Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Many law students are in their exams. During the exam period, students need to use their time wisely (efficiency) and get the most results from that time (effectiveness). Here are some thoughts to help students be more productive in their work:
• Spend time studying the topics that you need work on. It is human nature to study what we already know/enjoy and to avoid what we do not know/dislike.
• Let your brain do the “heavy lifting” for more intense review or difficult subjects when it is most alert and focused.
• Save the more active tasks like flashcards, practice questions, or discussion with a study partner for times when you need more activity to give your brain a respite from the heavy work.
• Remember that organizing your desk, papers, folders, books, pencils, etc. to study is not the same as studying. Get down to work rather than pretending to work.
• Learn the material before an open-book exam. You will not have time to look everything up. You want to organize the materials you will have available, but learning is more important than 200 tabs.
• At the end of a study day, plan your study for the next day. Make a specific to-do-list of what you need to accomplish during the blocks of time you plan to study. You will waste less time the next day wondering what to do.
• Avoid multitasking. Multitasking is a myth. You cannot answer emails, text, watch TV, or do other tasks that require attention at the same time that you study. Your brain does not work effectively that way. Focus your full attention on your studying.
• If you have coasted too much during the semester and are now realizing you are in trouble, get to work. Do not waste time with “wish I had,” “should have,” and “could have.” At the beginning of next semester, get your act together to avoid a repeat performance.
• Listen to your brain and body. If you cannot regain your focus or become hungry, your brain and body are telling you that they need a break. Get up and walk around. Grab a quick snack. Then go back to work. You will be more productive after a break.
• Get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. If you skimp on sleep, your brain will not function well. You absorb more information, retain more information, and are more productive with sufficient sleep. You also recall information, organize more efficiently, and write with more clarity if you are rested when you go into an exam.
By making wise choices about time and results, students can prioritize their work rather than be overwhelmed by exam studying. (Amy Jarmon)
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Students learn in many different ways. Memory work is no exception; students need to choose the techniques that work for them. Here are various memory techniques that can be used:
Examples appealing to verbal learners:
- Acronyms: Students take the first letters of a series of words to be memorized to make a common word. A non-law example: HOMES (the Great Lakes - Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Eire, and Superior).
- Nonsense acronyms: The same technique is used, but the letters form a nonsense result. The verbal trick is to turn the result into something meaningful. A non-law example: EGBDF (the musical scale - Every Good Boy Does Fine).
- Drilling with flashcards by reading them silently over and over.
- Writing/typing out a rule 15 times.
Examples appealing to verbal and aural learners:
- Rhymes spoken aloud: The tempo of the rhyme helps to remember the words. Non-law example: 30 days hath September, April, June, and November. All the rest have 31 except for February.
- Sayings spoken aloud: A wise statement to connect ideas. Old law example: Assault and battery go together like ham and eggs.
- Reading flashcards aloud over and over.
- Reciting a rule aloud 15 times.
Examples appealing to verbal and visual learners:
- The peg method: The pegs are the numbers 1 through 10 with rhyming words of the student's choice; the pegs always stay the same. Example: one-bun; two-shoe; three-tree; four-door; etc. Visuals are then added to the pegs to assist in memorizing a list. Law example: learn the 9 U.S. Supreme Court justices; one is a gooey sticky bun with C.J. Roberts stuck in the middle and yelling to get out; two is a polished wingtip shoe with Justice Scalia standing in the middle with his arms crossed ; three is a tree with Justice Ginsburg sitting in its branches; etc.
- The story-telling method: The items are linked to a story to remember the list. Law example: same task; C.J. Roberts walks out of the law school. Just as he steps into the parking lot, Justice Scalia races up in shiny red sports car. Justice Ginsburg gets splashed with water as the car drives through a rain puddle. Etc.
Examples appealing to visual learners:
- Method of location: The student chooses a familiar building (parents' house perhaps) and four rooms in that building (living room, dining room, bedroom, kitchen perhaps) and five items in each room (couch, recliner, coffee table, TV, and floor lamp in the living room perhaps). The person walks through the rooms and views the items in exactly the same order each time. Images are connected to the location to remember the items on a list. For long lists, the student walks through the rooms more than once. Law example: for negligence, a soldier is standing at attention on the couch - duty; a tank is ramming through the center of the recliner - breach; etc.
