Thursday, January 15, 2015
Every year at the beginning of the second semester, I send out the same email to the first years. It seems to help. So, if you are a student who has stumbled across this blog, you might appreciate this story. I bet most of your professors have a similar one (and, like me, turned out better for going through it):
"By now, the grades have started to roll in, and you may be less than happy with how things are turning out.
In all honesty, the best thing that ever happened to me during my schooling was after I turned in my first English paper in college. I had never gotten less than an A in anything in my life, I was the “English” guy for the Academic Decathlon Team, I’d won several creative writing contests, and I wanted to major in English. On my first paper, I got a C.
When I went to talk to the professor, a man who wore seersucker suits and looked like a cross between Mark Twain and Colonel Sanders, he said in his genteel Virginia-tidewater accent, “Is English your first language? Your name is Russian. Are you translating as you write?”
The unfortunate thing was that he was genuinely curious and English is my first, and only, language.
As painful as it was at the time, I truly believe that that C made me a better student — I learned from my mistakes, buckled down, and did a lot better in school than I probably would have had I never experienced that setback."
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
3rd Annual Southwestern Consortium of Academic Support Professionals Workshop
March 6th, 2015
Assessing Students and Programs to Develop
a Targeted Approach to Academic Support
Texas A&M’s School of Law
in Ft. Worth, Texas
The Southwestern Consortium of Academic Support Professionals will host a one day workshop focused on targeting our efforts for maximum efficiency. Decreased enrollment created a budget crunch for most schools. Decreased budgets can disproportionately fall on ASP shoulders, but we are still expected to provide the same level of support. We must be efficient to provide a high level of service with the decreased resources. To maximize efficiency, we need to assess where to utilize resources and whether our programs are making an impact. This year’s workshop will include programs to help us assess which students need our help from pre-matriculation through the bar exam. We will also discuss ways to determine whether our programs are working and more efficient ways to deliver our services.
Registration is open to anyone interested in academic support. There is no registration fee. If you are interested in attending, please fill out the attached form and return to: Camesha Little, Assistant Director of Academic Support at firstname.lastname@example.org. Forms will be accepted through February 27th.
A block of rooms has been reserved at the Sheraton Ft. Worth Hotel and Spa, 1701 Commerce St., Ft. Worth, TX 76102. This hotel is located right across from the law school. We negotiated a rate of $139.00 per night. Please be advised that this block will release and the price will expire on February 20, 2015. You can book your room online at https://www.starwoodmeeting.com/StarGroupsWeb/res?id=1409306215&key=216B6F3F, or by phone by calling (800) 325-3535 and referencing Southwest Consortium of Academic Support Professionals.
6:30 – Dinner for anyone arriving early.
9-9:50 – Assessing Students before they enter – Marta Miller, Director of Academic Achievement at Texas A&M School of Law
10-10:50 – How to use LSSSE Data in ASP – Dr. Evan Parker, Director of Analytics at Lawyer Metrics
11-11:50 – Developing a targeted class to improve academic performance – John Murphy, Associate Professor of Law at Texas A&M School of Law
12-12:50 – Lunch
1-1:50 – Assessing the effectiveness of Voluntary ASP Programs – Rebecca Flanagan, Assistant Professor of Law, Director of Academic Skills Program at UMass School of Law
2-2:50 – Determining who is at-risk for Bar Struggles and creating a program to improve success – Jamie Kleppetsch, Assistant Professor, Associate Director, Academic Achievement Program at The John Marshall Law School
2:50-3 – Closing Remarks
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact:
Steven Foster (email@example.com)
Director of Academic Achievement at Oklahoma City University
Marta Miller (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Director of Academic Support at Texas A&M School of Law
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Winter Break is over and the semester has begun. Regardless of whether you have your fall semester grades, it’s important to start the new semester with the right approach: optimistic, determined, and with an open mind. The last one is the toughest because it means having an open mind about yourself and ability to grow and change. When a friend experiences a set-back we are quick to encourage but when it comes to ourselves, we aren’t very forgiving. This semester, try doing for yourself what you do for others. Instead of giving up because something is too hard, accept that success will take some time and effort. Don’t think you can’t make your situation any better because you can improve if you keep trying. See mistakes as something to learn from; and before you settle, ask yourself if this is really the best you can do. Think back to something that didn’t come easy to you (learning to swim, ride a bike, drive a car). What if you quit instead of persevering? You certainly wouldn’t be where you are today. Keep your head up, keep working hard, and keep that mind open. (KSK)
Monday, January 12, 2015
When it comes to legal writing, "if you cannot say it, it does not exist."
