Tuesday, March 27, 2018
"The ABA Law Student Division has selected March 28 as the official National Mental Health Day at law schools across the country. Law schools are encouraged to sponsor educational programs and events that teach and foster breaking the stigma associated with severe depression and anxiety among law students and lawyers." To help law schools plan events, the ABA offers a 43-page downloadable Planning Toolkit, links to organizations like the Lawyer Assistance Programs and David Nee Foundation, and a robust list of internet resources (including this blog!).
Unfortunately, mental health issues are prevalent in law school. A 2014 survey of "law student well-being found that one quarter suffered from anxiety and 18 percent had been diagnosed with depression. More than half of the law students surveyed said they had gotten drunk at least once during the past 30 days." Moreover, a 2016 follow-up study "found that those problems don’t stop in law school. Fully one in five lawyers are problem drinkers and nearly half have experienced depression at some point during their careers."
In February 2018 at the ABA midyear meeting, in response to the research, the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates adopted a resolution urging law firms, law schools, bar associations, lawyer regulatory agencies and other legal employers to take concrete action to address the high rates of substance abuse and mental health issues. The report recommends that law schools deemphasize alcohol at social events, have professional counselors on campus, and have attendance policies that help schools detect when students may be in crisis. The 2018 resolution expands upon a 2017 recommendation that "approved changes to the Model Rule for Minimum Continuing Legal Education that require an hour of substance abuse and mental health CLE every three years." (Kirsha Trychta)
Tuesday, February 27, 2018
Over at Inside Higher Ed, a doctoral student named Alyssa has started blogging about what it is like to attend graduate school with a disability, namely autism. The author's posts highlight the problems disabled students encounter, how students deal with them, and what we as professors can do to make things easier for graduate students with disabilities. Interestingly, as a graduate student with substantial teaching responsibilities, the author is able to talk about testing accommodations from two perspectives simultaneously: that of a student and that of a professor.
The author's first post back in October 2017 explained how disabled students feel "When [Professors] Tell  a Disability Story" or announce their personal feelings about whether certain accommodations are appropriate, generally. Unsurprisingly, the author's not a fan.
The following month the author revealed that "[They], Too, Dread the Accommodations Talk" because, as a student, they never know how a professor or administrator is going to respond. Will the professor be accepting, skeptical, or downright antagonistic?
In "Mentoring," the author discusses the importance of having a disability-specific mentoring network.
Last month, the author contemplated (How) Do I Tell My Students? The post supports the argument that disabled students benefit when they see "someone like them" at the front of the classroom.
Most recently, "How 'Out' Do I Need to Be" explored how certain classroom policies can force a student to "out" themselves regarding their disability (e.g. laptop bans). The author explained how some disabled students will purposely avoid certain courses or professors whose classroom policies are at odds with their accommodations, instead of taking the class with an approved accommodation.
Unfortunately, each post seemed to reveal a new flaw in the university's accommodation procedure. I'm not sure what the procedure is at each law school, but I'd like to think that it is fair and less offensive than what the blogger has been exposed to during their graduate program.
At my law school, accommodation requests are all handled by the registrar (who is trained to deal with ADA requests), which limits the opportunity for individual faculty to "tell a disability story" or inadvertently "out" a student. But, I also know at the undergraduate level of the same university, the disabled student must have the "accommodations talk" with each professor, every semester. Fearing the talk, some undergraduates will forego using the accommodations altogether. Unfortunately, skipping out on accommodations during their undergraduate education may make it harder to establish a need later, such as on the LSAT, during law school, or on the bar exam. (Kirsha Trychta)
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Some (or perhaps, most) law students get tired of reading judicial opinions every single day. I have found that giving students the option to listen to audio files or watch movies in lieu of reading a case helps to create some variety and spices up the learning process. For example, last week my Criminal Procedure students had the option to watch the 1980 movie “Gideon’s Trumpet” or read Gideon v. Wainwright and the corresponding notes in the textbook. I included both the audio and textbook options expressly on the syllabus. About half the class opted to watch the movie while the other half read the case; importantly, the whole class was able to engage in the discussion. Similarly, next week students will have the option to read the portion of the textbook discussing jury selection or to listen to More Perfect’s “Object Anyway” podcast.
