Tuesday, May 1, 2018
I, along with about 40 other bar-exam professionals, attended the inaugural AccessLex Bar Exam Research Forum in Washington, D.C. on April 26, 2018.
The morning began with a keynote address entitled "The Bar Exam and the Future of Legal Education" presented by Patricia D. White, Dean and Professor of Law at the University of Miami School of Law. Dean White outlined her role as the chair of a new 10-person Commission on the Future of Legal Education, an initiative of American Bar President Hilarie Bass. She explained that she and her fellow committee members intend to investigate: (1) the skill set needed to practice law, (2) access to justice issues, and (3) bar exam licensure requirements. Dean White then spoke about the potential causes for the "downturn" in nationwide MBE scores in 2014 and what it really means to be "minimally competent" to practice law. I found Dean White's presentation to be insightful, innovative, and inspiring. If you ever have the chance to hear her speak, I highly recommend it!
Rodney Fong, Associate Dean at The John Marshall Law School, spoke briefly about "Breaking Bar Pass Barriers Today" before we broke into our first of two working group sessions. Our task for the first working group session was to identify what research needs to be conducted to ensure that today's law students pass today's bar exams. The working groups suggested developing a database that includes detailed background information on each test taker, similar to the LSAC's handling of the LSAT; increasing collaboration between the ABA, NCBE, and the numerous state boards; and drawing upon other higher education disciplines and professional schools for guidance.
After lunch, Judith Welch Wegner, Professor Emerita and Dean Emerita of the University of North Carolina School of Law, discussed "The Future of the Bar Exam," focusing on what tomorrow's bar exam should look like and why. We then broken into our second working group session, with the goal of identifying what research needs to be conducted to produce the best new bar exam format by 2025. The working groups didn't hold back, offering suggestions ranging from administering sections of the bar exam after each year of law school to eliminating the exam entirely.
In short, AccessLex put together an extremely innovative and collaborative forum. With 40 key stakeholders in the same room (including representatives from the ABA and NCBE, law school deans, academic support professionals, statisticians, and higher education specialists), everyone was able to really dive deep into thoughtful discussions about how best to improve legal education generally, and the bar exam specifically. The program concluded with AccessLex inviting participants to apply for its inaugural Bar Success Research Grant. Initial letters of inquiry for the grant will be accepted during the month of May.
Monday, January 29, 2018
Academic Support is a great community with how we all share ideas and try to pick each other up. The outpouring of support is invaluable, but I have to admit it sometimes makes me feel like I lack enough knowledge to help students. I hear about all the great new ideas at AASE that others are trying based on research and books read about cutting edge neuroscience research. I listen amazed at great new ideas, and I wonder where everyone finds time to both read the research and formulate ideas. My typical day races through my head with teaching, student appointments, committee meetings, and class preparation followed by images of evenings and weekends filled with coaching youth sports, which is much more fun than reading learning science. Extra time didn't seem to exist in my schedule.
Professional development is critical to progress for both me and my students. I recently discovered a way to continually develop daily without missing my other obligations. Since I don’t listen to much music, I decided to listen to new literature while commuting to work. I live in a suburb of OKC, so my drive is about 20-30 minutes each way. Many of you have much longer commutes, which is an even bigger opportunity to grow. Audiobook apps are abundant, s0 I spent a few days looking through the options like audible and audiobooks.com. This was a new commitment for me, so free apps were the most appealing. I decided to try the free OverDrive app. OverDrive is connected to library systems across the country. It allows users with a library card to check out audiobooks from local libraries. They may not have every audiobook, but depending on the library, the selection is pretty good.
Downloading the app was the first step. The next step was to create a habit of listening. My library checks out books for 2 weeks before deleting them from the app. Committing to 20-30 minutes would be necessary to make it through the book. I constantly tell students getting better requires little decisions and discipline each day. Practice exam writing for 30 minutes a day or adding in small substantive reviews throughout the week make a difference. I needed to take my own advice. Turning off ESPN radio and committing to professional development would be difficult, but I decided to listen to at least 1 book.
OverDrive made a huge impact on my development. I started last October, and I am still listening to new books. While reading an entire book during a busy day may seem daunting, listening to a book for 20-30 minutes while driving home isn’t difficult. Since October, I listened to Grit, How We Learn, Make It Stick, Eureka Factor, Learned Optimism, and some of Chazown. For general business leadership tips, I listen to Craig Groeschel’s Leadership podcast. It is specific to leading a business (he leads one of the largest church organizations in the nation), but many of the tips are helpful in leading students. I am on the waitlist for Power of Habit. I hope to listen to it this semester.
Professional development is hard to fit into our schedule, especially since many times, immediate benefits don’t flow from reading new research. However, students are engaging new technology at a rapid pace. We have to stay ahead on new information to help our students succeed, which is worth the 20-30 minutes driving home. Not only that, you may be the presenter with great ideas at future conferences from the small amount of time spent each day.
