Saturday, February 17, 2018
Planning and preparing can be necessary and useful – within reason. However, we sometimes use them as avoidance mechanisms for our difficult study tasks.
Here are some examples law students have shared where they used planning and preparing to avoid working on a more difficult task:
- Cleaning the house because they cannot study until their environment is spotless.
- Organizing everything in their study area until everything is perfect for studying: pencils and pens lined up in a row, bookshelves alphabetized, papers for several semesters hole-punched and filed in binders.
- Continuing to research after everything found just repeats prior sources because “there just might be something else out there.”
- Making “to-do” lists that run on for pages and cover the entire semester to stall doing today’s immediate tasks.
- Daydreaming extensively about writing the best paper the professor has ever seen without actually researching for or writing that paper.
You want to plan and prepare. But you want to keep those tasks realistic and not let them become procrastination methods. Here are some tips for more realistic planning and preparing:
- Set time limits on planning and preparation steps rather than having them be open-ended.
- Limit daily “to-do” lists to a maximum of 10 tasks.
- Prioritize your daily “to-do” list into categories (very important, important, least important) and complete tasks in the order of importance.
- Block off specific times in your weekly schedule to do non-law-school items (chores, errands, grocery shopping, laundry, etc.) so they do not interrupt more important study tasks throughout the week.
- Ask yourself two questions for each task:
- Is this the wisest use of my time right now?
- If so, am I completing the task in a way to get the most effective results in the least amount of time?
If over-planning or over-preparing are difficulties for you, make an appointment with the academic success professionals at your law school to learn more strategies to use your time and efforts wisely. (Amy Jarmon)
Sunday, January 21, 2018
We are finishing our second week of classes. As part of the start up, I have been meeting one-one-one with probation students. We will have weekly appointments during the semester to assess strengths and problems, implement strategies, and monitor progress. The first appointments with students always give me a great deal of insight into their mindsets on success.
Here are some of the characteristics of the students on probation who are ready to succeed this semester:
- They arrive on time or ahead of time for their appointments.
- They take out a pen and paper or laptop to take notes during the meeting without prompting from me.
- When asked to fill out an information sheet, they can list fall courses/professors/grades and their spring courses/professors without having to look them up.
- They have reflected on last semester's grades and study strategies and can articulate some ideas for improvement.
- They ask questions throughout our discussion to clarify points or inquire about areas we will cover this semester.
- They have started the exam review process with emails to some of their fall professors before seeing me.
- They use a daily planner or electronic calendar to record assignments and the date/time of our next meeting.
And then there are students on probation who do not seem ready to succeed yet (fortunately a small group). Hopefully that will change after grade shock/anger/angst has passed.
- They have not scheduled an appointment with me before the end of the second week of classes as required by the law school
- They "no show" the first appointment or arrive late to the appointment.
- They come to the appointment without anything - no pen and paper, no laptop, no knapsack, nothing.
- When asked to fill out an information sheet, they do not follow clear instructions or cannot remember the information to complete a section.
- They have not given any thought to the last semester's grades beyond "if I had been in the easy section" or "Professor X's exam was too hard" or "I wouldn't have been on probation if I just got a D+ in Y course instead of a D" or other answers that are basically non-reflection.
- They scowl, slouch in their chairs, sigh deeply in boredom, or exhibit other signs of frustration and animosity for having to meet.
- They make no notes on assigned tasks or the date/time for the next meeting.
Past semesters reassure me that the second group of students will come around. It may be several weeks before they are ready to take advantage of new strategies, but they come around at least 95% of the time. Unfortunately, if it takes too long to do so, they will have lost valuable time.
