Thursday, December 10, 2009
Whew! My contracts students are taking their exam right now. This year, our registrar scheduled the contracts exam first, which meant that my students' first-year angst was concentrated on my course. The result was probably better exam preparation overall but a much higher ratio of procedural to substantive questions than I am used to. What I am calling procedural questions came in three categories:
1. I think more students than usual availed themselves of our electronic exam archive, which includes model answers to my past exams. There were follow-up questions on whether I prefer IRAC or CREAC, whether they should spot one big issue and state the general rule or spot mini-issues and mini-rules etc., and whether the issues should be highlighted and underlined or set apart with bullets, on the one hand, or simply worked into a paragraph on the other.
2. I allow my students to bring their statutory supplements with them to the exam. I don't mind if their supplements include some highlighting. Every year, the students ask me if they can tab their supplements. In the past, I have said no, because the supplement already has printed tabs and each section also has a table of contents, which is all they really need. This year, since students really seem to want to be allowed to tab and since I regard it as neither a help nor a hindrance, I permitted them to do it. The result was a flood of questions about what kind of tabbing was permissible and what kind of tabbing was optimal. Ugh. I think I will revert to my no-tabs rule.
3. I recommend to my students that they do not consult supplementary materials, because such supplements are apt to create confusion, as contracts doctrine can be organized with infinite variation, some doctrines go by multiple names and most importantly, first-year students have a hard time distinguishing between doctrines that I have covered and those that I have not. As a result, consultation of outside materials can induce panic. I recommend Farnsworth's one-volume treatise as a reference if they want clarification on a given topic, and I recommend Blum's Examples and Explanations book if they want to work through problems. Many students do not take my recommendation to heart and thus want me to comment on the value of various supplements that I have never read or to tell them whether or not the exam will cover topic X, which they do not remember talking about in class but have certainly heard of somewhere.
So, I can now provide answers to the multiple choice section of the exam as envisioned by my students:
1. The correct answer is E: this material was not covered in the course.
2. The correct answer is B: there was no meeting of the minds.
3. The correct answer D: yellow is the best color for a UCC tab.
4. The correct answer is A: for the purposes of this course, the rule stated in the casebook trumps the rule stated in Blum's book to the extent of any contradition, and the rule stated in the Blum book trumps what you learned in the BarBri review, to the extent of any contradition.
5. The correct answer is E: any reasonably well-organized presentation of the material is acceptable. . . and
The answer to all other questions is: the mailbox rule.
As I've mentioned before, I hold review sessions at the end of the semester for my contracts courses. I take about four hours (two, two-hour review sessions) to orally outline the course. I also record the sessions so that students who cannot attend can watch later.
But this is where the trouble starts. In most situations, I am not a vain person. In these videos, however, my butt looks like it has its own zip code, I seem to be in need of a manzier, and my neanderthal brow overhangs my eyes so as to render them invisible. Well, one picture is worth a thousand words; here's a still from my most recent review session (I was having a bit of difficulty with my PowerPoint presentation):
Wednesday, December 9, 2009