Friday, March 20, 2015
The New York Times has addressed some of the recent (and not so recent) criticisms regarding the Summer 2014 bar examination results in their article, Bar Exam, the Standard to Become a Lawyer, Comes Under Fire. While this article does not unearth new information for many of us, it does legitimize the problem. Because, as we know, there is a problem. The NCBE essentially has a monopoly on bar licensure. They have moved from releasing a limited amount of data to an almost complete lack of transparency. Without this crucial data there is no accountability, which leads to less confidence in the examination and what it purports to assess. This lack of confidence is highlighted in the Times piece and has been echoed in a similar fashion since the summer results were released.
In order to validate the bar exam as a viable assessment tool, the released score results should be detailed, transparent, and effectively communicated. At this point, it appears that complete transparency is the only way to restore credibility in the bar exam and the work of the NCBE.
Friday, March 6, 2015
We are pleased to announce this year’s full-day NY Academic Support Workshop, to be held from 9:30 to 5:30 at New York Law School on Friday, April 17. As usual, this will be a small and rather-intimate gathering of academic support professionals and colleagues actively working to learn from one another.
As is our usual practice, the afternoon sessions of the workshop will have an open agenda and room to include any subject of interest to those in attendance, while the morning sessions will be centered on a specific topic. For this year’s morning session we would like to concentrate on working with law students who have recently been placed on academic supervision or probation. How do we best help these students? What unique problems do they face? What sorts of pedagogies help them become motivated and effective learners? Any and all insights, discussions, ideas or presentations will be welcome.
One thing that makes all ASP gatherings exciting has always been our unique emphasis on interaction – ASP folks DO things together so that we can learn together. NY Workshop participants work with one another to develop or enhance our individual lessons, materials, presentations, or any other part of our professional endeavors. No one who comes is allowed to be a back-bencher. If you would like to attend, please let us know whether you want to share one of your own issues, ideas, etc., comment on ones brought by other participants, or both. And please let us know whether you think your topic/question/issue/material/presentation lends itself to our morning’s theme or to the more open-ended part of our agenda. When we confirm who will attend and what specific questions the participants plan to address, we will send out a finalized workshop agenda.
RSVP to Kris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since this is not a formal conference there is no fee to attend. We hope to see many of you soon!
Thursday, February 19, 2015
In a lot of respects, Legal Writers have struggled with (and sometimes overcome) the professional challenges many ASPers face. Professor Ralph Brill brings some of these to light in his response to a University's President's Frank Look at Law Schools. Professor Brill's response also briefly touches on the disparate impact to women when Legal Writing, and I submit ASP, is undervalued. Similarly, Professor Flanagan highlighted sexism in a blog post early this year. It is hard to believe that these are issues we are still grappling with in 2015.
Saturday, August 23, 2014
August 18, 2014
As the summer wanes and we move into the fall semester, the University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth School of Law wishes to invite you to our Second Annual Junior Faculty Scholarship Exchange. This is an opportunity for junior faculty in the New England region to gather together to discuss works in progress, finished papers, research interests, and to network with peers from other institutions. Our hope is to provide a local forum for legal scholars to develop their ideas and scholarship with input and constructive criticism from fellow law teachers. This event is especially aimed at faculty with seven, or fewer, years of law teaching experience.
We are hosting this conference at the UMass Club, located in the heart of Boston’s financial district, on the 33rd floor of 225 Franklin Street. The venue is close to South Station, and the red and orange lines of the MBTA, several parking garages and local hotels. A hot buffet lunch, with morning and afternoon snack services will be provided. For directions, see: http://www.clubcorp.com/Clubs/University-of-Massachusetts-Club/About-the-Club/Directions-Hours.
Please consider joining us for this event by marking your calendar for Friday, October 17th, 2014, from 10 to 4. Seating will be limited. To register for the Junior Faculty Scholarship Exchange, send me an email at email@example.com. Kindly include a short abstract of the work you wish to share with our group. We will confirm your registration for the event. Once we achieve capacity, we will need to decline further registrations . As this event is being underwritten by the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth School of Law there is no registration fee. Attendees will need to assume responsibility for their personal travel or lodging expenses.