But I live in hope. (Amy Jarmon)
Friday, January 19, 2018
Congratulations to the 2018-2019 Officers and Board Members for the AALS Section on Academic Support! The officer/board list is:
- Chair: Staci Rucker (Cincinnati)
- Chair-Elect: Courtney Lee (McGeorge)
- Secretary: Jennifer Carr (McGeorge)
- Treasurer: Jamie Kleppetsch (John Marshall - Chicago)
- Immediate Past Chair: Danielle Bifulci Kocal (Pace)
- Board Member: Raul Ruiz (Florida International)
- Board Member: Goldie Pritchard (Michigan State)
- Board Member: Zoe Niesel (St. Mary's)
- Board Member: Susan Landrum (St. John's)
The winner of the AALS Section on Academic Support Award was Linda Feldman (Brooklyn).
If you were not at the AALS Annual Meeting in San Diego and want to serve on a committee for the Section, please contact Staci Rucker to discuss committee positions. (Amy Jarmon)
Saturday, December 23, 2017
Thank you for reading the Law School Academic Support Blog this past year. All of us here at the Blog wish you the happiest of holidays and best wishes for the new year that is fast approaching.
We are taking a short break from posting to enjoy the holiday season with family and friends and to snatch some rest. Postings will start up again on January 2nd.
All the very best!
The Law School Academic Support Blog Editorial Staff
Friday, December 22, 2017
Saturday, December 9, 2017
Hat tip to my colleague, Vickie Sutton, at Texas Tech Law for bringing an article to my attention. Professor MacLeod at Faulkner wrote an article for the New Boston Post publishing a speech that he gave to his 1L students. The Daily Wire reports on that speech here with a link to the original article. Although colleagues may agree that there are problems with millennial students' prior education, MacLeod's approach has garnered criticism for his degrading treatment of students in the classroom. (Amy Jarmon)
Tuesday, December 5, 2017
If you're not responsible for grading exams, then you may find yourself with a few "free" days in December. If that's the case, then this might be a good time to create or revamp a brochure outlining your law school's academic support programs and services. The brochure can not only serve as a handout for students, but also remind your faculty colleagues of available resources. (See Amy Jarmon's 2007 blog post "Working with Faculty Colleagues.")
To get a jumpstart on the task, you are invited to use my school's brochure as a template: Download Academic Support Trifold Brochure Template. Although we used publishing software to create the original brochure, I've provided a Microsoft Word version here for ease of use. Of course, you'll need to swap out your school's particular program information, but I suspect that the big picture layout can remain the same for most schools. Your school's public relations or technology department may also be able to lend a helping hand with logos, branding, and formatting. (Kirsha Trychta)
Monday, December 4, 2017
The Chronicle of Higher Education ran an article interviewing Valerie Sheares Ashby, Dean of Arts and Sciences at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, about how she got over impostor syndrome. The article is an interesting story of one person's success and can be found here. Within the article is a link to 10 Steps to Overcome the Impostor Syndrome by Dr. Valerie Young giving practical advice on overcoming the syndrome. Over a approximately a year of intentionally practicing the steps, Ashby states that she was no longer limited by the syndrome.
These 10 steps may be beneficial to our students (and ASP'ers) who suffer from impostor syndrome. The 10 steps are here: 10 Steps. (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, November 23, 2017
Saturday, November 18, 2017
It is a stressful time of the semester for many law students. Even if they have kept up with tasks, there is more to do. And if they are feeling behind, it can seem overwhelming.
As we draw closer to Thanksgiving, it is a good time to count one's blessings to put the stress into perspective.
Consider these law school and legal profession blessings:
- Being in law school and preparing to enter the legal profession are privileges that few people have.
- Being a lawyer will allow you to impact positively many clients and your community throughout your working career.
- Law school introduces you to people who will be life-long friends and colleagues.
- Learning the law challenges your status quo each day and forces you to use your intellect in new ways.
- Learning the law provides you with knowledge and insights that impact many aspects of your daily life: signing a lease, buying a house, filing your taxes, evaluating TV news stories, financing a car, writing a will.
- Law skill will advance your critical reading, critical writing, and critical thinking skills beyond what you envisioned before attending.
- Learning the law is valuable for many areas of employment whether you choose to practice or use your legal knowledge in industry, government, health care, or a myriad of other career paths.
