Saturday, August 16, 2014
As the beginning of another school year approaches, I have been thinking about how a law student's success is so closely tied to the attitudes of the student. Here are some of my thoughts after observing law students through working in ASP and teaching elective courses.
Attitudes for success:
- Confidence in one's ability to adapt and learn is positive. It is a new educational frontier when 1Ls arrive. With flexibility and willingness to learn, most 1Ls will gain the new strategies for legal education success.
- Openness to constructive criticism coupled with hard work will turn around many of the typical 1L errors in critical analysis and writing (whether exam answer or memorandum).
- Willingness to seek help in a proactive way will overcome many obstacles. Students who use resources in a timely manner can ameliorate problems before they become intractable - whether the help is from professors, librarians, academic success professionals, deans, or other resources.
- Respect for others at all levels within the law school community will engender respectful treatment in return. Much of the tension and competitiveness of law school can be lessened when everyone in the environment remains respectful. Faculty, administrators, staff, and students are all integral to that environment being present.
- Kindness improves one's outlook about law school and engenders helpfulness rather than hostility. A student who values collegiality will lend notes to an ill classmate, explain a concept to a struggling student, and share a kind word with a classmate faced with a crisis.
- Passion for a desired professional goal will often provide motivation when the going gets tough. Examples are: I volunteered with abused children and want to represent children in need of protection. I want to be part of helping families immigrating to the U.S. As a former park ranger, I want to practice environmental law.
Attitudes detrimental to success:
- Arrogance about one's superiority in comparison to others skews reality. 1Ls who arrive resting on their laurels and smug about how special they are often figure out the differences in law school too late in the semester to achieve their academic potential.
- Refusal to take responsibility for one's learning and understanding will lead to lower grades. Students who earn grades below their academic potential are often focused on what the professor, writing specialist, academic success professional, or [fill in the blank] should have done for them. They avoid recognizing and correcting the things they chose not to do to help themselves.
- Perfectionism creates unrealistic expectations that lead to exhaustion. Students who desire to be perfect will be overwhelmed by the amount of work. They often have trouble starting or finishing tasks in a timely manner because of their standards.
- Expected mediocrity can result from self-defeating comparisons to other law students. Students who begin to view themselves as not as good as others will often settle for lower grades. Examples are: I guess I am just a C student. Everyone else is so much smarter than I am. I'll never get an A grade.
- Immaturity leads to lack of effort and frivolous time management that result in bad grades. These students overlook that law school is a professional school and stay stuck in undergraduate behaviors. Playing every evening and weekend, drinking oneself into a stupor, and focusing on socializing lead to poor academic decisions.
- Apathy can result when law school has no personal meaning to the student. Examples are: I came to law school because I did not know what else to do. All males in my family have been attorneys for the last five generations - it was expected that I be a lawyer.
Attitudes color students' ability to adapt to law school, to handle the stress, to seek help, and to reach their full academic potential. Positive attitudes need to be nurtured. Negative attitudes need to be addressed to minimize harmful results. Attitudes will affect whether students just survive or thrive. (Amy Jarmon)
Friday, August 15, 2014
I was surprised several years ago when I discovered that many of my law students can only print. They are unable to write in cursive (or longhand as some of us also remember it being called). Some explained that their elementary/middle/high schools had never taught them cursive writing at all. Others stated that they had learned it at some point but had little experience writing in cursive now.
In catching up on some back The Chronicle of Higher Education articles, I came across an article by Valerie Hotchkiss about the implications of another non-cursive generation and what the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at University of Illinois Urbana - Champaign is doing to combat the loss of cursive: Cursive Is an Endangered Species. (Amy Jarmon)
Friday, August 8, 2014
Next week is orientation week (really less than a week) at our law school. This week I have been grading legal memoranda for our intensive co-taught course that ended on August 1st. Is it really time to start another academic year! Where did the time go?
On May 1st the summer seemed to stretch out before me in a luxorious shimmer . . . .
But then I had to grade exams and 30-page advanced writing papers for my spring European Law course.
Then it was off to Indy for an awesome AASE conference (well, after a day-long delay for bad weather in Houston).
I turned around long enough to do laundry and flew out East to help my elderly father and attend a family reunion.