Even if you don’t teach a substantive law course, the audio files can be helpful to aid any student who is struggling to connect with the written material. Earlier this semester a high-performing first-year student stopped by my office concerned that she had lost her fall semester spark. In the fall semester, she was excited about law school and thus enthused to work hard. Her hard work paid off, earning her very high grades in December. But, when she returned in January, she just couldn’t connect with the cases and material like she had done before. The spring semester courses of Constitutional Law and Property weren’t peaking her curiosity the way the fall semester courses of Criminal Law and Torts had. After chatting with her for a few minutes, I could tell that she needed a new way to engage with the material. I suggested some legal podcasts, especially ones that would give her the story behind the litigation. She needed to be able to relate to the parties on a more personal level, and I thought a well told story about the litigants could help. After just a few podcasts, she has already reported that Con Law has become more interesting to her now that she’s “getting to know” the justices’ personalities and she enjoys learning what happened to the litigants before and after the lawsuit.
If you’re interested in introducing an audio option to one of your courses or academic support arsenal, consider:
Oyez “is a multimedia archive devoted to making the Supreme Court of the United States accessible to everyone. It is a complete and authoritative source for all of the Court’s audio since the installation of a recording system in October 1955. Oyez offers transcript-synchronized and searchable audio, plain-English case summaries, illustrated decision information, and full text Supreme Court opinions. Oyez also provides detailed information on every justice throughout the Court’s history and offers a panoramic tour of the Supreme Court building, including the chambers of several justices.”
According to More Perfect’s creators “Supreme Court decisions shape everything from marriage and money to public safety and sex. We know these are very important decisions we should all pay attention to – but they often feel untouchable and even unknowable. Radiolab's first ever spin-off series, More Perfect, connects you to the decisions made inside the court's hallowed halls, and explains what those rulings mean for "we the people" who exist far from the bench. More Perfect bypasses the wonkiness and tells stories behind some of the court’s biggest rulings.”
Legal Talk Network is a podcast network for legal professionals with hosts from well-known organizations and brands in the legal community. Over 20 different active podcasts cover important legal news and developments, including access to justice, law school, industry events, legal technology, and the future of law. The most relevant podcast within the network is the ABA Law Student Podcast, which covers issues that affect law students and recent grads.
In addition, Learn Out Loud offers numerous legal podcasts and audio files for free download. (Kirsha Trychta)
Monday, January 1, 2018
Our Law Professor Blog Network counterpart, Scott Fruehwald, at TaxProf Blog posted his list of the best legal education articles from 2017. As you'll see in the blogpost re-printed in its entirety below, several academic support professors made the list this year. Kudos to the ASP community! (Kirsha Trychta)
* * *
"Weekly Legal Education Roundup: The Best Legal Education Articles of 2017" by Scott Fruehwald
Because the week between Christmas and New Years is typically slow for legal education news, I am going to discuss the best legal education articles from 2017. Several articles in the past year showed the effectiveness of new approaches to legal education. There have also been several excellent articles this year on professional identity development. Finally, measuring outcomes was an important area of research in 2017.
- Louis D. Bilionis (Cincinnati), Bringing Purposefulness to the American Law School's Support of Professional Identity Formation. In February, the Holloran Center at the University of St. Thomas School of Law held a conference entitled The Next Steps of a Professional Formation Social Movement. In his contribution to the conference, Dean Bilionis declared that there needs to be a new mindset on the part of law schools, professors, and other law school professionals to properly help law students develop their professional identities.
- Hillary Burgess (Charlotte, Appalachian), Beyond Learning Objectives: Overview of The Taxonomy of Cognitive Legal Learning Objectives and Outcome Measurements. This is the best article I have seen on learning objectives, assessment objectives, and outcome measurements. Professor Burgess has adopted Bloom's Taxonomy to legal education.
