Monday, June 17, 2019
Beard: n. a person who carries out a transaction for someone else in order to conceal the other's identity. – Oxford Pocket English Dictionary
It is a common practice for high-stakes gamblers to use a beard, a trusted acquaintance, when placing a bet. Beards keep the identity of the “shark” gambler unknown and preserve the odds. Celebrities and people who want to conceal their dating partnerships also use beards to maintain an expected public persona and to preserve their privacy.
The true role of a beard is to control or influence audience perception. Our job in academic support is to influence the perception and actions of the students we serve. ASP behind the beard allows us to fulfill our mission of student service and advancement. Behind the beard our message is not altered or concealed, only the messenger is.
My real-life experience behind the beard looks like this. For weeks, I preached and pushed a certain commercial tool to my bar takers. I negotiated a substantial discount for their purchase. I offered weekly incentives, provided demonstrations, and all but swore a blood oath that this tool would increase their chances of passing the bar. Crickets. I asked a recent bar taker to share her experience with the tool. She made one social media post that echoed verbatim my message. Within minutes of the post, I received multiple inquiries about the tool and sign-up confirmations.
Today’s law student does not respond to the pedagogy of the past. We may tell our students what is best for them academically and make recommendations for learning tools to support their development. And we may be right. But until our students “hear us” and find credible our advice and recommendations, our words fall on deaf ears. We can strategically use the peer learning model and employ student tutors, fellows, and former students to promote our messages by sharing what has worked for them to positively influence the actions of current students.
Sunday, June 16, 2019
DeShun Harris, Kevin Sherill, Sarira Sadeghi, and Nancy Reeves sent out the latest edition of the Learning Curve last week. The articles look great with topics ranging from teaching 2L remedial courses to helping students practice mindfulness. We have a great community sharing information. You can access the current edition of the Learning Curve on SSRN or at the Law School Academic Success Project. I copied the email from DeShun below for more information on submitting articles. I hope everyone enjoys the read and thinks about submitting their own article for publication.
"The editors of The Learning Curve are pleased to publish the Winter/Spring 2019 edition which is attached. In this edition, you will find articles related to academic support work generally. We hope you will find these authors’ articles as insightful as we did as editors.
We are currently considering articles for the Summer/Fall 2019 issue, and we want to hear from you! We encourage both new and seasoned ASP professionals to submit their work.
We are publishing a general issue so we are considering all ideas related to academic support. If you have a classroom activity you would like to share, individual counseling techniques, advice for the academic support professional, and any other ideas, we want to hear from you!
Please ensure that your articles are applicable to our wide readership. Principles that apply broadly — i.e., to all teaching or support program environments — are especially welcome. While we always want to be supportive of your work, we discourage articles that focus solely on advertising for an individual school’s program.
Please send your article submission to LearningCurveASP@gmail.com by no later than August 5, 2019. (Please do not send inquiries to the Gmail account, as it is not regularly monitored.) Attach your submission to your message as a Word file. Please do not send a hard-copy manuscript or paste a manuscript into the body of an email message.
Articles should be 500 to 2,000 words in length, with light references, if appropriate. Please include any references in a references list at the end of your manuscript, not in footnotes. (See articles in this issue for examples.)
We look forward to reading your work and learning from you!
DeShun Harris (Outgoing Executive Editor)
Kevin Sherrill, Executive Editor
Sarira Sadeghi, Associate Editor
Nancy Reeves, Technology Editor"
Saturday, June 15, 2019
Bar Review is a long and hard process. Realize that working hard and completing each task is an accomplishment that will bring you closer to your goal of practicing law!
I start receiving emails from panicked and stressed students around week 3-4. Constant bar review lectures become overwhelming. The amount of material is substantial, but remember, lectures don't continue up to the day of the exam. Just like a marathon, take one step at a time, and focus on what you need to do today.
Here are a few pieces of information I tell my students right now:
- You cannot know all the law for the exam. The bar exam tests numerous subjects (up to 20 in some states), and the MBE tests 7 subjects in significant depth. You cannot possibly know all the rules. Strive to learn as much as possible before the exam, but don’t stress out over what you don’t know. Complete the assignments and work hard. You will know enough to get enough questions correct to succeed.
- You can miss questions on the MBE. I know for many type A, always correct students this concept is hard. However, you can miss questions, and you can miss many questions. Since the NCBE switched to 175 scored questions and they no longer provide raw data, I can't say exactly how many you can miss. However, my guess is you can miss 50-60 questions and still be at or near the MBE passing line. I encourage everyone to try to receive a few more correct for a little margin for error, but when you don’t know an answer, don’t stress because that is one of your 50-60.
- Learn the best ways to manage stress. Stress will happen during bar prep. Figure out your way of managing it, whether it is a workout, listening to music for an hour, or any other activity. You need mental breaks throughout the day. Make sure to take them. Obviously don’t take so much time that you can’t complete your work, but spend the time necessary to be mentally ready for the exam.
- Study in 1 hour time blocks. Attention and memory decrease significantly after 60 minutes. After the hour, take a 5 minute break. Don't surf the internet an hour, but 5 minute mental refreshes will improve retention.
- If you are having problems with bar review or life in general, contact your law school. Most schools have numerous administrators, faculty, and staff ready to help throughout the summer. Don’t try to go through bar prep alone.
Bar Prep is a mental marathon. Graduating law school demonstrates and ability to succeed on the bar. The goal now is to apply the hard work and skills from law school to the bar. Keep it up for the next 6 weeks.
Friday, June 14, 2019
The NCBE announced recently the Bar Examiner magazine has a new website with the most recently publication online. Here is the information from Tiffany Stronghart at the NCBE.
"I’m inviting you to visit the new website of the Bar Examiner, a quarterly magazine published by the National Conference of Bar Examiners providing comprehensive, authoritative information on current issues in bar admissions, legal education, and testing.
