Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Monday, October 23, 2017

The End of October is Approaching

It’s hard to believe that we are already heading towards the end of October. It seems like the Fall semester just started.

As the end of October approaches, many students are trying to figure out what they plan to wear for their Halloween parties. They are also trying to figure out what they need to do for the rest of the semester as well.

By now, 1Ls have heard of this “outlining” word. But, they may not fully understand what it means. They have read and briefed most of their cases, but they may not have a good grasp of how these cases link up with one another in their doctrinal classes. They may have been so focused on writing down and remembering each miniscule detail from their cases that they have neglected to see how each case from their individual doctrinal classes ties in with every other case in those classes. They may not be ready to attack a large final exam question that assesses their ability to analyze the various legal issues that they have covered throughout the semester.

As law school academic support professionals, we should be ready to assist 1L students as they negotiate the latter part of their first semester. Let’s remember that most 1Ls may not, at this point, fully understand the big picture law for each of their doctrinal subjects. Let’s remember that many 1Ls may not have fully practiced issue spotting and exam writing. Let’s be ready with a non-judgmental and empathic listening ear so that we can best serve each individual student. (OJ Salinas)

October 23, 2017 in Advice, Current Affairs, Disability Matters, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Miscellany, Professionalism, Reading, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 9, 2017

Dare to Disclose?

The counseling field has often highlighted the benefits of some personal disclosure from therapists to their clients. Some cited benefits include increased trust and rapport, as well validation of the clients’ experiences.

Join me this week at the Inaugural Diversity Conference for the Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) in Baltimore, Maryland, for a moderated discussion on the benefits of academic support professionals sharing personal stories and struggles with their students.

Participants will be encouraged to share their experiences (i.e., their stories or struggles) relating to diversity and inclusion or their law school experience in general. These experiences may either be personal stories or struggles or stories related to students that the participants may have worked with in their capacity as academic support professionals. As presenters and participants share their stories, the “listening” participants will be modeling and reviewing some of the same active listening skills and nonverbal behaviors that academic support professionals should be engaging in when they work with students in either individual or group conferences.

Hope to see you in Maryland! (OJ Salinas)

October 9, 2017 in Advice, Disability Matters, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Meetings, Miscellany, News, Professionalism, Program Evaluation, Stress & Anxiety, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Post-Graduation Interaction with Academic Support

Does academic support extend beyond the law school environment and the time students are at an institution?  Does it take on a different form?  Is it even academic support anymore?  We have a general idea of what academic support offices do and the nature and purpose of our interactions with students.  Most of our interactions revolve around helping students develop skills to be academically successful and successful on the bar exam.  Certain interactions permit us to get to know some of our students as more than just an individual who has difficulty outlining or organizing answers to essay questions.  We get to know about where the student hails from, their interests, their life’s challenges, their journey to law school, and sometimes, rare information about their families.  Do those relationships stop there?

My answer is no.  Post-graduation interactions initially begin as pure focus on taking and passing the bar exam.  Later, conversations shift to career opportunities, careers, people management, and life management.  In sum, the interactions are less academic support related and more “human” focused.  This indicates that academic support is an institutional community building tool that may not be visible to many.  Once conversations shift to career development, they typically relate to job search successes and wows, strategic job searching, and career challenges.  I am by no means a career services expert; therefore, I direct my students to that office for support and assistance.  Most of my conversations pertain to what I know about alums, their interests, the truth about their strategies and approaches, and considering worse case scenarios and options.  We have “real talk sessions” that culminate into unique holistic conversations. 

When I am not speaking with first career or first “real job” alums, I speak with former students who have worked for one to five years and have decided to make a career change or are sorting through how to navigate office politics.  Included in our discussions are debates about what it means to be a woman and/or a person of color in legal and non-legal environments and the nature of their interactions with men, other people of color, and people not of color.  Alums often share personal stories and all of sudden, we have created an impromptu professional development session for all of us.  While interactions with alums might not be specifically “ASP” related, they often provide me with information that I can then use to encourage and help current students.  I have also built a network of alums that I can call on and know will be responsive if I need help with bar preparation advice or individuals I can connect with a current student from a similar background in need of support and direction that I know I am unable to provide them with.  Alums are also a good source of assessment of various programs offered by my office because they will tell me the truth.  They know that I will not take offense as I am simply trying to improve what I do to help students like them (Goldie Pritchard).