A couple more days for finalizing projects at work, laundry, and paying bills before flying to the UK for research for my two comparative law courses and lecturing at a week-long CLE seminar.
I flew into Houston on July 4th (welcomed with an overnight stay courtesy of United Airlines because of flight delays and more bad weather). Up early to fly into Lubbock for a few hours in my office before the evening's welcome dinner for our Summer Entry Program Introduction to Legal Studies students.
Four weeks teaching in SEP filled up July (great group of students who worked really hard).
And that brings me to grading this week and Orientation next week. I plan to fit in some recharging of my batteries this weekend as my grading winds down into next week.
It will be nice to see fresh, new faces with the arrival of our 1L students. Equally enjoyable will be greeting the 2L and 3L students as they trickle back for the start of classes on August 18th.
Farewell Summer. Hello 2014-2015 Academic Year. Hope your summer, whether hectic or relaxed, was a good one! (Amy Jarmon)
Sunday, August 3, 2014
Saturday, August 2, 2014
My article is due to go out to law reviews on Friday. I have learned many, many things while writing the article, but the most important lesson learned is about teaching. Specifically, the process of submitting my piece to outside reviewers has given me renewed insight into what our students experience when they receive feedback. I know the research on students and feedback. However, it is completely different to experience getting feedback. If you have been in ASP for a while, you probably haven't received feedback since law school. Getting feedback is very tough. To write something, to spend weeks and months preparing, and then weeks and months writing, is emotionally draining and personally exhausting. You cannot help but feel that your admittedly flawed, incomplete article is a part of yourself. But then you have to let it go out to reviewers. If you are lucky, you will have tough, critical reviewers who are willing to tell you everything that is wrong with the piece, so that you can make it better before the submission process. I have been blessed with some really tough reviewers, and my piece is immeasurably better because they spent hours telling me just what is wrong with my flawed, incomplete article. I am confident that what goes out on Friday morning is no longer flawed or incomplete, but a fully-realized articulation of a problem. And it is better, stronger, and complete because of the feedback I received from outside reviewers.
The process of receiving feedback has reminded me how tough it is on our students. They spend all semester struggling with the material, and then they are judged on their learning just once or twice a semester. They cannot help but feel like they are being personally judged, evaluated, and measured. Part of our job is to help our students see that critical feedback is not meant to measure failures and self-worth, but to show them how to be stronger, better, and smarter. It is a part of the "invisible curriculum" of law schools (to use a Carnegie term) that criticism will produce stronger lawyers. We need to make that visible to students; we need to explain that we give them critical feedback because we believe they can be smarter, stronger, better thinkers and writers.
If you are a long-term ASPer, try writing an article for a law review. It may not help you in your professional evaluations, you may not need it for tenure, but you should do it because it will make you a better teacher. Reading about feedback is not the same as receiving feedback. Write because it will help you understand your students.
Saturday, July 19, 2014
Lawyers have to to be careful about court rules, deadlines, and various other instructions throughout their professional lives - the right format for an appellate brief, meeting filing deadlines, etc.
Unfortunately, law students sometimes overlook the importance of following instructions and face unpleasant consequences during law school as a result. Hopefully, learning from their errors during law school will prevent more serious errors later in practice.
Here are some law student mishaps with unread instructions or ignored instructions that I have known about:
- The professor's final exam instructions stated that the students could choose three of the five essay questions to complete and must only answer a total of three questions. A student did not read the instructions and answered all five questions while other classmates spent the time on three questions. The professor stopped grading the five-answer exam paper after the third answer. The student received a failing grade for the course.
- The professor's midterm exam instructions stated that each question should be answered true or false and each answer should then be explained. A student did not read the instructions, answered true or false for each question, and explained none of the answers. The student received a failing grade on the midterm exam.
- The professor's exam instructions listed three steps that students were to complete in answering several scenarios on the exam (instructions handed out the day before the exam and also included on the exam). A student ignored step one for each scenario and lost around 15 points as a result.
- A student ignored multiple legal research and writing format requirements for an assignment and lost 20 points.