- Memory palace: Like method of location except the student builds a more elaborate and imaginary palace with many rooms to tie the list locations. Because the palace is imaginary, the student needs to spend ample time getting acquainted with each room to aid memory.
- Visual organizers: Drawing a spider map, Venn diagram, or other visual organizer to represent the rule/concepts. This method is especially good for remembering concepts with multiple layers.
Often law students forget memory techniques that were successful for them in earlier educational experiences. If a technique worked in middle school, it may also work for law school or may work if modified. (Amy Jarmon)
Monday, November 23, 2015
One of our readers (I won't use the name since the reader may prefer to be anonymous) asked about how to handle out-of-town, non-law-school/non-lawyer visitors who arrive for Thanksgiving despite one's best efforts to explain that visitors are not a plus during this crunch time for study. You are not alone in your problem!
The truth is that people who have not gone to law school have no idea what it is like - no matter how often we try to explain it. Often they assume that law students are exaggerating the study importance because they remember a carefree undergraduate, a graduate student in a degree program that was far less taxing, or a co-worker who was not obligated to study in non-work hours.
If you cannot diplomatically tell them no, then here are some suggestions:
The days before and after Thanksgiving Day:
- If possible, book them into a nice B&B or hotel rather than have them in your home. But, I assume this may not be possible.
- Stay firm on a study schedule and tell them you will only be available to visit with them during certain hours (you choose the hours). You need to stick to this schedule no matter the whining or tears. Ignore the guilt.
- If they are staying with you and willing to leave your home so you can study in peace, arm them with a map and a list of local events/attractions and send them on their way each day. If you can afford it, gift them with tickets to events/the movies/a concert, etc.
- If you cannot be ruler of your own domain, head for the public library, apartment complex business office, student union building on campus, or coffeehouse each morning and stay there until the time you have agreed to spend with them. Leave them lunch fixings to ease your guilt.
- Let them go shopping, watch football, and partake of other pastimes without you participating. Remind them that if they want your undivided attention during the hours you set each day, they have to let you study the remaining hours.
- Get up earlier or stay up later than your guests to spend additional time studying.
- Let's face it, you need some down time. So I would make Thanksgiving Day the most flexible day to spend with visitors.
- If you make a reservation at a restaurant for the turkey dinner or pick it up already prepared from a local grocery store/restaurant, you can save heaps of time in preparation and maybe get some extra study time in.
- While your visitors watch the parade or football or lay comatose on the couch, you may be able to study.
Good luck on juggling non-law visitors. It is not the easiest crowd to deal with when finals are looming ahead. (Amy Jarmon)
Stress and anxiety have come up as topics in a number of my recent conversations with students. One of my students mentioned that she has been using an app to help her deal with the tensions caused by the end of classes and upcoming exams. The website/application is called Headspace and can be used on your phone or computer. Headspace provides guided meditation exercises in a 10-day trial you can use before you decide whether to subscribe. The subscription options provide both guided and unguided meditation exercises, focused categories of meditations, and even SOS quick meditation fixes. The link is here: Headspace. (Amy Jarmon)
Saturday, November 21, 2015
Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law is seeking a candidate to fill a position for Counselor & Director of Multiple Choice Initiatives in our newly formed Comprehensive Legal Academic Success Program (CLASP). The successful candidate will be responsible for oversight of all multiple choice initiatives and programs in our academic support and bar prep programs as well as for providing support to students from matriculation through admission to the bar examination, with the primary goal of enhancing the learning and study skills of students. This is a newly revamped program with great faculty and administrative support!
• JD from an ABA accredited law school, admission to a state bar, and strong academic records
• At least one year experience teaching legal writing/legal methods, or working in academic support and/or counseling law students from diverse backgrounds.
• 3-5 years of related work experience; legal work experience in private practice, non-profit organizations, government, corporate, or judicial clerkship preferred.