While attending the 2015 meeting of the American Association of Law Schools, I had the opportunity to attend the Blackwell Reception. The Blackwell Reception is put on by the Legal Writing Institute and the Association of Legal Writing Directors.
At the 2015 Blackwell Reception, these organizations presented two awards:
The Golden Pen Award went to the Honorable Michael Ponsor, Judge for the United States District court for the Western District of Massachusetts.
So, finally -- the significance of the title of this blog post: "If you cannot say it, it does not exist." Judge Ponsor made this statement as he accepted his award and, not surprisingly, received much applause from the roomful of legal writing professors. Judge Ponsor's statement goes well beyond the confines of legal research and writing classes.
Even if this bloger did not do double duty in both Academic Support and Legal Writing and even if this blogger did not work at a law school in Western Massachusetts (where Judge Ponsor is a welcome and respected speaker) his statement would be worthy of this blog. The statement applies to every aspect of a law student's journey toward success in law school and in law practice. As law professors, law students, or lawyers, if we cannot explain or articulate our analysis, that analysis does not exist. I have already used Judge Ponsor's statement -- in the first class of my upper level course.
Have a great Spring Semester!
Saturday, January 10, 2015
Interested in presenting, but do not know where to start? There are many great conferences in the coming year and you should share your insights, practices, and teaching methods with the ASP community at one of them. If you have never presented or feel like you need a fresh perspective to writing your proposal, I have included a few ideas to get you started:
- Carefully read the call for proposals and craft your proposal by using that as your template. If there are samples, even better. Use them as a guide, but add your unique viewpoints to set yours apart.
- Think about the audience that is attending the conference. What do they want to know? And, how would they like you to deliver it? Lecture, poster presentation, or interactive involvement.
- Be specific, but not too specific. Make a few broad statements and support them with a few specific examples. You do not want your proposal to be too amorphous, but you also do not want it to be too narrow. This flexibility will allow you to make changes between submitting the proposals and giving the presentation.
- Brainstorm ideas:
- Think about the best presentations that you have seen. Why were they meaningful to you? What did you take away from those presentations?
- Think about your year. What is something impressive that you accomplished in the classroom or within your school? What was your lightbulb moment? What was your biggest challenge in the classroom, with your co-workers, or with your students? How did you overcome those challenges? What was the best article your read, book you read, or class you attended? What did you learn? How did it change your teaching?
- Write ten things that are you really good at doing. Go!
- Write ten things that you wish you were really good at doing. Go!
- Look over recent listserve threads, blog posts, or news stories. Think about how you can add to the discussions or elaborate on the issues.
- Make a bold statement- something provocative, debatable, or controversial. Go boldly where no ASPer has gone before!
- Once you have brainstormed your ideas, draft the outcomes you expect. What do you want the participants to be able to do or do differently after they hear your presentation?
- Revise, edit, and redraft. Use spell check and have someone you trust read through your draft. This will help you appeal to a wider audience and will ensure that you do not have typos or confusing goals.
- Submit your proposal and do not get discouraged if it is not selected. It is not personal! There are typically many more submissions than available openings. The important thing is to keep trying if your proposal is not at first selected.
- If your proposal is selected- congratulations! Now, begin thinking about your presentation straightaway. Record your thoughts and start preparing while your ideas are still percolating.
I can’t wait to hear your presentation!
Lisa Bove Young
Friday, January 9, 2015
I have attended a few conferences this fall, and it has been wonderful to meet new ASPers. So many new ASPers have fantastic new ideas, new programs, and new skills. As program co-chair for this year's conference, I want to encourage professionals new to ASP to submit a proposal to AASE. We need you to talk about your new ideas! Don't worry that you are "too new"--"too new" is exactly the right time to present at AASE, a community of friends, colleagues, and helpers who want to see new professionals succeed. Don't worry that other people have already done what you are doing; we need people who will remind us of what it is like to start out in the field. And everyone approaches the same challenges in different ways, so chances are your methods will be new, and helpful, to members of our community. And don't worry that you can't commit to a presentation on your own; if you would like to present with a more experienced member of our community, we are happy to arrange a joint presentation--you don't even need to suggest your co-presenter!
The bottom line is that new ASPers are critical to our success as a community, the vitality of our organization, and we want YOU to add to this year's conference. Presentation proposals are due Jan 12, to email@example.com.
