Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Four Posts on Using Cognitive Psychology by Louis Schulze

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If you have not seen the four posts on The Faculty Lounge by Louis N. Schulze, Jr.,  Assistant Dean and Professor of Academic Support at Florida International University College of Law, regarding using cognitive psychology with our students, here are the links: Part 1: Retrieval Practice, Part 2: Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning, Part 3: Spaced Repetition, and Part 4: Cognitive Schema Theory.

October 25, 2016 in Learning Styles, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Empirical Evidence that Formative Assessment Improves Final Exams

Hat tip to Sandra L. Simpson at Gonzaga for sending out the link to the article review of the month on the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning web pages. The link to the posting is here.

October 2, 2016 in Exams - Theory, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Some Thoughts on Teaching Outlining, etc.

As mentioned in a previous blog, most of my law school outlines were - simply put - not outlines…and not useful at all in law school.  Rather, my outlines were just my regurgitated notes with my case briefs and class notes filling out the details.  

And, there was a good reason that I didn't know how to outline or create another organization tool (such as a flowchart, a map, an audio file, a poster, etc.).  That's because I didn't have a framework in mind to organize my notes, briefs, and casebook materials.  And, I suspect that many of our students find themselves in similar straits.

So, here's a thought…just a thought.  Perhaps Academic Support Professionals might lend a hand in providing the organizational template for outlining.  

Here's why.  First, the casebook and the class syllabus already provide our students with a rough guide as to methods to organize a law school subject.  So, we don't mind giving our students some sort of start in the process.  But, the rough guide from a casebook and syllabus are not enough.  

That's because the rough outlines in those materials do not provide students with sufficient details to organize the subject.  The tables of contents, for example, usually just provide legal terms of art.  That's it.  No so-called "black letter" law at all.  

So, here's the rub. We expect our students to craft the rules for themselves. But, in the practice of law, we don't do that at all.  Rather, at least speaking for myself, when I work on a novel legal problem, I don't ever start with a casebook.  Instead, I start with a mini-hornbook to provide me an overview of the black letter law, including the big picture "umbrella" rules, such as:  A refugee is "one who is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of, that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion…"  Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 101(a)(42)(A).  

Then, I start digging into the cases to figure out, assuming that the law does not define the various terms, what persecution means or membership in a particular social group, etc.  In short, as an attorney, I have never had to create an umbrella rule from scratch based on reading a bunch of cases.  Instead, I use the cases to determine how to apply (or distinguish) the rule to (or from) the situations that my clients are facing.

If that is how most of us practice law, then maybe that is how we should study law too.  If so (and this is just a hunch of mine), maybe we should be giving our students a template of the black letter law. Then, our students can proactively use that template to flesh out the meanings of the rules, the limits of the rules, and the particular applications of the rules…by inserting within that template their case blurbs, class notes, class hypotheticals, policy rationales, etc.  

One of my best professors in law school (and also one of my most difficult in terms of grading) was not afraid at all to set out the black letter law for us, both as a preview of the coming class and as a review of the previous class.  With the law set out, we were much better able to dig into the heart of the law…what do the words mean, what are the policy implications behind the rules, should the rules be changed, etc.  

In short, we learned to think like a lawyer…even without having to craft our own umbrella rules.  And, amazingly, that's one of the few law school classes that I can still recall many of the things that I learned.  The others - just like most of my law school outlines - are just faded memories.  (Scott Johns).

 

September 29, 2016 in Advice, Exams - Studying, Learning Styles, Study Tips - General, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Foreign Students and Class Participation

Many of our law schools have exchange or L.L.M. foreign students enrolled in our courses. Our educational system (both undergraduate and legal) is very different from the educational backgrounds of many of these students. Adapting to the U.S. educational system is compounded by adapting to the U.S. legal system as well. It is not unusual for foreign students to tell me how very difficult the transition is for them.

I can empathize because I had to adjust to the British legal system and language when I cross-qualified as a solicitor for England and Wales - and I already spoke American English and came from a common law country! It was hard to think in two versions of English and make the mental switches to a very different common law legal system. Most of our foreign students are adjusting to an entirely different language and from civil law to common law!

