Sunday, December 9, 2012

Dewey's Concept of Suspended Conclusion and Law School Exams

Professor Donald J. Kochan published an article in Nevada Law Journal that might be of interest to you in this exam season.  The article uses the Deweyan concept of suspended conclusion (approaching a problem with an open mind and without a predetermined conclusion) as a way for students to improve their thinking about exam questions.  He explains the concept and then uses it to formulate 12 points for students to consider as they work through exam questions.

The suspended conclusion concept is specifically applied to the exam scenario in the article, but has wide application to exam school studying and lawyering in general.  (Amy Jarmon) 

The article can be downloaded from SSRN at  An abstract is included below:  


As creatures of thought, we are thinking all the time, but that does not necessarily mean that we are thinking well.  Answering the law school exam, like solving any problem, requires that the student exercise thinking in an effective and productive manner.  This Article provides some guidance in that pursuit.  Using John Dewey’s suspended conclusion concept for effective thinking as an organizing theme, this Article presents one basic set of lessons for thinking through issues that arise regarding the approach to a law school exam. This means that the lessons contained here help exercise thought while taking the exam—to think through the exam approach. The second, more subtle, purpose is to demonstrate that the law school exam can serve as a case study in the effectiveness of certain thinking tools that have much broader application. For that reason, this Article is not your typical “how-to” guide, but instead provides guidance critically and generally applicable to the thinking enterprise itself.

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