• Strong skills in legal analysis and legal writing.
• Experience in program management desirable.
• Ability to create, design, and manage programs aimed at at-risk students and students on academic probation
• Proficient in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint
• Must have ability to multi-task, and be detail oriented
• Excellent writing, analytical, speaking, organizational, and interpersonal skills required to work with diverse student body.
To apply: http://tinyurl.com/CLASPmc
This position is located at 6441 East Colonial Drive, Orlando FL 32807
Salary commensurate with experience.
Barry University is an Equal Opportunity Employer, committed to a diverse and inclusive work environment.
Friday, November 20, 2015
In this post, I am defining non-traditional as based on age and the resultant experiences with age. So, I am thinking about the 30 to 70-year-old students. (Yes, 70-year-olds are applying to law school.). Why do I care passionately about the NT law students? Because I was one; I went to law school at 40 after completing a first career. As an NT law student, I loved learning the law - though law school held some definite surprises for me. NT law students have some advantages and some challenges when attending law school.
First, let's consider the advantages that are part of the NT law school venture:
- Most NT law students are good at time management. They worked 40-hour weeks - many held exempt positions that required even more hours on the job. The rule-of-thumb that the average, full-time law student needs to study 50-55 hours per week outside of class to distribute exam learning all semester long seems less daunting to them.
- Most NT law students are also good at organization. They organized complex work projects regularly and may have led project teams for their employers. They often had experience working on multiple projects with identical deadlines.
- Life experiences of the NT students may relate to the material they study in classes: they have leased apartments, bought houses, filed income tax forms, signed employment and other contracts, worked in business organizations, been observers/part of family wills disputes, been observers/part of marital breakups, and so much more. Associating new learning to prior learning and experience is one of the essential links for memory and learning.
- Experience as problem solvers in a variety of situations helps NT students. They are used to processing the information, facts, rules, dynamics, and much more that go into problem situations. The idea of solving legal problems on exams seems commonsense to them.
- Typically NT students know for certain that law school is the next step for their lives. For many of them, law school has been a goal that was a long time coming. They have negotiated family, financial, career, and personal logistics to get here. Few of them are in law school because they do not know what else to do.
- The NT students have a record of success in many other endeavors. They have succeeded in work settings, raising families, and service to their communities. Some have graduate degrees. Most have accolades from another career. Many have held volunteer positions as board members, committee chairs, fundraisers, coaches, or other roles.
- NT law students are often more assertive in new situations. They are willing to ask questions in class, stop by professors' offices for discussion, make suggestions to improve the law school, volunteer for committees, and more.
As we all know, our greatest strengths sometimes also cause our challenges. Here are some of the challenges that NT law students may face:
- NT students may have major family or other responsibilities that compete for their time: time needed for a spouse, childcare, or elder care. Some NT students arrive with continuing obligations for their small businesses, consulting duties, or service in the military reserves. These important obligations require them to manage their time in unique ways.
- Sometimes NT students get distracted from the narrow question addressed by an edited case or in a practice question because they realize all the additional issues and complications that occur in real life. A limited fact scenario expands in many directions as they apply prior knowledge that causes them to miss the specific focus at hand.
- NT students may solve problems too quickly or become wedded to one side's arguments because prior experience led them to right answers or a one-sided perspective of their employer. They need to adjust to the analysis needed for "it depends" scenarios.
- Some NT students lose confidence when they suddenly feel incompetent. Before law school they were the leaders and understood everything. Now they may feel lost as they wade through cases and deal with the Socratic method. Not knowing the answers to hypotheticals or getting low marks on writing assignments can be discouraging.
- NT students may feel that they are dinosaurs when dealing with classroom learning and younger classmates who seem quick with new ideas and technology. The hiatus from classroom education can seem daunting to overcome.
- A few NT students become resistant to change when confronted with new ways to study, think, or write. Their own strategies and techniques have been right and successful before. As a result, they may view professors' formats, perspectives, or other requirements as trivial, or even wrong.