- Jennifer M. Cooper (Tulane) & Regan A. R. Gerung (Wisconsin-Green Bay), Smarter Law Study Habits: An Empirical Analysis of Law Learning Strategies and Relationship with Law GPA. "Both legal educators and law students need to incorporate testing and formative assessment as a study and learning strategy to learn each new topic, not just exam prep. Self-testing and formative assessment are not only critical for success in law school, but help students develop successful learning strategies for the bar exam and as lifelong learners in law practice."
- Heather Field (Hastings), Fostering Ethical Professional Identity in Tax: Using the Traditional Tax Classroom. Professor Heather Field has written an excellent article that explains how to help future tax lawyers develop their professional identities.
- Neil W. Hamilton (St. Thomas), The Next Steps of a Formation-of-Student-Professional Identity Social Movement: Building Bridges Among the Three Key Stakeholders – Faculty and Staff, Students, and Legal Employers and Clients. "The major challenge for this symposium on next steps for the formation-of-student-professional-identity social movement is how substantially to increase the number of law students nationally who experience required professional-identity curriculum."
- Peter H. Huang (Colorado), Adventures in Higher Education, Happiness, and Mindfulness. "This Article analyzes why law schools should teach law students about happiness and mindfulness. This Article discusses how to teach law students about happiness and mindfulness. Finally, this Article provides brief concluding thoughts about how law students can sustain happiness and mindfulness once they graduate from law school."
- Benjamin V. Madison III and Larry O. Natt Gantt, II (Regent), Self-Directedness and Professional Formation: Connecting Two Critical Concepts in Legal Education. "Students want meaningful employment. Nevertheless, many if not most have not recognized the need to make a plan to pursue such employment. Most students have not identified the areas of law that best match their strengths and values. Moreover, most students do not have an intentional plan for exploring roles in the legal profession that would match their strengths, values, and interests. . . The authors explore how law schools can help students in seeking their goal by cultivating self-direction and development of a plan to move toward their goal."
- Deborah Jones Merritt, Ruth Colker, Ellen E. Deason, Monte Smith and Abigail B. Shoben, Formative Assessments: A Law School Case Study. Students who chose formative feedback "achieved significantly higher grades on the final exam even though the assessment score did not factor into their course grade. Notably, students receiving this formative feedback also secured a significantly higher GPA in their other spring-semester classes. Both of these effects persisted after controlling for LSAT score, UGPA, gender, race, and fall-semester grades.
- Louis N. Schulze Jr. (FIU), Using Science to Build Better Learners: One School's Successful Efforts to Raise Its Bar Passage Rates in an Era of Decline. "In this essay, I discuss principles from the science of learning that law schools and students should embrace. In the context of the methods we have implemented at Florida International University College of Law, which had the highest bar passage rate in Florida for three consecutive exams, I detail the project of transforming the learning of law away from the ineffective methods of yore and towards effective strategies that can make a difference on student performance and bar passage."
- William M. Sullivan (lead author of Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law), Professional Formation as Social Movement. The Sullivan article may be the most important article on legal education I've read in the past few years. Its thesis is revolutionary: Law schools not only need to include professional identity formation in the curriculum, they need to frame the curriculum around it. This would indeed be a disruptive innovation, which would create a 21st-century approach to legal education.
- David I.C. Thomson (Denver) and Stephen Daniels (American Bar Foundation), If You Build it, They Will Come: What Students Say About Experiential Learning. "What we learned was that applicants chose Denver Law on several traditional factors (such as cost and location) but also strongly indicated that the experiential learning component was an important part of their decision."
Tuesday, November 7, 2017
Hat tip to my colleague, Atiba Ellis, who forwarded me a link to the BBC World Service podcast series "The Why Factor," which recently explored the concept of Imposter Syndrome. The podcast smartly outlines the causes of Imposter Syndrome and then highlights the syndrome's prevalence in the workplace and higher education--especially among diverse or minority employees and students.