September 27, 2017 in Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 25, 2017

We Are Not in College Anymore

We are several weeks into the Fall semester. 1L students are starting to get a little better handle on what law school is all about. If they didn’t know this already, they are starting to realize that law school is much different than college.

There are no boldface words and glossaries in the law school casebooks. The Socratic class is not filled with a professor lecturing at passive students for the duration of class. And there are few, if any, written “chapter tests” during the semester so that students can assess their understanding of the material.

But, there are many opportunities throughout the semester where students can assess whether they are picking up what they should pick up in the course. These opportunities happen every day in class as a result of the often-dreaded Socratic method (and I dreaded it when I was a 1L--but, that story is for another blog post).

The professors’ many “what ifs” and “how abouts” give students opportunities to test their understanding of the relevant law; they are given chances to apply this law to many factual scenarios—which, in turn, help the students become better issue-spotters and legal analysts. And, as we all know in the ASP world, the more issues a student is able to spot and analyze on a law school final exam, the more likely that student will gain more points on the professor’s final exam rubric.

So, students: Try to engage with the professors’ hypotheticals in class—even when you have not been cold called in class to verbally answer the questions. Try to answer the questions to yourself in your own head. If you can’t come up with an answer to a hypothetical, write the question down on your notes and revisit that question after class or on the weekend when you review what you have covered in class for the week. You may not have come up with the answer in class. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t come up with the answer on the final exam--when it really counts!

One of the many differences from college and law school is that you don’t have several formal written tests throughout the semester; you often only have one exam at the end of the semester per course that often dictates your entire semester course grade. Try to prepare for that final exam every day in class when you engage with the professors’ hypotheticals, and practice the legal analysis skills that will help make you a better law school test-taker and, eventually, lawyer. (OJ Salinas)

September 25, 2017 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Exams - Theory, Learning Styles, Miscellany, Professionalism, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 7, 2017

Being Different Doesn't Mean Being Irrelevant

I have been thinking about the wonderful, varied, and interesting lives our students bring to law school.

Each student comes to our law schools with a unique and authentic experience. Unfortunately, some of these experiences are sometimes deemed insignificant. The person who has lived the experience may be too anxious or ashamed to share it. Or, others around this person may be too afraid to acknowledge that their individual experiences may not be the only way to have experienced some “thing.”

Each student comes to our law schools with an individual story that can enrich our learning environment and augment the law school experience for other students. For example, how one student responds to the facts of a particular case or identifies with the rationale or policy supporting some legal authority may provide a different insight and promote more critical thinking than the most qualified professor alone. This insight and critical thinking begins to grow, encouraging others to be more willing to take their blinders off and expand their narrow view of an issue, or better yet, of the world.

As we prepare to start a new law school semester, let’s remember what makes each of us unique and authentic. Let’s embrace, not obscure, our differences. And let’s try to foster our students’ abilities to recognize and appreciate differences. Being different doesn’t mean being weak. Being different doesn’t mean being irrelevant. Being different doesn’t mean being unworthy of success. (OJ Salinas)

August 7, 2017 in Advice, Current Affairs, Disability Matters, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Power of Listening

Listen-understand-act

I wrote in last week’s post of my trip to the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) conference in Minnesota. The conference theme focused on diversity and inclusion, which we know will also be the focus of our upcoming Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) conference in October.

My colleague, Alexa Chew, and I lead a discussion at ALWD on ways to make law schools more welcoming for everyone. We spoke about our experiences participating on our Diversity and Inclusion Task Force at UNC Law. We spoke about how allowing students to share their stories and listening to their stories can create more awareness and understanding of the diversity and inclusion problems that may be wounding your law school.

Alexa and I wrote a blog post in advance of our ALWD presentation in Jennifer Romig’s Listen Like a Lawyer blog. We wrote that most of us working at law schools want a more diverse and inclusive environment.  However, many folks working in our law schools are often unaware of what our students are experiencing during their law school tenure. So, schools get into a situation where they are trying to fix or work on a "problem" that they have not identified or know little about--or worse, that they may be inadvertently contributing to.

Alexa and I provided a few suggestions that could help more folks “get in the know.” The suggestions are relatively simple and inexpensive, but they may still have a huge impact on how students feel when they walk through the doors of your law schools. I suspect many of you in the ASP world are likely already doing many of the suggestions quite well! Keep it up!!! And encourage others in your law school to follow your lead!

