August 23, 2012
The Beloit Mindset List
Thank you to John Edwards at Drake for reminding us that it is the time of year for the Mindset List.
Beloit College has published its latest list which explores the world view of entering college freshmen (Class of 2016). I have included a link to it here for all of you who want to know what to expect in four years:
For those of you who want to refresh yourselves on what the Beloit Mindset List said about the Class of 2012 who just graduated from college and is now represents many of our new 1L class, the link for the list is here:
And if you want to remind yourself about our 2L and 3L students or our non-traditional students, you can browse the lists for respective years at the main page:
I am always a bit surprised at some of the items on the list while others make me chuckle. Those references that we all use in class become more outdated each year. (Amy Jarmon)
August 21, 2012
Essential Life Skills for Law Students
All of us in academic success teach students the strategies that they need to perform the traditional legal study skills more efficiently and effectively: reading cases, briefing cases, outlining course material, fact-pattern-essay exam taking, multiple-choice exam taking, successful study groups, etc.
All of us also know that we teach our students essential life skills. However, our students do not always consider how very important those life skills are. They instead become focused only on grades in law school. They do not contemplate how life skills that apply to success in law school also apply to being better attorneys, friends, spouses, parents, and citizens.
Here are some of the life skills that I think we teach our law students to help them in everything they will do. The list is not in a particular order, and I am sure all of us could add to it.
- Time management
- Project management
- Stress management
- Preferences for learning
- Effective memory strategies
- Curbing procrastination tendencies
- Life-work balance
- Clarification of personal and professional goals
- Problem solving - academic and non-academic
- Evaluating strategies, options, and techniques
- Facing difficulties (and even failure) and moving forward
- Celebrating improvement and overcoming obstacles.
- The balance between relying on oneself and asking for help.
I want my students to succeed academically. But I especially want them to succeed as valuable human beings. (Amy Jarmon)
July 30, 2012
Get your feet wet sometimes, even if you shouldn't
My feet are wet. In fact, my jeans are wet all the way up above my knees. I have been standing in the surf of the Atlantic Ocean watching lightning off in the distance.
I called my wife while I stood there. She isn't here, but she should've been. I had to come to a conference to speak, and we thought we should not spend the money it would take for her to come down with me.
You see, we just spent a couple of weeks in the Colorado Rockies on vacation. We figured that we should be a little more careful with our money after that trip, so we thought it better that she not join me this time, given how expensive flights to Florida from Kansas are.
It sounded wise and responsible at the time. She was originally going to come with me because our 35th anniversary takes place while I am in Florida. We had thought it would be romantic to spend it together on the beach, even if I had to take some time out to attend sessions and present a talk.
But money considerations won out, and she stayed home. We decided to celebrate our anniversary when I return.
Sometimes wisdom is not all that wise. Looking out over the ocean as it crashed against my feet, I realized that my wife should have been standing next to me, whether we could afford it or not. I called her from the surf and asked her to get on a plane tomorrow and fly down here –whether we could afford it or not.
Flights and other arrangements may not work out on such short notice. I wish I had gotten my feet wet three weeks ago and arranged for her to come with me.
I don't tell you this story to say that you should waste money. You know the saying by now, no doubt, "Live like a lawyer while you are in law school, and you will live like a law student when you get out."
On the other hand, when you look back at your life, you will realize that some things just mattered more than good money management. Or maybe, good money management includes making stupid decisions for wise reasons sometimes.
I don't really know. But after 35 years of raising kids, dealing with life, and falling asleep in each others arms, we should not have worried about the cost of a plane ticket on the eve of our anniversary.
Sometimes, you ought to get your feet wet when the opportunity arises, rather than stay dry and in miss something important. (Dan Weddle)
July 29, 2012
Getting ready for a new academic year
I am surprised every summer when August 1st comes around. The summer looks so long and full of possibilities right after graduation. However, it always ends too quickly for everything I would like to accomplish in my grandest dreams.
There are some things, however, that I try to complete each summer to prepare for the next semester as well as recharge my batteries.