Tuesday, January 6, 2015
There is still time to submit proposals to present at the 2015 AASE Conference at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago. The conference will take place on May 26th - May 28th. The Call for Proposals is available on the AASE Web Site.
Saturday, January 3, 2015
This semester has been eye-opening for me. I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about sexism in ASP. Although I am a dyed-in-the-wool, true-blue feminist, I've been lucky that I haven't faced much individual sexism (as opposed to institutional or systemic sexism, which are think are endemic to the academy). In the past, it's been one-off incidents, nothing that made me really question whether ASP fosters sexism. ASPs are predominantly run by untenured women, teaching in second-class rolls. While more men have joined our ranks, many of the (admittedly talented, committed) men that have been in ASP for more than 5 years have moved into tenured or high-level administrative positions, while I see equally talented, committed women stuck in the same second-class positions, without promotions or recognition, year after year.
I don't think this is solely due to institutional sexism. Studies have shown that women receive lower course evaluations than men. A tiny, needs-to-be-replicated study out of North Carolina State demonstrated that students will give higher course evaluations if they believe their instructor is a man--whether to not the instructor actually is a man or a woman. (See study here)
This semester I co-taught an ASP course with a fantastic, very talented male (tenured) professor. Mid-semester, we asked students to fill out qualitative evals, asking them to tell us what we should do and how to improve. While the majority of the surveys were helpful and fair, a disconcerting minority used the evaluations to make personal, sexist comments that had nothing to do with the substance of the course. Not one evaluation made personal comments about my male co-teacher.
I spoke with several experienced female professors after I read the evaluations. Everyone had a similar story; students feel it's okay to attack a female professor's attire, posture, hair style, or tone of voice in evaluations meant to measure teaching.
These attacks on female professors are damaging careers. Students evaluations are regularly used to renew contracts and earn tenure. The best administrators know to ignore these damaging comments in evaluations. But many evaluations are on a 1-5 scale, with female professors losing valuable points for things that have nothing to do with their ability to teach. And administrators can't distinguish between someone who needs help in the classroom, and someone who is receiving low scores because "their voice hurts my ears" or "their clothes are too bright for my taste."
ASP is integral to the success of the legal academy. It is time we started looking at the reasons why we are still second-class citizens.
Friday, January 2, 2015
The Association of American Law Schools annual conference begins today. Like it was yesterday, I remember arriving at the hotel in San Diego for my first AALS conference. (It was six years ago!) I was overwhelmed with the labyrinthine maze of halls and conference rooms. I was equally overwhelmed by the sheer number of suits navigating the labyrinth. But, once I got my bearings, I jumped right in. I attended as many presentations as I could and I introduced myself to numerous ASPers. I joined committees and exchanged business cards and learned so many things from that first conference. If it is your first or your tenth AALS, I hope you get involved, meet someone new, and learn something relevant to your work. If you are a seasoned ASPer, consider reaching out to a newbie.
The AALS Section on Academic Support is hosting its business meeting Friday, January 2nd, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. and its program on Saturday, January 3rd from 1:30 to 3:15 p.m. Academic Support -ASP a Roadmap at the Crossroad: How Academic Support with Meet Today’s Varied Challenges. I hope to see you there!
Other Programs of Interest for Academic Support Professionals
- Saturday, January 3rd from 8:30 to 10:15 a.m. Teaching Methods – Incorporating Teaching Professional Identity into the Legal Education Curriculum
- Saturday, January 3rd from 3:30 to 5:15 p.m. Balance in Legal Education – The Future of Educating Effective Lawyers
- Saturday, January 3rd from 5:15 to 6:30 p.m. Balance in Legal Education – Pedagogy Promoting Practice – Ready Law Students: Lessons Learned from Recent Practice
- Saturday, January 3rd from 5:15 to 6:30 p.m. Legal Writing, Reasoning & Research – Lessons Learned: Know Thy Student – International Students in American Law Schools – and in Your Class!
- Sunday, January 4th from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. AALS Committee on Curriculum Issues Program – Teaching to the New Class
- Sunday, January 4th from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Post-Graduate Legal Education – The Exploding Post-Graduate Degree: Alternative Degrees, Online Degrees and Economics
- Sunday, January 4th from 2-3:45 p.m. for New Law Professors- Behind the Veil: Learning Teaching Techniques from the Best
- Sunday, January 4th from 4:00 to 5:45 p.m. Law Libraries and Legal Information – Should We Be Teaching Law Practice Technology?
