Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, November 3, 2011

CORRECTION: Deadline to register for the NECASP conference: NOV 15

Please note:

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)

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New England Consortium of Academic Support Professionals Annual Conference

ASP Without Stigma: Serving Our Diverse Populations”

Monday, December, 5, 2011

Boston College Law School

9am-2:30 pm

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.

Schedule:

9-9:15-Registration

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

2-2:30-Conference Wrap-Up

 

Registration:

$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

November 3, 2011 in Meetings, News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"Retrieval Practice"-Creating Tests that Reaffirm Knowledge

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)

September 13, 2011 in Advice, Exams - Theory, News, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

NOW What?

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)

September 7, 2011 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Interesting Ideas on Class Attendance Policies at Freakanomics

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.

(RCF)

August 20, 2011 in Current Affairs, Miscellany, News, Reading, Teaching Tips, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Unusual fonts may aid in learning

More new science on learning and metacognition:

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)

New York Times-Health
Come On, I Thought I Knew That!
By BENEDICT CAREY
Published: April 18, 2011
Most of us think bigger is better in terms of font size and memory, but new research shows we are wrong.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/19/health/19mind.html

April 20, 2011 in Advice, Bar Exam Preparation, Exams - Studying, Miscellany, News, Science, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

COMPLETE THE SURVEY!

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 ramckinn@email.unc.edu.

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)

April 13, 2011 in Current Affairs, Miscellany, News, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Second Annual Empire State Legal Writing Conference--May 12-13

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: boyler@stjohns.edu.

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, boyler@stjohns.edu.

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.

April 11, 2011 in Meetings, News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Do students know what is good for them? Do they care?

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.

(RCF)

April 1, 2011 in Current Affairs, Exams - Studying, News, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 17, 2011

ASP Section at AALS

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

Executive Board:

LaRasz Moody, Emily Scivoletto, Louis Schulz, and Dr. Amy Jarmon

(RCF)

January 17, 2011 in Academic Support Spotlight, Current Affairs, Meetings, News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Do teachers grade more harshly when they use red pens?

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.)

http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/19/what-were-reading-wall-street-doesnt-understand-wall-street/

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

http://ase.tufts.edu/psychology/ambady/pubs/Rutchick-Slepian-Ferris_EJSP%5B1%5D.pdf

(RCF)

April 21, 2010 in Advice, Current Affairs, Exams - Studying, News, Reading, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Students as Customers

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.

January 19, 2010 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Important article for our students

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)

Finding Debt a Bigger Hurdle Than Bar Exam
Published: July 2, 2009
Robert Bowman, an aspiring lawyer, was refused entry to the New York bar because of $400,000 in student debt.

July 10, 2009 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Moving away from large lectures

While this article is about MIT's move away from large lectures in introductory physics, the rationale behind the change is applicable to law schools. MIT has moved away from introductory classes in physics with 300+ students, and failure rates have decreased 50%.  Attendance is up. 

Most applicable to law schools is a quotation by Prof. Eric Mazur:
“Just as you can’t become a marathon runner by watching marathons on TV,” Professor Mazur said, “likewise for science, you have to go through the thought processes of doing science and not just watch your instructor do it.”

Just as you cannot learn to think like a lawyer by watching your teacher do it.  (RCF)
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At M.I.T., Large Lectures Are Going the Way of the Blackboard

By Sara Rimer
January 12, 2009
New York Times

After years of debate and research, M.I.T. has replaced a large introductory physics course with smaller classes that emphasize hands-on, interactive learning.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/13/us/13physics.html?_r=1&em

January 13, 2009 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 6, 2008

High Anxiety

If I were to put a label  on this semester, it would be high anxiety.

As an Academic Success professional, I feel fairly insulated from the turbulence of the outside (corporate) world. After all, we have all heard (or seen) that students go to graduate school when the economy takes a downward turn. But in the past few weeks, a palpable sense of worry and anxiety over the economy has invaded the relatively safe harbor of law school.  I am not talking about the 3L's that are looking for employment. They are worried and anxious even in the best of economies. I am feeling anxiety about the economy gripping 1L's who never intended to get a paying job between their 1L and 2L year, but who are now worried they won't find any positions for the summer.  I am seeing an unusual type of anxiety among the 1L's that both encourages and dismays me: anxiety that if they don't do well in law school, they are looking into an abyss.  I am normally excited whenever I see a trend within 1L's that encourages them to do the things they need to succeed.  But this anxiety dismays me because it is not motivated by a desire to succeed, but by a fear of failure that risks overwhelming students as the prepare for exams.  There is a very real risk for most law students at most schools that they may not be able to continue their law school career if they do not complete their course work in satisfactory manner.  The anxiety I am seeing among students is the type that can paralyze students if they receive even modest constructive criticism. This is a dangerous condition that can sink well-prepared students unless it is managed before midterm exam grades come out. 

