Friday, October 31, 2008

Aesop's Fables for Law Students II

I have included below the second of the Aesop's fables that I wrote for my law students in my weekly tips e-mail.  Most of you will probably remember the original version of this well-known fable.

The Tortoise and the Hare:

Tortoise methodically thinks about every question and topic: considering the rules for each issue, laying out every step, and providing relevant details to analysis.  Tortoise often answers questions in class slowly.  Tortoise mulls over remarks in study group and is never quick to answer.  Tortoise sometimes worries because the Hares seem so adept in class or study group when answering questions.

Hare can think on his feet adroitly and is never at a loss in class when called upon by the professor.  Hare gets to the point rapidly without wasting words or time on aspects that seem unimportant.  Hare is often perplexed why Tortoise is so slow when the answers seem so obvious.  Occasionally Hare is asked by the professor for more information, but Hare has never actually been wrong on an answer.

Exam period arrives at last.  Tortoise carefully reads the instructions, reads each word of each fact pattern, and takes time to make an "outline" of each answer before writing.  Tortoise allots the maximum time for each question and moves to the next question when that time is up.  Tortoise stays to the end of the exam and finishes with only minutes to spare.

Hare ignores the instructions, sizes up the fact patterns quickly, and begins writing furiously within minutes of reading a fact pattern.  Without making many notes, Hare juggles all of the rules and facts in his head.  Hare sees that the issues and analysis are obvious for the right conclusions.  Although it is a four-hour exam, Hare crosses the finish line in a mere 2 1/2 hours.  Looking around the room after turning in the exam, Hare is astonished that nearly everyone else is still writing furioiusly.  Hare chuckles, congratulates himself on his right answers, and leaves the room.

When grades come back, Hare is startled to receive only low C grades.  During exam reviews, Hare finds out that the model answers have more detail, give in-depth analysis, and are more organized.  The professor's comments on the exam indicate that Hare's answers were "conclusory" without sufficient analysis and that Hare did not use the format in the instructions.  And, to Hares's astonishment, his "right" conclusion received only one point.

Moral:  The highest grades do not always go to the swift in exams or those who are most adept in class.  To do well on exams, a law student must read the instructions, spot the issues, state the law accurately, connect the dots in orgnaized analysis, and use relevant details and facts.  (Students who are too quick off the mark can learn how to correct exam-taking errors with new strategies.)

For those ASP readers who saw my earlier three columns on the processing learning styles (October 8, 9, and 13, 2008), you will recognize that Hare would be a very high scorer on the Global-Intuitive styles, and Tortoise would be a low to moderate scorer on the Sequential-Sensing styles.  (Amy Jarmon)

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