Here are some of the things that I find help me most to "get my house in order" and approach the upcoming academic year with enthusiasm:
- I critique the handouts and Power Point slides that I use for student workshops to see what changes need to be made. Often during the academic year, I have thought of new examples to use, new ways of explaining information, or gained insights from my students. By revamping my materials regularly, I am able to offer better information and get excited about the new techniques that I can pass on to students in the coming months.
- I revamp my four-week course for our Summer Entry Program. It is easy to get lulled into doing things exactly the same each year because the program works so well with our current format. However, by challenging myself to find better ways of teaching the material and by incorporating suggestions from last summer, I keep myself and the material fresh. The changes may be small tweaks in many places and major rethinks in a few spots, but they all focus on giving 100% to the students.
- I review publishers' catalogs and order library books for our study aids/academic success library to get the newest editions or series within my budget allotment. It is always exciting to see what new volumes my ASP colleagues have published!
- I critique administrative tasks to find ways to be more efficient and effective. For tasks where I interface with other offices, I brainstorm better ways that we can communicate. For my own tasks, I review my calendar for the last year to make notes about when I should schedule certain tasks during the coming year and changes that I need to make.
- I sort through my e-mail archives and delete e-mails that are not needed any longer. If I have time, I also sort through my Word files to delete outdated or unwanted items that have been overlooked.
- I catch up on some professional reading. During the summer, I try to read at least one book related to legal education, academic success, or education theory. I also work my way through a stack of articles that I have collected throughout the year but never had time to read.
- I pull out my folder of thank you notes and e-mails from students and read through them. This task allows me to remember why I do what I do and encourages me to continue to impact student lives for the better. It reminds me to focus on being a blessing to my students in small as well as large ways.
By the time Orientation begins, I am ready for a new crop of 1Ls and our returning students. My housekeeping for ASP is done, and I am ready to start the cycle all over again. (Amy Jarmon)
July 27, 2012
Ten Tips for Rising 2L and 3L Students
Some of the returning students always ask my advice on what they can do to get ready for their academics and improve their grades for the coming year. Here are my suggestions - some of the items can be done this summer; others can be completed in the first few weeks:
- Sit down and evaluate your study habits from the previous year. Look at each aspect of law school: reading and briefing, note-taking in class, outlining, reviewing for exams, memorizing the law, taking fact-pattern-essay exams, taking multiple-choice exams, completing papers or projects. What were your strengths in studying and why? What were your weaknesses in studying and why?
- Decide which study habits to continue and which study habits to change. Meet with the academic success staff at your school if you need help with this evaluation of your studying or with brainstorming new strategies.
- If you have specific skill weaknesses, read a book about that skill to improve your understanding. Here are a few examples: Reading Like a Lawyer by Ruth Ann McKinney; The Five Types of Legal Argumentby Wilson Huhn; The Eight Secrets of Top Exam Performance in Law Schoolby Charles H. Whitebread. You can find a number of excellent books through Carolina Academic Press and other publishers.
- Start regimens now that are healthy and sensible. Get on a routine sleep schedule of 7-8 hours per night. Exercise at least three times a week for 30 minutes to an hour. Eat healthy meals. Do not let these routines disappear during the semester.
- If at all possible, relax for at least one week prior to the beginning of classes. You want to begin the semester with fully recharged batteries.
- Time yourself in each course for the entire first week to see how long it takes you to prepare for class (read, brief, complete problem sets). Then pick the longest block of time for each course and use that to set up your class preparation schedule.
- Schedule also regular time for other tasks each week: outlines, review of outlines, practice questions, research, writing, study group, and more.
- Read your course syllabi very carefully. Many professors include information that can help you get the best grades in the course: learning objectives, study aid recommendations, websites and other resources, study tips, and more.
- During the first month of school, review all exams from last semester for which you received a C+ or lower grade. By getting feedback from your professors on what you did well and what needs improvement, you can make the appropriate changes as you do practice questions for your next set of exams.
- If you were disappointed in your performance in a paper class last semester, ask the professor for tips on how you could improve your research and writing. Then use the feedback to improve on your papers this year.