I don't have any suggestions for students struggling with the impact of the economy on their finances or their future, but I do have advice regarding how to cope with stress and anxiety when outside forces threaten to overwhelm them emotionally.  If students are doing everything they can to succeed, which includes going to class, reviewing their notes or "purble blurb-ing", outlining, seeing their professors when they have questions about the material, and doing practice questions, then they should take a deep breath.   By telling students to take a deep breath, I do not mean to minimize the gravity of  recent events.   There are things we can control in this world, like our own effort towards reaching a goal, and things we can not control in this world, like the economy.  Taking a deep breath should remind students that they are doing everything in their power to succeed.  And if students are doing everything they can to succeed and it does not show on midterms or exams, then there are bigger problems that need to be addressed, problems that would cause great stress and anxiety regardless of the economy.  (RCF)

October 6, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Bullying in the Workplace

The New York Times had an overwhelming response to their last article on workplace bullying, "Meet the Work Bully", (March 11, 2008), and has continued the discussion with a new article in today's Health section, "When the Bully Sits in the Next Cubicle" by Tara Parker-Pope, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/25/health/25well.html?ex=1364184000&en=2670251c0ad94793&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

Where workplace bullying is happening is especially notable; health care settings, academia, and the legal profession.   

As law professors, we are uniquely capable of changing the socialization process of future lawyers.

For a list of workplace bullying behaviors:
http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/03/24/have-you-been-bullied-at-work/

It is hard not to find bullying behaviors in law school, and we can change this phenomenon. 

(RCF)

March 25, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Bullying

My interest is in bullying and peer intimidation among law students; however, the New York Times has a truly horrific article on bullying. 
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/24/us/24land.html?ex=1364097600&en=310db71ec4aeadb6&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

If we are allowing this to happen in our high schools, it's no wonder we have bullies in law school that turn  out to be bullies in firms. 

While I wish the buck stopped in elementary school, it has to stop somewhere.
(RCF)

March 24, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Report from the SALT Conference: Teaching for Social Justice

Today was the first day of the SALT Conference on Teaching for Social Justice. This is a topic close to many in ASP.  Many of our students came to law school with an intense passion for justice, and it is a continual challenge to keep that fire going after grades and class rank come out. I am hoping this conference can provide some ideas on how to keep that fire going through meaningful activities and lessons.  I have some spectacular colleagues from Vermont Law School presenting here, and I am also here to cheer them on. 

Elizabeth Pendo from Saint Louis University presented on her work creating a student program with the Florida Health Care Ombudsman Committee.  She presented some great ideas on how to engage students in a program where they can really help people and see the power of a law degree, regardless of class rank.  This is an idea to pass on to externship/internship directors looking for new opportunities for students, and a great opportunity for ASP prof's to encourage students to participate in a program to help the community and renew their commitment to the legal profession. 

More updates to come...
(Rebecca Flanagan)

March 14, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Welcome a New Co-Editor: Rebecca Flanagan

After two and a half years as co-editor of the ASP Blog, I think it is time for me to step aside and bring in a fresh voice, so I want to introduce our newest addition to the blog:  Professor Rebecca Flanagan.  As I take on the role of contributing editor, Rebecca will become one of the blog's co-editors.  I think you will find her postings stimulating, timely, and insightful.

Rebecca is the Director of the Academic Success Program at Vermont Law School and an Assistant Professor of Law. She took over the ASP department at VLS from Ellen Swain in December 2007. Before joining VLS, Rebecca was the Director of Academic Support at Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, and the Assistant Director of the Institute for Student and Graduate Success at Whittier Law School.

Rebecca came to ASP directly from law school, where she had the incredible luck to work for the (amazing) Ruth McKinney at UNC Law.  While at UNC, she was a teaching assistant in the LEAP program. Before law school, she taught K-3 art, music, and theatre integration in Willington, CT, at Center Elementary School and Geopolitics to talented and gifted high school students with Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth. 