NT law students who approach the law school experience with the attitude of lifelong learners will usually adapt better. Lifelong learners tend to be flexible in implementing new styles of learning while evaluating what of the old remains applicable. If NT law students can focus on the excitement of learning new things while recognizing the likely discomfort of change, they can balance the advantages and challenges of being NT students. (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, November 19, 2015
With the increase in stress over exams right now for many law students, it is a good time to remind our readers about a website project sponsored by the Jed Foundation and the David Nee Foundation. The website is LawLifeline which contains articles and resources addressing law student stress. The link is: LawLifeline. (Amy Jarmon)
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
If you want to finish your semester with a budget-friendly trip to a workshop, consider the Legal Writing Institute's 1-day workshops during December. Many of the topics are ASPish in nature. The locations are throughout the U.S., so there is a good chance that there is one near you. The link to the information on dates and locations is here: LWI One-Day Workshops. (Amy Jarmon)
I was catching up on my reading of posts on other blogs within the Law Professor Blog Network and came across a November 3, 2015 post by Michael Simcovik on Brian Leiter's Law School Reports. Simcovik's post contains a link to Noah Feldman's post on Bloomberg View that cautions against denying applicants admission based on low LSAT test scores and their challenges in passing the bar. Simcovik's post makes a case that even though those who have low LSAT scores on admission to law school may fail to meet the gold standard of first-attempt-bar-exam-passage, they statistically may ultimately pass the bar exam and practice. The post is found here: Failed the Bar Exam? Try Again. (Amy Jarmon)
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
2016 Annual Conference
May 24 – 26: Long Island City, New York
City University of New York (CUNY) Law School
Call for Proposals
The 2016 Conference of the Association of Academic Support Educators will bring together colleagues interested in legal education and academic support. In this collegial and collaborative environment, colleagues will have a chance to meet, reconnect, and share ideas about pedagogy, scholarship, and professional growth.
The program committee welcomes proposals on any subject relating to legal education and academic support. Please read and conform to the Proposal Requirements (below).
Please craft your proposal carefully. The program committee will look for proposals that describe the presentation and its goals in detail. Our assumption is that a clear and detailed proposal today will lead to a stronger presentation. An example of a proposal is available below.
The committee seeks various presentations and topics, including but not limited to presentations that address:
• diversity and inclusion (particularly programs that focus on sustaining women and minorities in legal careers);
• teaching ideas for new and veteran teachers;
• professional growth;
• hot topics in legal education;
• creativity in law teaching and learning;
• teaching methods;
• analytical and academic competencies necessary for success in law school, on the bar, and in practice;
• educational psychology;
• assisting students with learning disabilities;
• the role and status of Academic Support Professionals in the legal academy; and
• intersections between academic support, legal writing and doctrinal teaching.
Presentations may be in any form the presenter finds effective. Although the committee does seek to accommodate all presenters with their selection for presentation format and timing, the committee may occasionally ask presenters to change the format or timing of a presentation to fit the needs of a comprehensive and diverse program.
Please indicate your target audience in your proposal. For example: newbies, bar prep, large schools, etc.
The following is a description of the different types of presentations:
An interactive workshop is a presentation with audience participation throughout. A proposal for an interactive workshop should discuss what you plan to do to make the presentation interactive.
Examples include: pair and share, break-out group discussions, use of demonstrative aids that involve the audience, or other audience participation. Note that providing handouts, although very beneficial for attendees, does not on its own make the presentation interactive.
If you submit a proposal with more than one presenter for your session, your proposal should include the name, e-mail address, and school for each presenter. In determining how many presenters to include in your proposal, please make sure that each person will have sufficient time to fully discuss his or her topic. Because most presentations will last only 45 minutes, we recommend no more than 2 to 3 presenters.
Lesson in a Box
A lesson in a box presentation is a session devoted to the presentation of a lesson on a single topic. Such sessions should include all of the information and materials necessary for attendees to leave the session prepared to deliver the lesson on their own.
Moderated Group Discussion
Moderated Group Discussions are more informal presentations that feature group conversation and interaction. The committee encourages presentations that will foster dialogue among conference attendees. These sessions are particularly well suited for hot topics.