Now consider all of the non-law-school blessings we have compared to so many other people in our world:
- Freedoms provided by living in the USA
- Family and friends
- Shelter, food, and clothing
- Safety and security
- Financial means
If your perspective becomes too narrow with upcoming exams on the horizon, just step back and broaden your perspective. Remind yourself that you are blessed in many ways. (Amy Jarmon)
Monday, November 13, 2017
Inside Higher Ed posted a brief news item on an ETS study showing the GRE as valid for law school admissions. According to the post, LSAC disputes the accuracy of claims made by ETS. As our readers know, some law schools are now accepting the GRE for their admissions decisions. The recent council for the ABA Section on Legal Education recommendation for greater discretion for law schools to use the GRE or LSAT will make this a hot topic for some time. We can expect more studies, I am sure. The news item is here. (Amy Jarmon)
Monday, October 30, 2017
I mentioned last week that 1Ls are likely starting to think hard about outlining for their podium courses. With the end of October approaching, students need to focus some of their precious time on preparing for their final exams. It takes a while for some students to shift their focus. But, those students who take time to prepare for final exams may often feel more confident and less stressed come the end of the semester. And a more confident and less stressed student may be better able to focus and demonstrate to the professor what he/she knows about the doctrinal subject come December.
One way students can to start feeling more confident and less stressed is by organizing their class notes around big picture rules in an outline. Students can insert into the outline various hypotheticals that test these big picture rules. The professor in the Socratic class could have generated these hypotheticals. They could also be pulled from other sources, like law school study aids or from the casebooks’ Notes and Decisions. Or, better yet, students can try to generate the hypotheticals on their own.
An outline can take many shapes or forms. What’s important is that each student focuses on what helps him/her best understand the material. What’s also important is that students try to create their outlines on their own. It’s cliché—but, a huge part of the learning process is synthesizing all the materials that each student has available to him/her and putting it down in the outline. Working with the materials and thinking about how and why the materials fit into the doctrinal course can help solidify or create a better understanding of the material. And who doesn’t want a better understanding of the material before finals? (OJ Salinas)
Sunday, October 29, 2017
We are at a time in the semester when students may be having motivation problems. Yet this is also the time in the semester when they need to stay motivated. Here are some tips to keep on track during the remainder of the semester when focusing on school work becomes difficult:
- Breaking large tasks into smaller tasks to make them less daunting can help motivate you to get your work done. It is easier to get motivated to read 5 pages than 30 pages or to outline one subtopic than an entire topic. On your to-do list, list 6 blocks of 5 pages rather than 30 pages together; list multiple subtopics rather than an outline topic. Cross off each smaller task as you complete it to see your progress.
- If you are having severe problems in your motivation to even get started on a small task on your to-do list, make the task even smaller. Tell yourself to read just one page or to outline just the first rule. Still problems? Then tell yourself one paragraph or one element of the rule. There is a point when you will realize it is ridiculous that you cannot complete a teeny task and thus might as well get started. Getting starting is usually the hardest part; most people can continue once they get started.
- Congratulate yourself each time you finish a task. Pat yourself on the back for your diligence. Set up a reward system: small rewards (cup of coffee, 5-minute meditation, snack) for small tasks; medium rewards (15-minute walk, short phone call with a friend, 2 short chapters in a fluff novel) for medium tasks; big rewards (a restaurant dinner, going to the cinema, an hour's play with a pet) for big tasks. Choose rewards that are meaningful for you.
- Avoid the moaners and groaners among your fellow law students. Hearing other people whine, complain, or spread doom and gloom affects your own mood. Wish your pessimistic classmate luck and walk away before you get infected with negativity.
- Find places to study away from the law school if necessary to stay motivated and positive: the main university library, other academic buildings, your apartment complex business center, the public library.
- Stop comparing yourself to others. Yes, there are a lot of bright people here in law school. But remember that you were admitted because you also are one of those bright people. Besides, you are comparing yourself to the facades that others are projecting. This point in the semester causes a lot of false bravado that may not be backed up with as many study hours, as much exam preparedness, and as much confidence in reality.