Friday, December 5, 2014
I recently attended a lecture by Dr. Walter Mischel, who is known for administering “The Marshmallow Test” to young children as a researcher at Stanford. As many of you are aware, the test consisted of children sitting in a room with a single marshmallow (or another sweet treat) while being asked to delay eating it. If they delayed their gratification, the child would get a greater reward at a later time (typically two marshmallows). The experiment produced interesting and, at times, comical responses from the children being observed. You can check out some Marshmallow Test videos on YouTube to watch the eye rolling, seat squirming, and general agitation exhibited by the children.
While the underlying experiments were amusing to watch, the conclusions drawn from the initial experiments and the long term studies were quite insightful. Essentially, by understanding our impulses and how we can retrain ourselves in order to have greater willpower, we can make better choices and be more productive. Many of us believe that human nature rules whether the child would take the marshmallow instead of waiting (or whether the student would study for another 2 hours before watching an episode of their favorite show or checking their Facebook page). While some are more inclined to eat the marshmallow right away, many are able to resist for a limited amount of time.
As Dr. Mischel pointed out, we can all learn how to control our impulses (kids with marshmallows or adults with other enticements). For example, if you know that when you go to holiday parties, you rush the dessert table and do not leave that table until you have sampled two of each type of dessert, you can put a plan in place in order to limit your dessert intake. If you have no plan in place or if you arrive to the party hungry, you are more likely to fall into the dessert vortex. If plan ahead, to first spend some time at the crudité and also allow yourself a bite from three different sweets over the course of the event, you are more likely to be successful in limiting your impulses. Alternatively, if you instead plan to abstain completely from eating dessert at the party, you will likely fail. Thus, deliberate and premeditated change in small increments helps create a new practice that is easier to successfully adopt and sustain.
How does this apply to law students? Law students often succumb to and/or are ambushed by procrastination. It is difficult to delay gratification no matter what age. I learned from the marshmallow studies and from Dr. Michel’s presentation that we can all learn how to control our impulses if we understand what drives our impulses and if we are committed to making one small change at a time. In my example above, an individual knows that they struggle with overindulging in dessert. The willpower is harder to maintain without a clear and doable strategy in place. However, recognizing the temptation, adopting a realistic alternative, and planning ahead create a method for success. If law students try to more fully understand their impulsive triggers, they are better positioned to generate a plan to resist or avoid them.
Thus, law students can follow this strategy to use their time more effectively and more efficiently. Here are a few ideas:
- They can begin by writing out typical time stealers and creating targeted goals to reduce them. (Examples: When I study in groups, I am easily drawn off topic. When I turn on the television, I end up watching it for longer than I expected. If I turn my phone on while I am studying, my social media becomes a huge distraction.)
- They can purchase or create calendars in order to plan and track their time. Hard copy calendars visualize their priorities much better than a computer version.
- They can turn off their electronic devices while they study for a continuous block of time. (Example: I will study Torts for 3 hours in the library and leave my computer and phone in my locker.)
- They can disable their Wi-Fi while in class or while reviewing notes on their computer.
- They can establish a reward system that motivates this continued behavior. (Example: If I complete my stated study goal, I will get a night off or an extra hour of sleep, or more time for a special activity.)
Once an effective time management plan is established and the inherent benefits are apparent, students are more apt to fully adopt these new strategies by continuing to buck their impulses. After all, two marshmallows later are better than one marshmallow now.
(Lisa Bove Young)
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Helpful tips for students:
1) We learn better from re-working the material.
This piece of gold is hidden on the second page of the article. It's saying what we have said in ASP for ages; reading a canned outline, or memorizing the outline of a 2L who booked the course, will not increase learning. Re-working your own notes into an outline will help you learn the material.
2) Try one of the unusual font types for your outline.
"Think of it this way, you can’t skim material in a hard to read font, so putting text in a hard-to-read font will force you to read more carefully"
3) We overestimate our own ability.
One of the great lessons from law school exams: if you feel like you nailed it, you probably didn't. The material you are being asked to learn and apply on a law school exam is difficult and complicated. The majority of exams you will encounter as a law student have more complications and nuanced issues than you have time to answer. You should feel as if you didn't hit everything. If you feel like you knew everything on the exam, you probably oversimplified the issues.
4) We all take shortcuts. We all forget we take shortcuts.
Students should always take practice exams before finals. Actually taking the exam is important. Many students will read the fact pattern, "answer it in their head" or take a couple of notes, and then read the model answer. This is more harmful than helpful. Students will unconsciously overestimate what they understood if they have not taken the test and written a complete answer. This gives them a false sense of confidence. Students need to take a cold, hard look at what they understood and what they missed. the best strategy is to take the practice test under timed conditions with a study group, and correct answers as a group. This gives students a chance to discuss what they did not understand. It's easy to lie to ourselves, it's harder to lie to a group.
Summary of the article:
"Concentrating harder. Making outlines from scratch. Working through problem sets without glancing at the answers. And studying with classmates who test one another." These are the keys to learning more efficiently and effectively. (RCF)