Short Format Presentations
A 15-minute presentation that can be presented in a format similar to the interactive workshop that includes audience participation such as pair and share, break-out group discussions, use of demonstrative aids that involve the audience, or other audience participation. These are opportunities for new ideas or emerging professionals to present ideas that have not been presented on before.
Please provide a short summary of your presentation for the conference brochure. The summary should not exceed 250 words and should accurately reflect the subject of the presentation.
As part of your proposal we ask that you explain whether your presentation requires projection, internet access, audio, or other technology and the degree to which each is necessary to your presentation. We ask that proposals identify any technology needs at this early point so that we can be prepared well in advance of the conference to provide accessibility.
The committee expects that nearly all presentations will be assigned a 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or 1 hour time slot. Proposals should indicate the time needed for the presentation. Please also address how the presentation can be adapted if you are allotted a shorter amount of time. However, we recognize that a few presentations are better served with more time. If you are interested in a 75-minute time slot, your proposal should clearly explain why 75 minutes is necessary.
Proposals must be submitted to no later than January 15, 2016. Late submissions will not be accepted.
All individuals submitting a proposal will be notified about the status of their proposal on or before February 15, 2016.
Multiple Proposals and the “One-Presentation Rule”
You may submit a maximum of two proposals, and you need not rank your proposals in order of preference. If you are selected for more than one presentation or panel, you will be given the opportunity to select the one presentation or panel in which you would like to participate, as each person is limited to one presentation or panel.
Although the committee welcomes proposals on any topic of interest to academic support faculty, a proposal will not be accepted if it appears to be a means to market a textbook or other for-pay product. AASE does not accept proposals from any commercial vendors. Any commercial vendor interested in promoting their materials may do so as a sponsor of the conference. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to request information on becoming a sponsor.
If you have any questions, please contact the Program Committee at: email@example.com.
Proposal for AASE 2014 Annual Summer Conference
Title: Building Positive Classroom Environments
Presenter Contact Information: Cai Leonard, Law School, 2 Main Street, Springfield, ST 98765. T: 112- 356-7890 firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Session: Interactive Workshop
Audience: Newbies & moderate experience level; all school sizes
Goals of the session. By the end of this workshop participants will:
• Be able to explain the value of positive interpersonal environments in helping students learn;
• Be able to identify methods for building positive interpersonal classroom environments; and
• Be able to engage their own students in exercises that help build positive classroom environments.
Background. Creating a positive learning environment is one of the components critical to successful learning (e.g. Bransford et. al, How People Learn 25; Goleman, Social Intelligence 268-76; Hess & Friedland, Techniques for Teaching Law 326-27). Emotional intelligence and neuroscience studies show that we learn better when we are challenged, supported, respected, and engaged. Too much stress impedes learning; lack of challenge does the same. This workshop focuses on how to create a positive learning environment for law students.
Workshop methodology. Participants will be actively involved in different techniques that affect classroom dynamics. Participants will engage in:
Discussing ideas in pairs
Looking at visuals
Listening & reflecting
Discussing ideas with the whole group
Practicing with a small group
Participants will first examine the environments that have been conducive to their own learning, and exchange their ideas with a partner. This will be followed by a short, whole group discussion about the value of creating positive affect — and the value of engaging others in talking about it. Participants will then be given scenarios about classroom behaviors and asked to consider the following kinds of questions:
What could the professor have done at the beginning of the course to increase the positive interpersonal engagement?
What are the likely consequences of negative classroom interactions?
What small steps can professors take to improve the classroom environment?
Participants will be given an overview of how positive and negative interpersonal dynamics and environments affect student learning. They will then discuss things they have noticed within their classes and ways to improve classroom dynamics. Depending on participants’ teaching areas, participants may engage in small group discussions about questions relating to doctrinal areas, upper level vs. first year courses, skills courses, or clinical courses.
Throughout the workshop, I will share my own experiences and give examples of what I have found effective in my classes, others’ classes, and I will answer participants’ questions.