Rebecca's interests are in educational psychology, focusing on the learning environment and legal education. Her first article, "Lucifer in Law School," will be published in the upcoming Washburn Law Review Symposium of Humanizing Legal Education Conference.

She received her B.A. from the University of Connecticut, her M.A. from Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut, and her J.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Law.

Welcome to the blog, Rebecca!

Dan Weddle

January 29, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 14, 2008

AALS Academic Support Section Business Meeting Minutes

For those unable to attend this year's business meeting for the AALS Section on Academic Support, we have posted below the minutes of the meeting.

Academic Support Section

Minutes – Business Meeting – January 3, 2008

The meeting was called to order by Section Chair Nancy Soonpaa at 6:35 P.M..

1) Election of Officers

The slate of officers and board members was presented by Linda Feldman on behalf of the Nominating Committee.  The slate was as follows:

Officers:

Chairperson-Elect: Pavel Wonsowicz (UNLV)

Secretary: Ellen Suni (UMKC)

Treasurer: Kristin Holmquist (UCLA)

All officers serve one (1) year terms.                  

Members of the Executive Committee:

Board C (Term Expires 2010):  Jeff Minetti (Stetson)

Board D (Term Expires 2010):  Vinita Bali (Santa Clara)

There were no nominations from the floor and the slate passed by voice vote.

2) Program Committee

Robin Boyle announced the Program for the Section and indicated that we need members for the Program Committee.  Robin was thanked for her work.

3) Proposal for Creation of Bar Pass Committee

Robert Coulthardt suggested that the Section create a Bar Pass Committee. Concerns were expressed that Academic Support should not be viewed as responsible for bar pass; that is the responsibility of the Law School as a whole.  After much discussion of that and other issues, it was proposed that the Bar Pass Committee be created to a) serve as a liaison for the Section with schools, the ABA and others interested in and knowledgeable about bar support, b) keep track of rule changes and notify Section members of relevant proposals, and c) perhaps eventually assist in the development of best practices for law schools regarding bar pass support.  By voice vote, the Committee was created with the charge stated above.

4) Website

Pavel Wonsowicz reported that he had had discussions with Barbara Glesner Fines regarding her website, which she does individually and not as a formal part of the Section.  Pavel indicated that Barb is willing to allow the Section to take over ownership and upkeep of the site.  He proposed creation of a website committee.  After much discussion of the website and related issues (both during this portion and later in the meeting), it was agreed that we needed a broader committee to address information and communication issues that might also include the blog, wiki and listserv.  By consensus, it was agreed to create an Information and Communications Committee to address these issues.

5) Achievement Award

A draft of the proposed award was distributed.  There was much discussion regarding the effect the award might have on collegiality within the Section, which is one of its most important assets.  Discussion ensued regarding whether this is really a “lifetime achievement award” or could be an award for a significant accomplishment by an individual or group.  After a full airing of the issues, it was decided by consensus that an Award Committee will be created to revise the proposed award to meet the particular academic support community concerns and make sure a new proposal also is acceptable to the AALS.  The revised award can then be considered for adoption at next year’s meeting.

6) Nominating Committee

There was discussion regarding whether the nominating committee needed to have different membership, since it had not changed in some time.  It was agreed that we should add new members but also retain continuity.  A call to the membership for nominations to the Nominating Committee will go out from the Chair.  I was also suggested and agreed that opportunities for service on other committees will also be included in the notice to the membership.  Anyone interested in serving on a committee who has not already indicated a desire to do so should let in-coming Chair Kris Franklin know.

7) Announcements

Linda Feldman announced that reservations had been made for dinner on Thursday and lunch on Friday for anyone who wanted to attend.  Sign-up sheets were circulated.

8) Sourcebook and Directory

Questions were raised regarding the status of these projects.  Members feel a need both for an updated sourcebook that will include best practices and models for different type programs as well as for detailed and current information on who is working in academic support, including their position titles, roles and responsibilities, status and salary.  It was reported that LSAC was working on these projects.  The status of the sourcebook is unknown, but Pavel reported that a new committee for data collection (directory) had just been created.

Discussion of these issues led to discussion of LSAC’s role in academic support.  Members of the Section were extremely thankful to Kent Lollis and LSAC for their support of academic support, including the surveys, materials and conferences.  That being the case, however, it was noted that getting this material together is really the responsibility of the community.  But it was then noted that there is really no one body that is able to do the heavy lifting, since the Section has a greater role in outreach to the faculty generally and has limited resources.  We have no body similar to the LWI or ALWD, and this may be a problem.  Although no consensus was reached on this issue, it is clear that it needs further discussion in the future.