Feel free to forward this invitation to a junior faculty member that you believe may be interested. If this is information that you would prefer not to receive, please let us know and we will take you off of our list. If you have any immediate questions or concerns please call us at (509)985-1121, and ask to speak with Emma or me. Thank you.
Spencer E. Clough
Associate Dean/Director of the Law Library
The University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth School of Law
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Check out Lisa McElroy's post, which highlights the discrepancies in status and salary that legal writers (and ASPers) face. http://www.dorfonlaw.org/2014/02/are-legal-writing-professors-like-nurses.html
Friday, November 1, 2013
If you are interested in membership in AASE (Association of Academic Support Educators) please note that your inquiries should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. You should receive an email with an application within a week of your inquiry. AASE is moving the membership process from UNLV to a more permanent model, with one email address.
And just a reminder that AASE is planning a FABULOUS conference in Indianapolis, to be held May 30-June 1, 2014.
For more information about AASE, please see http://www.academicsupporteducators.org
Thursday, June 20, 2013
I forgot how emotionally-draining, financially-challenging, and logistically complicated it is to move from one location to another. After four-and-a-half wonderful years, I am getting ready to leave UConn to join the faculty at UMass on July 1. I am very excited about the new job. However, the last two weeks (and the next two weeks) of my life have been consumed with the details of moving my life from CT to MA. These issues led me to reflect on the issues our students face when they start law school.
Many law students move long distances to start law school. For a student who comes from a family with the financial means to hire movers and take look-see trips for apartments, this is an arduous process. Just coordinating dates and times is challenging; apartment complexes either fill up very early (in college towns) or apartment managers do not know vacancies until the last minute (rural and suburban areas, law school detached from larger universities). Apartments that are beautifully photographed can be in terrible neighborhoods, or have serious issues. Look-see trips are very helpful when sorting out these problems. But for our students who have to look for apartments while living far away, and need to move their life in a U-Haul truck, this process is incredibly stressful and emotionally-draining. These students usually can't leave their jobs until the last moment, so they are moving, and starting law school, within a one-to-two week period. It doesn't leave much time to adjust to a new area, or relax before the whirlwind of 1L year.
This is something to think about as ASP professionals plan orientation and the start of school. We may not being seeing the best of our students in those early weeks. We may be seeing students still stressed out, exhausted, and not-yet focused on academics. (RCF)
Thursday, January 12, 2012
There is a great piece from NPR about physicists reworking their large lecture courses after learning that lectures don't facilitate learning. I have included the link below.
Inspired by the article, here is an example of how you can lose the lecture. We know active learning is a better teaching method than lectures, but many of us (including me!) get nervous about changing our teaching methods. This is one example of how to lose the lecture and embrace active learning; there are thousands of ways to revamp your teaching to include more active learning. I am providing the example below to help ASPer's who feel stuck.
1) Start by asking students a question that will frame their learning. What is the fundamental concept I want students to know before the end of the class?
Thursday, November 3, 2011
The deadline for registering for the NECASP conference at BC Law is Nov 15.
My apologies for forgetting to add that to the original post.(RCF)
New England Consortium of Academic Support Professionals Annual Conference
“ASP Without Stigma: Serving Our Diverse Populations”
Monday, December, 5, 2011
Boston College Law School
Please join us for the third annual NECASP conference at Boston College Law School. This year’s conference will feature admissions professionals and law students discussing who to best attract and serve the increasingly diverse law student population. Keynote speaker will be Jacq Nance, Assistant Director of Admissions, UConn Law School, who will speak about what type of support students look for in law schools.
