Monday, April 22, 2019

Finding Time for Exam Review and Projects

Many students are trying to decide where they will find the time to get everything done. Here are some tips on finding more time:

  • Block distractors while you study to avoid wasting time or getting side-tracked:
    • put your phone into airplane mode
    • turn off your message signal for email
    • study where others will not stop to chat
    • use one of the many apps available to block URLs
  • Evaluate your class preparation time. You want to be well-prepared for class because the newer material will be tested. However, are you able to be more efficient and effective in your class preparation?
    • Ask questions as you read to get more understanding during your reading which helps you to avoid re-reading sections.
    • Make margin notes summarizing important points as you read so that you do not have to re-read the case to make your notes/brief.
    • Read for understanding and for the case essentials, not minutia; for exams, you need to apply the law from cases, not recite the cases in detail.
    • Use the weekend to prepare for Monday and Tuesday classes and then review your briefs/margin notes before classes. You then free up time during the week to study for exams.
  • Evaluate your outlining time. You want to focus on the tools that will help you solve new fact scenarios on the exams.
    • Avoid minutia in your outlines; focus on the important items.
    • Ask yourself how an item of information will help you on the exam. If it will not be useful, then it does not need to be in the outline.
    • Avoid perfectionism. Make the best outline you can in the time you have left. Next semester you can work on outlines earlier, but for now focus on utility.
  • Evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of study group/partner time.
    • Are you spending mega time on study group and not spending enough time on your own learning?
    • Is your group staying on task or becoming a social outlet?
    • Does your study group have a set agenda for each meeting, so everyone can come prepared to discuss those topics/practice questions?
    • If your group is having problems, visit with the academic support professional at your law school for help in resolving any conflicts.
  • Evaluate your exercise routine. Are you spending more time worrying about your abs than exercising your brain?
    • Experts recommend that you get 150 minutes (30 minutes X 5 days) of exercise a week.
    • Consider exercising for shorter periods of time or fewer days a week if your routine is way over the 150-minutes recommendation.
    • Consider changing your exercise routine for the remaining weeks: walking some days instead of gym time that would take longer; treadmill some days rather than an elaborate multi-machine routine.
    • Would exercising and a meal as one longer block for a break be more efficient than several different blocks of time during the day?
    • Would exercising at your apartment complex fitness center or at the rec center for a few weeks be less time-consuming than driving to and from your usual commercial gym in town?
  • Evaluate your daily life chores for more efficient and effective ways to get things done. We often waste a lot of time on chores and errands that could be avoided.
    • Set aside one block of time to run all of your errands for the week rather than make multiple trips; then plan the most efficient driving route to get them done without wasted miles (and fuel).
    • Do a major shopping now for non-perishable items so your grocery trips in future weeks will take less time.
    • Do your shopping for school-related items now so you have everything on hand when you need it later: pens, printer paper, colored tabs, highlighters, etc.
    • Do shopping and errands at off-times when the stores are less crowded and lines are shorter.
    • Prepare meals on the weekends that can then be portioned out for the week rather than cooking every day. Freeze some extra portions for future weeks as well.
    • Consider packing your lunches/dinners to take to school rather than wasting time commuting back and forth for meals.

Avoid getting discouraged by "larger than life" tasks such as learning Constitutional Law or writing an appellate brief. Break big tasks into sections or topics. Then break those tasks down even more. Each small task can be completed in a smaller amount of time. Focus on subtopics instead of topics. Focus on editing citations rather than all editing tasks. Take control of that small task and slip it into your schedule. Baby steps over time still lead to mastery of walking. (Amy Jarmon)


April 22, 2019 in Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 21, 2019

What I Wish I'd Known in ASP

The NY Regional ASP Workshop is a leader for many reasons.  If my history is correct (which it may not be), NY was the first of the regional ASP workshops.  I remember asking Kris how it started and for any advice in starting one in the southwest, and she said to just do it (which we did).  This year, they had another great idea to collect thoughts on what ASPers wish they had known when they started.  With Kris' permission, I combined her emails and posted the responses below so we can forward the information to new people in the community each year.  Here is the list they created:

  • There is a big and supportive academic support community. Use it!
  • You are valuable. You bring knowledge and expertise that students—especially contemporary students—need to not only succeed in law school, but in the practice of law. Don’t underestimate the impact you have on students, whether or not you see an immediate outcome.
  • No two students are the same. It’s fun to try to figure out each one, and to create an individualized solution and plan with him/her.
  • Don’t try to do everything at once when building new programming—choose one thing at a time; focus and develop it, and then add more. Meet 1-on-1 with faculty to learn more about students and about faculty concerns about your students.
  • Don’t shy away from hard conversations with both students and Sometimes you are the one who can see the realities of a situation, and your opinion is important. And one they need to hear.
  • Realize exactly how time-consuming ASP is and how hard it is to get to the point of having individual trust and a personal relationship with every student. But just know that the payoff of getting a phone call (not an email) from a student saying “THANK YOU, I PASSED THE BAR” is so incredibly rewarding.
  • I wish I had a better understanding of the politics of legal education in general and as it relates to ASP in particular. As a new person, it’s important to learn some of the history without taking on battles that belong to others. Give yourself space to listen and learn, but be a neutral observer for as long as you can until you get a sense of the politics and can begin to develop your own vision.
  • Don’t remain in the ASP silo—make faculty allies! But do learn from all the ASPers who came before you. Read, read, read.
  • Know the budget! I wish I knew more about resource allocation.
  • Help students place class exercises in context. Meet with 1L professors, sit in on their classes, and develop an understanding of when they are doing and why. Where needed, translate for students so they can grasp what they are being asked to do and why.
  • I wish I’d known how much patience, stamina, and support from my family and partner I would need for this work, even more than I expected. And I wish I had known how much technology can bolster information transmission and learning.
  • Don’t let your students’ issues become your issues.
  • Don’t give away your skills, value and expertise. Ask for status, security, and money. Really.
  • That doing ASP work can be even more rewarding if you’re doing it at a school that has a mission you feel inspired by and aligned with.
  • Students in a panic are usually looking for a strong voice pointing out a clear path. Don’t be afraid to tell them the work they have to do.
  • Students feel so much more overwhelmed and intimidated about managing their time than I would have guessed!
  • Don’t underestimate the power of anxiety and lack of confidence in undermining student success.
  • Without failure there is no learning. Share your own humanity and failure. Students see you as human, fallible, and successful.
  • You will burn out if you try to bring the “magic” to every student. Don’t neglect your own soul. HOLD BOUNDARIES, respect yourself, respect your students.
  • Never forget the importance of building relationships and culture with your students. Your upper-class peer models are extremely valuable and get you insights on your students’ experiences that you will never have on your own. (And seeing them is another reminder that you can, indeed already have, made a difference.)
  • “It takes a village” really applies in ASP. I was expecting more of a competitive attitude, and I pleasantly surprised to find out how willing other ASPers were to share their strategies. Ask others what they are doing, what has worked, and what flopped—they will tell you!