- Monday, January 5th from 9:00 to 4:30 p.m. – Student Services Day-Long Program of Workshops
Thursday, January 1, 2015
The start of a new year is a great time to reflect on the past, determine what worked for you personally and professionally over the last year, and to create a plan for the year ahead. Here is a template to help you get started.
Professional Goals 2014
Professional Successes 2014
Personal Goals 2014
Personal Successess 2014
Most Memorable Moments 2014
Most Challenging Moments 2014
Intentions for 2015
Completing an exercise like this helps provide a broad picture of what has happened over the last year and propels the motivation for establishing a realistic plan for 2015. Reflecting on which goals were met, which goals you are still working toward, and challenges you faced helps to reprioritze your intentions for the coming year. What was your biggest accomplishment? What successful practice do you want to continue in 2015? What did you learn from your most challenging moment? Reflection is insightful and helps us grow professionally and personally. I hope you are able to find time for this reflective practice before the start of the semester.
Sunday, December 28, 2014
AALS is about the begin, and here is my near-yearly reminder to network, network, network. The best part of AALS is the networking; network in ASP-specific sessions (which I encourage everyone to attend) as well as general networking at breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. The amazing thing about our field is the spirit of giving between colleagues. We will share everything we have, and everything we know, with anyone who asks. Most of our current programs are built on the shoulders of the giants in our field (and I won't try to name them, because I'll miss someone). The most beneficial learning experiences come from working with peers at other schools, sharing programs and advice. And in this time of budget-cuts and right-sized enrollment trends, it's wonderful to be able to share anecdotes and stories with colleagues in the field.
No one believes me when I say I am painfully shy and socially awkward (maybe they believe the socially awkward part, but are too nice to tell me!) I know many of us struggle to get to know people we have never met before when we are attending big conferences. One of the great learning experiences of my career came from a serendipitous connection with Joanne Koren from Miami Law. It was my first year in ASP, and my first AALS, and I didn't know anyone. I met Joanne, and she mentioned she was looking for someone to tour the D.C. monuments with her. I said I would love to go, and it was one of the most memorable , wonderful AALS experiences. I have learned so much from Joanne over the years, but I would not have had the opportunity if I didn't take the leap and tour the monuments with someone I had just met.
Enjoy AALS, and network, network, network!
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
The semester is over and you've spent the last week either sleeping or catching up on everything you put off during exams. You've still got a few weeks until next semester starts so it is time to find a balance between rest and relaxation, and reenergizing so you can start the new year off right.
The first goal is to stay healthy:
- Drink plenty of water: we often eat when what our body really needs is hydration. Drink a glass of water the next time you feel sluggish or have the munchies. Odds are this will do the trick.
- Get moving: in addition to physical benefits, regular exercise gives you more energy, improves your mood and lowers stress.
Next, do something each day:
- Plan your day: even if you are on vacation, identify two or three things to accomplish each day. This prevents the stress of scrambling at the last minute.
- Use your brain: you don’t have to read legal tomes or memorize statutes but you should learn something new every day. Increasing your knowledge keeps you inspired and motivated.
- Reflect daily: end each day with a few minutes of reflection of what you’ve accomplished (not what you haven’t done).
Last, focus on what makes you happy:
- Express gratitude: identifying things you are grateful for promotes happiness and increases self-worth.
- Clean your desk/room: doing this might not make you happy but the end result will. A clean space allows you to focus on your work instead of the clutter.
- Indulge yourself: set aside time to indulge yourself (just a little) so that you don’t resent having to work or study.
Too much of any one thing is never good so use these next few weeks to find a balance. It will be both enjoyable and productive and you’ll have a good foundation for next semester.
Monday, December 22, 2014
Well -- relax and breathe. Enjoy your winter break. Read books for fun and enjoy time with family and friends. Here are a few - slightly out of the box - reading suggestions on memory and dealing with stress:
1. Moonwalking with Einstein: the Art and Science of Remembering Everything, by Joshua Foer.
The book's title seems to tell it all - right - or does it? Joshua Foer, a -- shall we say -- forgetful science writer, became a U.S. Memory Champion. In his book, Foer writes about how he achieved that transformation. For a "taste" of that journey, you can view Foer's Ted Talk.
2. Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment--and Your Life, by Jon Kabat-Zinn
This book provides a good introduction to mindfulness meditation. Jon Kabat-Zinn is Professor of Medicine Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Professor Kabat-Zinn created the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
3. Mindfulness for Law Students: Using the Power of Mindfulness to Achieve Balance and Success in Law School, by Scott L. Rogers.