9:15-9:30-Welcome Address by Dean Vincent Rougeau, Boston College Law School
9:30-10:30-Keynote Address by Jacq Nance, Asst. Director of Admissions, UConn Law School
and Tracy West, Assistant Dean for Students, Diversity Initiatives, and Academic Advising, Boston College Law School
Followed by Q and A
10:45-11:45-Mason Dunn, UNH Law student, LGBT issues and ASP
Followed by Q and A
12-1-lunch and law student panel
Jennifer Kent, BC Law School, BLSA President
Ramey Sylvester, The University of New Hampshire School of Law Diversity Action Coalition
1-2-group discussion of hypothetical situations encountered in ASP
$25, payable by check to NECASP by NOVEMBER 15
Please mail checks to: Elizabeth Stillman-Suffolk Law School
120 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02108-4977
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
What do you want your tests to accomplish? Are they meant to measure learning that has already occured? Are your tests meant to provide an end of term grade? Are your tests meant to assess how much material students covered in the semester? If you use tests in any of these ways, I challenge you to see tests in a new light: as a teaching tool. Before I begin, I want to hat tip several people who already use this technique in their teaching: Ingrid Michelson Hillinger of BC, Rory Baduhur, Jeremiah Ho, and Michael Hunter Schwartz of Washburn, and Paula Manning of Western State. I am certain there are more people who use this technique; these are the people I know off the top of my head on a Monday morning.
"Retrieval practice" uses tests as a method of assessment and reinforcement, seeing the test itself as a learning experience that helps consolidate knowledge. For students, retrieval practice means something they need more of but dread: tests. But testing should be frequent and involve self-quizzing, as well as tests that build upon previous skills so students are reviewing as well as consolidating new information. Each of the law professors above have presented at conferences on different methods of frequently assessing student learning in ways that build skills; there is no one correct way to use retrieval practice. Prof. Hillinger uses group work that challenges students and builds skills throughout the semester. Prof. Badahur and Ho use frequent mini-tests, which students can peer-correct or self-correct, to test skills as they are being learned. Prof.'s Manning and Schwartz use so many different testing methods throughout the semester to keep students active and engaged.
Based on what I have learned over the past year, I have dramatically changed the structure of the Remedies course I teach each fall. Instead of giving fours tests throughout the semester, I give four exams (each with increasing value towards their final grade) and a mini-assessment at the end of every class. I start each class with a lesson on a skill, such as outlining for learning. This is the most typical "ASP" part of the course. I move into a doctrinal lesson in Remedies. Unlike traditional doctrinal teaching, I use visuals, give note-taking guides, and explain my pedagogy as I am teaching. Students know why I am using any particular teaching method, how it is used in their other courses, and how this teaching method relates to a practice skill. I make my thinking explicit. In other words, I don't hide the ball. I give them the ball, and then explain why I use the ball, the other ways of using the ball, explain it's character and design, and how the ball can be used outside the classroom. The last part of my class is a mini-assessment that tests their understanding of the lesson and asks them to apply the skills they have been learning in class. This past week, when we reviewed the science and skills of reading and briefing cases, I asked them to brief next week's case in class, with me, trying the techniques they just learned. I gave them a 1/2 hour; far more time than they would take if they were rushing through the brief at home. I assured them their was no "wrong" answer, that this was a chance to experiment with technique and format and get feedback on their efforts. The benefit to me from this lesson is that I get to see if they understand before I move on to a new skill. Because skills build on each other, I can assess early in the semester if we need to spend more time on a skill, before we all become frustrated with a lack of understanding later in the semester.
While it is at best a brief introduction to retrieval practice, there is an article in the NYT's on it in practice. The article mentions Mind, Brain, and Education. There is a Mind, Brian, and Education journal from Harvard's Graduate School of Education; it is excellent and well worth the very modest subscription pric (I have been subscribing since 2007). I have also been to a Harvard conference on mind-brain connections in students with learning differences, and I regularly use what I learned at the conference. (RCF)
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Do you have to address the question, "NOW what am I going to do? I have $100,000 in debt, and law jobs are drying up?" This is not just a Career Services question ... it definitely affects law school performance, and esprit de corps on campus in general. So, NOW what?
According to Alan Scher Zagier, writing for the Associated Press, "The days of top law school graduates having their pick of six-figure jobs at boutique firms — or at least being assured of putting their degrees to use — are over. Post-graduate employment rates are at their lowest levels in 15 years."