April 21, 2019 in Program Evaluation, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 20, 2019

National MBE Results are Out

Bar results are rolling in, and nearly everyone starts wondering about the national MBE numbers.  Some schools in states like Texas and California want the numbers to try to predict what pass rates will be in their jurisdictions.  Other states, like Oklahoma, are more interested in understanding their pass rates.  The vast majority of us want the information to also understand what is happening on the MBE.  This will not be my "NCBE is an  out of touch, opaque, etc." post, at least not entirely.  I am merely passing along information from February.  You can find the NCBE's official announcement here.

In case you don't want to go to the NCBE site, the February mean score was 134.  The good news is the mean is up 1.2 points from last year, and for Oklahoma, that led to increased pass rates.  However, 134 is still 2.2 points lower than February 2015.  For more context, Oklahoma sets the MBE passing score at 135.  Oklahoma does combine essays and MBE scores, but we don't scale essays to the MBE.  135 is what Oklahoma determined was the equivalent to passing an essay.  Thus, over 10,658 takers did not score above Oklahoma's MBE passing score.  Each of those takers would need above passing essays scores to pass the entire exam.  UBE states with 270 cut scores are in the same situation, and the lowest UBE cut scores of 260 would still have significant numbers of takers below 130.  

Numerous factors obviously impact the national mean.  Many others will continue the debate on whether the MBE is a "minimum competency" exam.  The February results are another data point in that analysis.

(Steven Foster)

April 20, 2019 in Bar Exam Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 19, 2019

Following a Legend

Legends make a lasting impact on their profession and community.  Michael Jordan, John Elway, Bill Walsh, Tom Osborne, Barry Switzer, and many others changed the culture or view of their sports organization.  Legends also cast a long shadow.  Tom Osborne and Barry Switzer were arguably the best college football coaches at Nebraska and Oklahoma respectively.  Nebraska has not been the same since Osborne left in 1998, and Oklahoma fell into obscurity from 1989 to 1999.  On the other hand, George Seifert followed the great Bill Walsh as San Francisco 49ers’ head coach with 2 more Super Bowl victories for San Francisco.  Following a legend can be daunting.

I am definitely following a legend on the ASP blog.  Amy made a huge impact on students’ lives and the ASP community throughout her tenure, but if someone didn’t already know that, the ASP listserv responses illuminated the impact she had on all of us when she humbly announced her retirement.  I can remember reading the blog regularly when I started in ASP with little experience.  I appreciated all of her insight.  Her posts, and other contributing editors, helped guide programs I created and produced questions I needed to answer.  Students at OCU, and many other law schools, succeeded because of her.

I will always owe a huge debt to Amy.  Her expansion to have contributing editors posting on each day not only disseminated new ideas on a more regular basis, it provided me the special opportunity to distribute my thoughts to others.  I have thoroughly enjoyed posting my ideas and receiving feedback from the community. 

I appreciated the opportunity Amy provided me.  It was that opportunity that led me to this point.  I hope I can follow her great leadership and continue to help others develop new ways to reach students to maximize their chances of success in law school and on the bar exam.  My goal will be to continue her great work so I am analogized with George Seifert and not Frank Solich or Gary Gibbs.

(Steven Foster)

April 19, 2019 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Useful Forgetfulness and Study Tools/Outlines: Could There Be Too Much of a Good Thing?

Perhaps you've heard the phrase "Too big to fail."  Well, that might be true, at least according to some, with respect to some business enterprises in the midst of the last recession.  

But, at least from my point of view, that saying is not true at all with respect to student study tools and outlines.  In my experience, too big of an outline can lead to less than stellar final exam results.

Here's why...There's a learning concept called "useful forgetfulness."  

As I understand the educational science behind useful forgetfulness, it is in the midst of the filtering process - in which we decide to trim, shorter, collapse, and simplify our notes and outlines - that best promotes efficacious learning because the decision to leave something out of our outline means that we have made a proactive decision about its value.  In short, the process of sorting the important legal principles from the not-so-important leads to active and enriching learning.  

Nevertheless, for most of us, we are sorely afraid about leaving anything out of our outlines because we often lack confidence that we can make such filtering choices about what is important versus what is not important.  Consequently, we often end up with massive 50 plus page outlines in which we know very little because we have not made hard reflective decisions to prioritize the important.  So, here's a tip to help with trimming your outline down to a workable size to best enhance your learning.

First, grab a piece of paper and hand-write or type out, using both sides of the paper, the most important things from your outline.  If you think a rule might be important, don't put it in your outline yet because you can always add to your study tool later.  Instead, only put the rule down in your mini-study tool if the legal principle immediately jumps out to you as critically important.

Second, take your mini-study tool on a test flight.  Here's how.  Grab hold of a few essay problems or multiple-choice questions and see if you have enough on your "one-pager" outline to solve the problems.  If a rule is missing, just add it.  And, as you practice more hypothetical problems in preparation for your final exams, feel free to add more rules as needed.  And, there's more great news.  In the process of seeing a rule that might be missing from your mini-study tool, you'll know that rule down "cold" because you will have seen it applied in context. So, feel free to have less in your outlines because, with respect to study tools, less can indeed be more!  (Scott Johns).

April 18, 2019 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Learning Styles, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Catch Some Z's

In the busy-ness of the end of the term, it's important for all of us -- faculty, staff, and students -- to stick to the basics. And the most basic of all basics is to get sufficient sleep.