Materials. Outline of the workshop, scenarios regarding different kinds of classroom environments, questions for participants to respond to, specific techniques professors can use to create positive environments, and short list of resources.
Technology Required: Access to PowerPoint would be very helpful, although the session could be modified to be done without it.
Brochure Summary: We have all witnessed our students struggle in their classes due to too much stress. This workshop focuses on how to create a positive learning environment for law students. Through group discussion and partner work, participants will learn how to build positive interpersonal classroom environments.
The Institute for Law Teaching and Learning has published its fall issue of The Law Teacher which can be found here: Fall Issue 2015. For back issues visit the full index for the publication: Index of Issues. If you have not previously read this publication, you will find that it includes great teaching ideas for ASP'ers to use in their classrooms or workshops. (Amy Jarmon)
Although a bit off topic, I thought this article was newsworthy. The Chronicle of Higher Education ran an interesting story yesterday. Although its main focus is on Boston University's Law School joining with MIT to start an Entrepreneurship and Intellectual Property Law Clinic in response to legal problems that some MIT student innovators ran into, it mentions that other law schools are also involved in such ventures. The link to the story is here: Universities Set Up Legal Clinics to Help Student Innovators. (Amy Jarmon)
Monday, November 16, 2015
You want to register by the early bird deadline if at all possible to get savings on your registration fee. The link for the AALS annual meeting including the program, registration and hotel information, and more is: http://www.aals.org/am2016/.
AALS is being held in New York City from Wednesday, January 6th through Sunday, January 10th. The co-headquarters hotels are the New York Times Square Hotel and the Hilton Midtown Hotel. The Section on Academic Support business meeting and program will be held on the morning of Saturday, January 9th. Thursday, January 7th sessions will include those for the Section on Student Services and the Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning and Research. On Friday, January 8th, there will be a session for the Section on Balance in Legal Education.
We hope you will plan to attend!
Friday, November 13, 2015
Many law schools will finish classes before Thanksgiving Break and begin exams immediately afterward. Some law schools will have a week of classes after the holiday and then go into the exam period. In either case, law students often wonder how they should combine relaxing and studying.
Some thoughts regardless of which version of the academic calendar you are on:
- Most law students have to study during at least part of their Thanksgiving Break because of the difficulty of their exams and large amount of material to be studied. Gone are the undergraduate days of playing the entire time.
- You will get more done if you have a plan for studying laid out before you leave for the Thanksgiving holiday. Sit down with a calendar and map out for each day what you hope to accomplish.
- Unless your study situation borders on desperate, you want to take Thanksgiving Day off so that you enjoy your family and friends and feel that you have had a holiday. If you are concerned about taking the whole day off, then get up early before everyone else and put in a couple of hours or study in the evening after everyone has collapsed on the couch in front of the TV.
- Each non-class day has three parts: morning (8:00 a.m. - noon); afternoon (1:00 - 5:00 p.m.); evening (6:00 - 10:00 p.m.). Most students will probably need to get 6 - 8 hours of study in each day. If you take several days off, you may want to study more hours on your scheduled study days. Choose the parts of the day when you are the most alert and productive for your study time.
- Consider whether you can get some study tasks completed while traveling. There are several legal CD series that could be listened to while driving or flying. Flashcards and review of outlines could occupy those long airport layovers. If traveling with another law student, discussions of the material or practice questions might be good tasks.
- Determine the best place for you to study. It may be at home, or you may need to go to a local library or other location to get blocks of uninterrupted time.
- If your family situation means that you will not be able to study at home, consider leaving school a day later or coming back a day or two earlier to get additional study time.
Some thoughts specifically for students who have a week of classes after the holiday:
- You may want to complete all of your class preparation for the last week of classes while you are on your break. Then just review your briefs/problem sets for 1/2 hour before class to refresh. By finishing class preparation ahead, you open up more blocks of time during that last class week for exam preparation.
- To lighten your luggage for a flight, photocopy the pages you have to read for the last week of classes rather than lug all of your books. If you have e-books, you are set already.
- If you have assignment deadlines during your last week of classes, try to complete those assignments over the break so that you are not rushing during the final days to work on them. If you need to finish any tasks after the break on those assignments, try to have them be editing tasks rather than major writing.