The article continues, explaining that because the employment rates have declined, so have the law school application rates. "New student enrollment at UCLA law school is down 16 percent, while the University of Michigan reports a 14 percent decrease in applicants."
Now here's the good news (or maybe it's just speculation) for our students ... those who apply may be more committed, more sure of their career choice. While a few years ago, very bright people with an aptitude for doing well in law school - but not necessarily with the desire and commitment you'd want to see in a lawyer representing you - were attracted to law school seeing it as "...a cakewalk to get a big salary," according to Sarah Zearfoss, the assistant law dean and admissions director at the University of Michigan.
According to the AP article, Larry Lambert, a 28-year-old U.S. Navy veteran struggled with the question of whether there were just too many lawyers before deciding to enroll in law school this semester. He told the reporter that a candid conversation with a burned-out lawyer had "stopped me cold in my tracks." He began law school nevertheless, hoping to work as a federal prosecutor or in another position where he can "be a part of something bigger," and sees this diminishing application trend as "...one of the best things to happen to the profession in a long time. People don't go into social work thinking they want to get rich. They want to help people. The law should be like that."
Now THAT's the spirit! Could it be that this trend - if that's what it is - will lead to more satisfaction among law students and then (am I the eternal optimist?) in the profession itself? Click here to read the article. (djt)
Saturday, August 20, 2011
There is a very interesting discussion at the Freakonomics blog (same authors as the book) about how to incentivize class attendance. I think this dovetails nicely with a question posted yesterday on the ASP listserv about laptops in class. Both attendance policies and laptops bans get at the same fundamental issue: how do professors keep students in class and engaged? I don't think there is one answer to this question, but a theme seems to run through both issues. The theme is lecture-only or lecture-from-the-book courses bore students, encourage students to miss class, and increase the use of distractions in class. I have heard over and over from doctrinal professors that the Socratic Method is not lecture-only, but as the Socratic Method is employed in many classes, students can't see the difference. This is especially true when the Socratic Method is used to question only a tiny number of students in a large class; I have heard students complain they would rather lecture-only, because questioning only a few students, who may or may not have done the reading, just increases confusion.
The comments below the post in Freaknomics make sense and pose the same questions law schools are struggling to answer.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Helpful tips for students:
1) We learn better from re-working the material.
This piece of gold is hidden on the second page of the article. It's saying what we have said in ASP for ages; reading a canned outline, or memorizing the outline of a 2L who booked the course, will not increase learning. Re-working your own notes into an outline will help you learn the material.
2) Try one of the unusual font types for your outline.
"Think of it this way, you can’t skim material in a hard to read font, so putting text in a hard-to-read font will force you to read more carefully"
3) We overestimate our own ability.
One of the great lessons from law school exams: if you feel like you nailed it, you probably didn't. The material you are being asked to learn and apply on a law school exam is difficult and complicated. The majority of exams you will encounter as a law student have more complications and nuanced issues than you have time to answer. You should feel as if you didn't hit everything. If you feel like you knew everything on the exam, you probably oversimplified the issues.
4) We all take shortcuts. We all forget we take shortcuts.
Students should always take practice exams before finals. Actually taking the exam is important. Many students will read the fact pattern, "answer it in their head" or take a couple of notes, and then read the model answer. This is more harmful than helpful. Students will unconsciously overestimate what they understood if they have not taken the test and written a complete answer. This gives them a false sense of confidence. Students need to take a cold, hard look at what they understood and what they missed. the best strategy is to take the practice test under timed conditions with a study group, and correct answers as a group. This gives students a chance to discuss what they did not understand. It's easy to lie to ourselves, it's harder to lie to a group.
Summary of the article:
"Concentrating harder. Making outlines from scratch. Working through problem sets without glancing at the answers. And studying with classmates who test one another." These are the keys to learning more efficiently and effectively. (RCF)
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
If you have not completed the ASP survey sent by John Mollenkamp, please take the time to do so now. Or, as they say, the beatings (or harassing emails) will continue until morale improves (or until all ASPer's have responded to the survey).
