Friday, August 24, 2012
As I was thinking through our system for grading first-year legal writing, I came across a great article by Leslie M. Rose, Norm-Referenced Grading in the Age of Carnegie: Why Criteria-Referenced Grading is More Consistent With Current Trends in Legal Education and How Legal Writing Can Lead the Way. The article contends that traditional curve-based grading is insufficient in many ways and that objective, or criteria-referenced, grading is more consistent with the current movement to improve legal education.
From the article:
As legal education moves toward more integration between skills and doctrine as recommended by Best Practices and the Carnegie Report, the traditional methods of law school assessment will be more difficult to justify. The changes that are starting to happen in law school make grading reform more urgent, as norm-referenced grading is largely inconsistent with the positive movement toward curricular innovation, learning goals, outcomes assessment, and the humanizing law school movement.
One author has noted that the ideas represented in the draft standards—“articulating the knowledge and professional skills that students should learn in courses, designing curriculum to serve those goals, assessing students’ progress with reference to those goals and sharing that evaluation with students”—are consistent with the “signature pedagogy of legal writing,” a pedagogy that other law school programs might find it useful to adopt.
Criteria-referenced grading will require some increased effort at the start, but it is likely to reap great rewards in both improved student well-being and academic success. It is the right thing to do for students, and for the profession as a whole. Legal writing professors can lead the way by becoming “proponents of conducting evaluation in the service of learning.”