Wednesday, October 17, 2007
How much time do you give your students for each assignment, from day of distribution to day it's due? Historically, I have given my students between 3 and 4 weeks. Now I wonder if that's too much time.
Here's why: I am concerned that the generous number of days lulls many into a false sense of "I can do it later," even though my syllabus suggests a more plodding sort of schedule. For example, shortly after the class that teaches these traditional components of the office memo, the syllabus advises students to try the Question Presented and Brief Answer. The pedagogical reasoning supporting this advice is that it's good to practice new skills while the information is fresh in mind. Of course, it's also possible that it may take several drafts to get a QP/BA set that works pretty well.
But very few students work on the memo a little at a time. Instead, they postpone thinking and writing until a couple of days before it's due. The end product reflects that delay. I don't think they plan for it to happen that way. But first-year law students have so many pressures, and they tend to be concerned only about putting out the most immediate fire--which is the next assigned reading in their contracts, torts, property, civil procedure classes.
Therefore, I'm thinking that next year, I may cut the time for memo writing in half--not delaying distribution of the problem until 3-4 days before it's due, but cutting the time to somewhere between 10 days and 2 weeks. With a shorter time frame (but still ample enough for drafts), is it possible that student focus and performance will improve? (And is this closer to the timetables they'll have in their clerking jobs?)
Readers, what has been your experience? Is this an idea worth pursuing?