The blog was circulated on Twitter last week here. You can also find the Listen Like a Lawyer blog here. (OJ Salinas)

Thank you for listening pic

July 31, 2017 in Advice, Current Affairs, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, Professionalism, Stress & Anxiety, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Summer Clerkships Can Be Life Changing

Many of our law students are immersed in legal work this summer. The variety of their experiences will be as wide as the universe of legal work. Some will be buried in library research and memo writing. Some will be drafting documents. Some will be busy with intake interviews. Some will be compiling trial notebooks. And everything in between will align with someone's summer job.

It is not unusual for a rising 2L to exclaim, "Now I understand Civil Procedure!" It is the aha moment when what seemed to just be dry cases and procedural mumbo-jumbo becomes alive in a real case with a real client. All the innovative books based on real cases and role plays during 1L year were just not the same as the real thing.

The aha moment can happen with any course material and at whatever point the student is in the study of law. Life is breathed into the concepts now applied in a summer clerking experience. The client scenarios they deal with can enrich their understanding: formerly compartmentalized concepts become interrelated; separate courses become integrated through a series of case issues; procedural steps take on significance within litigation; strategic pros and cons develop as a case unfolds. 

Ideally we hope that the summer experience will not only solidify prior learning, but will also trigger more active learning in future semesters. After a taste of practice, law students can enhance their learning by asking how the material would be used with clients, how the material relates to other material, how procedures affect outcomes, what analysis would each party use, and more. If future courses become relevant in their minds to working with clients, then they go beyond dusty words on pages and requirements for graduation.

Many law students this summer will also realize at a gut level for the first time how much responsibility they owe in their work to a real person. What they and the lawyers on a case say and do directly impacts someone's life. Professionalism takes on an entirely new dimension when one deals with a client and not a mere hypothetical. It can be a very sobering realization.

Hopefully students return to their studies with new motivation to be the best lawyers they can be. Courses and skill sets are no longer just for grades. Those courses and skills are essential to being a competent and professional lawyer. Their clients will depend on how diligently they approached their legal studies as the foundation for their career. (Amy Jarmon)

  

 

 

 

July 30, 2017 in Miscellany, Professionalism, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Hello and Kudos!

Hello! I just accepted an invitation to contribute to this blog and this is my first post. In the future I hope to post on a wide range of topics, representing the varied duties common to academic support professors. But, for this debut post, I want to echo Betsy Six’s suggestion during the closing remarks at AASE to send a kudos email (my words, not hers) to a colleague. Did someone really impress you with their presentation? Did you have a conversation with a colleague in the hallway that changed the way you think about academic support? If so, let them—and their boss—know about it. Don’t worry; it’s not too late. Ask Emily Post. Don’t know what to say? Try putting your own spin on this template:

Dear Dean [X],

I write to tell you what a nice job [name] did on [his/her] presentation entitled “[title]” at the Association of Academic Support Educators Conference in Fort Worth, Texas in May. [Name’s] presentation was innovative, insightful, and engaging. The presentation laid out several concrete [descriptive noun] ideas which attendees (like myself) could implement at their own institutions. Kudos to [name], and to you and your institution for supporting [his/her] work. [Name] is a great asset to the academic support professors’ community!

In closing, just let me say congratulations to everyone who organized, presented at, and attended the annual AASE Conference! (Kirsha Trychta)

June 27, 2017 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Meetings, Miscellany, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Effects of Social Media

The Chronicle on Higher Education recently posted an article looking at the professionalization of social media, especially Facebook, and the effect on students' outlets to be themselves: Instagrim.

May 15, 2017 in Miscellany, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A Loophole Lifestyle

I was talking to a colleague about a student who turned in a mediocre paper for a class. Because of some gaps in the syllabus information, the student was able to get full credit although the paper was not really up to the professor's expectations. The professor had no choice but to give credit and fix the syllabus for the next time around. The loophole benefited the student on that occasion.

Let's face it, students often find the loopholes in syllabi, discipline codes, academic regulations, and more. Administrators and faculty regularly clean up the language or add the details to fill in the gaps to avoid future problems. The students get the benefit of the loopholes for the time being. I understand the necessity of that ongoing process.

But what if the loophole situation is not a "one off" for the student? Unfortunately, I have met some law students who spend their three years constantly looking for loopholes rather than pushing themselves to achieve their best work. Such students repeatedly look for ways to get out of work, to get by with minimal effort, and to "pull one over" on their professors. They often have tremendous academic potential, but prefer to coast rather than excel. For these students, "lookout for loopholes" becomes a lifestyle.