In our current issue, you’ll find
- statistics from the 2018 bar exam and 2018 bar admissions by jurisdiction;
- score distributions, examinee counts, and mean scaled scores for the MBE and the MPRE;
- a snapshot of the February 2019 MBE results; and
- a look behind the scenes at how MBE items are written, selected, and placed on test forms.
Visit our new site at www.thebarexaminer.org and subscribe to receive emails announcing new issues.
Feel free to share this message with your colleagues or others who may be interested in bar admissions!"
Thursday, June 13, 2019
If I recall correctly, the line went something like this: "The world is filled with lonely people waiting for others to make the first move." At least, that's my recollection of the saying from the wonderful movie entitled "The Green Book," which I happened to have the opportunity to watch on my flight while traveling to the Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) Conference a few weeks back. Little did I know at the time the tremendous impact someone would make by reaching out to me at the AASE Conference in Seattle.
You see, it was the final day of the three-day conference. With just a few more presentations available, I thought it best to focus my remaining time on bar prep sessions because that's my primary job. But, while mingling in the hallways of the law school building at Seattle University, I got a friendly tug in another direction. A person - who I had only briefly talked with at the conference - came marching and smiling right up to me and encouraged me to go to her presentation, which was set to start in a matter of moments. The warm-hearted invitation got me. Oh my golly, am I ever glad that I went! Her presentation was earth-shattering. It was the sort of talk from the heart that brought tears and promise.
Here's a brief snapshot.
The presentation was entitled "Academic Skills Invented by Necessity - the Untapped Potential and Creativity of Disabled Learning, and Inclusive Teaching." Professor Karen Wade Cavanagh's story was featured as part of a documentary by Oprah Winfrey in 2015 entitled "Belief:" http://www.bu.edu/law/featured-in-oprah-winfreys.
In short, Karen suffered a traumatic brain injury in a boogie boarding accident. In her talk, Karen showed photos of her rescue. Twice Karen was brought back from the brink. Life for Karen has since necessitated numerous surgeries and rehabilitation. Much was starting over from scratch. But, that hasn't stopped her (or others either).
Here's as an example...
Post-accident, while moving on a sidewalk in a wheelchair on her way to school, Karen was at an impasse. You see, due to crumbling infractures, many of the intersections at city crosswalks were no longer graded to allow rolling back up. Karen went down to cross the street...but couldn't get back up due to curb. Stopped in the roadway in the crosswalk, Karen noticed joggers and walkers run and walk past her, up the curb, and back onto the sidewalk. So, what did Karen do? She stuck her thumb out to the next passer by. That jogger came alongside and pushed her up and over back onto the sidewalk. Success. She was soon at school.
Life has tough spots for all of us. But, as Karen's story reminds us, it's sometimes difficult for us to see the tough spots that others are facing.
The first lesson I learned is that when I am in a tough spot, I need to just go ahead and stick my thumb out.
The second lesson I learned is to keep my eye out for others. Try to look at life from their perspective, not mine. And, be ready to reach out to others.
Life is not meant to be lived alone but rather in community with others. To be frank, as an ASP'er, I often tend to approach the issues that my students are having from my vantage point, usually with the idea that a particular academic study tip might be of help. But, I am often too quick to the draw with suggestions such that I miss seeing what is really going on. That's because I am too quick to talk instead of listen. But, in my experience, most of the time, so-called academic issues are not academic at all. They are life issues instead. And, life issues requires me to open up, to be vulnerable to others, and to live within the perspective of others (and not just myself). In short, being an ASP'er requires me to live life in "being" with others. I think that is what it means to not just be an ASP'er but truly a human being too. (Scott Johns).
P.S. Thanks Karen for making a mark that will live with me forever!
Wednesday, June 12, 2019
Last fall I fell in love with Dire Straits. To make the process of moving my law school office less of a chore, I cranked up rock music after hours. This was, I will note, quite out of character -- I'm mostly a low-volume public radio listener, predictably tuning to folk or classical music. Indeed, except for a brief flirtation with country rock, I had listened to almost no popular music since college days. But the process of painting, moving furniture, and lugging and arranging box after box of books called for something a little more energizing than Mozart. Die Meistersinger wasn't going to do the trick, so I started browsing for music from bands whose names sounded vaguely familiar. Quite by chance -- perhaps simply because it ran over two hours -- I clicked on what turned out to be the final concert of the Dire Straits 1986 world tour. From the moment I heard the guitar solo in "Tunnel of Love," I was hooked. I played the concert over, and over, spellbound by the virtuosity of lead guitarist/songwriter/singer Mark Knopfler. Soon I dived in, watching and listening to more concerts, then following Knopfler's solo career.
I've been particularly fascinated by how Knopfler has continually reinvented his professional life, staying in the music profession but always moving forward. (Music was actually Knopfler's third career, after working as a newspaper reporter and university lecturer.) Even before Dire Straits broke up, he was seeking new musical challenges. He wrote movie soundtracks (including The Princess Bride and Wag the Dog) and produced records for other artists including Bob Dylan and Randy Newman. In his solo career, he explored a wide variety of genres and collaborated with musicians as diverse as Jimmy Buffet, Emmylou Harris, and Elton John. By experimenting, pushing himself in new directions, sometimes exploring how a minimal touch could convey a message and sometimes pushing the limit of what a guitar could do, Knopfler kept his music relevant and fresh, touching the lives of listeners worldwide.
Reinventing oneself can be intimidating. Just ask our students, who enter law school as talented individuals who face the task of learning an entirely new way of thinking and writing. Indeed, the law school academic support profession exists largely to help students make the transition. For persons who have been successful in one manner of thinking, in one way of studying, stretching themselves into a new realm is uncomfortable at best. It would be far easier to (as it were) continue performing a predictable style of rock music with an occasional change in band members. Instead, we help our students master new skills so they can take their practice of law into a variety of directions to keep themselves relevant and prepared.
