Friday, August 12, 2011
Assessment of learning outcomes has become important in the last few years in light of the Carnegie Report. Below is an article that illustrates how such assessments work and what they can tell us. Note that one of the conclusions of the article is that we need new approaches to teaching first-year students.
by David J. Herring & Collin Lynch
Abstract: This paper adds to the on-going discussion about the assessment of student learning outcomes in law schools. It addresses the assessment of first-year law students’ basic legal reading and reasoning skills, with a particular examination of students’ capacity to read closely related cases, detect indeterminacies of meaning among cases, and determine which similarities and distinctions are relevant in light of an assigned professional role or task. Following a detailed review of the prior research in this area, the paper reports the results of a study that employed pre- and post-test instruments to measure the impact of the traditional case-dialogue teaching methodology on students’ skills of legal reading and reasoning. The analysis of students’ normalized learning gains indicates that while some of the participating students realized an improvement in their reading and reasoning skills, the student population as a whole did not achieve substantial learning gains. This central finding is consistent with the findings from the prior studies in this area. The results across studies call for the development of teaching approaches other than the traditional case-dialogue method and for the continued assessment of learning gains.