A recent Inside Higher Education post addressed the participation in class aspect of the adjustment for foreign students. The post provides food for thought and practical tips as we try to help these students adjust to the very American emphasis on class participation. Read the post here: Helping Foreign Students Speak Up .     (Amy Jarmon)

September 25, 2016 in Diversity Issues, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Legal Ed Videos on Teaching

Hat tip to Dr. Victoria Sutton, Texas Tech Law's Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development, for alerting me to the collection of videos from the Igniting Law Teaching conference in 2015  found on the Legal Ed web pages. You can also find the 2014 conference through the Legal Ed web page by following the conference link. (Amy Jarmon)

September 24, 2016 in Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Counterpoint to Laptop Bans

Much has been said about the positives of banning laptops in the classroom. Proponents of the ban position have pointed to studies that support handwriting over typing notes.

The Chronicle of Higher Education contained an article this week that does not buy in to the studies and takes a more moderate approach: No, Banning Laptops Is Not the Answer.

In that article is a link to a May blog post on The Tatooed Prof that also supports a different approach to classroom technology: Let's Ban the Classroom Technology Ban.

 

 

September 18, 2016 in Miscellany, Study Tips - General, Teaching Tips, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 16, 2016

Giving struggling students a workbook of practice questions

When a student is placed on Academic Probation, I meet with them once a week during the next term.  Importantly, I assign them Q&As, E&Es, or other sample question books to work on throughout the semester.  Every week, I assign about 10 pages of questions in each of the subjects they are taking.  I don't pick up any of their work once it is completed, unless they have a specific question.  I just use it to keep them on task and to get them used to the idea of continually doing practice questions as they read and outline their courses.  Toward the end of the semester, I give them long essay questions that I have created, have them turn them in, and go over the answers.  I've used this model the past few years, and it has significantly improved student work, leading students to get off probation and to ultimately pass the bar on the first try.

I think the key to this is to actually give weekly assignments and to actually give them copies of the materials.  It's much harder to ignore the extra weight in their backpack than it is to ignore something I've emailed, pointed out on CALI, or posted on TWEN.

(Alex Ruskell)

 

September 16, 2016 in Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Icebreakers in the Classroom

Do you ever wonder whether your icebreakers at the beginning of the course or a training session are helpful or a waste of time? Sandra Simpson (Gonzaga) recently posted a blog entry on the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning web pages with hints on successful use of icebreakers: Icebreakers in Law School: Juvenile or Helpful?

September 11, 2016 in Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

More on Trigger Warnings

The discussion of trigger warnings has continued in recent issues of The Chronicle of Higher Education because of recent events at the University of Chicago. This past week The Chronicle published a guide to trigger warnings that summarizes what has been going on at colleges and universities on this issue. The link is here: A Brief Guide to the Battle Over Trigger Warnings.

August 30, 2016 in Miscellany, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 29, 2016

Study on Cold-Calling Undergraduates - Revisting the Law School Socratic Method

In The Chronicle of Higher Education, a recent article talked about a study that found cold-calling on undergraduate students increased the students' voluntary participation over the semester. The article referenced that like any other skill, students need practice - practice in the skill of class participation. The link to the article is here: Why Cold-Calling on Students Works. (Of course, the article also made a negative reference to the law school use of cold-calling and included a link to the well-known clip from Paperchase in which Kingsfield terrorizes Hart.) 

For a more positive look at law school Socratic Method, see my post here: Turning the Socratic Method into a Positive Experience. (Amy Jarmon)

August 29, 2016 in Stress & Anxiety, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

One Thing Can Improve Students' Grades in All Their Courses!

Simply amazing!

As reported in "Above the Law," there is one thing that we can do to improve our students' grades in all their courses this academic term.  

In her post about the article "The Impact of Individualized Feedback on Law Student Performance,"  Kathryn Rubio summarizes the research of Daniel Schwarcz and Dion Farganis that demonstrates that law students that have just one teacher...in just one course...who provide individualized feedback within that course...improve grades for their students...across all courses, even controlling for LSAT and UGPA:  http://abovethelaw.com/2016/05/one-thing-can-improve-all-your-law-school-grades/ 

Here's the proof (or, for those of you that are trial attorneys, the empirical evidence):  The Impact of Individualized Feedback on Law Student Performance

For us, this is incredible news…because…we can make that difference for our students - across all their courses - by integrating individualized feedback through our own courses and programs.