Reinventing oneself can also be exhilarating, allowing for new experiences, new collaborations, and new insights. Today I had the unalloyed pleasure of sitting down with The Learning Curve (soon available on SSRN for browsing and download) the very day it came out and devouring the whole issue, cover to cover, in one sitting. Exploring the articles in the issue was rather like being a kid in a candy shop with a nonstop inner conversation. "Oh, what a great insight!" "Would that work here?" "I'd sure like the faculty to see this." "Now, there's an idea I can put right to work." We experience the same sense of possibilities at conferences. If one message came through in the current issue of The Learning Curve, it is how reinventing how we approach our calling will invigorate our work and help us touch our students lives for the better. (Nancy Luebbert)
Tuesday, June 11, 2019
It is June 11. Recent law school graduates, separated from the exaltation of graduation by two weeks of breakneck lectures, rote memorization, and mystifying practice questions, are increasingly conscious of the brief (and increasingly briefer) interval between now and the administration of the bar examination. Less than 50 days to learn all this new material, to recollect even more old material, and to master the skills needed for three different testing modes! If your students are like mine, they are still displaying a lot of grit and energy, but are beginning, after experiencing the intensity of bar preparation, to wonder if they will be able to accomplish all they need to succeed in the end.
Seven weeks does not seem like enough time to accomplish much. Or does it? Consider:
It is June 11. The Second Continental Congress has been considering the Lee Resolution, a proposal that the American colonies should formally declare their independence from the British Empire. Unable to agree without the text of an actual declaration in hand, the Congress appoints the Committee of Five – Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston – to draft a statement that all the colonies might agree upon. The Committee of Five presents their draft document less than three weeks later. The document is considered by the Congress as a whole, after which some changes are made on July 3. On the morning of July 4, the Declaration of Independence, in its final form, is adopted by the Second Continental Congress.
It is June 12. A French army, led by Joan of Arc, wins its first offensive victory at the Battle of Jargeau. After relieving the siege of Orleans earlier that spring, Joan had persuaded much of the French army to join her in opposing the English force that had occupied France and had prevented the coronation of the rightful French king, Charles VII. After Jargeau, Joan leads this army as it takes town after town and turns the tide against the English. After the army takes the city of Reims, the coronation of Charles VII takes place on July 17.
It is June 13. Having received from Daniel Ellsberg copies of the top-secret Vietnam Study Task Force – a collection of original government documents supplemented with historical analysis created by the Department of Defense as a history of the Vietnam War – the New York Times begins publishing excerpts that revealed details of U.S. military involvement in Vietnam that were not previously known publicly. These excerpts soon become known as "The Pentagon Papers." The Nixon Administration, hoping to discourage future leaks of classified information, seeks an injunction against the Times to prevent further publication. This action tests the limits of the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of the press as bounded by claims of national security concerns, and it moves apace all the way to the Supreme Court. On June 30, the Court, in a 6-3 decision, upholds the right of the New York Times to publish The Pentagon Papers.
This is a great week to begin to change the world. Remind your students that, this summer, they have the time to change theirs.
Monday, June 10, 2019
Take a rest. A field that has rested yields beautiful crops. – Ovid
In a profession where, by definition, we support and give so much to our students we face the risk of having not enough left to nourish ourselves. Those of us who, in addition to teaching and academic support roles, play a role in professional or supplemental bar prep programs see no end to the academic year. The graduation procession precedes exam grading and final grade submission, only to be followed immediately by a new order of coaching, providing practice essay feedback, and guiding students through the stress of bar study. We are not immune to the stressors that we try to guide our students through. Our minds echo with resounding worry about whether our students have done enough, whether we’ve helped enough, and whether any one of our students will pass the bar. And while our student-graduates wait in angst for months to learn the results of the summer exam, those in ASP quickly progress to the next peak in the 12-month cycle with very few lulls.
The cycle is seemingly endless. After the arduous 10-week period of bar prep, we go almost immediately into orientation training, then to fall semester teaching, then again to exam grading followed by a feverish period of winter bar prep. Yet in this relentless cycle we must find time to rest and replenish ourselves. All the more so for those of us with scholarship or other additional responsibilities. Those in the throes of summer bar prep should remember that we alone cannot shoulder the weight of the bar results for our schools or for any one student. We must guiltlessly take the time off that is available to us with a sense of enjoyment and entitlement. By taking well-needed time for rest and restoration, we model balance to our students. When summer responsibilities do not allow for a full vacation, we can fit smaller periods of rest into our week by taking a three-day weekend, dedicating one day per week to work from home (if school policy permits), leaving early on a Friday or starting late on a Monday during the summers. We too are at risk of burnout and savoring a simple pleasure, like a long walk or a short drive, a call to a non-lawyer friend or a 15-minute sanity break, can rest our minds and lift our spirits.
Sunday, June 9, 2019
Oklahoma suffered the worst loss in Women's College World Series Championship history last Monday night. The worst part was OU's expectations going into the series were sky high. They only lost 2 games all year. They had a 41-game winning streak, the longest single season streak ever. The team was top 5 in every major statistical category. Some commentators thought this could be an all-time great team. UCLA then beat them by 13 runs. One possible response would be to give up on game 2 the following night. In the first inning of game 2, UCLA hit 2 more home runs. Everyone thought another rout was on, but then OU played with every ounce of grit they could muster. They lost in the bottom of the last inning, but not before tying the game with a 2 out home run in the top of the inning. Even in defeat, Coach Gasso said game 2 was one of the most impressive performances due to the circumstances. Players said they flushed the defeat and fought the next game. Law students need a similar mentality.
Spring semester grades will roll out any moment. Some students will feel major defeat. Defeat they never experienced before, or at least not before 1st semester grades released. The rout could be on. Getting down and resigning to continued struggles or frustration is a natural and easy response. Our students have high expectations, so they could get especially down.