- Exam procedures required that students who wanted to request an exam move because of having three exams in two days had to file the request by a certain date. A student failed to request an exam move in time and had to complete the exams as scheduled. The student got a D in the course for the third exam because of being too worn out to focus well during that exam.
- A third-year student was warned that he had used up all of his absences in a required course and would be withdrawn with a grade of F if more classes were missed. The student's explanation did not warrant an exception to the attendance policy. The student missed more classes and was withdrawn from the course with the F grade. The student appealed the grade and was surprised that it was upheld.
Legal work requires attention to details. Missed details can have dire consequences. Thankfully, most of our students pay attention to instructions. (Amy Jarmon)
Sunday, July 13, 2014
Sunday, July 6, 2014
Thursday, July 3, 2014
I just returned from the LWI Biennial in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, I was unable to stay the full three days, but I was able to attend the majority of the conference. And it was well worth it. I would strongly suggest Academic Support professionals with the means to attend legal writing conferences to do so. Legal writing and ASP have collaborated for as long as we have been a part of legal education, and our histories are intertwined. ASP well-represented at LWI, and the sessions gave me much food for thought. An example was the presentation by Jeremy Francis of Michigan State. He presented on a long-term study of writing support. The study was one that could easily be replicated by ASP folks (with the assistance of institutional research or statisticians), and I found his results to be fascinating. Katie Rose Guest Pryal of UNC Law gave a fascinating presentation on genre theory. For everyone reading this, thinking, "that's so legal writing, and I have nothing to do with legal writing," let me clarify. She presented on how to teach students the basics of all legal documents, but examining the similarities and differences between them. I left her presentation thinking, "WOW! This is a revolution in legal writing, and it has SO much applicability to ASP!" The ASP work being done by Chelsea Baldwin of Oklahoma City Law School has significant overlaps with Dr. Pryal; Chelsea is looking at the difference between doctrinal subject matter, and Dr. Pryal is looking at similarities. Both scholars are examining law in ways that can help our students see the big picture.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the number of ASPers who presented at LWI; Kris Franklin and Paula Manning had an amazing presentation on using visuals to teach students about applying and distinguishing cases, Corie Rosen (formerly of ASP, but still a friend of ASP) presented on positive psychology, Myra Orlen presented on the new normal, and Courtney Lee presented on bar support. I strongly recommend that ASPer's beg, borrow, or steal a copy of Kris and Paula's presentation materials--their material was a game changer. It is a credit to Kris that I have seen a version of her presentation several times, and yet I get something new from it each time. And if I missed anyone, I sincerely apologize, I wasn't able to attend the entire conference.
Saturday, June 28, 2014
I am in the middle (or actually, the middle of the end) of writing my first law review article in 7 years. It has been a monumental task, starting with the fact that I am terribly out of practice. The Bluebook has changed since the last time I published in a law review (and I wasn't great at Bluebooking to begin with!) I have only had a month of solid writing time, although I have been researching and writing piecemeal for almost a year. To get inspired this morning, because I am so tantalizingly close to the end, but just so burnt out and exhausted, I read an article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed comparing writing to running. I am a long distance runner, primarily at the 10k to half-marathon length, so I thought the article could help inspire me. And she did have some good advice.
Done is better than perfect. As I write, I think about all the connections I should be making. However, I don't have the time to write the article of my dreams, I have to finish. And done is better than perfect. I think this also applies to bar takers. So many high-achieving students get stuck during bar prep because they have trained themselves to be perfect. On law school exams, aiming for perfect is important if you want to be in the top of your class. But for bar prep, just getting the work done is more important than perfect. You can't be perfect when you have so many subjects to cover, and so little time.
Writing and running each require one small step. An article doesn't come out whole in a day or a week. Neither does bar prep. Each are about taking one small step, then another, and so on. Because if you look at the project, the race, or the bar exam, as one giant monolith, you will never get started. And you have to get started. And you have to keep going when you only have 4 pages of a 30 page article, or you have only read one subject in a 15 subject outline, or you have run one mile, and have 12.1 more to go.