Wow…that's the power of one!  (Scott Johns).

 

August 18, 2016 in Advice, Exams - Studying, Learning Styles, Study Tips - General, Teaching Tips, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Trigger Warnings and Microaggressions

The Section on Student Services had microagressions as the topic for its second panel at the January 2016 AALS Annual Meeting. In addition, one of the Hot Topic programs was on trigger warnings. (If you missed these sessions, AALS members can go to the AALS website and log in to view podcasts. On the members page, click events and conferences; go down to 2016 Annual Meeting which should take you to the program; click on podcasts at the top to get that viewing list.)

Both of these issues are much discussed currently in law schools. Here is an article discussing the issues from a broader higher education perspective in today's The Chronicle of Higher Education: Speaker-Beware.  (Amy Jarmon)

March 1, 2016 in Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Resources on Classroom Technology and Digital Natives

Hat tip to James B. Levy of the Legal Skills Prof Blog for his September 25th post referencing his own SSRN article on teaching with classroom technology in law school and a forthcoming Australian book with a chapter on the myth of digital natives. His post can be found here: Legal Skills Prof Blog Post by James B. Levy. (Amy Jarmon)

September 28, 2015 in Books, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Article on Teaching the Digital Caveman

Hat tip to Scott Fruehwald on the LRWProf list for pointing out a new article.  You may want to check out James B. Levy's new article entitled Teaching the Digital Caveman: Rethinking the Use of Classroom Technology in Law School on SSRN: Levy Article.  (Amy Jarmon)

May 16, 2015 in Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Nix the Acronyms

The Legal Skills Prof Blog recently posted this reference to a short piece on acronyms. I agree that acronyms and other abbreviations can cause confusion, ruin the flow of an essay, and cause the reader frustration. The article suggests a few useful guidelines on when to use them and when to avoid them. I have even had one bar examiner tell me to instruct students that their bar exam essays should not read like a text message. In an acronym, twitter/text, abbreviation heavy culture, this is a good reminder. Thus, I advise my students that when they are in doubt, they should write it out.

(LBY)

February 23, 2015 in Advice, Bar Exam Preparation, Miscellany, Teaching Tips, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

If you are creating a new ASP course...

Every year someone on the listserv asks for advice because they have been charged with creating a new ASP course. I remember the anxiety I felt when I had to design my first course. Kris Franklin's new book, Strategies and Techniques for Teaching Academic Success Courses, should fill this need. The book will be given away free during AALS. 

I have read the book, and highly recommend it. Although I have been teaching in ASP for many years, it was an excellent refresher on what I should do doing and thinking about when I design (or redesign) a course. 

(RCF)

December 13, 2014 in Advice, Books, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Being an Introvert in Law School

Law school attracts extroverts and in many ways is designed for them.  An astute law student must highlight their successes, be vocal participants in a Socratic classroom, and zealously advocate in order to thrive in the competitive law school environment.  However, being an introvert does not mean that an individual cannot excel in law school or contribute meaningfully to the practice of law. 

There is a great TED talk by Susan Cain, a lawyer turned writer, who explores introversion and the value of quiet.   In this TED talk, she implores everyone to “stop the constant group work”, “unplug and get inside your own head”, and share your gifts with others.  Part of her manifesto includes a quote from Mahatma Gandhi, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”  How beautiful would it be for law school classrooms to honor the quiet introvert as much as the outspoken extrovert?  Is it possible to encourage “gentle shaking” in a law school doctrinal classroom?  Here are a few suggestions that will help introverts feel more comfortable speaking up and contributing in a sometimes intimidating law school classroom.