The OU response is informative. Flushing the bad experience may be the best way to help our students. Flushing it doesn't mean ignore everything that happened. Students should still analyze study habits, determine what happened in particular classes, and make adjustments. OU adjusted their hitting and pitching strategy for game 2. Ignoring the result isn't the answer. Coach Gasso talked about how they trusted the process. Encouraging students to make adjustments and trust the process is critical. I meet with students every semester that second guess everything. They wonder if they should have studied differently or completed a different practice question. Second guessing doesn't help. They have to trust the process. Help students work through a good plan and keep working with them to trust it.
Difficult results are right around the corner. Helping students flush those results and figure out the changes to fight next semester is the goal. The summer may not be the perfect time to reach out and meet with students, but we also can't wait until the defeat is completely gone. Help students use the experience to fight through next semester.
Saturday, June 8, 2019
Horst Schulze is the founder of Ritz-Carlton and recently wrote a book titled Excellence Wins. The book speaks primarily to service industries, but I found one of his statements both obvious and interesting for law school. While discussing workers, he stated no one wants to show up to work and do a bad job. No one strives for mediocrity. Everyone wants to do well. His theory is people do poorly because they aren't given the tools to succeed. Much of the book is how to do that with specific examples for hotels.
As I heard the statement, I immediately thought it applied to law students as well. Law students probably don't show up to law school their first year wanting to be at the bottom of the class or receiving Cs. They don't strive for middle of the class. The same students worked hard to excel in undergrad and some of them achieved success in the workplace. They may not have worked as hard to receive great undergrad grades, but they still did more work than most to receive the higher grades. Nearly every one of our law students is an overachiever.
The last paragraph seems obvious. Many of us say similar things in Orientation or bar prep events to both show students competition is fierce but also to illustrate that they can complete the hard task in front of them. However, how many of us have complained that we have students that won't read directions or do the extra work. Have we ever thought a student is lazy? Do we think a portion of the class becomes apathetic and won't work hard? Have we ever thought a student didn't care about what he/she should be doing? I hope I am not the only one who gets frustrated at students.
Horst would tell us the problem may not be with the students. Try to think of the fast food worker you interacted with recently that you think did a terrible job. The person did the least amount of work possible while still getting paid. Many think that person is a poor worker. Horst argues that person wants to be excellent like the rest of the team. That worker hasn't been equipped yet, and when equipped, they will succeed. Chik-Fil-A is a fast food establishment but still provides excellent customer service. They instill certain values in their workers that other chains may not. The difference is the training.
High achieving law students don't completely change after a couple sets of grades. I believe they develop coping mechanisms for results they didn't expect. We may perceive apathy or indifference, but Horst is probably correct. Those students probably do still want to excel.
Our internal dialogue and view should change because it has an impact on how we serve our students. I don't believe any of us would purposely slack off for a student who seeks help. However, if a student misses a meeting, we may not follow up if we think that is their personality. If the essay they send in for feedback appears to come from less than full effort, any preconceived view of the student could affect the feedback or effort we put in. This could easily happen during students last year or summer bar prep. Students who spent 2-3 years creating an image in our minds could be at a disadvantage when working with us.
Overcoming experiences is difficult. We can start with the assumption that students really want to succeed and get better. The reason for the missed meetings, poor essays, or lack of effort could be lack of tools to properly complete tasks, even poor time management tools. Our first response may be to give students the benefit of the doubt. They may prove us wrong or continue with poor habits, but assuming the best in them only has an opportunity to help. See the students as we want them to be by creating high expectations and helping them get there. Most of our students will want to meet those expectations.
Horst would also tell us to equip our students better. Most of us are trying to teach our students the necessary skills to improve performance. We may not be helping enough, which I know is hard to think about knowing how time constrained we are. Departments at the Ritz-Carlton meet every day before each shift for 10 minutes to discuss a value of the business. The hotel chain has 24 values. They cover all of them in a month. The constant repetition helps them provide remarkable service. Our students probably don't hear our values, feedback, or advice often enough to truly embrace it. Our workshops aren't individual enough, and most of our students don't meet with us enough. When they do, my guess is we start discussing our feedback or purpose of the meeting. We could spend 3-5 minutes at the beginning of each meeting discussing a value (ie - grit, spaced repetition, etc.) we find important. When we see students in the hall, we can briefly talk about an important study skill after seeing how they are doing. The key is repetition throughout the year.
Our students want to succeed, and as we know, some of them don't yet have the tools. Our infrequent meetings and workshops make it difficult to completely inculcate those values. I encourage all of us to see our students in the best light and start discussing small values when we see them. Find times to connect with them and give them a quick tool for success.
Friday, June 7, 2019
GENERAL SUMMARY DESCRIPTION: Reporting to the Director of Academic Success & Bar Preparation, the Associate Director of Academic Success & Bar Preparation (“Associate Director”) is responsible for helping coordinate and supervise integrated academic success and bar support programs for students at Thomas Jefferson School of Law. The successful candidate will help support law school students and graduates to succeed in law school and as they prepare for their bar examinations, including by teaching bar-related and academic success courses. The Associate Director will also provide assistance with and will monitor learning outcomes, academic performance, academic support and bar preparation activities to all students, and will participate in other student retention activities as needed.
ESSENTIAL DUTIES & RESPONSIBILITIES:
Work collaboratively with Director of Academic Success & Bar Preparation, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and the faculty to assess and address the current needs for academic success and bar-related programming and support.
Work with the Director of Academic Success & Bar Preparation and other department members to administer the integrated academic success and bar preparation program for current students and bar-takers, including by teaching classes; providing one-on-one and small group tutoring; developing and teaching workshops; providing support and guidance to the advanced student mentors and Learning Assistants; and completing other tasks as assigned.
Teach sections of bar-related and academic success skills courses as needed (including fall, spring, and summer).
Work collaboratively to tailor programming including courses and workshops to meet the needs of students and bar-takers each term (fall, spring and summer, including the February and July bar cycles).
Collaborate to design, develop, and implement the Continuing Bar Candidate and Commercial Bar Support Programs.
