of easily accessible information through social media and the internet only exacerbates this problem.

My anecdotal perspective is that some students receiving these messages are ill-equipped to navigate the negative environment, which in many ways is not students’ fault.  Between helicopter parenting and YMCA sports (only half-joking), some law students haven't faced real challenges or losing before law school.  They haven't been exposed to the need for a Growth Mindset.  I always talk about improvement and the goal is to get better, but anecdotally, I have heard more students say they aren’t good at multiple choice questions over the last few years.  I try to tell students about a growth mindset, but I don’t think it registers to them that saying they are bad at a certain type of question is a form of the fixed mindset.  The confirmation of certain classes from law school make overcoming this idea difficult.

Overcoming failures is critical to success in law school, the bar exam, and the practice of law.  Not only do we need students to acquire persistence for success now, we are doing a disservice to them if we let them practice law without the ability to handle defeat.  I am committing to be more overt about my messaging on improvement and growth mindset.  I specifically tell students the statement “I am bad at multiple choice questions” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and hurts their scores.  I plan to continually talk about the obstacles in practice and how to learn to handle them now.  I will show them how they improve and how improvement is the goal.  I want my students to enter the profession with the ability to continue to advocate for their client in spite of continuously losing motions.  Hopefully those skills will help them be more professional lawyers.

(Steven Foster)

February 5, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Preparation, Diversity Issues, Stress & Anxiety, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 29, 2018

Professional Development on the Go

Academic Support is a great community with how we all share ideas and try to pick each other up.  The outpouring of support is invaluable, but I have to admit it sometimes makes me feel like I lack enough knowledge to help students.  I hear about all the great new ideas at AASE that others are trying based on research and books read about cutting edge neuroscience research.  I listen amazed at great new ideas, and I wonder where everyone finds time to both read the research and formulate ideas.  My typical day races through my head with teaching, student appointments, committee meetings, and class preparation followed by images of evenings and weekends filled with coaching youth sports, which is much more fun than reading learning science.  Extra time didn't seem to exist in my schedule.

Professional development is critical to progress for both me and my students.  I recently discovered a way to continually develop daily without missing my other obligations. Since I don’t listen to much music, I decided to listen to new literature while commuting to work.  I live in a suburb of OKC, so my drive is about 20-30 minutes each way.  Many of you have much longer commutes, which is an even bigger opportunity to grow.  Audiobook apps are abundant, s0 I spent a few days looking through the options like audible and audiobooks.com.  This was a new commitment for me, so free apps were the most appealing.  I decided to try the free OverDrive app.  OverDrive is connected to library systems across the country.  It allows users with a library card to check out audiobooks from local libraries.  They may not have every audiobook, but depending on the library, the selection is pretty good.

Downloading the app was the first step.  The next step was to create a habit of listening.  My library checks out books for 2 weeks before deleting them from the app.  Committing to 20-30 minutes would be necessary to make it through the book.  I constantly tell students getting better requires little decisions and discipline each day.  Practice exam writing for 30 minutes a day or adding in small substantive reviews throughout the week make a difference.  I needed to take my own advice.  Turning off ESPN radio and committing to professional development would be difficult, but I decided to listen to at least 1 book.

OverDrive made a huge impact on my development.  I started last October, and I am still listening to new books.   While reading an entire book during a busy day may seem daunting, listening to a book for 20-30 minutes while driving home isn’t difficult.  Since October, I listened to Grit, How We Learn, Make It Stick, Eureka Factor, Learned Optimism, and some of Chazown.  For general business leadership tips, I listen to Craig Groeschel’s Leadership podcast.  It is specific to leading a business (he leads one of the largest church organizations in the nation), but many of the tips are helpful in leading students.  I am on the waitlist for Power of Habit.  I hope to listen to it this semester.

Professional development is hard to fit into our schedule, especially since many times, immediate benefits don’t flow from reading new research.  However, students are engaging new technology at a rapid pace. We have to stay ahead on new information to help our students succeed, which is worth the 20-30 minutes driving home.  Not only that, you may be the presenter with great ideas at future conferences from the small amount of time spent each day.

(Steven Foster)

January 29, 2018 in Advice, Books, Science, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Digital "Note-Taking" and "Note-Snapping": A Recipe for Learning...Or Not?

With hat tips to Prof. Herb Ramy (Suffock University Law School) & Prof. Ira Shafiroff (Southwestern Law School), the classroom has moved well-past the laptop age into the smart phone age, with perhaps some deleterious impacts on learning.

That leads to two important questions given the increasingly common use of laptops and smartphones as note-taking devices.

First, with respect to computers in the classroom, might digital note-taking actually be harmful to one's learning (and even the learning of one's neighbors still taking notes the old-fashioned way by hand)?

Second, with respect to smart phones, is it really a good idea to snap-up a few photos of the lecture slides or whiteboard markings as tools to meticulously capture what was presented in class?

Well, there are two important links to help you be the judge...of your own use of technology...in answering these questions, whether you are a classroom learner or a teacher.

First, with respect to computers, the New York Times provides a helpful overview of the big picture research about the benefits and the limitations with respect to taking notes by computer (to include the potential detrimental effects upon your neighbors). Susan Dynarski, "Laptops Are Great. But Not During a Lecture or a Meeting," New York Times (Nov. 22, 2017), available at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/22/business/laptops-not-during-lecture-or-meeting.html

Second, with respect to smart phone "snapping," the Law Teacher newsletter provides valuable suggestions for promoting boundaries that might be helpful in maximizing the learning effectiveness (and limiting the distractions that might result from too much classroom photo-taking). Dyane O’Leary, "Picture This: Tackling the Latest Trend in Digital Note Taking," The Law Teacher (Fall 2017), available at: http://lawteaching.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Fall-2017-Law-Teacher-final.pdf

The jury is in for me.  I take notes by hand (but I have been known to snap a few whiteboard photos!).  But, regardless of your method of capturing class content and discussions, perhaps the most important question is what do you do with that information.  Does it become a part of you, as a learner, or does it merely remain mostly-empty words, diagrams, and images that don't really lead to change?  That's an important question because, to be learner rather than just a studier, it's not the information that leads to learning but what we do with that information that makes all the difference.  So, next time you're tempted to bring out your camera, you might just ask yourself what's your next step in using that digital information to help you actually learn. Without an answer to that question, it's perhaps really not a "Kodak" moment. (Scott Johns).

 

 

January 18, 2018 in Advice, Exams - Studying, Learning Styles, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)