I have made a plea over the listserv, as have a number of my illustrious colleagues, to finish the survey for yourself. I stand by that plea. But if you are more civic-minded, please complete the survey for all of us. We hear lots and lots about the growth of empirical legal studies, but ASP has no empirical data on the state of our own existence at other schools. Right now, we have no hard data on what we are, who we are, or what we do for students. If we want to prove how important we are to student success, we need to know what is going on at other schools as well as our own.
So please, respond to the survey. If you should have received a link to the survey, but did not receive one, please contact Ruth McKinney at email@example.com.
For those of you in the Northeast...finish the survey now because the weather is FINALLY! looking good. The sooner you get the (very quick) survey out of the way you can go and play outside. (RCF)
Monday, April 11, 2011
Teaching Legal Writing Effectively to Prepare Students for Practice
Friday, May 13, 2011
Hosted by St. John’s University School of Law to be held at 101 Murray Street, Manhattan (Downtown)
ALWD Scholars’ Forum
May 12, 2011
Thursday, May 12th, ALWD Scholars’ Forum: Looking for participants to present their scholarship ideas or works-in-progress to legal writing scholars. Lisa Eichhorn and Marilyn Walter will be providing critique during the workshop, in addition to St. John’s Robin Boyle. Lisa Eichhorn is Professor of Law and Director of the Legal Writing Program at University of South Carolina School of Law. She serves as a Member of the Editorial Board for the Journal of the Legal Writing Institute. Marilyn Walter is Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School and Director of the Legal Writing Program. She was the 2005 recipient of the AALS Legal Writing Award. She also served on the Editorial Board of the Journal of the Association of the Legal Writing Directors. Robin Boyle is the Assistant Dean for Academic Success and Professor of Legal Writing at St. John’s. She currently serves on the Editorial Board for the Journal of the Legal Writing Institute and on the Board of Directors for the LWI. PLEASE SEND ALWD SCHOLARS’ SUBMISSIONS TO ROBIN BOYLE: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, May 13th, Second Empire State LW Conference will focus on creative teaching ideas attendees can implement immediately in their own classroom. Our keynote speaker, Professor Tina Stark, will illuminate key points in teaching transactional drafting. The conference will feature over 50 presenters from around the country. Various themes will be intertwined throughout the day, such as the following: ethics, professionalism, and plagiarism; reaching today’s millenials; grading efficiently; perspectives from the bench, bar, and clinical programs; experiential techniques; polishing drafts; oral presentations; lessons from international law; and current-day email memos.
Registration: Registration is free for both the Empire State Conference as well as the Scholars’ Forum. Participants will be able to register on-line. Here’s the link : http://bit.ly/hKG0WF.
(Please note: hotel information has been cut for space in the blog post. Please contact the conference for more info on hotel)
Times of the events:
The ALWD Scholars’ Forum will begin on Thursday, May 12th at 11:30 AM and end by 5:00.
The Empire State Conference on Friday, May 13th will open with Registration and Continental Breakfast at 8:15 AM. The Dean’s Welcome is at 9 AM. The first session will begin at 9:30 AM. The last session will conclude by 5:20 PM. There will be six 50-minute sessions with four simultaneous presentations. Lunch and coffee breaks will be provided.
The Empire State Legal Writing Conference Program Committee:
Robin Boyle, Conference Chair; Assistant Dean for Academic Success and Professor of Legal Writing, St. John’s University School of Law, email@example.com.
Ian Gallacher, Associate Professor of Law; Director, Legal Communication and Research, Syracuse University College of Law.
Tracy McGaugh, Associate Professor of Legal Process, Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center.
John Mollenkamp, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Academic Support, Cornell University Law School.
Stephen Paskey, Lecturer in Law, Legal Research and Writing Program, University at Buffalo Law School.
Amy R. Stein, Professor of Legal Writing, Coordinator of the Legal Writing Program, Assistant Dean for Adjunct Instruction, Hofstra University School of Law.
Marilyn Walter, Professor of Law, Brooklyn Law School.