So with that, I need to get back to writing. I am working on one of my last sections, a section that is dear to my heart--ASP. And then I need to write my conclusions. Wish me luck. And to all of you working on the bar exam, good luck to you, too. I hope to see fellow ASPers at LWI next week.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
The Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) convened in beautiful Indianapolis for their second annual conference. What went well at AASE? Well...the program was packed with creative, informative, and inspirational presentations; all in attendance can attest to knowing how to add multiple choice questions to help students achieve core competencies, recognize the implications FERPA has on Academic Support, and to design effective learning experiences for their students. Plus, it was 80+ degrees and sunny!
In true ASP fashion, everyone was encouraged to acknowledge "what went well" by expressing their gratitude, thoughts, or observations to each other on index cards. While this was conceived at the inaugural AASE conference, I am happy to report that it has now become a tradition. Honoring each other in this manner is such a gift. Both receiving an index card or giving one provides a great opportunity for us to show our support for each other.
In addition to the amazing presentations, the conference provided the perfect venue to network (and dance) with AASE members and Indianapolis was the perfect backdrop. A huge thanks to the program and planning committees and to the host school representative Carlotta Toledo for organizing such a wonderful conference. Next year's AASE conference will be in Chicago, at John Marshall Law School, and our host school representative will be Jamie Kleppetcshe.
Sunday, May 18, 2014
The following post to the ASP listserv is from O. J. Salinas requesting your help in updating our directory information on the Law School Academic Success Project Website:
Good morning, fellow ASP-ers! We hope you have had a great semester.
As the academic year comes to a close, we were hoping to ask for a little favor to assist us in continuing to streamline the Law School Academic Success Project website (http://lawschoolasp.org/index.php). Often times, some of us change schools or our professional titles change. We would like to make sure that the information that we have listed in our directory is correct. If your information needs updating or your law school’s information needs updating, please forward that information to O.J. Salinas (firstname.lastname@example.org). We will work on making the appropriate corrections.
Here are a few suggestions that can help us update our directory:
1. For those of you who have access to the website and have your contact information listed in the website directory, please review your information in the directory for any corrections. If your information needs updating, please forward that information to O.J. Salinas (email@example.com).
2. While you are reviewing your information to ensure that it is correct, please also review the information for your law school (you can search the directory by your name or your school). If the directory lists individuals who are no longer affiliated with your school, please let us know. When colleagues leave their schools, we often do not get notification. Likewise, if you have a new ASP colleague who has joined your school (and this colleague wants access to the website), please let us know as well. You can forward changes to the directory information for your law school to O.J. Salinas (firstname.lastname@example.org).
3. Finally, remember that gaining access to the LSASP website does not automatically mean that you will be included in the directory. Some of you may have access to the website, but your contact information is not listed in the website directory. If you want to be listed in our directory, please email O.J. Salinas (email@example.com). In your email, include what information you want listed with your name for the directory. Generally, this information includes your law school, your title, and your contact information. If you want your picture included, please include a headshot photograph as well.
Thank you all for helping us continue to update the website. We think that the website has some wonderful resources for the ASP community. We hope to be able to make further enhancements in the future. Enjoy the rest of the day, and have a great weekend!
- O.J. Salinas
On behalf of the LSASP Website Committee
Oscar J. Salinas, J.D., M.A. (Counseling)
Clinical Assistant Professor of Law
University of North Carolina School of Law
4090 Van Hecke-Wettach Hall
Friday, May 9, 2014
For those of you who have been following the casebook controversy about Aspen's Casebook Connect, here is a link to an article today in The Chronicle of Higher Education: Law Professors Defend Students' Right to Sell Used Textbooks.
Friday, May 2, 2014
A few weeks ago, a student approached me regarding a new app for law school. His idea sounded interesting, and I hope it goes far and makes him enough money to breed rainbow-colored unicorns, but the use of tech in law school has been something I've been unsure about for years.
At heart, I am a Neo Luddist (I unironically own a VCR and a turntable). I have no data to back myself up, but I am not a fan of tech in law school education for a few reasons:
1. Tech in general makes research much faster -- consequently, a lot of research is fairly shallow.
2. Tech in general makes struggling for the answer to something an alien concept. The answer to any question in the world is sitting in your pocket (unless you left your phone on your dresser).