Second and third years are somewhat easier because students have learned the basic skills needed for success in law school. However, both years bring new responsibilities with part-time work and student organizations. Time management and organization are going to be two key areas to work on to attain your best grades. (Amy Jarmon)
May 17, 2012
Additional Items on the Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset
Hat tip to Jennifer Romig at Emory University for a link on the LRW Prof listserv for an article on using fixed-mindset feedback versus growth-mindset feedback with students who are struggling. The summary on several studies dealing with undergraduate math students can be found here: Be Careful When Comforting Struggling Students.
Also a hat tip to Myra Orlen at Western New England for information on an article about Dweck's work and how the mindsets apply to law student assessment:
"Carrie Sperling, Arizona State College of Law, has co-authored an article entitled "Fixing Students' Fixed Mindsets: Paving the Way for Meaningful Assessment." The article draws upon Carol Dweck's work and places that work directly in the law school context."
I have found Dweck's concepts helpful in working with my students. These extra resources are useful to anyone interested in learning more about the mindsets. (Amy Jarmon)
April 30, 2012
TED-Ed as a Teaching Tool
Many of you are probably already aware of the TED education video/flipped lessons website. If not, you want to check it out. An article in today's Chronicle of Higher Education talks about TED and a link to the website is here: TED-Ed . Although the lessons that are already on the website are not particularly useful for law, the ability to flip You Tube videos and make lessons is potentially useful. (Amy Jarmon)
April 29, 2012
Are you looking for a first job in ASP?
As is the case every year at this time, postings for ASP jobs are beginning to proliferate. Some of the openings are brand new positions; some of the openings result from retirements, moves to other law schools, or changes in career focus.
If you are applying for ASP jobs for the first time, I would like to make some observations that may be helpful to you as you approach your job search. Whether you are a recent law graduate, an attorney leaving practice, or an academic changing paths, there are some things that you need to know.
ASP positions vary greatly throughout the law school landscape. They run the gamut of part-time to full-time, tenure-track to administrative, ASP alone to ASP with bar prep and/or writing centers, one-person offices to multi-layered staffing, entry-level positions to experience-required positions. The positions might report to Academic Affairs or to Student Affairs or to a faculty committee.
The salaries for ASP positions will reflect that law school landscape as well. Unfortunately, unlike our colleagues in legal writing, we are rarely privy to the salary range from the job ad that is provided. The wide range of salaries in ASP work makes it especially hard to know whether a position for which you are applying is even realistic for your salary requirements. If you are looking at positions in diverse geographical areas, your search is complicated even more with cost-of-living considerations. Add differences in state and local tax rates, benefits packages, and real-estate markets to your list of considerations.
Your status as an ASP'er will also vary. At some law schools, you will be an equal with faculty because of your tenure-track status. At other law schools, you may be treated like a faculty member in many ways except the formal ones: promotion, retention, tenure, and voting rights. And at other law schools, you will be treated as a staff member of lesser status.
The ASP program components will vary depending on the school as well: individual sessions, workshops, formal classes, and more. The students who will receive services may be at-risk, probation, or all students. There may be services for students in all three years, a focus on 1Ls, or special segments of your program designed for different populations in each year.
At some law schools, you will be encouraged to publish and teach outside the confines of ASP. Other schools will see you as purely an ASP person and confine your classroom involvement to those areas of expertise - no matter your actual additional practice expertise. Some law schools will not allow you to have a classroom presence at all.
You will serve on law school (and maybe even university-wide) committees in one situation. You may have service opportunities for your law school in the wider community even (for example, with a pipeline partnership with the local school district). Another law school may not require your service at all for anything because only faculty and higher-level administrators are on committees.
At some law schools you will have a carved-in-stone-never-to-vary budget line for your program. At other places you will justify your budget line anew each year, but have a budget line that you know ahead of time for the year. At other law schools you will have to go hat in hand for every dollar you need throughout the year. In some situations, you will be a miracle worker creating programs without resources.
Your facilities might include spaces for multiple staff, classrooms, conference rooms, library space, and other dedicated spaces at many schools. At other schools, you will have an office space alone that doubles as your space for other duties if you are a part-timer.
Professional development and travel funds will be budgeted for you at some law schools. Other law schools will have you apply on a case-by-case basis for approval. Yet other schools will place you at the bottom of the queue for such funding.