Provide structured writing, organizational, and analytical assistance to current students and recent graduates, including through workshops and presentations.
Participate in the presentation of academic success program activities beginning with Week One, the student orientation program.
Provide administrative support to the Academic Success & Bar Preparation department as needed.
Help to track and report information regarding bar passage, workshop and programmatic usage, and programming assessments and evaluations.
Provide support and academic advice and counseling to students and recent graduates.
Enforce campus policies regarding commercial bar preparation access to Thomas Jefferson School of Law, as applicable.
Participate in committees as assigned by the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.
Oversee student workers as needed.
Represent the law school at and participate in outside conferences and other events organized for and/or by academic support or bar preparation professionals, as applicable.
KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS, & ABILITIES:
J.D. from an ABA-accredited law school and a proven record of academic achievement during law school.
Admission to a state bar in the United States, California (or another popular state for graduates) highly preferred.
At least 2 years of experience practicing law or delivering writing or other instruction in an academic institution, law firm, or commercial bar prep company.
Familiarity with bar-tested subjects and bar exam format.
Proficiency with Microsoft Office, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
Prior experience with academic support and bar preparation strongly preferred.
Experience with curriculum design, including an understanding of educational learning theory, best practices in teaching pedagogy, and individual learning styles preferred.
Experience teaching writing and/or working with students for whom English is their second language preferred.
Experience with assessment and with data collection preferred.
Familiarity with online technology preferred.
The ability to think imaginatively and critically about techniques to improve our law students’ academic development and bar passage, and to design, implement and manage innovative programs to assist adult learners in reaching their potential.
The ability to work well with a diverse student body, including having a cultural awareness of different learning styles.
Strong teaching, interpersonal and counseling skills.
Ability to work collaboratively with faculty and staff.
Ability to manage multiple priorities under deadlines.
Ability to work effectively in a team-based approach to course design and implementation.
Able to sit or stand, type, read or write for extended periods of time.
Able to handle high level of stress in a useful, constructive manner.
Able to lift/carry materials and publications up to 20 pounds.
Able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without accommodation.
Full time position, Monday through Friday, includes teaching evening classes and workshops. Some weekends will be necessary. Must be willing and able to teach evening classes as assigned Monday-Thursday.
Thursday, June 6, 2019
I can't count the number of times I've been on this country road. I'm familiar with its rolling hills in all seasons, from before dawn to after midnight. I know the bends in the river, the decaying barns, the grain terminals; I can predict where the deer will jump out, where the pheasants will strut, where the hawks will watch for prey. But one night my spouse and I saw something new to us. It was dusk, with wind-driven snow scouring the countryside, when we both spied a red-tailed hawk just sitting in a field a few yards from the road. Now it made sense on such an evening that hawks wouldn't soar the skies seeking dinner: I would have expected any self-respecting bird to find a protected spot to huddle, head tucked under its wing, waiting out the storm. But this hawk contentedly rested out in the open as though it were a cow chewing its cud on a summer day. We looked at each other, amazed. "Have you ever seen a hawk just sitting on the ground before?" Yet two miles down the road we saw another hawk sitting on the ground just like the first, and then another. In a thirty-mile stretch, we probably saw a dozen red-tails resting on the snow-covered ground. The next time I drove the road, on a pleasant spring morning, I kept my eyes open to see if the sitting hawks had been a one-time phenomenon that winter evening. They weren't. While most hawks were soaring or perched on telephone poles, I caught sight of two just sitting in a wheat field. Later on a rainy day I saw the same. Before long I saw field-sitting hawks day and night, in every season. I had learned to see the fields anew, with a wonderful reward.
In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard writes about the act of seeing:
Specialists can find the most incredibly well-hidden things. A book I read when I was young recommended an easy way to find caterpillars to rear: you simply find some fresh caterpillar droppings, look up, and there's your caterpillar. More recently an author advised me to set my mind at ease about those piles of cut stems on the ground in grassy fields. Field mice make them; they cut the grass down by degrees to reach the seeds at the head. . . . The mouse severs the bottom again and again, the stem keeps dropping an inch at a time, and finally the head is low enough for the mouse to reach the seeds. Meanwhile, the mouse is positively littering the field with its little piles of cut stems into which, presumably, the author of the books is constantly stumbling. . . .
The lover can see, and the knowledgeable. I visited an aunt and uncle at a quarter-horse ranch in Cody, Wyoming. I couldn't do much of anything useful, but I could, I thought, draw. So, as we all sat around the kitchen table after supper, I produced a sheet of paper and drew a horse. "That's one lame horse," my aunt volunteered. The rest of the family joined in: "Only place to saddle that one is his neck"; "Looks like we better shoot the poor thing, on account of those terrible growths." Meekly, I slid the pencil and paper down the table. Everyone in that family, including my three young cousins, could draw a horse. Beautifully. When the paper came back it looked as though five shining, real quarter horses had been corralled by mistake with a papier-mâché moose; the real horses seemed to gaze at the monster with a steady, puzzled air. I stay away from horses now, but I can do a creditable goldfish. The point is that I just don't know what the lover knows; I just can't see the artificial obvious that those in the know construct.