Friday, April 1, 2011
The ABA Journal and the National Law Journal reported on an law review article that studied laptop use among law students. The students self-reported their laptop use in class, including their feelings on whether laptops aid their learning. Students overwhelmingly reported using laptops, and overwhelmingly reported that they used thier laptops to "goof off" during class. I am going to bypass the issues that have been argued in other blogs (should laptops be banned in class, are professors failing to teach their students). Without a study that tracks laptop use in class and student grades, I am left to wonder, do students actually know what is good for them? If something feels good and it is satisfying, people will report that the activity helps them. Here, students reported laptops aided their learning, but that really means they find laptop use satisfying. What I want to see is an empirical study of the grades and attitudes of students who use laptops, comparing students who hand-write their class notes, students who use a laptop but do not goof off, and students who use a laptop and admit to goofing off in class. I would like to see their grade trajectory throughout law school, as well as their attitudes about goofing off, if it does have an impact on their grades. This study has yet to be performed (to my knowledge).
There are so many things we could learn from a study that tracks laptops and grades. It would be a wonderful diagnostic tool in ASP; having this information to share with students would help when students come to our offices to discuss lackluster performance. Assuming the data demonstrated a correlation between goofing off on a laptop in class and poor grades, I would have a better idea of what is behind less-than-stellar performance. I would approach a student who does not "goof off" in class, yet struggles, quite differently from a student who uses a laptop and plays during class while telling me that the laptop helps them learn. Right now, I don't make that assumption because I don't know if laptop use in class has a correlation with grades. I know playing on a laptop is rude and disrespectful, to me and to peers, but unless I have hard data showing a correlation between laptop use and grades, students are less likely to give up the laptop because of poor law school performance.
There is another issue hidden in laptop use that extends beyond exam performance; if students knew it had an impact on grades, would they care? I think this brings up issues about how we teach and student engagement in class. It also implies issues with motivation and depression. I know most of the pre-law students I work with are excited about law school, and motivated to do their best. If those same students become apathetic about their own performance, choosing to use a laptop even if it hurts their grades, we need a more serious examination of student mental and emotional health during their 1L year. Thanks to the amazing work of Larry Kriegar and Ken Sheldon, we know law school has a deleterious effect on law student mental health. But does depression extend to self-defeating behaviors, or is the effect limited to personal and professional outlook?
I wish we had more people doing empirical work on the behavior, motivation, and learning occuring in law schools. Larry and Ken are prolific, but we need more people doing more of this work. I think this is a problem resulting, in part, from the lack of research time and funds that go to law school professionals that work in legal writing and academic services. The people with the most time in the trenches with students, who would be best able to perform a large-scale empirical study, are the same people who are non-tenure track, and have least access to research funding. I am hoping some intrepid souls take on this challenge and produce more scholarship that relates directly to student academic success and health.
Monday, January 17, 2011
There will be additional posts on AALS, but this is a brief overview of the program and the new AALS ASP section officers (Congrats to my co-editor, Dr. Amy Jarmon!)
The program, co-sponsored by Student Services and Balance in Legal Education sections, was a huge success with great turnout. It was a packed house, with every seat filled.
The program started with a brief memorial to Prof. Bruce Winick, who passed away this year. Prof. Winick was a giant in the legal academy, therapeutic justice, and the humanizing legal education movement. He will be deeply missed.
The first panel was Deborah Rhode, Jean Stefancic and Richard Delgado, and Nancy Levit, discussing the current state of emotional well-being for law students. The statistics were sobering, but it was wonderful to hear so many folks so concerned about the happiness and well-being of law students and actually working to do something about the challenges to law students and recent grads.
The next panel was Paula Manning, Corie Rosen, Russell McClain, Rebecca Flanagan (me), joined after by Andrew Faltin. Paula et al got the program rocking with a song and dance (no joke) on how optimism, feedback, and programming can enhance law student well-bring. Andrew closed the section with information on how to use student self-evaluatuations to create happier law students.