- If you are not good at staying positive and motivated, ask a family member or friend to become Chief Encourager. Call or meet with that person for a pep talk each day. In addition, read positive scriptures, quotes, or sayings each morning and each evening to keep you motivated - maybe even post them around your apartment.
- An accountability partner may also be needed in addition to an encourager. Meet another law student at a certain time at the library. Each of you will do your own work, but having to meet gets you where you need to be to start studying. It stops you from spending another hour watching TV or playing video games at home.
- Watch out for de-motivating blood sugar drops in the afternoon. If you start to drag mid-afternoon, have a healthy snack: apple, granola bar, handful of nuts, yogurt, etc. Keep snacks in your backpack or carrel to provide a quick energy boost.
- Sunlight affects your mood. To combat the fall blahs, take a few minutes each afternoon to get outside the law building or your apartment and into the sun. Walk around the outside of the law building two times. Sit on your patio in the sun.
- Get enough sleep. Eat nutritious meals. Get some exercise. All of these lifestyle factors affect motivation. It is hard to stay focused on your studies if you are tired, hungry, wired on sugar and caffeine, or imitating a slug.
If you need help getting organized and motivated, visit with the Academic Support Professionals at your law school to get some assistance. I guarantee you that you will not be the first law student they have seen struggling with motivation. (Amy Jarmon)
Monday, October 23, 2017
It’s hard to believe that we are already heading towards the end of October. It seems like the Fall semester just started.
As the end of October approaches, many students are trying to figure out what they plan to wear for their Halloween parties. They are also trying to figure out what they need to do for the rest of the semester as well.
By now, 1Ls have heard of this “outlining” word. But, they may not fully understand what it means. They have read and briefed most of their cases, but they may not have a good grasp of how these cases link up with one another in their doctrinal classes. They may have been so focused on writing down and remembering each miniscule detail from their cases that they have neglected to see how each case from their individual doctrinal classes ties in with every other case in those classes. They may not be ready to attack a large final exam question that assesses their ability to analyze the various legal issues that they have covered throughout the semester.
As law school academic support professionals, we should be ready to assist 1L students as they negotiate the latter part of their first semester. Let’s remember that most 1Ls may not, at this point, fully understand the big picture law for each of their doctrinal subjects. Let’s remember that many 1Ls may not have fully practiced issue spotting and exam writing. Let’s be ready with a non-judgmental and empathic listening ear so that we can best serve each individual student. (OJ Salinas)
October 23, 2017 in Advice, Current Affairs, Disability Matters, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Miscellany, Professionalism, Reading, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, October 16, 2017
I first want to provide a special shout-out to Russell McClain, the University of Baltimore School of Law, and everyone involved with the planning and running of the Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) Diversity Conference. The presentations and accompanying dialogue were informative and thought provoking. And, as always, the camaraderie among the law school academic support community and the community’s genuine interest in law student success were inspiring and helped serve as continued motivation to push us through the rest of the academic semester.
I also want to provide a separate shout-out to my colleague, Rachel Gurvich. I have mentioned Rachel’s name and Twitter handle (@RachelGurvich) on several occasions at law school conferences and on this blog. Rachel recently wrote an ASP-ish post on The #Practice Tuesday blog. The post, entitled, “It’s not so shiny anymore: 1Ls and the October slump”, provides seven tips on how 1Ls can push through the rest of the academic semester. I encourage you and your students to take a look at the post and follow Rachel on Twitter. She’s a great colleague and resource at Carolina and beyond—her Tweets have reached and supported law students throughout the country, including this one and this one.
Rachel and Sean Marotta (@smmarotta) started The #Practice Tuesday blog as an opportunity to expand their #Practice Tuesday discussions on Twitter. On Tuesday afternoons, Rachel and Sean lead great discussions on “advice and musings on legal practice and the profession.” Participants in the discussions include practitioners, judges, and law school faculty and students throughout the country. Feel free to join in on the conversations!
