Saturday, June 10, 2006
Another interesting conference presentation on Friday was about RESPECT - Find Out What It Means to Me (and Find Out a Few Different Ways to Get There). First, Sheila Simon (Southern Illinois) explained how she has gotten involved in local politics, first as a city Councilwoman and now as a candidate for Mayor of her town. Next, Melissa Weresh (Drake) discussed the personal and professional benefits of pursuing scholarship. Then Mark Wojcik (John Marshall - Chicago) encouraged participation in the organized bar and the Association of American Law Schools. Members of the audience were encouraged to share their ideas for gaining respect within the legal academy, and many received their very own, homemade super-person capes for their contributions. The presenters' paper hand-out is available on the LWI website.
Friday, June 9, 2006
At one LWI conference session this morning, Professors Judy Fischer (Louisville) and Melissa Marlow (Southern Illinois) spoke about Student Evaluations: What Empirical Research Reveals. Each professor gave updates on the relevant literature, and also reported on the results of their own research. They provided information on the inherent limits and biases of student ratings of professors, the evaluation documents themselves, and the ways law schools use student ratings. Their bibliography is available online at the LWI website.
Tracy Bach and Jayne Kacer
Beth Cohen and Myra Orlen
One of the optional conference activities was a Braves baseball game on Wednesday night. Here are some photos of folks having a great time.
Thanks to Julie Oseid for taking the photos.
Thursday, June 8, 2006
Want to reach the summit in your teaching? Julie Oseid (St. Thomas), Jayne Kacer (Chapman), Robin Wellford Slocum (Chapman), and I discussed challenges in teaching, both in the classroom and in dealing with specific types of attitudes in students. We discussed some difficult scenarios--not taking a deep breath, not following department guidelines--and solutions and future options. We also addressed the reasons behind some negative student attitudes and how to de-escalate and effectively deal with those attitudes.
Susan Kosse (Louisville) and Craig Smith (Vanderbilt) set out the basics of drafting a successful syllabus. Using sample syllabi from their own courses, they focused on using the syllabus as a teaching tool and as a way to set student expectations about their legal writing courses. They also reminded participants to see the LWIONLINE website for sample syllabi and to submit their own syllabi for its syllabus bank.
One of the early morning sessions at the LWI conference today was on Inappropriate Student Use of Technology: How to Deal with the Darker Side of Computer Use in the Legal Research and Writing Environment. Professors Catherine Cameron and Jeff Minneti, both of Stetson University College of Law, described some familiar and some scarey new ways that law students can misuse computers. Session attendees had a chance to use "clickers" to electronically answer questions that polled the audience's views about student computer use and abuse. The bibliography and handout are available via the LWI website.
Towards the end of the LWI conference day today, Professor Jan Levine of Temple University gave a report on Rating U.S. News: What's Behind the Rankings of LRW Programs? He provided a helpful overview of both the overall law school rankings and the specialty program rankings, including some history and the details of how U.S. News arrives at these rankings. Professor Levine also described what these rankings might mean for the legal writing community and what recent results might be telling the academy about legal writing programs. He also described a study he is planning, to look further into these topics. All the documents he projected during the presentation are available via the LWI website.
At the plenary session of the LWI conference, held over lunch today, 550 legal writing professors learned that much of the scholarship of our field from the last 20 years has a specific name: the scholarship of teaching and learning. We heard from Richard Gale, Senior Scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and Daisy Hurst Floyd, Dean of the Mercer University School of Law, on the topic of Pedagogy, Practice, and Persuasion: Legal Writing and the Case for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. The speakers described this type of scholarship as the private act of teaching in the classroom made public via scholarship. They encouraged the audience to identify a teaching problem, make observations about it, gather evidence, and then go public with it.
The process of this scholarship about teaching and learning was nicely put with the phrases:
"from seeing to asking"
"from knowing to showing"
It became quite obvious that it's time for legal writing professors to apply to be Carnegie scholars.
LWI conference attendees gained updated ideas on plagiarism problems today at a session entitled Cheaters Should Never Win and Winners Should Never Cheat: Rooting Out and Addressing Plagiarism in LRW Programs.
First Professors Melody Daily and John Mollenkamp, of the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law, explained a new process they used to test how much their students learned about avoiding plagiarism during the first year of law school. They had given their students a pre-test early first semester, and a post-test later in the second semester, and they shared their results. But first, everyone attending the conference session took the post-test and had a chance to experience the thinking process required of the students.
Next, Professor Jeanne Kaiser, from Western New England College School of Law, presented some anecdotes of plagiarism problems law students have encountered and some ideas for preventing as many of these problems as possible. She recommended particular aspects of assignment design that can help avoid problems, types of written and verbal warnings that may be effective, and certain computerized plagiarism detection systems. Among the later were Essay Verification Engine (EVE) and copycatch.com. Professor Kaiser also provided some sample written warning policies that are representative of those used by many legal writing programs, as found when she conducted a listserve survey.
At the LWI conference today, Michael Higdon, Legal Writing Professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, gave an interesting and entertaining talk on Judges Using the Internet?!? How to Teach Students to Effectively Find and Integrate Nonlegal, Internet Sources. He reviewed the benefits (including cost savings) and limitations (including the difficulty of going back many years or updating) of researching legal authority via the Internet. And then he discussed the many benefits of researching non-legal sources via the Internet, to find the social science behind much of our public policy and legislation. Professor Higdon distinguished between finding adjudicative facts and legislative facts. The latter can be brought into appellate briefs via Federal Rule of Evidence 201, which has an exemption for introducing legislative facts at the appellate level, even if they were not part of the record below.
BTW, did anyone else notice how much Michael Higdon resembles Leonardo Di Caprio in his Titanic days?
One LWI conference session I attended today covered Suggestions on How to Conduct Empirical Research. Robin Boyle, Legal Writing Professor at St. John's University School of Law, and Dr. Joanne Ingham, Institutional Research Specialisit at New York Law School, gave detailed information on each of seven basic steps:
- identify the question or hypothesis,
- explain & defend the rationale,
- prepare a formal proposal,
- conduct the study,
- collect the data,
- analyze & report the findings, &
- describe & share the results.
Wednesday, June 7, 2006
Those not at the conference, or those already exhausted by meeting 550 legal writing colleagues all at once, might find the following an interesting read: Ira P. Robbins, The Importance of the Secret Ballot in Law Faculty Personnel Decisions: Promoting Candor and Collegiality in the Academy (May 15, 2006), http://law.bepress.com/expresso/eps/1367. Of course some legal writing professors would be happy to have any type of ballot, but some of the issues and dynamics described in the article will be relevant for all professors.
The Legal Writing Institute Conference started today with registration and an opening reception. Hundreds of legal writing professors (well over 500 at last count) will attend the conference. We'll be keeping you posted about events and sessions, and of course, will offer some great photos as well!! Check back often.