Let's just talk about the brain. Stanford neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky, of Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers fame (and also author of the lesser-known but magnificent A Primate's Memoir), posits that sleep helps cognition in three major ways.  First, it restores energy.  The brain, it turns out, is an energy hog. While it comprises only about 2% of the body's weight, it uses about 20% of the body's energy, with two-thirds of that energy going to firing neutrons.  Wonder why you feel so tired after intensive thinking? -- you are actually churning through enormous amounts of energy. This energy is restored in slow wave sleep.  Second, the REM sleep in which dreaming occurs consolidates memory. High levels of the class of hormones known as glucocorticoids elevate stress and disrupt cognition. Glucocorticoid levels, however, plummet during sleep, especially REM sleep. So cognition can be enhanced simply allowing the brain to work its way through learned material when these hormone levels are at their lowest, by getting a good night's sleep. Because REM sleep consolidates memory so well, those who study, sleep overnight, and take a test the next afternoon do significantly better than those who study the morning before a test. Finally, REM sleep improves assessment and judgment, especially in complex circumstances, perhaps by exercising lesser-used neural pathways during those wild and crazy dreams. This allows the brain to establish wide networks of connections instead of simple one-lane pathways, leading to deeper, more nuanced thinking. Indeed, Berkeley neuroscientist Matthew Walker suggests that the most significant cognitive benefit of sleep lies not in strengthening the memory of specific items but in assimilating small bits of knowledge into large-scale schema.

More energy for the brain to work, better memory, and better ability to put things into a larger perspective. Sounds like a winning combination for everyone. Let's ditch the late nights and catch some Z's.

(Nancy Luebbert)


April 17, 2019 in Advice, Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Only Thirteen More Meeting Days 'Til Exam Period!

This time of year sneaks up on us like the holidays in December.  It seems like only yesterday we were welcoming students back for spring semester.  We blink, and then poof!  Final exams are less than three weeks away.  And before they start, we have so much to take care of.  Drafting final exams, for one thing.  But, at the same time, staying on top of our current classes -- in particular, at least in my case, pushing feedback on written assignments out to students so they can make use of it as they prepare for finals.  Plus the approaching end of the semester often means a traffic jam of administrative work, as committees and working groups hasten to complete projects before a big chunk of their members leave for sabbaticals, holidays, or other teaching gigs over the summer.

When it gets crazy busy like this, it is important to set aside at least a measure of our thought and energy for that portion of our student population that might otherwise get lost in the background noise.  Sure, part of what makes us so busy are the students we've developed relationships with -- those who regularly seek us out because of anxiety or confusion or a habit of pursuing every advantage -- and part of it may be required meetings with students on academic probation.  We'll see those folks without much extra effort on our parts.  But there are other students who could use our help who might not put themselves on our radar screens.  Maybe they are shy; maybe they are overconfident; maybe they are just underestimating how much they have to do to get ready for the approaching finals.  Maybe they feel so busy that they can't make time for us.  

These are often students, not currently in academic difficulty, for whom a little support, guidance, or intervention will have a far more significant positive effect this week than it would have if it were delivered when the student showed up at the threshold to our office, panicking, a few days before finals.  So, even though we are busy, making the effort to identify and check in with these students now makes good cost/benefit sense.

If you have not already done so, consider taking some time over the next few days to:

  • Go through your calendar or appointment records from the fall and early spring and make note of any students who have sought help in the past, but from whom you have not heard for a while.  Send them quick e-mails, asking them how they are doing and inviting them to drop by or make an appointment if they'd like to talk about preparing for the end of the semester.
  • Check in with faculty (especially those teaching 1L courses) to ask if there are any students they have concerns about whom they haven't already referred to you.  At this point, spring midterms are probably all completely graded, and those professors may have information they didn't have at the start of the semester.
  • Remind the students (again, especially 1L students) in class or via social media or your school's information portal how close they are to the end of the semester, how busy your office gets at this time of year, and how wise it is to come to see you sooner rather than later if they have any concerns.

When we are this busy and things are moving towards a close so quickly, reaching out to students in the grey area can demand a bit of mindfulness.  But even one fruitful meeting with a student now might be more effective than a flurry of desperate conferences the week before finals.  That would be time well spent.

[Bill MacDonald]

April 16, 2019 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Meetings, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 15, 2019

Welcome to Our New Editor for the Blog

Please welcome Steven Foster, Director of Academic Achievement and Instructor of Law (Oklahoma City University School of Law) as the new Editor for the Law School Academic Support Blog. Steven has been a Contributing Editor for the Law School Academic Support Blog since January 2018. You have enjoyed reading his insights in Monday posts. Steven will now take over my Friday through Sunday slots. I will become a Contributing Editor and post on Mondays until my retirement at the end of May. 

Many of you know Steven through his AASE and SWCASP involvement. In case you have not met him, his law school's website provides a faculty profile for Steven:

"Professor Foster specializes in preparing students to take the bar exam. He also manages the Academic Achievement department, providing programs to improve success in the classroom, on the bar exam, and in each students’ profession.

Prior to joining the law school, he was an associate at Fenton, Fenton, Smith, Reneau, and Moon where he practiced insurance defense. Professor Foster graduated summa cum laude from Oklahoma City University School of Law where he received numerous awards, including the School of Law’s Outstanding Graduate Award for Most Likely to Succeed."

(Amy Jarmon)

April 15, 2019 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Atlanta's John Marshall Academic Achievement Position

Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School invites applications for a position in the Office of Academic Achievement. 

This position is a full-time, non-tenure track position that begins no later than July 2019 with a possible opportunity to begin earlier.


To enhance the critical skills associated with law school success, the office of academic achievement (OAA) at AJMLS offers instruction in the form of one-on-one counseling, mandatory and non-mandatory workshops, group presentations and specialized course offerings to all enrolled students and graduates of AJMLS. Reporting directly to the Assistant Dean of the program, the successful applicant should be able to:

  • Help implement and manage all components of the academic support program at the Law School, which includes programming focused on preparing students for the bar exam.
  • Teach academic workshops to students in the day and evening division on topics, such as briefing, course outlining, and exam performance.
  • Provide learning strategies and techniques to enhance and leverage the academic skills that underline law school success.
  • Work one-on-one with students in the day and evening division with focus on strengthening the academic skills of critical reading, briefing, outlining, and analysis. Individual counseling serves all students as well as students identified as academically at risk.
  • Provide written, formative feedback to students on practice problems and/or exams.
  • Help develop and assess the academic success program by collecting and maintaining data relevant to academic performance.
  • Help develop personal action plans for students studying for law school exams and bar exams
  • Identify students’ academic strengths and opportunities and assist in providing effective instruction to help leverage performance.
  • Be interested, and stay current on, educational learning theory.
  • Perform other duties as assigned by the Director of the program.