In this book, the author introduces law students to mindfulness techniques and to the scientific research that establishes the benefits of the practice of mindfulness practice.
Saturday, December 20, 2014
Calling All Volunteers for AALS Section on Academic Support Committees!!!!
Get involved in your Section by participating on one of the committees. The committees that need your help are:
- Awards Committee: The Committee decides whether the Section will present a Section award at the next AALS Annual Meeting, solicits nominations, votes on the nominations, and recommends a recipient to the Executive Committee for submission to AALS for approval.
- Bar Passage Committee: The Committee discusses aspects that affect law graduates’ success on the bar exam and considers hot topics that should be brought to the attention of the membership.
- Learning Curve: Learning Curve is the Section publication for articles on academic support and related issues; one issue is electronic, and one issue is hard copy.
- Nominations Committee: Solicits nominations for the open officer and board positions and presents a slate to the Executive Committee for election at the Business Meeting at the AALS Annual Meeting.
- Program Committee: Plans the main program for the Section at the AALS Annual Meeting. The committee chooses a theme to complement the main conference theme, solicits proposals and papers for potential presenters, and plans the details of the program.
- Website Committee: Oversees the Law School Academic Success Project website for the Section. The website includes a directory and a variety of resources for ASP’ers and students including podcasts, conference information, job postings, and more.
To become involved on a committee, either sign up at the business meeting or program at the AALS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. or send an email to Lisa Young, Chair-Elect at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, December 19, 2014
Law students breathe a sigh of relief once all of their exams are over and the last papers turned in. It is such a good feeling to have the semester over! No more studying for the time being!
Alas, the relief is short-lived for some students. They begin almost immediately to worry about the final grades for their courses. For some students, the worry is caused by being too close to the GPA needed to meet academic standards. For other students, the worry is caused by wanting a certain GPA for qualifying for a certain law firm's job application cut-off or retaining scholarship aid or achieving some other standard for a law-school honor.
Whatever the reason for the worry, it can cause sleepless nights and self-doubt until the grades are finally posted. It is the lack of control over the grades that makes students anxious. Not only do they need to do their personal best, but they need to achieve a high enough score to "beat the curve" for the class.
The recommended percentages for each grade bracket of most law schools' curves mean that the overall class performance determines the grades given. Students know that if everyone in the class knew the material and performed well on the exam then just 2 or 3 points can be the difference between a higher or lower letter grade. They realize that some folks will get low grades no matter how large the break between the lowest C and the next grouping. No wonder students sign up for seminars that often do not have to conform to the recommended curve.
It is important to put grades into perspective while waiting for the outcomes:
- You cannot change anything about the exam that is already completed or the paper that is already turned in. Stewing about the misread fact pattern, the forgotten rule, the missed issue, the skimpy case analysis, and more will not change anything. We are not perfect, so it is inevitable in law exams and assignments that perfection will not be reached. All of us remember "the ones that got away" in our law school experiences.
- A final exam grade reflects one's performance on one set of questions on one day at one time. Any student who was sick, tired, stressed, or unfocused during the exam can know that the grade reflects those less than optimal circumstances and not just knowledge/application.
- Over the full spectrum of a law degree, students benefit from the curve as often as they get hurt by the curve. It evens out over time. The break in the curve gives you a higher grade on one exam but may catch you with a lower grade on another.
- A low grade does not mean you are less intelligent, less worthy, or less talented than the day you walked across the threshold of your law school for the first time your 1L year. It merely means that you need to implement some new strategies and forge ahead. Do not allow grades to undermine your self-worth.
- Grades indicate opportunities for improvement rather than just measures of performance. There are lots of ways to improve on test-taking whether the exams are true-false, multiple choice, short answer, fact-pattern essay, or some other variation. ASP professionals can assist students in evaluating their problem areas and work on strategies with them.
After the initial angst of grades that are less than you hoped for, pull yourself together. You can do this with assistance. Review your exams or papers with your faculty members to get feedback on what you did well and what you need to improve. Then make an appointment with your academic success professional to implement a plan for that improvement. (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, December 18, 2014
Many schools have students who graduate in December. To help them transition from the whirlwind of finals, graduation, and holiday celebrations to bar prep, here are a few things for them to consider:
- Create a realistic, yet rigorous study schedule. Begin after graduation, but make space to savor the end of law school before jumping into your bar prep.