The last panel, Laurie Zimet and Paula Lustbader, showed the audience how to get to know their students in"3D". Laurie and Paula provided some excellent tools to help professors get past their pre-conceived ideas about their students and help see them for who they are, not just a face in a seat. We closed out the day with Larry Krieger, the guru of law student balance and happiness, discussing his latest research on autonomy support and student success.
At the close of the program, the ASP business meeting announced the section officers for the 2011-2012 year:
Chair: Michael Hunter Schwartz
Chair Elect: Paula Manning
Immediate Past Chair: Robin Boyle
Secretary: Rebecca Flanagan
Treasurer: Herb Ramy
LaRasz Moody, Emily Scivoletto, Louis Schulz, and Dr. Amy Jarmon
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Some interesting science to report...at least one presenter at every ASP conference mentions that students feel that red pen makes it look as if the paper is "bleeding" negative comments. A new spin: teachers actually grade more harshly when using red pen. Another reason why green, pink, purple might be better bets when giving student feedback.
(I realize this link doesn't look like it fits with my post...it does.)
And a link to the full study is here:
The pen is mightier than the word: Object priming of evaluative standards
by Rutchick, Slepian, and Ferris
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
This is an update from an earlier post I had written about the concept of students as customers. Some schools openly refer to students as customers; it seems to start with HR, move to the administration, and become a settled way of looking at law school education, especially ASP. I am vehement, and remain so: treating students like customers is a disservice to the profession, to the students, and to ourselves. A customer buys a product: they don't put any work into it's creation. A product is judged by how happy the customer is with the product. Sometimes that includes quality, sometimes it does not, because sometimes all it needs to be is flashy or fashionable. When this is applied to legal education, it changes education because the end result matters more than the process; the diploma becomes more important than learning and acquisition of skills.
The view of student=customer has other pedagogically disturbing qualities. If a student is the consumer of a process, like a haircut, we are assuming they come in as blank slates (heads of hair) and we will fill them up with knowledge (the cut), of which they are satisfied or unsatisfied. They come back if they are satisfied, they don't if they are unsatisfied. Pedagogically, education just doesn't work that way. We just get one shot; they can't come back to re-learn if we do a poor job the first time around. I don't believe I am overstating things when I say this view of legal education can destroy livelihoods and dreams.
It would be easier if law school was a product, students just consumers. I would tell them whatever made them happy and make my job easier. This thinking encourages the pernicious model of ASP where we make law students dependant on us; if they are just customers and we want repeat visits for our services, it is in our best interest to break students down, tell them they can not succeed without us, and foster the idea that we are instrumental to their success. We get better evals, after all, we have made them believe they would not reach their potential without us. In this model, we can report back to HR and administration that we have many customers for our services, and the school's return-on-investment for our services makes us cost-effective. However, this is a model of ASP that is deceitful and causes real harm to students. In this model, I would not care if students were harmed or they could actually function as lawyers; only that they purchased a product (ASP services) that would keep them happy. And yes, there are ASP and bar prep programs operating with this model.
With ASP, this is a trap. We can tell them the things that will make them happy, but it would be un-truths. We can get great evaluations that say nothing about our ability to actually help them succeed in law school, because they are gone or flunked out before they can really assess our help. Many of us have received scathing evals from students who believed ASP would teach them short-cuts through their legal education, butwe believed in something more than job-approval and gave advice they needed, not what they wanted. We can do things that get them through law school, but don't help them learn lifetime-learning skills necessary to be a high-quality attorney. Our goal is not, to quote Edward A. Snyder of University of Chicago Booth School of Business to "orchestrate an experience from which good customer feedback is sought." Our job is at the macro-level to produce good lawyers for society. On the micro-level, our goal is to assist students struggling with the rigors of knowledge they create, thinking skills they develop-not purchase-throughout their law school career. (RCF)
For more on the debate about students as customers, check out Are They Students? Or ‘Customers’? in Room for Debate, New York Times.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Please check out Aspiring Lawyer Finds Debt Bigger Hurdle than Bar Exam. I think it is critical we counsel students on the ramifications of law school debt during orientation. Those of us who do bar support work will find this lands on our doorstep. (RCF)