  • Applicants must have a J.D. from an ABA-accredited law school, a law license, excellent academic credentials, and a demonstrated commitment to working with students to improve their academic performance.
  • We are particularly interested in applicants who have experience and interest teaching in an academic success program.

Application Information:

Interested applicants should send a letter of interest, resume, writing sample and contact information for three references to: Sarah D. Murphy, Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School, 1422 West Peachtree Street NW, Atlanta, Georgia 30309 or via email to We will be reviewing applications as they are submitted. 

Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School is equal opportunity employers and does not discriminate in any of their programs or activities on the basis of race, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, marital status, age, disability, color, or religious belief.

  1.  The position advertised:

__x_ a.   is a full-time appointment.
___   b.   is a part-time appointment.

Other, please specify:

  1. The position advertised:
    ___ a.   is a tenure-track appointment.
    ___   b.   may lead to successive long-term contracts of five or more years.
    ___   c.   may lead to successive short-term contracts of one to four years.  (Full Time Position)
    ___   d. has an upper-limit on the number of years a teacher may be appointed.
    ___   e. is part of a fellowship program for one or two years.

___ f. is an adjunct appointment.

___ g.    is a year-to-year appointment.

___ h.    is a one-year visitorship.

__x_ i.   is for at will employment.

Other, please specify:

Additional information, question 2:

  1.  The person hired:
    ___ a.  will be permitted to vote on all matters at faculty meetings.

___   b.  will be permitted to vote in faculty meetings on matters except those pertaining to hiring, tenure, and promotion.
___x c.  will not be permitted to vote in faculty meetings.

Other, please specify:

Additional information, question 3:

  1.  The school anticipates paying an annual academic year base compensation in the range checked below.  (A base compensation does not include stipends for coaching moot court teams, teaching other courses, or teaching in summer school; a base compensation does not include conference travel or other professional development funds.)
    ___ a. over $120,000
    ___   b.  $110,000 - $119,999
    ___   c.  $100,000 - $109,999
    ___   d.  $90,000 - $99,999
    ___   e.  $80,000 - $89,999
    ___   f.   $70,000 - $79,999
    __x_ g.  $60,000 - $69,999
    ___   h.  $50,000 - $59,999
    ___   i.   $40, 000-49,999
    ___   j.   $10,000 - $39,000.
    ___   k.  less than $10,000.

    Other, please specify:

Additional information, question 4:

  1. The person hired will have the title of:

___   a.  Associate Dean (including Dean of Students).

___   b.  Assistant Dean.

___   c.  Director.

___   d.  Associate Director.

___   e.  Assistant Director.

___   f.   Professor – Full, Associate, or Assistant (tenure track).

___   g.  Professor – Full, Associate, or Assistant (clinical tenure track or its equivalent).

___   h.  Professor – Full, Associate, or Assistant (neither tenure track nor clinical tenure track).

___   i.   no title.

Other, please specify: Academic Support Professional

Additional information, question 5:

  1. Job responsibilities include (please check all that apply):

_x__ a.  working with students whose predicators (LSAT and University GPA) suggest they will struggle to excel in law school.

__x_ b.  working with students who performed relatively poorly on their law school examinations or other assessments.

__x_ c.  working with diverse students.

__x_ d.  managing orientation.

__x_ e.  teaching ASP-related classes (case briefing, synthesis, analysis, etc.).

__x_ f.   teaching bar-exam related classes.

__x_ g.  working with students on an individual basis.

___   h.  teaching other law school courses.

Other, please specify:

Additional information, question 6:

  1. The person hired will be present in the office:

___   a.  9-10 month appointment.

___x b. Year round appointment (works regularly in the summer months).

Additional information, question 7:

  1. The person hired is required to publish, in some form, in order to maintain employment.

___   a.  Yes.

_x__ b.  No.

Additional information, question 8:

  1. The person hired will report to:

___   a. the Dean of the Law School.

___   b. an Associate Dean.

___   c.  the Director of the Academic Support Department.

___   d.  a Faculty Committee.

Other, please specify: Assistant Dean of Academic Achievement

Additional information, question 9:





April 14, 2019 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mitchell Hamline Academic Excellence Specialist Position

The Academic Excellence Department has an opening for a full-time Academic Excellence Specialist. Academic Excellence Specialists are responsible for teaching, guiding, and supporting MHSL students to ensure their successful transition to and completion of law school and ensure students are successful in the passage of the bar. Specialists meet with and counsel students on their academic progress; develop and oversee the execution of individualized learning plans; provide one-on-one tutoring; develop, implement and revise courses and programs; and teach classes and workshops.

Qualifications: J.D. from an ABA-accredited law school; admission to the bar; strong legal writing, research, and analysis skills; ability to build rapport with students, faculty and staff; demonstrated ability to exercise sound, ethical, and professional judgment; and proficiency with Microsoft Office Suite and social learning platforms. Some evening and weekend work necessary based on program and student needs.

To apply please send cover letter and resume by e-mail to; by fax to (651) 290-8645; or by mail to Human Resources, Mitchell Hamline School of Law, 875 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105. Members of under-represented groups are encouraged to apply.

Mitchell Hamline School of Law is an Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer. We do not discriminate based on race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, veteran/military status, disability or handicap, age, sexual orientation, status with regard to public assistance, or any other protected class status defined by law.


April 14, 2019 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 13, 2019

What do YOU want to select as courses?

We are getting ready to register for courses for the next academic year's two semesters. Rising 2L advisees are meeting with their academic advisors to plan their course selections (and alternate courses in case they get waitlisted). As always, the rumor mill is generating a lot of static that has this group of newbies to registration somewhat perplexed.