Will these students become lawyers who do minimal work on behalf of clients? Will they try to take shortcuts at every turn? Will they expect to "pull one over" on opposing counsel, the jury, or the judge? Perhaps they will be different in the "real world of practice" because law school was just a game to them. However, I am concerned what has been a lifestyle in law school will jeopardize their professionalism in practice. (Amy Jarmon)

April 4, 2017 in Miscellany, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 2, 2017

"Voice Opportunities" to Make a Difference in Legal Education: ABA Nominations - Due April 10, 2017!

The ABA Section on Legal Education and Bar Admissions is seeking nominations for leadership positions on the Council.  In light of the important field work that academic support professionals play in the enhancement and the betterment of legal education, this is a great opportunity to share your voice and expertise with others.  So, if interested, here's the link to nominate yourself or others: http://www.americanbar.org/nominations  (Scott Johns).

March 2, 2017 in Advice, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

About the AALS Section on Academic Support Program Committee

      On Friday, January 6, 2017, several brave souls woke up early to attend the Academic Support (ASP) Business Meeting scheduled for 7:30AM. Some had seen colleagues at presentations earlier in the week while others were seeing colleagues for the very first time. In true ASP fashion, someone at the business meeting suggested we move chairs into a circle and introduce ourselves. There was a mix of veteran, mid-career, and new ASPers. Aside from the usual flow of a business meeting, one of the key conversations addressed how to include ASPers who are unable to attend the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Annual Meeting in the ASP business meeting.

      The business meeting was immediately followed by the Section on Academic Support Program: “Why Academic Support Matters.” The Program was moderated by Professor Danielle Bifulci Kocal who also chaired the programming committee. Speakers included Louis N. Schulze, James McGrath, and Richard Sorrow. Topics discussed included alternative justifications for academic support, how to convince administration and doctrinal faculty to adopt proven learning techniques, and how to integrate academic support methods into doctrinal courses. The program was well attended; we all laughed at funny pictures and learned about a few helpful must-have books, resources and techniques.

      Aside from programs led by the Section on Academic Support , several ASPers attended the AALS Hot Topic Program: “Declining Bar Exam Scores, the New Bar Pass Accreditation Standard, and Ensuring new Lawyer Competence: a Perfect Storm” which prompted much discussion.

      AALS typically makes audio recordings of all of the sessions and makes them available to member schools. (Goldie Pritchard)

 

AALS2017

Picture of the Section on Academic Support Program courtesy of Professor Twinette Johnson

January 25, 2017 in Meetings, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Dr. Martin Luther King, "The Letter from the Birmingham Jail," and IRAC?

Continuing from Professor Goldie Pritchard's excellent post yesterday regarding "Student Motivation and MLK Celebration Day," on April 13, 1963, Dr. King penned one of the most famous letters of all time: "The Letter from the Birmingham Jail."

In writing to fellow religious letters, Dr. King explained, in his words, that "I am in Birmingham because injustice is here."  Then, turning to the question about whether it was proper to engage in direct action in the form of sit-ins and marches, Dr. King defends civil disobedience, arguing that the root question was whether the segregation laws were just or unjust.  If unjust, then disobedience was justified.  

That led Dr. King to explain why the law was unjust in a very famous paragraph:  "Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an "I it" relationship for an "I thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man's tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong."

Wow!  Impactful!  Poignant!  Straight to the heart of the issue!  Take a close look at the paragraph above.  Did Dr. King start with the issue?  After stating the issue, did he next state a rule and then explain the rule to his fellow religious leaders?  Moving on, didn't he next transition to an analysis of that principle by concretely applying the rule to the segregation laws?  Finally, look closely as Dr. King finishes with a succinct conclusion.  That's right...Dr. King's argument is structured in IRAC and yet Dr. King was not an attorney (rather, he earned a Ph.D. from Boston University).

When I first saw Dr. King's use of IRAC, I was shocked because I thought that IRAC was just a tool that lawyers used to analyze legal problems.  In short, I was convinced that my legal writing professor invented IRAC.  And, it felt SO unnatural to me...so mechanical...so impersonal...that I tried my utmost to avoid writing in IRAC.  