I've been privileged over the past two weeks to work with a small group of CLEO scholars. As our group works together to read, summarize, and comprehend cases, all of us are learning to see anew. Reading legal cases, the students are learning to see a text in a whole new way. Seemingly trifling words take on a new significance, like the brownish and blackish spots on leaves that seem like just so much direct but which actually signify a caterpillar above. Just as it's the rare person who can recognize "frass" (who knew there was a special name for caterpillar poop?) without the guidance of a more knowledgeable other, it's the rare reader who can comprehend that common words like "intent" are used in an entirely new way. Even apart from dealing with torts concepts, wrestling for the first time with the categories lawyers use when summarizing ("briefing") a case (such as issue, rule, reasoning, and holding) is akin to trying to ride a quarter horse when your total prior familiarity with the genus equus comes from graphic novels. The students aren't the only ones grappling with new ideas and vocabulary: while I am, in Annie Dillard's words, "the knowledgeable" and perhaps "the lover" in the law, I struggle with concepts such as sociocultural theory, materializing, and concept-based instruction, all of which are likely second nature to anyone who has earned an education degree in the past two decades. In order for me to see what is painfully obvious to specialists in this field, I too need assistance to learn to read and think in a new way, to see familiar territory in a new light. (Nancy Luebbert)
Tuesday, June 4, 2019
Yesterday, the quiz show Jeopardy! enjoyed its highest ratings in more than 14 years, <spoiler> on the day that 32-game winner James Holzhauer lost to librarian Emma Boettcher and fell just short of breaking the all-time record for most money won during regular play. (Sadly, James walked away with only $2,464,216.) My friends in the trivia community have been watching James's exploits with various mixtures of admiration, envy, bemusement, and exasperation. The latter two emotions have been prompted not by James himself, but by the sense-making reactions of casual viewers and the media to his success, and then to his defeat.
James racked up an intimidating number of high-scoring games -- including all of the top-ten highest-scoring games of all time -- and he sometimes won by six-figure margins. To a lot of pundits, these overwhelming victories suggested a new and singular player: either someone with unmatched, superhuman genius, or someone who had come up with a novel strategy that had "broken" the game forever. From the perspective of a lot of fans at home, this made sense. How else could someone achieve such never-before-seen results without some sort of mystical secret ingredient?
But to a coterie of former players and dedicated aficionados, there was nothing mysterious or unduplicable about James's style of play. He is a tremendous player, to be sure, certainly among the best. But the skills he brought to the game are pretty much the same skills other great players have exhibited before. He knows a lot of trivia; he is very adept at using the signaling device to snatch the opportunity to answer first; he understands the optimal strategies for choosing clues and making bets. His historically high scores are due mainly to a gutsy willingness to risk losing all or most of his pot by making big bets that, when successful, have left him with insurmountable leads. In the past, even the strongest players played more conservatively, hedging their bets so a wrong answer wouldn't take them out of the running. But James is a professional gambler, and he decided to maximize his return by maximizing his risk. This was a choice, not an aptitude, and anyone playing against him would have the capacity to make the same choice.
In fact, in yesterday's game, Emma did just that, making her own big bets to take a lead that James could not overcome. When the game hinged on one final question -- one that all three contestants would have the chance to answer, and on which each would have to make a wager -- Emma, in the lead, bet most of her accumulated winnings. James, close behind in second place, did something the audience had never seen him do before -- he bet only a tiny fraction of his pot, not even enough to catch up to Emma's pre-final score. Across the country, Twitterers and newspaper columnists alike responded incredulously. He wasn't even trying! they wrote. He's throwing the game on purpose! Commentators tried to make sense of the motivation behind such uncharacteristically tame behavior as James's desire to go home to be with his young daughter or his unwillingness to destroy the previous all-time record, out of respect to the record-holder, Ken Jennings.
But, again, to those who have played the game, there was nothing inconsistent or irrational about James's small bet. If you're in second place going into the final question, and you have more than half of the leader's score, then the leader is virtually always going to bet enough so that, if she answers correctly, her score will be more than twice your pre-final score. Even if you bet everything you have from second place, if the leader gets the final question right, you cannot catch her. There's nothing you can do to win if the leader gets the final question right -- so you need to think about how to maximize your chances of winning if she gets it wrong. And if she gets it wrong, she loses the amount that she bet -- often, an amount that is big enough to drop her score below your pre-final score. In such a case, if you want to make sure that you will win if the leader answers incorrectly -- whether or not you answer correctly yourself -- then you want to make a bet small enough to stay ahead of the leader's final score if she gets the last question wrong. And that is why James bet small at the end. He was still playing to win.
I'm saying all of this not to minimize the accomplishments of a truly great Jeopardy! player, and not even primarily to teach people sound game strategies. What I'm hoping I've done is illustrate how the natural human inclination towards sense-making can easily lead to misjudgments and misinterpretations, especially when people know something well enough for it to seem familiar, but not truly intimately. Sense-making is the act of coming up with plausible rationalizations for why things are the way they are. It is not necessarily a bad tendency -- it is, after all, how scientific inquiry begins. But "plausible rationalizations", while comforting, are often inaccurate, and relying on them uncritically can be dangerous.
Our students and recent graduates preparing for the bar exam are just now in that space where they've seen enough of the structure and content of the bar exam for them to seem familiar, but not enough of them to really intimately how to do well on it. As they take practice tests and observe their fellow preparers and hear stories about people who performed well or poorly in the past, they might run into some of the same issues with sense-making that I described in everyday Jeopardy! viewers:
- Misjudging the ratio of cause to effect -- People are naturally impressed by outcomes, and when causes are not well understood, there is sometimes an assumption that big differences in outcomes can only be explained by big differences in causes. Many viewers saw James's high scores, nearly twice as high as previous records, and assumed that he was twice as smart or twice as quick as anyone who had played before him. In reality, he was probably only slightly more skillful than most of the folks he played against, but the nature of the game is such that, once a player gains a small advantage in scoring, he can exploit and multiply that advantage enormously. In a similar way, bar studiers who see big differences between themselves and their classmates, or who see only small improvements in their own performance over time, might not be familiar enough with the task of bar preparation to recognize the true magnitude of the causes of those differences. They might assume that small improvements (or plateaus) indicate that they have not learned much, when in fact they've made a great deal of progress and are nearing a tipping point of improvement. They might assume that they could never get scores as high as some classmates', because they are just not smart enough or don't have time to study as much as they'd need to, when in fact in absolute terms they might only need to improve, say, recall by ten percent. (Or the mistake could be in the other direction -- for example, assuming that adding fifteen minutes of flash card study every day will double their MBE score.) Over time and with practice and feedback, they should get better at making these judgments, but this early in the summer, we should be generous with lending some perspective to their rationalizations.