There are some advisees who ignore the rumor mill entirely. There are other advisees who take every word as gospel and stress. Here are some tips to sort the wheat from the chaff during the course registration process:

  • Be cognizant of the actual academic policies and procedures at the law school. What are the graduation requirements that must be met? What are the credit-hour ranges allowed each semester? What are the prerequisites for advanced courses, clinics, externships, etc.?
  • Remember that each student learns differently from other students. You have preferences for subject matter, teaching styles, course formats, test formats, and more. Ask multiple upper-division students about courses/professors to get a variety of perspectives. A professor/course that would be perfect for you may not be another student's choice.
  • Use the resources you have available to learn more about the courses. The professor teaching the course is your best source if you want to know more beyond the catalog description. Ask about topics that will be covered, types of readings/exercises for class, assessments in the course, and more. Talk to concentration and dual-degree advisors if you want more specifics on those options. Attend meetings regarding clinics, externships, journals, internal/national competition teams, and other options. Talk to your career development office about coursework/experiences for career paths you want to consider. 
  • Balance your course schedule wisely for your strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. If you are not good at business/math oriented courses, then income tax and commercial law in the same semester may be a killer. Two major paper courses may be fine if you are a very strong writer. If you are weak in legal research, then you may want to take an extra legal research seminar before you take your capstone/advanced writing course.
  • Balance elective and required courses. Explore legal topics that you are curious about or may be interested in practicing. Take required courses 2L year that are needed as prerequisites for interesting advanced elective courses. If you have specific career goals, also consider concentrations or dual-degrees as you register.
  • If you are registering for 2L year, think about what requirements and electives will be left for 3L year. Will that give you a balanced schedule for those last two semesters? If you are a rising 3L, think about the balance between your final fall and spring semesters.Will you have extra job-hunt or part-time-job commitments to balance in?
  • Consider your commitments outside of class when choosing a balanced schedule. Do you commute a long distance each day? Will you be working? Do you have family commitments? Will you be an organization officer? Will you try out for competition teams or write-on for a journal?
  • Be true to yourself in your selections. Test the "everyone should aspire to" advice against your own values, goals, and gut. If you know you want to be a transactional lawyer and do not want to litigate, then ignore pressure to take elective litigation courses and instead focus on courses that will benefit your goals. If you really do not have any desire to write on to a journal and would turn down the opportunity if offered, then do not force yourself to enter the write-on competition. If working at Big Law is your idea of a total nightmare, then pursue coursework that will be beneficial to a small or mid-sized firm in the geographical area you want. If you are set on solo practice, then take electives in law office management, law practice technology, and other practical areas.
  • Remember that no course you take will be a total waste of time. You hone your legal reasoning skills in every course. If you take a course you think you want to practice in and ultimately decide you despise it, then you have gained insight into what not to practice. If you take a course you are unsure of and fall in love with the content area, then you have discovered an interest that may point to advanced coursework and a career.
  • It is okay if you do not have any idea what you want to do after your J.D. degree. There are areas of law to explore and find out. Many law students discover their passions during 2L and 3L year. So take required and elective courses with an open mind!
  • Do not despair if you do not get your "perfect" schedule. Through waitlists and add/drop period, you may get to tweak your schedule over the summer and into early fall semester.

I went to law school knowing exactly what I wanted to do with my law degree - I changed my mind. By the end of 1L summer I had discovered a new passion in a previously overlooked area of law. During 2L and 3L years, I discovered other potential areas of interest. The law is so expansive that the options are almost endless! (Amy Jarmon)

April 13, 2019 in Advice, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 12, 2019

So Close

It has been an exciting time in Red Raider Land! Our basketball team returned home Tuesday afternoon to a warm welcome. Although they lost in the NCAA final against Virginia, they have set school history. In fact our TTU President cancelled evening classes Monday night and all classes for Tuesday.

I will admit that I was glued to my television for both the Final Four and the Final. The first of those games was such a joyous victory. The team was amazing. The loss to Virginia was heart-breaking, especially because of the OT call giving the ball to Virginia after the replay. The team played well and gave it every ounce of effort. Chris Beard has helped these young men become a family that supports one another at all times. In true Lubbock fashion the team was given a wonderful welcome home. This NCAA championship season will be remembered forever.

In many ways the NCAA tournament is a lot like final exams for law students. The hard work to get there, the high stakes, the pressure. Each exam feels like a "will I be victorious or go down in defeat" moment for some students. Here are some exam tips we can learn from the NCAA tournament:

  • Daily preparation and hard work pay off in the big game. The road to success is built day by day.
  • Practice, practice, and more practice is essential to honing skills for exams. You will never practice too much.
  • A team to help you reach your game-day potential can be important - a study group, a study partner, teaching assistants/tutors, professors.
  • People who believe in you and your abilities - friends, family, and mentors - should surround you in pre- and post-game times.
  • Staying calm under pressure allows you to stay in the game and focus on every point you can get. Breathe deeply, and calm those jitters.
  • Mistakes happen. Instant (or continual) replay after a disappointing exam performance is not helpful. Move on to the next exam in the series.
  • Whether you win or lose, you are still a winner if you did your best on the day. All you can ask of yourself is to do your best.
  • All of us can use victories or defeats to become better players in the future. Exam review later and new strategies can show us how to improve our scores.

For all of our students who are on the downward slope of classes to exams, keep up the hard work and show them what you can do! (Amy Jarmon)



April 12, 2019 in Exams - Studying, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

What I Learned from a Saint with Scabies

There were no two ways about it -- the saint looked like she had scabies. Under my hands, the mixture of red oxide, Mars orange, yellow ochre, and chromium green produced a blotchy face, one that looked scabbed with pustules and rotting skin. I looked around the room. The same traditional colors in the hands of others produced a face that was serene and luminous. Frustration welled up inside me, and it took everything I had to keep back the tears that threatened to spill out. I was following the rules Father Damian had given us, yet what I was producing could hardly be called an icon; it was more like an amateurish cartoon. It wouldn't have bothered me so much if the others at this retreat were accomplished artists, but my peers were amateurs like me -- people from all walks of life and all religious traditions, taking a week off from their busy lives to learn an ancient art form and contemplative practice by "writing" an icon. Some were inspired by faith, some by art, some only by the idea of doing something different for a week.

Making his rounds through the room, the monk reached my table and thoughtfully contemplated my poplar board with its rough strokes, uneven lines, and errant splotches. "You've got the basics," he said. "Don't be afraid." And with a few deft brushstrokes, the scabies disappeared from the saint's face. "It's the practice. We use traditional pigments, and we follow rules so our boards don't warp and the icon has depth that draws the eye through, as though it were a window. A lot of the foundational work seems invisible, but it's important. It seems counterintuitive to use these colors that seem harsh and discordant. But as you build it up, layer by layer, you're adding depth and meaning. You'll make mistakes -- sometimes huge ones. But there's rarely a mistake you can't recover from. Work at it, and you'll be an iconographer."