Looking back, I see my folly.  IRAC was not invented by attorneys. Rather, IRAC is the structural foundation for some of the most monumental moral arguments of all time.  In short, IRAC (what the rest of the world calls deductive reasoning) is powerful because it is a common form of analysis to all of us, long before we ever came to law school.  Simply put, we have been using IRAC for all of our lives, and yet, we just didn't know it.  So, take time out to reflect on the power of IRAC as a tool for persuasive analysis.  As demonstrated by Dr. King, IRAC can be the structural foundation for making moving moral arguments, arguments that in Dr. King's day led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  So, don't shy away from IRAC.  Rather, embrace it, refine it, polish it, and always, with an eye on what's the right thing to do.  In that way, paragraph by paragraph, you as a future attorney can make the world a better place for others.  (Scott Johns).

January 19, 2017 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Professionalism, Study Tips - General, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Prepare for Your Profession

Law students often become so caught up in surviving each class week that they forget the bigger picture. They are preparing for being lawyers! Their clients will depend on them to be great lawyers, not just mediocre lawyers.

Every skill learned and honed in law school assists the graduate to be a great lawyer.

  • By learning and honing skills in reading and briefing cases, students prepare for being experts for reading thousands of cases during their legal careers.
  • By learning and honing skills in understanding judges’ reasoning and the evolution of the law, students prepare for expert legal reasoning and possible policy arguments for necessary modifications in the law.
  • By learning and honing listening and note-taking skills in class, students capture the nuances of the law and recognize the important information.
  • By learning and honing skills at arguing both sides of a scenario, students prepare for being experts at arguing their clients’ positions and anticipating the arguments of opposing counsel.
  • By learning and honing skills at legal research and writing, students prepare for being experts at locating the relevant law and clearly and concisely stating the law in a variety of legal formats.
  • By learning and honing their skills through clinics, client interviewing, trial advocacy, law office management, and other skills courses, students prepare themselves for the daily rigors of legal practice.

There are more skills learned and honed during law school. These are just a few that law students need to become great lawyers. Academic support professionals and professors are there to assist in the process. Law students need to reach out for assistance when they are struggling with the skills needed as lawyers. (Amy Jarmon)

January 17, 2017 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Professionalism, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 31, 2016

Do you know any curmudgeons at your law school?

Sometimes ASP'ers have to convince others regarding programmatic changes, added services, data collection, or other new ways of doing something. Maybe it is an initiative because of the ABA standards or other accrediting group for your law school's main university. Here is a recent article from The Chronicle of Higher Education on managing curmudgeons; although it discusses faculty curmudgeons, the points are more generally applicable: Tips for Managing Curmudgeons.

October 31, 2016 in Miscellany, Professionalism, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Federal Court Backs Harvard in Law School Plagiarism Challenge

Inside Higher Ed included a short entry with a link to the U.S. Court of Appeals, First Circuit opinion in the case here.

October 25, 2016 in Miscellany, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 1, 2016

"A Brief Social-Belonging Intervention Improves Academic and Health Outcomes of Minority Students" Say Researchers Walton and Cohen

Big hat tip to Professor Rodney Fong at the University of San Francisco School of Law for his alert to this research article!

It's not too late to make a difference…a real difference…a measurable difference…to improve academic performance and health outcomes for minority students, as demonstrated by the published research findings of Dr. Gregory M. Walton and Dr. Geoffrey L. Cohen at Stanford University in their article "A Brief Social-Belonging Intervention Improves Academic and Health Outcomes of Minority Students."

Here's the scoop:

The researchers surmised that a brief intervention in the first week of undergraduate studies - to directly tackle the issue of belonging in college - might make a measurable impact with respect to academic performance and health outcomes for African-American students.  As background, previous research had suggested that a lack of a sense of belonging was particularly detrimental for success in collegiate studies. In its most basic form, the intervention was threefold.

First, the university shared survey results with research participating students, substanting that most college students "had worried about whether they belonged in college during the difficult first year but [they] grew confident in their belonging with time."  

Second, the participating students were encouraged to internalize the survey messages by writing an essay to describe "how their own experiences in college [in the first week] echoed the experiences summarized in the survey."  

Third, the participating students created videos of their written essays for the express purpose of sharing their feelings with future generations of incoming students, so that participating students would not feel like they were stigmatized by the intervention (but rather that they were beneficially involved in making the collegiate world better for future generations of incoming students).  