- Tendency to search for a single overarching cause -- Systems are complicated, and humans like simplicity. There is something comforting and manageable about identifying one thing -- like a super big brain or a revolutionary game strategy -- that totally explains how to achieve a particular outcome. Thus, we see graduates who insist that the key to doing well on the bar is religiously answering a certain number of MBE questions each night, or memorizing the contents of a particular outline (especially one that someone who passed the bar before them has endorsed). The truth is that the bar exam is multimodal and designed to test multiple skills and multiple dimensions of understanding. There is no single overarching cause of success on the bar, no matter how comforting that would be, and helping students to recognize early on the rich multiple approaches to success will help them proceed more realistically towards their goals.
- Tendency to attribute unexpected observations to new causes -- At a primal level, there is something unsettling about the unexpected, and one sense-making reflex is to assume that anything we haven't seen before must be a manifestation of some new element. James's unexpectedly small bet was completely explainable within the schema he used to make his earlier large bets, as applied to a new set of conditions, but viewers unfamiliar with that schema assumed that the small bet indicated a complete change in goals and strategies. In the same way, a student who sees an unexpected drop in practice test scores one week might tell themselves that it's because the testing room has changed or the weather is hotter or the lecturer that week is not as good. But the reality might simply be that the method of study the student had been using for the previous few weeks, which was fine when they had only covered three or four subjects, is now just not able to help the student handle the burden of six or seven subject's worth of materials.
Of course, it is sometimes true that new observations are attributable to new causes. The reason sense-making can be dangerous for students is not because every plausible rationalization is wrong, but because, without support, students may not be able to tell the difference between sound and unsound rationalizations. The students most likely to succeed on the bar, just like the contestants most likely to win on a game show, are those who learn enough before the big day about the challenge they face to be able to actually make good sense of what they are doing.
Monday, June 3, 2019
Don't let compliments get to your head and don't let criticism get to your heart. -- Lysa TerKeurst
The other day we held a bar workshop at my school. At the end of the session we collected evaluation forms from the students. I could hardly wait until the students were all out of the room to look at their written comments. A colleague and I sat at the edges of our seats to read what the students wrote about “our” workshop. As we thumbed through the evaluation forms, we read an abundance of smile-generating comments like: Good, Good, Excellent, Learned something new, Would recommend this session to others, and Glad I came. But our smiles askewed when we reached the one comment that read this session was longer than I expected and the presentation was poor.
Of the many laudatory comments, only one offered anything other than praise. And yet that one evaluation form is all that we focused on for the rest of the afternoon. My colleague and I became defensive and responded to the anonymous feedback as if talking to the student who submitted it. I suspect that our reaction was not atypical in the academic support teaching profession. We probably reacted in the same manner that many professors do as we review our course evaluation forms, student emails, or other summative feedback. We focus almost blindly on what someone did not like at the expense of commentary reflecting the effectiveness of our teaching and service.
So many of us in academic support or other teaching professions may put too much weight on the criticism and not enough weight on the compliments. Perhaps it is because we invest so much in the success of our students and the excellency of our programs that we forget the role that criticism can play in our own professional development. As this summer’s bar prep gets rolling full throttle, I’ve made a promise to myself to not let my view of the forest be impeded by one tall tree. While I am providing my students with daily affirmations, I pledge to affirm and nurture myself and my wellbeing. In doing so, I will be better able to service my family and my students who depend on me. As you read your course evaluations and performance reviews this summer, challenge yourselves to take criticism with a grain of salt (or a bottle of wine) and be thankful for the wonderful learning opportunity that the feedback provides.
Sunday, June 2, 2019
Please welcome Marsha Griggs as a Contributing Editor for the Law School Academic Support Blog. Marsha will help start your week off by posting on Mondays.
For those of you who have not had the pleasure of meeting Marsha at various ASP workshops, here is some information about her.
Marsha Griggs is currently the Associate Professor of Law and Director of Academic Support and Bar Passage at Washburn School of Law. She joined Washburn Law in 2017. Previously, she was the Assistant Dean for Academic Support and Bar Readiness at Texas Southern University's Thurgood Marshall School of Law. She worked in the area of standardized test and bar examination preparation for more than twenty years. Before joining Thurgood Marshall, she served on the faculty at Collin College and chaired the Business Administration and Paralegal Studies departments. Prior to that she practiced civil and commercial litigation. Marsha is a graduate of Northwestern University, received a Masters in Public Policy from the University of Texas, and earned her J.D. from Notre Dame Law School. She is admitted to practice in Colorado and Texas.
Marsha was inducted into the Texas Jury Verdicts Hall of Fame in 2014 and was selected as a 2016-2017 Administrator of the year by the Thurgood Marshall Student Bar Association. She is an avid college football fan and fosters rescue dogs. She is a mom to two teenagers and a sweet Pomeranian named Snickers. She wants to live long enough to see Notre Dame win another national championship title in football.
I look forward to reading Marsha's insights each week.
Saturday, June 1, 2019
Standard 316 is garnering discussion throughout the academy and legal profession. The ABA posted a memo detailing both the changes and which schools would fail the new standard. The ABA journal wrote an article asking how Deans will improve pass rates with a link to the memo. The article is an interesting read. I encourage everyone, even if you don't specifically handle bar prep, to become familiar with the changes.
Friday, May 31, 2019
Saying goodbye is always difficult. It becomes especially difficult when the person made an impact on so many people. Amy Jarmon made that impact, and unfortunately, we say goodbye after her post last Monday and retirement.
If you attended the AASE awards ceremony, you saw the reaction from everyone when Amy was awarded the AASE Inspiration award. Jamie could barely get words out announcing the award. The standing ovation that followed was well deserved. Amy inspired a generation of ASPers with both her insight and her ability to find other unique voices for the blog. Many people read the blog each day because of how Amy expanded it over the years. Her impact on our community is immeasurable.