Again, thanks to Russell McClain and everyone involved with the AASE Diversity Conference! And, thanks, to my amazing colleague Rachel Gurvich! (OJ Salinas)
October 16, 2017 in Advice, Current Affairs, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Learning Styles, Meetings, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General, Teaching Tips, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, October 13, 2017
Dear ASP Colleagues,
I am pleased to report that the Awards Committee for the AALS Section on Academic Support is soliciting nominations for our annual section award winner. The AALS Section Award will be presented to an outstanding member of the ASP community at our section meeting at the January 2018 AALS Annual Meeting. Please review the eligibility and criteria information below and send nominations directly to me, Awards Committee Chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The deadline to submit nominations is Friday, October 20 at 5:00 p.m. EST. Only AALS ASP Section members may make nominations, but all those within the ASP community may be nominated. Membership in the section is free and can be processed by e-mailing a membership request to email@example.com. For a nomination to be considered, it must include (at a minimum) a one to two paragraph explanation of why the nominee is deserving of the award. (If you have already submitted a nomination to me, you do not need to re-send it; I will simply include that nomination with any additional ones received.)
Eligibility and Criteria for Selection. The eligible nominees for the award are individuals who have made significant and/or long-term contributions to the development of the field of law student academic support. All legal educators, regardless of the nature or longevity of their appointment or position, who have at some point in their careers worked part-time or full-time in academic support are eligible for the award. The award will be granted to recognize those who have made such contributions through any combination of the following activities:
- service to the profession and to professional institutions—e.g., advocacy with the NCBE or assumption of leadership roles in the ASP community;
- support to and mentoring of ASP colleagues;
- support to and mentoring of students;
- promoting diversity in the profession and expanding access to the legal profession; and
- developing ideas or innovations—whether disseminated through academic writing, newsletters, conference presentations, or over the listserv.
Law schools, institutions, or organizations cannot receive an award. Prior year or current year Section officers are excluded from being selected as an award winner.
The Committee looks forward to receiving your nominations. Please let me know if you have any questions, and I hope the remainder of your semester goes well!.
Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
Co-Director, Center for Ethical Formation and Legal Education Reform
Regent University School of Law
- 757.352.4734; f. 757.352.4571
Monday, October 9, 2017
The counseling field has often highlighted the benefits of some personal disclosure from therapists to their clients. Some cited benefits include increased trust and rapport, as well validation of the clients’ experiences.
Join me this week at the Inaugural Diversity Conference for the Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) in Baltimore, Maryland, for a moderated discussion on the benefits of academic support professionals sharing personal stories and struggles with their students.
Participants will be encouraged to share their experiences (i.e., their stories or struggles) relating to diversity and inclusion or their law school experience in general. These experiences may either be personal stories or struggles or stories related to students that the participants may have worked with in their capacity as academic support professionals. As presenters and participants share their stories, the “listening” participants will be modeling and reviewing some of the same active listening skills and nonverbal behaviors that academic support professionals should be engaging in when they work with students in either individual or group conferences.
Hope to see you in Maryland! (OJ Salinas)
October 9, 2017 in Advice, Disability Matters, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Meetings, Miscellany, News, Professionalism, Program Evaluation, Stress & Anxiety, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)
Saturday, October 7, 2017
An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education looks at ways the academy will change with Generations X, Y, and Z as students, faculty, and administrators. We tend to consider these generations as learners and lawyers, but we may not fully appreciate how our law school environments will change when they become faculty and administrators later. The link is Generations Article .
Monday, October 2, 2017
I mentioned last week that students don’t have to wait until final exams at the end of the semester to find out whether they have a good understanding of what their doctrinal professors are teaching. Since most law school classes don’t have traditional periodic tests, I encouraged students to use their professors’ various “what ifs” and “how abouts” to test their understanding of key rules and concepts that the professors are covering in class.
Students: If you are able to answer the professors’ hypotheticals—whether out loud or in your head—you are positioning yourself well to answer the professors’ hypotheticals on their final exams.