According to the researchers, surveys in the week following the intervention suggested that participating students sensed that the intervention buttressed their abilities to overcome adversities and enhanced their achievement of a sense of belonging.  And, the impact was long-lasting, even when participating students couldn't recall much at all about the intervention.  

The researches then used the statistical method of multiple regression to control for various other possible influences and to test for the impact of race.  As revealed in the research article, the intervention was particularly beneficial for African-American students in terms of both improvements in GPA and improvements in well-being.  In short, a brief intervention led to demonstrable benefits.

That brings us back to us ASPers!  

With the start of the school year for ASPers, we have a wonderful opportunity to engage in meaningful interventions...by sharing the great news about social belonging.  But, there's more involved than just sharing the news.  Based on the research findings, to make a real difference for our students, our students must not see themselves - in the words of the Stanford researchers - as just "beneficiaries" of the intervention...but rather as "benefactors" of the intervention.  

In short, our entering students must be empowered with tools to share with future generations what they learned about adversity, belonging, and overcoming…and how to thrive in law school.  

Wow!  What a spectacular opportunity…and a challenge…for all of us! (Scott Johns).

P.S. Here's the abstract to provide you with a precise overview of the research findings:  "A brief intervention aimed at buttressing college freshmen’s sense of social belonging in school was tested in a randomized controlled trial (N = 92), and its academic and health-related consequences over 3 years are reported. The intervention aimed to lessen psychological perceptions of threat on campus by framing social adversity as common and transient. It used subtle attitude-change strategies to lead participants to self-generate the intervention message. The intervention was expected to be particularly beneficial to African-American students (N = 49), a stereotyped and socially marginalized group in academics, and less so to European-American students (N = 43). Consistent with these expectations, over the 3-year observation period the intervention raised African Americans’ grade-point average (GPA) relative to multiple control groups and halved the minority achievement gap. This performance boost was mediated by the effect of the intervention on subjective construal: It prevented students from seeing adversity on campus as an indictment of their belonging. Additionally, the intervention improved African Americans’ self-reported health and well-being and reduced their reported number of doctor visits 3 years postintervention. Senior-year surveys indicated no awareness among participants of the intervention’s impact. The results suggest that social belonging is a psychological lever where targeted intervention can have broad consequences that lessen inequalities in achievement and health."  Gregory M. Walton, et al, Science Magazine, 18 Mar 2011: Vol. 331, Issue 6023, pp. 1447-1451  

September 1, 2016 in Advice, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Professionalism, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Alone…or Perhaps…Not Quite So Alone as 1L Students?

Wow...For those of you as 1L students, perhaps you feel like I did when I started law school…alone.

But, here's some great news!  

We are not alone; rather, we are "ALL"-alone!  

You see, at least according to posters made by recent entering law school students,  most of us feel out-of-place, a bit perplexed, unsure of ourselves, wondering how we will perhaps "fit" in, and, most of all, hoping that we can survive law school.

In my case, as a person that turned forty years old in my first year of law school, I was so scared.  Downright frightened…and...intimated.  But, as it turns out (and I didn't realize at the time), most of my entering colleagues (if not all) were feeling just like I did!  

Don't believe me?  

Well, here's a few posters with comments that some of recent entering law students - in the very first week - produced to depict what they were excited about in entering law school…and what they were concerned about in entering law school.  Perhaps you'll find that you share some of the same excitements and concerns.  

And, here's the key…Don't just focus on the negatives but also take time to reflect on the positives that you share with so many (if not all) of your law students.  You see,most of us feel just like you do.  

So, take time to encourage one another and share your own personal excitements and concerns.  It's a bit scary at first, but, in the end, you'll be mighty happy that you did.  And, good luck new 1L students.  We wish you the best!

IMG_1982

 i  IMG_1990 IMG_1984
(Scott Johns)

August 25, 2016 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Professionalism, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 4, 2016

ASP-ers as Coaches? Perhaps!

"A great sports instructor or coach builds us up, but also teaches us important lessons of emotional management, such as confidence, perseverance, resilience and how to conquer fear and anxiety. Many times, these lessons have a permanent impact on our mind-set and attitude well beyond the playing field."  So says columnist Elizabeth Bernstein in her article: "A Coach's Influence Off the Field." http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-coachs-influence-off-the-field-1470073923?tesla=y

That got me thinking about life…my life as an Academic Support Professional.  With the start of a new academic year upon us, perhaps this is an opportunity - as Goldie Pritchard puts it - to try something new.  So, I've been thinking and reflecting about my life as an ASP-er, and, in particular, that I might focus on something new--serving as a coach to our law students.