Whatever your plans may be for the upcoming holiday break, have safe travels. (Amy Jarmon)
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
The Law School Academic Support Blog has been awarded the Texas Bar Today Top 10 badge for Amy Jarmon's Friday, October 30th post on Quick Tips from Law Students. Thank you to the State Bar of Texas for this additional recognition.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
If you have not discovered the series that is currently running on C-SPAN about historic U.S. Supreme Court decisions, you will want to check it out. The show is on Monday nights at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time. The series continues through December 21st. For programs that you have missed, you can go to Landmark Cases.
Each program combines background information on the case, the important points from the case, information on the attorneys and the justices, and video clips of interviews or location tours. Two experts (usually one law professor and one historian) join the moderator each week and a few questions from callers/social media are interspersed with the prepared portions of the program. There is a companion book for purchase.
If you have an ABA Journal for October or November lying around, it will have a full-page ad for the series near the front. Cases that have been discussed already are: Marbury v. Madison; Scott v. Sandford; the Slaughterhouse Cases; Lochner v. New York; Schenck v. United States; Korematsu v. United States. Upcoming cases are: Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company v. Sawyer; Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka; Mapp v. Ohio; Baker v. Carr; Miranda v. Arizona; Roe v. Wade.
Whether you are a law student or a lawyer interested in Constitutional Law, this series will increase your understanding of these important decisions. (Amy Jarmon)
Monday, November 9, 2015
The stress levels are rising each day as the end of the semester's classes and the exam period fast approach. Here are some suggestions for coping positively with that stress:
- Stay on top of your class preparation, but be efficient and effective about it. Go for understanding and not minutia. You will be more stressed if you cannot follow discussion in class because you stopped preparing. Remember also that the new class material will be on the exam.
- Focus on what you need to accomplish to prepare for your exams. You need to consider the difficulty of each course for you, the amount of material covered, how much review you have already completed, and your exam schedule. Listen to other people's strategies if you want ideas, but you need to decide your own strategies and time management.
- Focus on what you need to accomplish to finish any papers/projects that are due. Consider the length of the paper, amount of research left, writing tasks, editing tasks, etc. Talk to your professor if you are having difficulties and get any questions answered. Make a time management schedule specifically for paper/project tasks to keep you on target.
- Make a time management schedule for which course(s) you want to complete exam review for each day. If you have a plan, you will feel less stressed. Re-evaluate three times a day: at lunch time, at dinner time, and when you end a day's studying. Make a task list at the end of the day for the next day's exam review so you do not waste time deciding what to do with that time.
- If you know you have questions about material, meet with your professor to get answers as soon as possible. Avoid storing up all of your questions until the very end of classes; you will lower your stress by having confusion cleared up earlier rather than later.
- Balance your individual study time with study group time. Study partners/groups can be an awesome resource. But you still need to take the exam on your own. Make sure you understand the material and can answer practice questions by yourself as well. You will be less stressed if you are confident about your abilities.
- If studying at the law school is too stressful, find another place to study that will not increase your stress level. Try the main university library, another academic building on campus, an empty meeting room at the student union building, or the business center at your apartment complex.
- Curb your distractions. Wasting time whether with Facebook, Twitter, web surfing, texting, phone calls, games, TV, or chatting with friends in the student lounge is still wasting time. You will be stressed at the end of the day because you did not accomplish much. Use timers, employ apps that block websites, lock your TV in a closet and give the key to your neighbor, or whatever will work for you.
- Ignore the rumors that abound this time of year. Some law students start negative rumors to psych out their classmates. Others rumors are get passed down each year by upper-division students. Examples of crazy rumors I have heard in the past: A grades in Professor Whosits class are assigned alphabetically by last name so only A and B last names will get them; Section 2 is the easy section; Professor Whatsit always gives F grades to the bottom five people in the class.
- Stay away from people who stress you. Whether they stress you because they are freaking out or because they make remarks to cause you to doubt your abilities does not matter. Avoid them. Be polite, but do not get into discussions with them because you will only harm yourself by increasing your stress.