In other words, "it depends" is the mantra for what an ASP position entails. Each position will have a different experience for you as an ASP'er. You want to read job ads carefully. Investigate the parameters of ASP at the specific law school. Determine where you will fit in professionally. Determine what the resources are available for the position. Determine what avenues there will be for your professional growth. In short, do not make assumptions or take anything for granted because of what you are familiar with at your alma mater or in a friend's ASP program.
ASP work is terrific. It is rewarding and vital. However, it is also hard work. The extras of professional development and service often come out of your overtime hours. You will not get rich. There may be detractors if your status is not equal to faculty. But the incentive is that you will make a huge difference in students' lives. (Amy Jarmon)
February 05, 2012
Is law school right for you?
I have had a number of appointments lately with students who wanted to talk about the pros and cons of staying in law school. Some of them were disappointed with their grades. Some had outside family, medical, or financial issues that were weighing on their minds.
If you are asking yourself whether or not law school is right for you, here are some things to consider:
- Why did you originally want to attend law school? Are those reasons still as important to you? Reminding yourself of why you originally enrolled can help to refocus your thinking about law school.
- Were your reasons tied to internal or external motivations? You may well have a mix of motivations. However, when the going gets tough and doubts arise, internal motivations are often more deeply supportive of your chosen path. (Internal motivation examples: I want to help immigrant families with legal problems. I loved working as a paralegal before law school. External motivation examples: My parents told me I should be a lawyer. I got turned down for medical school.).
- Have you changed your mind about what you want to do with a law degree? Some students have doubts because they decide they don't like the original type of law they thought they wanted to practice. That is okay - law includes a multitude of different legal specialties. Some students decide they don't want to work in BigLaw. That is okay - there are many different practice experiences: different sized firms, government work, non-profit agencies, public service. Some students decide that they do not want to practice at all. That is okay - there are a number of alternative careers for law graduates. Explore practice areas and career options with your career services office. Talk to professors and other lawyers about their careers and areas of expertise. If you decide that another graduate degree or work experience matches your career goals better than a law degree, that is the decision you need to make
- Do you enjoy cases, legal concepts, and legal analysis? If you enjoy the daily study of law, that may be a positive indicator to remain. However, if you hate what you are doing, you may be happier in another field of study. Note that enjoying the law is not the same statement as enjoying law school.
- Do you enjoy being in law school most days? Law school is not an easy environment for many reasons. If you are miserable every day, then that is not healthy for you. However, if most of the time you deal positively with the workload and environment and keep your perspective, then you may decide that the issues you have with law school can be handled. Most law schools have academic support professionals who can help you learn ways to study smarter rather than harder and to manage your time well. They can also refer you to other professionals who can help you evaluate any remaining issues.
- Are there family or medical or other priorities that mean you need to leave law school right now? All law students have responsibilities and circumstances that are outside the law school. If those priorities need your focus right now to the exclusion of law school, then you need to do what is necessary to meet those obligations. Consider the best way to meet any personal responsibilities within the options your law school provides.
- What are the options that you have at your law school? You may be able to take a leave of absence, go to part-time status, or have other options at your school. If you decide to leave at this point, make sure you follow proper procedures. If you have financial aid, make sure you understand the ramifications of your choice. If you can keep your options open (for example, a leave of absence), do so.
- Who are the people who can help you with your decision? Talk to faculty, deans, your academic advisor, parents, mentors. Do not try to make the decision by yourself. Find objective people who can help you see the pros and cons. Get as much information as possible from your law school's administration before making a decision. Consider what you will do next if you decide to leave law school - better to have a game plan if at all possible.
Law school may be the very best match for your goals and circumstances. However, law school may be a good match later, but the timing is off now. Finally, if law school is not a good match for you, there is no shame in choosing a different path and walking away from this choice. (Amy Jarmon)
January 13, 2012
Hope and Higher Grades
Hat tip to the Legal Writing Prof Blog for the following link to a recent article on research about law students and hope.
Go to The National Law Journal to read the article summarizing research published in the Journal of Research in Personality and previously reported in the Duquesne Law Review. Allison Martin, a clinical professor at Indiana University McKinney School of Law, is one of the researchers. (Amy Jarmon)
December 29, 2011
Remember the AALS Academic Support One-Day Conference!