You see, and this is where the rub is, the most significant teachers in my life have, well, not just been teachers.  Rather, they've been more than teachers; they've been coaches.  And, not just sport coaches.  More like life coaches.  Whether they were teaching political science or trying to help me throw a ball, they all left indelible imprints, imprints that made me a better person and that went well beyond the classroom (or the baseball field)...because they taught me lessons that were much bigger than just about political science or baseball.  

Let me give you an example from political science.  I once had a professor by the name of Sandel.  No offense, but I can't recall the principles of Kant's categorical imperative or Hannah Arndt's political theories. But, I can vividly remember something much more important that I learned, in particular, to call people by their name…to invite students to comment and participate…to let people speak…by truly listening to them.  Those were lessons well given.

Or, in another context regarding life's many daily struggles, as Bernstein sums up in her column, coaches teach us lessons that help us when the going gets tough, for example, in Bernstein's words, "...when I’m on deadline or giving a speech to an intimidating crowd:  You need to arrest a negative thought immediately, in midair. Remind yourself that you are competent and know what you’re doing. Slow your breath."  Let me be frank. Those are the lessons that got me through law school.  And, I learned them through teachers that were, really, coaches. 

Thus, as we begin to embark on a new academic season, perhaps I should focus more on coaching.  After all, our work brings us in contact with people that are really struggling over learning to be learners in a new learning environment…an environment that we call law school...with people that need us to coach.  So, what does a coach do?  According to Bernstein, a coach says things that change our lives for the better…and for ever, such as:

“You rock!”

“Great job in difficult circumstances.”

“You should be really proud of yourself.”

But, in my own words, a coach, first and foremost, listens and observes others.  That I can do, if only, I'd stop talking so much!  (Scott Johns)

August 4, 2016 in Academic Support Spotlight, Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Orientation, Professionalism, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Get Involved with the AALS Section on Academic Support

Are you looking for ways to give back to the profession? Do you want to meet more colleagues? Do you want to have an impact at a national level? Now is the time to sign up for committees for the 2016 - 2017 AALS rotation.

To volunteer to be on a committee, you need to be a faculty member or professional at a AALS member school. Not sure if your law school is a member school? Check the membership list here: AALS Member Schools.

As soon as possible, please email the Section Chair to indicate your interest in participating on a specific committee: Lisa Young (Seattle) at youngl@seattleu.edu.

The following are brief descriptions of the committees:

Awards Committee: The Section on Academic Support has the choice to present an award at the annual meeting to a member of the profession who has made outstanding contributions to ASP. The Committee decides each year whether or not the award process should be undertaken that year. If the Committee plans to present an award, it follows the processes for nomination and selection in the Section's Bylaws. Both the Section's Executive Committee and AALS must concur with the selection for the award to be presented.

Bar Passage Committee: This committee considers a wide range of issues related to bar preparation and the bar exam itself.

Learning Curve Committee: This committee publishes two electronic issues of the Learning Curve each year. The committee determines issue themes (where appropriate), solicits articles, selects articles, acts as editorial staff, and undertakes oversight of the actual publication of the issues.

Nominations Committee: Each year the committee undertakes the nomination process to select a slate of officers/board members to be presented to the membership at the annual meeting. The nominations/selection process is covered by the Section's Bylaws as well as the Section's 2014 Executive Committee Recommendations.

Program Committee: This committee is responsible for deciding the program topic in line with the AALS annual meeting theme, advertising the calls for proposals for program sessions/papers, reading all submitted proposals, selecting the proposals to be included, holding teleconferences with the selected speakers, and handling the program tasks at the annual meeting.

Status Committee: This new committee grew out of a discussion at this year's business meeting. The committee will look at the status issues that ASP/bar prep professionals have within the legal academy. There will likely be contacts with our counterparts in the legal-writing/LWI/ALWD and clinical areas regarding their status history and strategies that they used to address status issues. 

Website Committee: The Section is responsible for the Law School Academic Success Project website that is supported financially by LSAC and is under the AALS umbrella. The website has content for law school professionals interested in ASP and students. Work is needed to update the website: directory information, lessons in a box, other content.

January 16, 2016 in Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)