- Surround yourself with encouraging and positive people to lower your stress. If you cannot find some at your law school, then ask spouses, parents, non-law-school friends, other relatives, mentors, etc. to play that role for you. Phone one of your cheerleaders each day for an encouraging word.
- Choose 3-5 things that you can look forward to over the semester break. When you get stressed, remind yourself that it is just a few more weeks until you get those rewards for working hard now.
- Take care of yourself. Law school and life will be less stressful if you get proper sleep, eat healthy meals, and get 30 minutes of exercise at least 3-5 times a week.
You can do this! Manage the stress rather than letting it overwhelm you. Take one task at a time. Take one day at a time. (Amy Jarmon)
Sunday, November 8, 2015
Our Guest Blogger this week is Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Norman Otto Stockmeyer, who retired last year after teaching at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School since 1977. He also taught as a visiting professor at Mercer University Law School and California Western School of Law. Otto taught principally first-year courses (Contracts, Criminal Law, and Research & Writing) as well as Remedies. He received the top teaching award at Cooley Law three times and was voted National Outstanding Professor by Delta Theta Law Fraternity International.
Multiple-Choice Question Guidelines
Law school professors and academic support professionals should use multiple-choice questions for assessment and testing purposes. After all, our students will have to take and pass a bar exam with a full day of multiple-choice questions. It stands to reason that their chances of passing will be enhanced if they have successfully taken myriad multiple-choice tests in law school.
Going one step further, I submit that our multiple-choice questions should reflect the style and format used on the Multistate Bar Exam. The MBE professionals know more about multiple-choice methodology than we do. And if we want our tests to mirror the MBE, we should adopt the MBE’s question-drafting practices.
The following guidelines are derived from a 2008 article in The Bar Examiner, published by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, and an examination of MBE questions released since the examination was redesigned in 2005.
- Use one question per fact pattern. Do not piggyback multiple questions on a single fact pattern.
- Make fact patterns as concise as possible. Do not include extraneous facts unless fact discrimination is the skill being tested by that particular question.
- Make fact patterns realistic and free of bias. Use genderless characters to the extent possible; otherwise equalize the number of men and women in your questions.
- Identify characters generically, rather than by names or letters. (“A buyer agreed with a seller…” rather than “Able agreed with Baker….”).
- Include all facts in the fact pattern. Answers should not introduce additional facts.
- Provide four answers for every question. More choices add complexity with little appreciable improvement in reliability.
- Avoid compound answers (“A and B, but not C”). (Besides, students hate these.)
- Do not use “all of the above” or “none of the above” answers. (Ditto) Every question should have one, and only one, indisputably correct answer.
- Distribute correct answers randomly. Amateur testers tend too often to place the correct answer in the C or D position. Savvy students pick up on this.
The overall goal of these guidelines is clarity, making sure that we are assessing substantive knowledge and legal reasoning, rather than reading comprehension. Making questions easier to read does not make them any easier to answer. It just makes them better questions.
In conclusion, multiple-choice tests can be a reliable way to evaluate knowledge and analytical skill. And researchers have found that test familiarity improves student performance on standardized tests. So using MBE-style questions can heighten the effectiveness of our tests, as well as enhance the performance of our students.
(Readers interested in Professor Stockmeyer's use of multiple-choice quizzes in a first-year course are invited to read his article on “Using Multiple Choice Quizzes” in the January 2011 issue of The Learning Curve. It is available through SSRN at http://ssrn.com/abstract=1736670.)
Friday, November 6, 2015
Study group expulsion led to violent consequences at UC Merced this week. Today in The Chronicle of Higher Education there is a short follow-up article on the stabbings at UC Merced that states the attack was caused by the attacker's expulsion from a study group. The attacker was a Freshman at UC Merced. A manifesto was discovered in his pocket and tied his anger to expulsion from the group. Read the article here: Attacker at UC Mercad. The article mentions an article in the Los Angeles Times which is linked here: UC Merced assailant was angry over study group snub. (Amy Jarmon)