3. Tech is widening the divide between haves and have-nots -- at least prior to their entry to law school.
4. Word processing makes writing voluminous assignments much easier, when brevity is the soul of ..
5. Got distracted. Tech is distracting. Hey, look, a cat wearing a crown!
5. Spellcheck is the Devil.
6. Education sometimes seems to praise tech for tech's sake.
7. For Bar Prep stuff, I think having a live instructer makes students more beholden to the class -- it's a lot harder to walk out on a live person or to blow off lectures that you know you can't watch later.
8. Tech is ridiculously fun -- students can do a bazillion other things on a laptop rather than listen to a lecture -- 9 times out of 10, they probably are.
9. Cat wearing pajamas! Sorry, got distracted again.
10. Powerpoint trains people to think in Powerpoint.
That being said, tech was invaluable in teaching my class on Art and Copyright because I could immediately play music samples and show paintings to illustrate points. And clickers and in-class polls are pretty fun (although I don't know if they necessarily teach concepts any better than practice questions on paper).
I continue to struggle with the issue -- and it's clearly the wave of the future (much like kickboxing) -- but sometimes I think it might be something that actually makes current law study harder than it might have been in the past.
Look! Cat wearing a bathing suit! (Alex Ruskell)
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
I wanted to draw everyone's attention to two postings by Jerry Organ on The Legal Whiteboard. Rodney Fong at University of San Francisco School of Law brought the first post to my attention, and then I noticed the second post later. The first post is Thoughts on Fall 2013 Enrollment and Profile Data Among Law Schools. The second post is Projections for Law School Enrollment for Fall 2014. This second post is the first installment of what will likely be a two installments, according to the author. (Amy Jarmon)
Monday, April 14, 2014
The drama! The tears! The gnashing of teeth! Just another day at law school where students are reacting to the latest round of mid-term grades, a last-minute change in a course syllabus, newly scheduled make-up classes, or switched sides for the legal practice appellate brief. Some law students are beside themselves at the very audacity of it all.
Add to those dramas: gossip about the latest student fashion faux pas, catty remarks about a student's in-class response to a professor's question, whispered speculation about professors' lives, and wild rumors about the job market. Mix it all together and what do you get? Law school's version of Reality TV.
Yes, law school has a fishbowl aspect to it - too many people in one building without any relief. Yes, it is stressful with exams roughly four weeks away. Yes, some law students are easy targets for gossip and snide remarks. Yes, professors have lives outside the classroom. Yes, there are lots of rumors out there.
However, law students need to step away from the remote and get some perspective. Life happens. It happens everywhere. In and out of law school. And many of the things that get blown out of proportion as tragedies in law school are extremely minor compared to the real tragedies in life.
Being diagnosed with cancer, finding out your relative is seriously ill, having your spouse unexpectedly file for divorce, having your house burn down - those are tragedies. The little things in life are irritations, inconveniences, disappointments, or annoyances in comparison. They are not tragedies.
So take ten deep breaths. Have a reality check. And turn off the TV until after exams. (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, April 10, 2014
Friday, March 28, 2014
I'm a huge fan of Peter T. Wendel's illustration of the different "planes" of a case (from his book, Deconstructing Legal Analysis). The idea that there are three discrete levels of thought and analysis involved in cases seems to be helpful and rather mind-blowing for many students. I've also found it particularly helpful when I am trying to help students categorize and breakdown different rules and ideas (like breaking up the levels of scrutiny in a Con Law question, or splitting apart subject matter and personal jurisdiction on an essay). So, I drew a picture.
I'm not sure if it exactly inspires confidence, but it gives students something to look at during a lecture besides me.
Monday, March 17, 2014
If you have photos that you took in January 2014 at AALS in New York City during the Section on Academic Support business meeting, program, or lunch, please send them to Louis Schulze at Florida International University School of Law for inclusion in our next AALS newsletter. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
Saturday, March 8, 2014
Our readers may be interested in a recent article published in the Chronicle of Higher Education that discusses being a good dean or a mediocre dean. Although it is written by a pair of former education deans, it is relevant to the lives of law school deans as well.
I noted the point about how important certain "dispositions" are for a good dean. Perhaps these dispositions explain in part why some of our own ASP'ers have gone on to being highly successful deans! The link is here: A Tale of 2 Deans. (Amy Jarmon)