The AALS One-Day Workshop will be held on Saturday, January 7, 2012 in Washington, DC during the Annual Meeting. The day’s title is: “Got ASP? Leveraging Academic Support Principles and Programs to Meet Strategic Institutional Goals.” The event will run from 8:45 AM – 5:00 PM and includes many speakers, moderators, and dynamic presentations.
AALS will hold a Luncheon that day, with a fee of $65. At the lunch, Darby Dickerson, Dean of Texas Tech University School of Law, will introduce Stephen Zack, ABA President. He will address the importance of diversity to legal education and the legal profession and why providing practical skills training in law school benefits the profession and greater community. I encourage you to attend the presentations and the lunch – it should be a terrific day.
The Section on Academic Support will hold its Business Meeting from 5:00 PM – 5:15 PM in the same room following the One-day Workshop.
In lieu of the full day program and lunch on Saturday, the Section on AS will not be holding a breakfast or a Section program.
You may register for the One-Day Workshop and the luncheon by using the registration materials in your Annual Meeting program booklet or by going online to the AALS website. (The AALS Workshop appears on pages 80 – 83 of the booklet). Please note that when registering online for both the One-Day Workshop and the Luncheon, you may receive a prompt asking if you should override the conflicting events. The answer is “yes.”
Thanks for your support and anticipated participation.
The Planning Committee for the 2012 Annual Meeting Workshop on Academic Support:
Darby Dickerson, Chair, Texas Tech University School of Law Robin Boyle, St. John’s University School of Law Paula Lustbader, Seattle University School of Law Russell McClain, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law
Along with AALS Officers:
Susan Westerberg Prager, Executive Director, CEO Jane La Barbera, Managing Director Mary Cullen, Meetings Manager
December 23, 2011
All of us at the Law School Academic Support Blog wish you and yours wonderful holidays. We hope that you will have a great 2012.
We look forward to seeing many of you at AALS for the Academic Support Section program and business meeting.
Safe travels! We will begin posting again after the holidays and conference (if not before).
December 06, 2011
Generosity of Spirit
It is the time of year when various student organizations run additional projects to help other people. In the last few weeks, there have been collections of warm coats for the homeless, non-perishable food for those without enough in their pantries, care package items for our soldiers, gifts for Salvation Army Angel Tree, and more.
I know that our law students are not alone in these types of efforts. Law student organizations throughout our nation have undertaken similar efforts and many more acts of kindness. Even with the upcoming stress of exams, law students remember the needs of those in their communities.
I think it is a tribute to our students that they care - not only at this time of year but throughout the academic year - to make the lives of others better. Whether it is through donations, fund-raisers, in-kind giving, pro bono clinics, or other ways, law students have a positive impact in the community.
It is a shame that these future lawyers do not always get the credit that they deserve for their generosity of spirit. It is also a shame that countless practicing lawyers who also give back to their communities in so many ways do not get recognized. The next time someone tells you a lawyer joke, tell them about a contribution made by a law student or a lawyer to make the world a better place.
Thank you to all of the future lawyers and current lawyers who make a difference each and every day for our communities. (Amy Jarmon)
November 29, 2011
Free Trials for Graphic Organizer Software
Students and ASP professionals are always looking for ways to turn information into visuals. There are several products that provide free trials of their software. With the one exception noted, you will lose your work after the 30-day period unless you purchase the software. So, print out what you make before your trial period ends if you are not going to purchase the software.
SmartDraw: www.smartdraw.com; free download (doesn't say how long the trial lasts)
NovaMind5: www.novamind.com; 30-day free trial
Inspiration: www.inspiration.com; 30-day free trial
The Brain: www.thebrain.com; 30-day free trial; will be able to access Personal Brain software after 30 days, but cannot edit or make new graphic organizers - the features in the purchased product are amazing, but this one is probably not within most student budgets.
Have fun making your graphic organizers for exam study and workshop presentations. (Amy Jarmon)
November 19, 2011
Pretty Please with Sugar on Top
It is time to call in the reinforcements. For most law schools, exams are approximately 2 or 3 weeks away. That means that law students need to focus on studying and ask for help from family and friends on life's more mundane issues.