St Gertrude icon Feb 2014 (3)As I painted, and corrected, and layered, and corrected again, tackling a practice for which I had no natural talent, I jotted down the lessons for life and law which came tumbling out day by day:

                • It seems to start with chaos, but as I work at it, it starts to make sense.
                • Some people are better at this than I am. That's OK. I can rejoice in their successes.
                • Enjoy this community of diverse people who came together for a common purpose.
                • Take time to share. Take time to laugh.
                • If I want to do this, I belong here.
                • If I practice, I will get better.
                • It's OK to ask for help when I need it.
                • Just because it's not perfect doesn't mean it's not good.

Every day when I look at the imperfect icon hanging on my wall, it reminds me of how hard learning can be, both for me and for my students. How critical it is to accept our stumbling and know the struggle is worthwhile! As the poet Wendell Berry said, "It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings." 

(Nancy Luebbert)

April 10, 2019 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 8, 2019

Audiobook Pitfalls

Students telling me they listen to audiobooks, youtube, and outlines increased the last few years.  I completely understand the urge.  Commute times are long in many metro areas.  The time seems wasted if not listening to something impactful.  I listen to books every day that relate to learning and motivation.  I listened to bar outlines on CDs, which were not mp3s, on my commute during bar prep.  However, there are problems with relying exclusively on audio materials.

I read an article a month or two ago that indicated audiobooks don’t provide structure when only listening.  I experienced this first-hand recently.  The book I am listening to right now has a specific structure that is similar to law school outlines.  There are a handful of main points, and within each main point, there are subsets of information.  However, I don’t remember the structure at all.  I can’t piece together how the information fits.  I remember parts from the book with tips and information about being more productive, but I can’t recreate the main points just from listening.  Listening and driving (or doing anything else) makes it difficult to create schema.

Cognitive schema and mental models are critical for law school.  Understanding the big picture and how concepts relate to each other is the foundation for analyzing new legal fact patterns.  Without the steps of the analysis, answers will miss sub-issues or concepts professors allocate points to.  Missing the structure is missing the foundation to legal analysis.

The problem is exacerbated by our own beliefs.  Some students believe they should only study using their preferred learning style, and if they identify as auditory learners, they may listen to outlines or books without doing much else.  Listening to books can also provide a false sense of confidence.  I heard information from the audiobook, and I can even recite some of the productivity tips.  I have a false sense of true understanding.  Spending time working through the material with a clear structure is critical to organize the information.

I can’t write this whole post from an audiobooks bad perspective though.  I do enjoy listening to books on my drive, and as I have written before, I incorporate information from those books into my classes.  I think audiobooks or listening to outlines can be helpful.  The key is to use them as a supplement to structural learning.  Creating an outline, flowchart, or other studying device that represents the steps in the analysis creates the schema or mental model for legal analysis.  Listening to information can then be beneficial by thinking about where the information fits into that schema.  Using different tools to complement each other will work best preparing for finals. 

(Steven Foster)

April 8, 2019 in Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 7, 2019

AASE Awards Nominations - Deadline April 19th

Dear ASP colleagues,

AASE will once again provide awards to acknowledge excellence in the academic support field at the annual conference.  AASE developed the following recommendations for the Award Committee:

  • AASE should recognize members’ valuable contributions to law school academic support
  • AASE awards should have as an important objective the recognition of early and mid-career ASP professors
  • AASE Awards should be for specific work or in specific categories
  • The goal of AASE awards should be honoring contributions, not covering categories

The 2019 Awards committee, Kris Franklin, Twinette Johnson, and Jamie Kleppetsch (chair), are soliciting nominations for contributions by individuals, or in appropriate circumstances, groups, in any of the following areas:

  1. Specific ideas or innovations—whether disseminated through academic writing, newsletters, conference presentations or over the listserv
  2. Specific services to the profession—e.g., advocacy with the NCBE, etc.
  3. Providing services to students
  4. Promoting diversity in the profession and expanding access to the legal profession
  5. Mentoring and supporting others in ASP

Recognition may be given to more than one individual or group in any of these categories, and no category requires an award in any one year. We fully recognize just how many ASP educators have made heroic contributions to their students and to the profession. For these reasons, the Awards Committee will consider all nominations received, while keeping in mind there must be a reasonable limit for awards in any one year. Anyone in law school academic support may offer nominations, but current AASE Board members and AASE Awards Committee members are ineligible for recognition. Awards recipients must be members of AASE at the time an award is bestowed. 

Please send your nominations to Jamie Kleppetsch by Friday, April 19,

Thank you,

AASE Awards Committee 2019

April 7, 2019 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0)

AASE Board Nominations - Deadline April 22nd

Hello, AASE Members,

It is that time of year again. As we look forward to the upcoming national conference, we also need to select new members for AASE’s Executive Board.  Please consider nominating someone to serve on the AASE Executive Board.

Please go to the Membership page of the AASE website and follow the Nomination Link which can be found here:  You also can go straight to the nomination page here:  To nominate someone, you must be an AASE Member. If you are unsure whether you are an AASE member, please contact us at  You many nominate only one person for each position, but you can nominate the same person for more than one position. Self-nominations are allowed.

Nominations are due by April 22, 2019.  All nominees confirmed by the election committee (Betsy Six, Russell McClain, and Toni Miceli – the members of the Executive Board who are not eligible to run for an office) will be forwarded to the Executive Board by May 1, 2019.  We will then circulate an online ballot.  Voting will be open for one week leading up to the national conference and will close on May 21, 2019, the end of the first day of the national conference.

The AASE Executive Board meets or communicates on matters every month.  Each Executive Board position has regular duties in addition to being assigned to serve as a liaison on committees and other tasks as needed.  Candidates should be willing to fulfill the time commitment required of the office for which they are nominated.

The positions that are open for election are President-Elect (3-year position), Vice President of Diversity (1-year position), Secretary (1-year position), and Treasurer-Elect (2-year position).

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me, Betsy, or Toni. 


Russell McClain

President, AASE

April 7, 2019 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Reminder to Use the AASE Disclosure Form with Job Postings

It's the spring recruiting season for ASP/bar prep! The Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) encourages all law schools to use the AASE disclosure form as part of the position advertisements for ASP/bar jobs at their law schools. The form provides additional information to applicants that is often missing from announcements, but is very helpful to the applicants. The AASE disclosure form is given below if you are unfamiliar with it. The Word document is also here: Download Aase_questions_job_postings_to_asp_listserv .