- Communicate your study plans. Make sure that your significant other, family, and co-workers know that your priority is passing the bar exam. They will be your support system through this journey and they need to understand what you will need to be successful. (Perhaps a meal delivered now and then, or help with childcare...)
- Use Spaced Repetition to study instead of focusing on only one subject at a time.
- Remember to stay healthy- exercise, eat well, and get a full night of sleep. This will increase your focus and efficiency.
- Ask for help! When you are feeling overwhelmed, or have a question about your performance or a particular area of law, ask someone. You can ask your bar review provider, a classmate, or your Academic Support for assistance.
- Find balance. You will always feel like you should be doing more- more studying, more MBE practice, more essay and PT writing, and more outlining. However, you also need to know when to say when.
- Give yourself mini-rewards for reaching your daily goals and bigger rewards for reaching your weekly goals.
- Keep a positive attitude and surround yourself with positive people. Believing in yourself is the key to your success!
Congratulations to all of the December law school graduates and best of luck getting started with your bar prep.
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Yesterday, my wife and I were having lunch in a restaurant when someone suddenly shouted, "Alex Ruskell!" The shout wasn't directed at me or anyone else. I noticed a group of law students sitting a few tables away, and I assumed they were the source.
I had no idea what the shout meant. My wife thought the shout's tone sounded a lot like Adventure Time's James Baxter, the horse who repeatedly says his name while balancing on a beachball to make people happy. In case you haven't seen it:
I'd like to think my students think of me as a horse who repeatedly says his name while balancing on a beachball to make people happy, but I started worrying that maybe it was somthing negative.
My wife and I spent the majority of the rest of lunch trying to decide what the shout meant. Was it good? (my wife). Was it bad? (me). Was it what ladies say when they envision the perfect man? (my wife). Were they saying I owed them money? (me). Were they just being weird and wanted to see if I would hear them, because people get totally weird in law school? (my wife). Were they planning who they would eat first if they were stranded on a deserted island? (me). Was it what students say when they need help? (my wife). Was it a reference to the fact I didn't introduce myself at my last student presentation until I'd already finished it? (me). Clearly, I could've walked over and asked them, but that probably would have been pretty creepy.
The whole experience got me thinking about student evaluations. I do student evaluations for my tutors, and although they are 99 percent fantastic, there is always some crank with an axe to grind. This year, one of my female tutors was called a couple names in an evaluation, apparently from a student who was mad she wouldn't give him handouts without his attendance in tutoring (which I tell my tutors to do). She wasn't upset exactly, but she was worried it had lowered my opinion of her tutoring.
In my experience, people spend a lot more time worrying about a negative (or seemingly negative) evaluation than they do feeling good about the good evaluations. But how much value does a negative evaluation really have, and how much weight should be put into them? Is a "negative" evaluation always negative? For example, a student called one of my colleagues "feisty" once -- was that an actual bad evaluation, some kind of weird praise, or was it just sexist (we spent some time together trying to figure out that one)? Are the negative evaluations somehow more "true," while the positive evaluations are merely students being nice? Are negative evaluations ever about the teaching? For women, are "negative" evaluations more likely (as recent studies suggest they are)? For schools that advertise themselves as "student-centered," is this really the best way to decide what the students actually need? Are evaluations basically a popularity contest?
When someone asks me who my favorite teacher of all time was, I always say one of my junior high teachers -- mainly because he taught us how to do "The Bird" for the Valentine's Dance and referred to me as his "number one jellyhead." I can't really say whether I learned anything, but I do remember how often he threw me out of class, his sartorial choices, and his claims that certain STDs could be cured with hefty wallops from a rubber hammer. That kind of stuff is what made him my favorite. It also led my wife to believe I had made the guy up until she met someone else that had gone to my junior high.
I am sure I didn't like or praise many worthy teachers because they didn't know who Morris Day and the Time were or demonstrated how things would go with the rubber hammer if I wasn't careful.
I am also sure that my tutor did a great job and that whatever mental real estate she had ceded over to that one poor evaluation was wasted.
But, unfortunately, that seems to be how the mind works, whether justified or not.
Monday, December 15, 2014
The 2015 Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) Conference is set for May 26-28, at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, Illinois.
The conference presents a wonderful opportunity to expand and enhance your professional experience by sharing your skills and knowledge with an audience of peers from law schools across the country. The Call for Proposals is available at the new AASE website. Proposals to present at the 2015 conference are due on January, 12, 2015.