You may want to consider the following:
- Relay to friends and family that you are going into hibernation mode and will not be available until semester break to paint the living room, clean out the attic, plan your sister's June wedding, or shop 'til you drop. Tell them you love them, and promise a celebration after exams.
- Warn friends and family that you will be returning phone calls and replying to e-mail less regularly and to be patient if you do not get back to them right away for non-emergencies. (If you are really gutsy, ask them not to send you funny e-mails, chain poems, and You Tube video clips so that you can spend less time sorting e-mails.)
- Alert those who are fashionistas in your life that you are swapping high style for comfort, low-maintenance duds until the end of exams - less laundry, less ironing, less dry cleaning - unless they want to provide you with "wardrobe mistress" assistance.
- If you live with someone who is not a law student, see if you can negotiate that your (roommate, spouse, partner) take on extra chores until exams are over in return for your doing more chores throughout the semester break.
- If you live with a law student, negotiate swapping off days for chores so that each of you can have some uninterrupted study time without dishes, vacuuming, dusting, and more. Alternatively, do a "whirling dervish" cleaning together now and then settle for the bare minimum of picking up clutter and washing dishes.
- If you own a dog, ask your parents if you can bring their "grand-dog" with you at Thanksgiving for an "autumn camp" experience until your exams are over. You love Fluffy or Fido, but now is not the time to be rushing home constantly for walks, feedings, and play-time.
- If Auntie Em loves to cook and lives nearby (or you will see her at Thanksgiving), ask if she would be willing to let you pay her for the ingredients and her time in order to make you several large casseroles for your freezer - law students need nourishment during studying.
- Consider paying the neighbor's teenager to rake leaves, shovel snow, or do other outside work that can be time-consuming.
- Ask friends who are already running errands in that part of town if they would mind picking up a few groceries, a prescription, or other items for you if you give them the money and a list.
- If you have children, ask friends and family to babysit, set up play dates, have sleep overs, and generally provide some face time with your children so you can get some blocks of uninterrupted study time. Offer to reciprocate over the semester break.
If there are other areas of your life that you need help with during your study crunch, speak up. In fact, beg, plead, cajole, and get on your knees if you have to do so. You can and will make it up to them over the semester break. (Amy Jarmon)
November 17, 2011
Students are really tired at this point in the semester. If they have stayed on top of things, they will be able to have more down time during the Thanksgiving holidays. That should help to recharge their batteries. If they are behind, they should still get some rest during the break; but they will need to study as well.
Here are some things to consider to keep yourself motivated during the remainder of the semester and through exams:
- If your law school reading and exam periods begin after only one week of classes post-Thanksgiving, consider doing all of your reading for the last week over the Thanksgiving break. Then review before class for 30 - 45 minutes to refresh your memory. Not having to read the last week of classes will give you lots of exam review time - a motivator in itself.
- Set realistic goals for each week for exam study. What subtopics or topics can you intensely review for each exam course? How many practice questions can you complete? If you set unrealistic goals, you will de-motivate yourself; you will become discouraged when it becomes obvious that you will not meet the goals.
- For each exam course, make a list of topics and subtopics that you must learn before the final exam. By focusing on subtopics, it will make the list very long. However, it is easier to find time to study one or two subtopics than to find time for an entire topic. You will feel less overwhelmed because you can make progress in small increments. Also, you will be able to cross off subtopics more quickly than entire topics. Thus, you will see your progress more easily and stay motivated.
- Read each of your outlines through from cover to cover each week for each exam course. This reading is not to learn everything - that is what you will do in intense review of the topics or subtopics. Instead this additional outline reading is to keep all of the information fresh no matter how long it has been since you intensely reviewed a topic or will be before you will get to intense review for some topics. You will feel better about your exam review as you catch yourself saying "I know this mataerial" or "I remember all of this information" about prior topics that you studied. You will motivate yourself for future topics waiting for intense review by realizing "I'll be able to learn this" or "I remember some of this already even though I haven't studied it carefully."