True to form, Amy finished her tenure being recognized by the Texas Bar Today with a top 10 award. Right after she transitioned to being a contributing editor, she wrote a top 10 post. Her insight continued to garner awards to the end.
In her last post, Amy said she loved the camaraderie in our community. She was a huge part of that culture with the help she provided to many of us. I am sure we will continue in those footsteps. Congrats to a great career and goodbye to an inspiration to us all.
Thursday, May 30, 2019
Last week at the annual Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) Conference, Professor Paula Manning shared an analogy about learning that gripped my mind and heart.
You see, as Professor Manning reminded us, working out to get in shape is tough work. Building muscles, well, takes daily pain. It requires us to push ourselves, to lift beyond what we think we can, to walk further than we think we can, and to run harder than we think we can. And, it requires us to work out nearly everyday. Moreover, as Professor Manning related, the next day after a heavy workout can feel just downright aching. "Oh do those muscles hurt." But, we don't say to ourselves: "Wow, that hurt; I'm not going to do that again." No, instead, we say to ourselves: "That was a really great workout; I'm building muscle." In short, we are thankful for the temporary pain because we know that it will benefit us in the future.
But, when it comes to learning, as Professor Manning reflected upon, we often tend to not view the agonizing daily work of learning as beneficial in the long term. Rather, if you are like me, I tend to avoid the hard sort of learning tasks, such as retrieval practice and interleaving practice, for tasks which, to be frank, aren't really learning tasks at all...because they aren't hard at all (such as re-reading outlines or highlighting notes, etc.). But, if you and I aren't engaged in difficult learning tasks, then we aren't really learning, just like we aren't really building muscles if we just walk through the motions of exercise.
So, for those of you just beginning to embark on preparing for your bar exam this summer, just like building muscles, learning requires building your mind to be adept at legal problem-solving by practicing countless multiple-choice and essay problems on a daily basis. In short, the key to passing your bar exam is not what you do on bar exam day; rather, it's in your daily practice today that makes all the difference for your tomorrows.
As such, instead of focusing most of your energies on watching bar review lectures, reading outlines, and taking lecture notes, spend most of your learning in problem-solving because that's what you will be tested on this summer. Big picture wise, for the next six weeks or so, half of your time should be spent in bar review lectures, etc., and the other half should be spent working through practice problems to learn the law. So, good luck in working out this summer! (Scott Johns).
Wednesday, May 29, 2019
Years ago, as part of an effort to address bar passage issues at my school, some well-meaning professors suggested having a remedial course for lower-performing law students. In broad-brush terms, the centerpiece of the proposal was to require students to begin each class, starting from the very first day of the semester, with a timed 30-minute essay question. After students finished the timed exam, the remainder of the class period would be devoted to the instructor reviewing the question and explaining what students should have written in their answers. Merely by dint of forcing students to write essay exam answers over and over, the theory went, they would do better on law school and bar exams. But the proposed class structure neatly met the clichéd definition of insanity, by requiring students to do the same thing over and over and expecting a different result just by discussing what they should have done after the fact. Fortunately, the proposal never gained traction.
This summer and fall, I'm privileged to be involved with a CLEO program for incoming law students that takes the opposite approach. The Pre-Law Summer Institute, CLEO's familiar and long-standing residential program designed to prepare diverse participants for law school, now is preceded by a 30-hour online program, Developing Law School Literacies, devoted to providing instructional intervention from the start. Designed by Penn State education professor (emerita) Dorothy Evensen and funded by a grant from LSAC, the program leans on research about reading skills conducted by academic support educators such as Rebecca Flanagan and Jane Grisé and uses pedagogy based on sociocultural theory to provide intervention from the start. Rather than trying to do tasks on their own, students in this immersion program have frequent, intensive small-group meetings with academic support professors who act as instructional mediators. By explicitly focusing the students on using the tools given for effective case reading and briefing, and by verbalizing reasoning processes, the instructional mediators help students collaborate to competently complete a legal task from the very start. Each meeting focuses on a different aspect of case reading and briefing, such as the facts, the reasoning, and the rule.
I am especially excited that this program strongly emphasizes pre-reading, which in my experience is critical to active engagement with a text. I additionally hope that my CLIC group in the fall will provide a critical mass of 1Ls experienced and enthusiastic about wrestling with cases rather than searching for a rule and moving on. Helping students get things right from the start is a very ASP-ish approach -- empowering, effective, and humanizing.
Monday, May 27, 2019
Most of our readers have seen the announcement that I am retiring. My work in ASP at law schools has spanned nearly 18 years - at U of Akron as well as Texas Tech. I have been humbled by the outpouring of well wishes and kind words on the listserv and in personal emails. I was honored and deeply touched to receive an award at the recent AASE conference.
My years in ASP have been a pleasure. There are many reasons for that:
- I love working with students. I want them to achieve at the highest level of their potential and not just survive law school. Learning new strategies can transform their law school semesters.
- I love seeing students and alumni flourish in their lives and careers. It gives me great joy to hear about their successes: improved grades, competition wins, officer positions, job offers, bar passage, promotions, marriages, new babies, and more. And, I have also been with them through disappointments and tears. I have had the honor of being part of so many lives.
- I love learning. There is a 1980 framed poster in my office from the official opening of the U.S. Education Department that reads "Learning never ends." Each day I learned something new from my students, my colleagues, or other resources to improve my work.
- I love the ASP/bar prep community. You are awesome colleagues! The amount of sharing of ideas, materials, and encouragement is unlike that in other legal professional groups. I am convinced that you are some of the nicest people to work with as colleagues anywhere on earth.
- I love the dear friends in ASP/bar prep with whom I have shared many experiences. Whether we have seen each other only at conferences, worked on AALS or AASE projects, talked by phone, or emailed regularly, I have been privileged to be your friend. Your friendship and support have been phenomenal.
I wish each and every one of you personal satisfaction, opportunities to learn, camaraderie with other ASP'ers, and career successes.