Posting - ASP Job Opportunity

Members of the Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) strongly encourage prospective employers to answer the below list of questions when posting a job opening to the academic support listserv.  When answering these questions, please note the following:

  • Where appropriate, more than one option may be checked when responding to an individual question.
  • Information regarding salary is particularly important to applicants and to the broader ASP community, and AASE strongly encourages the inclusion of this information whenever possible.
  • Employers may include additional explanatory information immediately after each respective question. Larger amounts of information, such as a position description, may be included at the end of the form or as an additional attachment.

It is our hope that the answers to these questions will provide applicants with a baseline for comparing different job opportunities.  Also, completed questionnaires can give prospective employers insights into the various factors that impact the job market for academic support professionals.

  1.  The position advertised:

___  a.   is a full-time appointment.
___  b.   is a part-time appointment.

Other, please specify:


  1. The position advertised:
    ___ a.   is a tenure-track appointment.
    ___  b.   may lead to successive long-term contracts of five or more years.
    ___  c.   may lead to successive short-term contracts of one to four years.  (Full Time Position)
    ___  d. has an upper-limit on the number of years a teacher may be appointed.
    ___  e. is part of a fellowship program for one or two years.

___ f.   is an adjunct appointment.

___ g.  is a year-to-year appointment.

___ h.  is a one-year visitorship.

___  i.   is for at will employment.

Other, please specify:


Additional information, question 2:


  1.  The person hired:
    ___ a.  will be permitted to vote on all matters at faculty meetings.

___  b.  will be permitted to vote in faculty meetings on matters except those pertaining to hiring, tenure, and promotion.
___  c.  will not be permitted to vote in faculty meetings.

Other, please specify:


Additional information, question 3:


  1.  The school anticipates paying an annual academic year base compensation in the range checked below.  (A base compensation does not include stipends for coaching moot court teams, teaching other courses, or teaching in summer school; a base compensation does not include conference travel or other professional development funds.)
    ___ a. over $120,000
    ___  b.  $110,000 - $119,999
    ___  c.  $100,000 - $109,999
    ___  d. $90,000 - $99,999
    ___  e.  $80,000 - $89,999
    ___  f.  $70,000 - $79,999
    ___  g.  $60,000 - $69,999
    ___  h.  $50,000 - $59,999
    ___  i.   $40, 000-49,999
    ___  j.   $10,000 - $39,000.
    ___  k.  less than $10,000.

    Other, please specify:


Additional information, question 4:


  1. The person hired will have the title of:

___  a.  Associate Dean (including Dean of Students).

___  b.  Assistant Dean.

___  c.  Director.

___  d. Associate Director.

___  e.  Assistant Director.

___  f.  Professor – Full, Associate, or Assistant (tenure track).

___  g.  Professor – Full, Associate, or Assistant (clinical tenure track or its equivalent).

___  h.  Professor – Full, Associate, or Assistant (neither tenure track nor clinical tenure track).

___  i.   no title.


Other, please specify:


Additional information, question 5:

  1. Job responsibilities include (please check all that apply):

___  a.  working with students whose predicators (LSAT and University GPA) suggest they will struggle to excel in law school.

___  b.  working with students who performed relatively poorly on their law school examinations or other assessments.

___  c.  working with diverse students.

___  d. managing orientation.

___  e.  teaching ASP-related classes (case briefing, synthesis, analysis, etc.).

___  f.  teaching bar-exam related classes.

___  g.  working with students on an individual basis.

___  h.  teaching other law school courses.

Other, please specify:


Additional information, question 6:


  1. The person hired will be present in the office:

___  a.  9-10 month appointment.

___  b. Year round appointment (works regularly in the summer months).

Additional information, question 7:


  1. The person hired is required to publish, in some form, in order to maintain employment.

___  a.  Yes.

___  b.  No.

Additional information, question 8:


  1. The person hired will report to:

___  a. the Dean of the Law School.

___  b. an Associate Dean.

___  c.  the Director of the Academic Support Department.

___  d. a Faculty Committee.

Other, please specify:


Additional information, question 9:


Note:  AASE strongly recommends that this disclosure form accompany all E-mail postings for academic support positions sent to subscribers of the ASP listserv (

April 6, 2019 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 5, 2019

The Little Things Are the Big Things

Thirty feet can make a lot of difference. During the height of the advising season, I spend hours hanging out in the foyer, open to any student who might walk by. Just moving the few feet from my office to a low-slung chair in a corner of the foyer quadruples my usual amount of drop-in traffic. Students come and go: we exchange smiles, pull out the phone to share baby and puppy pictures, and bemoan the virus going around. Many students ask "by-the-way"-type questions; others plop down for extended discussions about how to tackle multiple choice questions, study for the bar, or choose courses for the next two years.

Time in the foyer is never wasted. If no one is in my corner, more often than not students are talking with each other, staff, or faculty. I listen. And I am struck by how many people passing through the space tell someone else how they have made a difference in their lives. A 2L tells a 3L how her advice helped him nail an interview. A student thanks an administrative assistant for helping her through a paperwork snaggle; the assistant visibly melts when the student tells her, "I consider you a role model." A 3L tells a professor how his advice helped him in a clinic case. A 1L thanks the tech guru who found her missing appellate brief when it seemed the computer had swallowed it forever. A student back from a funeral thanks classmates who shared their notes; another recovering from illness thanks the friends who brought over supper. A 4L tells me, "You probably don't remember this, but you gave me the courage to continue law school when I thought I'd have to quit." Another student shares, "That day we danced in the library made me smile when things were going really badly." On an ordinary day in an ordinary law school, the spirit of gratitude is pervasive.

With a sense of amazement, a good friend once shared this story with me. Ten years after getting a philosophy degree, he returned to college for a biology degree. A much younger student, whom my friend knew only slightly, invited him to his graduation party. At the party, the graduate pulled my friend aside privately and told him, "When I first came to school, I was close to dropping out because I was doing so badly. So I looked around for someone who seemed to know what they were doing, and I noticed you. We never talked much, and you never knew this, but I modeled everything I did in school on what you did. I'm graduating today because you taught me how to learn. So I want to thank you for everything."