The 23-minute episode explains: "Have you ever felt like a fraud? You think that one day your mask will be uncovered and everyone will know your secret. According to psychologists, this is a common feeling that many of us suffer from and it has a name; Imposter Syndrome. The term was coined by two American psychologists, Dr Pauline Clance and Dr Suzanne Imes, in 1978. Dr Clance and Dr Imes first thought the feeling was only experienced by high achieving women, but quickly found that men experienced it too. According to subject expert, Dr Valerie Young, women are more susceptible to imposter feelings because they internalise failure and mistakes- whereas men are more likely to attribute failure and mistakes to outside factors. However, those who belong to minority groups of whom there are stereotypes about competence also commonly experience imposter feelings. If you suffer from imposter syndrome, don’t worry you’re in good company; Maya Angelou, Robert Pattinson, Meryl Streep, Viola Davis and many more successful people have expressed feeling like imposters."
Monday, October 16, 2017
I first want to provide a special shout-out to Russell McClain, the University of Baltimore School of Law, and everyone involved with the planning and running of the Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) Diversity Conference. The presentations and accompanying dialogue were informative and thought provoking. And, as always, the camaraderie among the law school academic support community and the community’s genuine interest in law student success were inspiring and helped serve as continued motivation to push us through the rest of the academic semester.
I also want to provide a separate shout-out to my colleague, Rachel Gurvich. I have mentioned Rachel’s name and Twitter handle (@RachelGurvich) on several occasions at law school conferences and on this blog. Rachel recently wrote an ASP-ish post on The #Practice Tuesday blog. The post, entitled, “It’s not so shiny anymore: 1Ls and the October slump”, provides seven tips on how 1Ls can push through the rest of the academic semester. I encourage you and your students to take a look at the post and follow Rachel on Twitter. She’s a great colleague and resource at Carolina and beyond—her Tweets have reached and supported law students throughout the country, including this one and this one.
Rachel and Sean Marotta (@smmarotta) started The #Practice Tuesday blog as an opportunity to expand their #Practice Tuesday discussions on Twitter. On Tuesday afternoons, Rachel and Sean lead great discussions on “advice and musings on legal practice and the profession.” Participants in the discussions include practitioners, judges, and law school faculty and students throughout the country. Feel free to join in on the conversations!
Again, thanks to Russell McClain and everyone involved with the AASE Diversity Conference! And, thanks, to my amazing colleague Rachel Gurvich! (OJ Salinas)
October 16, 2017 in Advice, Current Affairs, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Learning Styles, Meetings, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General, Teaching Tips, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, September 3, 2017
Hat tip to Gonzaga's Sandra Simpson, Associate Professor of Legal Research and Writing and Co-Director of the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning, for sharing her blog post on the ILTL website. The link is http://lawteaching.org/2017/08/28/the-easiest-technology-for-doing-the-hard-work/ and gives a quick summary of her technique using questions on Mentimeter to help her students understand Bloom's Taxonomy. (Amy Jarmon)
Sunday, August 6, 2017
The Law School Academic Support Blog is one of a variety of blogs that make up the Law Professor Blogs Network. Over 100 law professors serve as editors of the various topical blogs within the network. The Legal Writing Prof Blog and The Legal Skills Prof Blog are just two of the specialty blogs that might appeal to ASP/bar prep professionals. Many of the blogs in the network are on specific legal topics: appellate advocacy, contracts, environmental law, M&A to name just a few. You can check out the entire list of blogs within the network at: Law Professor Blogs.
Monday, July 31, 2017
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!
Saturday, August 20, 2011
There is a very interesting discussion at the Freakonomics blog (same authors as the book) about how to incentivize class attendance. I think this dovetails nicely with a question posted yesterday on the ASP listserv about laptops in class. Both attendance policies and laptops bans get at the same fundamental issue: how do professors keep students in class and engaged? I don't think there is one answer to this question, but a theme seems to run through both issues. The theme is lecture-only or lecture-from-the-book courses bore students, encourage students to miss class, and increase the use of distractions in class. I have heard over and over from doctrinal professors that the Socratic Method is not lecture-only, but as the Socratic Method is employed in many classes, students can't see the difference. This is especially true when the Socratic Method is used to question only a tiny number of students in a large class; I have heard students complain they would rather lecture-only, because questioning only a few students, who may or may not have done the reading, just increases confusion.
The comments below the post in Freaknomics make sense and pose the same questions law schools are struggling to answer.