  • Rethink participation during class and provide alternative means to have students engage with the material or with each other.
  • See each student as an individual who expresses their ideas and knowledge in multiple and various ways.
  • Have students sign up to be the expert for a particular class period or for a particular set of cases.
  • Use think- pair-share prior to full classroom discussions about a topic, case, or set of problems.
  • Distribute or post discussion questions with the reading assignment prior to class.
  • Allow students to pass in class (within reason).
  • Teach students how to brief cases and prepare for class discussions.  This type of transparency will create more engaged students and lead to a more a dynamic discussion.
  • Do not call on students too quickly.  Let the question stew with the class and allow introverts more time to reflect and process. 
  • Consider a flipped classroom so that students feel more prepared to discuss and/or participate during class time. 
  • Use technology in the classroom.  Technology is ubiquitous, and can be integrated it into the classroom to provide added layers of participation and engagement- especially for diverse learners.
  • Create learning groups, which will help make a large law school classroom more accessible to introverts.
  • Reflect on your own learning style and personality.  How do they affect your teaching style and how is your delivery received by extroverts and introverts?  How can alter your style to be more inclusive?

 

(Lisa Bove Young)

 

November 8, 2014 in Advice, Learning Styles, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Body Movin'

This is an interesting article from Wired on the effectiveness of lecture vs. active learning.  Basically, the upshot is that students in a lecture course are 1.5 times more likely to fail.  While the study only looked at STEM courses, the data is still interesting for law folks to consider when planning out their courses.

Active Learning 

 

(Alex Ruskell)

June 6, 2014 in Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Pictures of Matchstick Men

 

 

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I'm a huge fan of Peter T. Wendel's illustration of the different "planes" of a case (from his book, Deconstructing Legal Analysis).  The idea that there are three discrete levels of thought and analysis involved in cases seems to be helpful and rather mind-blowing for many students.  I've also found it particularly helpful when I am trying to help students categorize and breakdown different rules and ideas (like breaking up the levels of scrutiny in a Con Law question, or splitting apart subject matter and personal jurisdiction on an essay).  So, I drew a picture.

I'm not sure if it exactly inspires confidence, but it gives students something to look at during a lecture besides me.

(Alex Ruskell) 

March 28, 2014 in Advice, Miscellany, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 7, 2014

The State I Am In

Although there have been several signs of the Apocalypse lately, including a snowball fight in my South Carolina front yard and the appearance of Prince in a sitcom with Zooey Deschanel, I have been operating under the assumption that the world will continue to turn. Consequently, I have spent most of the past few weeks meeting with students who did poorly in their first semester.

There are many, many studies showing the importance of self-evaluation. The first thing I have students in trouble do is fill out a 5-page form asking them to relive the past semester.  How many classes did they go to?  How much time each week do they spend reading?  When did they start outlines?  What were there grades in each class?  Better or worse than they thought?  Did they go to tutoring?  Did they come to my workshops?  Ever meet with me?  Ever meet with their professors?  

Once they take a hard look at what they did, we start making a plan of improvement.  Most of the time, the biggest self-reported issues are: 1.  Started outline too late,  2.  Spent too much time preparing for class (and no time preparing for exam), 3. Let Legal Writing get away from them, and  4. Never sought help.

When we've worked this out, I start helping them with outlines, scheduling, and we start with simple practice problems to get IRAC under control.  I also make sure they meet with their profs.

While meeting with all of these students may be disheartening (and involve a large investment in Kleenex products), this semester I've had the great pleasure of having many returning, Second, or Third year students swing by my office and tell me how much they've improved (several CALI awards, many at least one entire letter grade jumps).  So, I know this approach helps the vast majority of them.

Although, as always, there are the students I am extremely worried about.  As I write this, the car keys of one of my in-trouble first years continue to hang on a hook outside my office.  It has been three days since he left them here and I emailed him -- I haven't heard anything.  How is he getting home?  Is he looking for them?  Did he forget he owns a car?  Is he now living the movie "Badlands"?  Did he steal someone else's car with his best girl by his side fleeing from one safe house to another with Boss Hogg on his tail as he tries to swing back to Columbia in time for Civil Procedure at 8 am?

At any rate, the fact his keys are still sitting here does not inspire confidence.

(Alex Ruskell)

February 7, 2014 in Advice, Study Tips - General, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)