We never know when we may have an impact, minor or profound, on another person. Kindness matters; professionalism matters; respect matters. Acting as though everything we do can have an impact helps us live out our belief in the dignity of every human being. Much of the time it's not the big things we do that elevate others' lives -- the little day-to-day things are the big things to those around us.

(Nancy Luebbert)


April 5, 2019 in Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Exam Prep Tips From Learning to Ride A Bike!

I asked my classes this question today: "How did you learn to ride a bike?"

The students then turned to their small groups and the class lit up with stories and smiles and anecdotes as they shared their memories about learning to ride bikes.  Here are some of the things I heard:

• I started out with training wheels.

• No one helped me so I decided to try riding on the grass so that I wouldn't get hurt when I fell.

• I just kept getting back up, one fall after another and one bruise after another.

• Without my knowledge, someone gave me a big push and away I went!

As a class, here's what we realized about learning.  Not one of us learned to ride a bike by reading about riding a bike, or watching You Tube videos about bike riding, or creating a study tool on bike riding.  No.  Instead, to a "T," all my students said that they learned to ride bikes, well, by learning to ride bikes. And, most of us had help along the way.

The same is true with learning the law.  We don't really learn the law by reading about the law.  Instead, we learn the law by problem-solving with the law.  But, far too many students - understandably - don't feel ready to practice final exam problems because they feel like they don't know enough law.  So, here's some tips to get you learning by doing in preparation for your final exams.

Start with training wheels and practice on the grass.  

Here's what I mean.  

Instead of trying to test yourself through past exam problems, open up your notes, outlines, and casebook and work through problems as best you can, untimed, with the goal of learning the law through past exam problems.  

Just like learning to ride a bike, you'll experience a lot of cuts and bruises along the way as you review your answers. But, you'll get better and soon you'll be able to ride without your training wheels (notes).  And, you might start doing some tricks, too, like jumping off the curb, something that a few days or weeks previously was terrifyingly trepidatious. You see, the key to tackling your fears about taking final exams is to take final exams before you take final exams.  So, as you prepare for your exams this spring, make it your aim to practice final exams, slowly and open book.  One pedal at a time.  (Scott Johns).

April 4, 2019 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Learning Styles, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Paper and Fire

A blank piece of paper has so much potential. It can be used to display one's ingenuity. It can be a medium for communication between two people, or among thousands. It can record data and history and memory, to be used by people born long after the recorder is dead. And yet, under certain circumstances, our stationery friend can seem to turn on us. When we are asked to answer an inscrutable question, the oppressive blankness of an empty sheet can be smothering. When we think that our reputation, our livelihood, our entire future depends on scratching the right symbols in the right order, the page can seem like a minefield of hidden threats.

When I was a kid, television seemed to be entering its golden age of public service announcements, and to me it seemed the most common subject was fire. Fire was our friend, we were told, making food safe and houses warm; but we always needed to be aware of what to do if it grew dangerous. And what we needed to know was that our natural inclinations were usually wrong. Foe example, even though we knew that water was the opposite of fire, if something caught fire in the kitchen, then we were not supposed to throw water on it, because it was probably a grease or electrical fire, and water would just make it worse. If our whole house caught fire (say, because we threw water on a kitchen fire), then we weren't supposed to hide in a nice, safe closet, because then we'd be trapped and the firefighters would never find us. If we caught fire, then we weren't supposed to run, trying to find some water to jump into. That, we were told, would just light us up like a Roman candle. Instead, we had to fight every instinct and stop, drop to the ground, and roll around politely.

What I could not understand as a child was that these PSAs really had two purposes. One was simply educational, teaching us that behaviors that made perfectly good sense in one context (dousing fire, hiding from danger, fleeing danger) might actually expose us to additional harm in a different context. They were maladaptive behaviors. Sea turtle hatchings naturally paddle towards a bright light, which helps insure they reach the ocean when the brightest object in the night is the moon reflecting off the water, but which will insure they remain stranded on land when the brightest object is the patio light behind a beach house. Infantry charging a defensive position en masse often led to an advance when the defense was armed with swords, but always led to a slaughter when the defense was armed with entrenched machine guns. The ways to counter maladaptive behaviors are either to return to the original situation (turn of the patio light) or to replace the old behavior with a new one (attack with tanks and aircraft). When Ronald McDonald sang, "Stop, drop, and roll!", he was teaching children a new behavior to replace the old maladaptive behavior.

But even the dimmest of my childhood friends got the gist of Ronald's commands after the third or fourth viewing. Why were we hearing these messages so frequently, from so many different sources? That went to the second purpose of the PSAs. Education is a good start, a necessary start, but the problem is that being on fire, or at least near fire, is an inherently stressful situation. And psychologists know that "Under stress, we regress." That is, under difficulty situations like panic or sensory overload or fear of consequences, humans naturally fall back on older patterned behavior. Most drivers, for instance, know intellectually that if their car loses traction in a skid, they should pump the brakes and steer into the skid to regain control. But the first time they actually hit a skid, most drivers stand on that brake pedal. Only if they live someplace wacky with snow, like Buffalo, do they get enough practice with the skid to develop the new adaptive behavior.

Even television executives were able to recognize that it would be unethical to light kids on fire over and over again until they learned to stop, drop, and roll. So they did the next best thing: they repeated the message over and over again, and encouraged children to try practicing the moves even when they weren't alight, to ingrain the new behavior as much as possible. The more familiar a behavior became, through repetition and feedback, the less likely a person would be to regress away from it under the actual stress of combustion.

At this time of year, I am seeing work from a lot of students who seem to be regressing under stress: 1L students using tactics in their spring semester midterms that appear to be drawn from their most basic legal writing classes, or from college composition classes; 3L students trying to mechanically apply CREAC format to early MEE and MPT practice questions. Even when we know we have shown these students the more advanced strategies they should be using as they progress through their development as attorneys, we have to keep in mind that that blank piece of paper or computer screen can just as easily be a threat as a blessing. Under the stress of self-doubt, or of novelty, or of high ambition, or future consequences -- sometimes of all of these at once -- the amiably clean page can transform into an incandescent hazard. Repetition and feedback are important not just to help our students improve their use of the more advanced strategies they need, but also to make them comfortable and familiar enough to be able to use those strategies at all.

[Bill MacDonald]

April 2, 2019 in Advice, Bar Exam Preparation, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Science, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)