- Take your breaks strategically. Sprinkle short 5-minute breaks into longer 3- or 4-hour study blocks. Get up and walk arouond or stretch on those breaks rather than sitting still. After a large block of study time, take a longer break to exercise or eat a meal. Use the breaks as rewards for sticking to your task until you have completed what you planned to finish.
- Surround yourself with encouragers. Avoid classmates who are all doom and gloom. Have phone conversations with family and friends who will cheer you on and support you. Find classmates who are willing to work together to keep all of you in the support group motivated and on track.
- Plan several fun things that you want to do over the semester break: taking a day trip with friends, going to the cinema several times, attending a concert, playing basketball with a younger sibling, shopping for new clothes. By having things to look forward to, you can tell yourself "I just need to keep up the hard work for a few more weeks and then I get to do (fill in the blank) as a reward."
Think about individual strategies that work for you to stay motivated but might not apply to a classmate. Examples of motivators for getting your work done might be: time with your spouse, time with your child, time with your pet, spiritual devotion time, time for a longer run on the weekend. (Amy Jarmon)
November 04, 2011
Use Study Groups Wisely
Many law students are forming study groups for the first time at this point in the semester. Instead of using a group throughout the semester to consolidate material and compare outlines, they are narrowing their focus to problem areas in understanding and practice questions.
Study groups can be very effective. Students may benefit greatly from the practice question discussions when they realize they would have missed certain nuances in the law or confused steps in the analysis. In addition, working through problems together helps one monitor preparedness on a topic in comparison to classmates. Finally, study groups can serve an accountability function - if you promise the group you will do something before the next meeting, you have the motivation to stay on task.
However, students need to make sure that they do not overuse or depend on a study group to the detriment of their individual learning. It has to be a balance. After all, one's study group cannot answer the questions for you in the actual exam.
Consider these points to monitor the balance between study group and individual time:
- Make a list for each course of all topics with subtopics that you must learn before the final exam. Use monthly calendars for November and December. Mark your last day of classes. Fill in your exam schedule.
- Lay out on the calendar for each day through the end of classes which subtopics for which courses you will personally learn during the remaining time. This method helps you front-load learning so that you leave only a realistic amount for the exam period itself.
- Consider how much time you need for the grunt memory work on rules, exceptions to rules, methodologies, and other information. Determine how you will do your memory drills: flashcards, writing the rules ten timex, reciting the rules aloud, mind maps for each rule. Distribute that time throughout the calendars.
- Decide when you will do practice questions with your study group to get group input. You will get more from these sessions if all of the members think about the questions ahead of time and come with outlined answers.
- Leave time for practice questions that you will complete on your own. You should outline every one and write out as many as possible. Take some of the questions under exam conditions. (See Dennis Tonsing's November 2nd posting for more information on scheduling your exam study and practice questions.)
- If you find that group time is taking away from your ability to learn the material in time for the exam, moderate your group time. For example, if the group wants to meet for four hours, perhaps you will go for the portion that focuses on the course you find most difficult but not stay for discussion on other courses. Or you might go for the practice question discussion but not the more general discussion of course material. Explain to the group why you are not attending the full meetings so there will not be hard feelings.
- If the study group becomes non-productive because of personalities, too much socializing, or other negative dynamics, diplomatically resign from the group. You may be able to find one study partner who will be more compatible than trying to stay with the group.
Consider the efficiency of being in a group (wise use of time) and the effectiveness from being in a group ("oomph" out of the time). (Amy Jarmon)
November 03, 2011
Ten Quick Ways to Energize Your Day
This time in the semester is difficult for a lot of students because they are running low on energy. On the one hand, the semester seems like it has been lasting forever; on the other hand, exams are just around the corner. Now is the time when students often depend on caffeine and sugar to get them through the week. However, those two roads often lead to crashes, jitters, and cravings.
Here are some healthier ways to get an energy boost:
- Walk around the building twice - outside if the weather is nice where you are located; inside if not - and breathe deeply and swing your arms.
- Take a power nap of no more than 30 minutes - longer will make you groggy.
- Spend 15 minutes doing relaxation exercises such as gentle neck stretches, ankle rotations, deep breathing.
- Laugh. Tell a story or joke. Remember a funny incident from your childhood. Read the comics.
