Thursday, November 14, 2013

Using Multiple Choice to Teach Students to Write: Identifying Discreet Steps Experts Take

Professor Hillary Burgess has published a wonderful article in The Law Teacher on how to help students learn miniskills through multiple choice and short answer tests. She writes, "When students first learn how to structure legal analysis, it is important that they understand the components (IRAC). Additionally, it is important that students understand that every analysis generally has three components: a Fact, an Understanding of that fact (inferences, assumptions, etc.), and a Link to the Language of the Element or Rule. I call these three components FULLER analysis, modeled after Michael Hunter Schwartz’ FIL analysis, described in Expert Learning for Law Students."

Her quizzes cover rule statements, identifying the purpose of each sentence in a paragraph (e.g., issue, rule, analysis, conclusion; sub-elements), multiple paragraph analyses, fixing incomplete analyses (such as what part is missing?), spotting issues, synthesizing rules, identifying relevant facts, etc. To get a true sense of how good her exercises are, you really need to look at the examples in the article.

Professor Burgess’s article is yet another example of ways to create deeper learning in law students without producing a great deal of additional work. If we are to properly educate students for the 21st century, every law professor needs to do something similar to what Professor Burgess is doing.

Tomorrow, I will discuss another issue that Professor Burgess’s article raises.

(Scott Fruehwald)

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