It was suggested that Pavel work with LSAC to see if the information Section members feel they need can be incorporated into the survey, and it was suggested that a lot of input is needed to make sure the survey will accurately collect usable data.

9) Regionals

A question was raised regarding the Regionals, when they might be and how one gets involved.  It was reported that the Chairs have not yet been designated.  It was also noted that the process for getting involved is a fairly open one.  The first step is to let Kent Lollis know of your interest.  In the past, there have been open calls for proposals to host the regionals, and the chairs are usually people who have hosted or been involved in running the workshops in the past.

As the conclusion of the meeting neared, there was strong sentiment expressed that the meeting had been very productive, and Nancy was thanked for her good work in setting up and running the business meeting.

The meeting adjourned at approximately 7:50 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Ellen Y. Suni

Secretary

January 14, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Heading South

With mixed feelings all happy, but mixed nevertheless I tell you, dear blog readers, that approximately 100 days from today I will leave my post as Dean of Students and Academic Support Program Director at Roger Williams University School of Law in Bristol, Rhode Island. 

In June, Kristy (my wonderful wife) and I will fly to Montevideo, Uruguay, to begin the next exciting chapter of life.  After twenty years of practice in California, a few years in secondary and university education, and these most fulfilling eight years in law school academic support and student services, I am ready to make the move.  We are both excited about life in South America.

Kristy will continue to work part-time from home as a legal secretary for LawDocsXpress, performing outsourced legal secretarial services.  Because the work is all digital and via the internet, she  can work wherever the internet reaches! 

I will be working part-time.  Among other endeavors, I will be teaching lawyers to prepare for the Cambridge University International Legal English Certificate (ILEC) examination.  The ILEC is a new addition (2006) to the Cambridge ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) suite of certifications.  Typical ILEC examinees are lawyers interested in employment in an international law context or intending to obtain a further degree from an English-only law school. 

Upon arrival in Montevideo we will begin our intensive Spanish lessons, to augment our existing basic language capabilities.  We have spent a few weeks in Montevideo and have through personal contact and the amazing internet developed supportive relationships with a number of folks there, including those I will be working with.

About those mixed feelings . . .

Job satisfaction is a product of several components, not the least of which are whom we work for and whom we work with. 

As a group (a large group) the students I have worked for at Vermont Law School, at Roger Williams Law School, at the many schools I’ve visited, and as a CLEO presenter have been extraordinary.  Because of the nature of the work of academic support and student services through the Dean of Students office, many of the students I have come in contact with have been students suffering from disabilities or difficult circumstances of many sorts.  So many of these dedicated students, in my view, are heroic persevering despite (sometimes enormous) odds.  Who could ask for a better group to serve?

For more than five years I have worked with a terrific group of people the administration, staff and faculty here at Roger Williams.  Each year it seems to get better.  I couldn’t ask for a more dynamic, spirited, generous and understanding dean than David Logan … and he has a knack of attracting others of substance and verve to this school. The colleagues, the co-workers, and friends I have made in my years working in Vermont and Rhode Island have made my work a pleasure.

Those of you who have been active in this amazing field of law school academic support know what I mean when I say that this nationwide close-knit community of academic support professionals is remarkable.  The combination of who you are and what you do and what is important to you works a powerful magic. I was so lucky find this corner of the law school academic world.

The other side of the mixed feelings is Kristy and I are headed to a new continent, new climate (goodbye snow), new endeavors, new language, etc., etc. … everything new and different.  Whoa. I think no more need be said.

In addition to leaving my law school position, I will be resigning as contributing editor of this blog and as contributing editor and columnist (“The Adviser”) for the ABA’s Student Lawyer magazine.  Dan and Liz, Senior Editors of this blog, will be looking for a replacement, as will Ira Pilchen, Editor of Student Lawyer.  I’m sure Dan and Liz would welcome new talent to the blog. I’ll check with Ira to find out how he wants to go about finding a new columnist (my final column will appear in the May 2007 issue).

The administration at Roger Williams is considering restructuring the combination position I have been holding ... I’ll notify you blog watchers when a determination is made and a job description is posted (applications, I’m told, would be premature at this point).

With warm feelings and gratitude,

Dennis (djt)

February 15, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)