A final exam is often just a mixture of a bunch of hypotheticals in one or two large stories. The hypotheticals test your recollection and understanding of key rules that you have covered throughout the semester. The hypotheticals also test your ability to identify and apply significant facts within the hypotheticals to your key rules. This application of law to facts is legal analysis. The better your legal analysis is on a final exam, the more likely you will get a better grade.
But, I know the Socratic class can often be an intimidating and difficult experience, particularly for many 1L students. I know it is not easy sitting in a Socratic class worrying about getting called on—I’ve been there, and I didn’t particularly like it. I disliked the Socratic class so much that I wanted to quit law school after my first year (That story is for another blog post; but you can read a little more about my law school experience here.)
I feared speaking up in the Socratic class because I didn’t want to be seen as incompetent. I worried too much about what my professors or my peers might have thought about me during that moment right after the professor called my name in class. I worried about getting the professor's question wrong. I worried about appearing nervous. I worried.
It took me a long while to adjust to the type of teaching in the Socratic class. It took me a long while to realize that it didn't matter if I was nervous or got a question wrong--what mattered was how I did on the final exams.
So, I wanted to do what I could to prepare for the final exams. I tried to do a lot of preparation outside of class. I read my cases. But, I also used study aids to help give me context for what I was reading. The study aids also provided me with a bunch of hypotheticals where I could practice my legal analysis.
I practiced my legal analysis within the confines of my safe apartment where I didn’t have to worry about others “judging” me if my voice cracked or was shaky or when I didn’t answer a question correctly. I trained myself on issue spotting and applying law to facts so that I could feel more confident not only in the Socratic class, but on the final exams as well. And things turned out okay for me. The guy who wanted to quit law school after his 1L year is now teaching in a law school.
It’s funny how things turn out. And things can turn out well for you, too. Try to engage with your professors’ hypotheticals. If you are not fully able to engage with the hypotheticals in class, look for ways to engage with hypotheticals outside of the potentially intimidating classroom. Like anything in life, the more you practice, the better you will get. And you have an entire semester to practice for your big day (and it won't matter on that big day whether your voiced ever cracked in class or whether you got a question wrong when the professor called on you). (OJ Salinas)
October 2, 2017 in Advice, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Exams - Theory, Learning Styles, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, September 25, 2017
We are several weeks into the Fall semester. 1L students are starting to get a little better handle on what law school is all about. If they didn’t know this already, they are starting to realize that law school is much different than college.
There are no boldface words and glossaries in the law school casebooks. The Socratic class is not filled with a professor lecturing at passive students for the duration of class. And there are few, if any, written “chapter tests” during the semester so that students can assess their understanding of the material.
But, there are many opportunities throughout the semester where students can assess whether they are picking up what they should pick up in the course. These opportunities happen every day in class as a result of the often-dreaded Socratic method (and I dreaded it when I was a 1L--but, that story is for another blog post).
The professors’ many “what ifs” and “how abouts” give students opportunities to test their understanding of the relevant law; they are given chances to apply this law to many factual scenarios—which, in turn, help the students become better issue-spotters and legal analysts. And, as we all know in the ASP world, the more issues a student is able to spot and analyze on a law school final exam, the more likely that student will gain more points on the professor’s final exam rubric.
So, students: Try to engage with the professors’ hypotheticals in class—even when you have not been cold called in class to verbally answer the questions. Try to answer the questions to yourself in your own head. If you can’t come up with an answer to a hypothetical, write the question down on your notes and revisit that question after class or on the weekend when you review what you have covered in class for the week. You may not have come up with the answer in class. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t come up with the answer on the final exam--when it really counts!
One of the many differences from college and law school is that you don’t have several formal written tests throughout the semester; you often only have one exam at the end of the semester per course that often dictates your entire semester course grade. Try to prepare for that final exam every day in class when you engage with the professors’ hypotheticals, and practice the legal analysis skills that will help make you a better law school test-taker and, eventually, lawyer. (OJ Salinas)
September 25, 2017 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Exams - Theory, Learning Styles, Miscellany, Professionalism, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)