- Read some inspirational quotes or scriptures.
- Do several random, small acts of kindness for other people.
- Drink water with lots of ice in it.
- Eat a piece of fruit: apple, banana, grapes, raisins.
- Eat a handful of nuts: almonds, walnuts, and pecans.
- Eat a granola bar.
Whenever you hit a slump in your energy level during the day, choose one or two of these quick fixes to get back on top. (Amy Jarmon)
October 10, 2011
Have you read the syllabus?
Many students never read the syllabi for their courses. I have discovered both in teaching my three elective law classes and in talking with law students about academic success. Not only do they not read syllabi as a natural tendency, but they often don't even read them after prompted to do so by the professors.
My syllabus always includes course objectives for the course, the learning outcomes for the course, details on attendance and participation, details on the graded assignments, details on the final, tips for success in the course, reading assignments, and the usual university/law school policies: accommodations, attendance, religious holidays, cell phones. In short, I try to include everything that my students need to know about what they will be learning, how to succeed in that learning, and how they will be assessed.
Like many of my colleagues, I give my students a "tour" of the syllabus the first day of class. I point out the highlights and ask them to read the syllabus in detail before the next class. I tell them that I will take questions on the syllabus at the beginning of the class. There are rarely any questions.
Yet over the semester, I will repeatedly get questions from my students on things that were in the syllabus. The questioner will often start with "I was wondering if you could tell me" or "a group of us were wondering about" or "when will you tell us about."
In my academic success work, I regularly ask students questions about their final exam formats or project details or weighting of grades. Sometimes they will not know the information because the professor has not supplied any information. However, most often it is because they never read the syllabus.
When we look at the syllabus (often carefully filed in the front of their class folder or binder), we discover lots of useful information. They often looked surprised (and a bit sheepish) when we find each informational point that we need to strategize how to do well in the course.
Here are some things in many syllabi that can help students plan their studying and exam strategies:
- What is the range of pages for reading assignments during the semester? This information allows the student to build a routine time management schedule for reading and briefing for a course with a more realistic estimate for the amount of time.
- What are the deadlines or other dates important to the course? Any dates for paper outlines or drafts, assignments, midterms, or other items should immediately go into a daily planner or monthly calendar. Now the student is ready to "work backwards" to include the steps or study topics that must be completed to meet that deadline.
- What details are given about the papers, projects, or other assignments? The information in the syllabus will alert students to page-lengths of papers, group or individual participation on projects, possible re-write opportunities, Honor Code warnings, or other information that helps the student accurately gauge the assignment difficulty and logistics.
- What weighting is given to each graded portion of the class? If participation is 20% of a seminar grade, then the student better start participating! If the mid-term is 50% of the grade, then the student should take studying for it equally serious as the 50% final exam. If the advanced writing requirement paper must be of "B or higher" quality, then the student needs to distribute enough time throughout the semester to guarantee reaching that standard.
- Does the professor recommend any study aids or other supplements for the course? Any recommendation is likely to be a study aid that matches the course content and is considered reliable. Although the student may use other study aids as well, the professor's recommendation should be "a first stop."
- What will the exam formats be? Whether essay, multiple-choice, true-false, short answer, or some combination, the format tells the students the type of practice questions to do throughout the semester in preparation for the exam.
- Does the professor give any additional study tips for the course? Professors often know the pitfalls for students and make suggestions to assist them.
A careful read of the syllabus at the beginning of the semester can garner valuable information for the student. Misunderstandings of the expectations and requirements can be easily avoided. (Amy Jarmon)
October 02, 2011
Job, career, or calling?
Stephanie West Allen's Idelawg blog had a post this past week with a link to an article in the Los Angeles Lawyer written by Timothy A. Tosta on the subject in the title line of this posting: Job, calling, or career article . It is a thoughtful article on how as lawyers we make a choice to have our practice of law amount to just being a job or career or amount to much more as our calling.
As ASP'ers, we can assist our students in not only learning how to study more effectively but also in thinking about where they want to be in their lives in the future. How will the practice of law define their lives? Their beginning to think about that bigger question now will help them remember to continue to refine the answer later. (Amy Jarmon)