Saturday, January 14, 2012

Fighting for our students

I was at AALS last week. In my seven years in the academic success community, I have never experienced anything quite like last week's conference. There were two messages coming from AALS, and both messages are important for everyone in legal education: law school is too expensive, and law schools are not doing enough to increase diversity. I will discuss both messages, and the implications for ASP, in turn.

1) Law school is too expensive.

I listened to more than one speaker claim that "services"--one speaker singled out ASP--are the cause of tuition hikes. At the vast majority of schools, there is only one person in ASP (and maybe not even full-time). To isolate ASP as the cause of tuition increases is disingenuous at best, and deceitful at worst. We are paid a fraction of the salary of one tenured faculty member, but most of us work long hours to help our students succeed.

Attacking ASP and other service providers is easy; few of us have tenure, even fewer have voting rights, many of us are at-will employees, and therefore, it's difficult for us to defend our roles without threatening our employment. Staying quiet is easy, but ultimately, self-defeating. If we don't start defending what we do, and our cost-effectiveness, we will be easy to cut. Kudos to Herb Ramy who addressed this at his presentation at AALS--we keep students in school, and we earn our keep. Threatening ASP means more students will fail out of law school and fewer students will be paying tuition.

There is still the problem of escalating law school tuition at a time when our students are finding it hard to find jobs. Whether we like it or not, that is our problem, too. None of us have control over law school tuition hikes, but we do have the power to help our students. I have always considered a part of my job to help my students find jobs. Every year I meet with students who want to know how to work in education. I consider it a part of my duty as a member of a law school to brainstorm employment options with my students, write recommendations, and call in favors, when I can, to help students find employment.  I don't pretend to be in career services, but if I know someone who is looking for an academic counselor, I will pass along the resume of one of my students. This is a lesson I learned at my alma mater, where it was not uncommon for professors to help students with their job search.

2) Law schools are not doing enough to increase diversity.

Attacking ASP while lamenting the lack of diversity in the law makes no sense. ASP was born out of efforts to diversify the legal profession and help all students, regardless of ethnicity, race, or socioeconomic status, succeed in law school and as lawyers. Many of us are in ASP because we are committed to the success of underrepresented populations. At our core, ASP is about helping the neediest students, students who have no "family money" to rely on once they get out of law school, students who may be the first in their family to graduate from high school--let alone professional school, students who may be supporting their family while in law school.

This is about fighting for our students. It's about helping the neediest students make it through law school, after they have acquired debt to finance their first semester or year of law school.  It's about making law school a safe, healthy place for all students, of all backgrounds. It's about making diversity a priority. We need to fight for ASP because it is about helping students, not ourselves. We have a duty to our students, to help them achieve their personal best and to help them find their place in the profession. Helping our students means we need to start speaking up for ourselves. The time to wish for an economic miracle has passed; we need to get fired up for our students and for ourselves. (RCF)

January 14, 2012 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Hope and Higher Grades

Hat tip to the Legal Writing Prof Blog for the following link to a recent article on research about law students and hope. 

Go to The National Law Journal to read the article summarizing research published in the Journal of Research in Personality and previously reported in the Duquesne Law ReviewAllison Martin, a clinical professor at Indiana University McKinney School of Law, is one of the researchers.  (Amy Jarmon)

January 13, 2012 in Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Losing the Lecture

There is a great piece from NPR about physicists reworking their large lecture courses after learning that lectures don't facilitate learning. I have included the link below.

Inspired by the article, here is an example of how you can lose the lecture. We know active learning is a better teaching method than lectures, but many of us (including me!) get nervous about changing our teaching methods. This is one example of how to lose the lecture and embrace active learning; there are thousands of ways to revamp your teaching to include more active learning. I am providing the example below to help ASPer's who feel stuck.

1) Start by asking students a question that will frame their learning. What is the fundamental concept I want students to know before the end of the class?

        Examples of questions:
–Why are these cases grouped together?  Name 3 things that are the SAME in each of these cases.
–Name 3 things that are DIFFERENT in each of these cases? Do they change, extend, or clarify the law?
2) When you get to discussing the cases they read in preparation for class, start each discussion with a question and 3 possible answers. Have them discuss, in pairs or in small groups, what they think the answer is and why.  Have them vote on the relevant facts of the case. Ask them to explain their answer, by asking how THESE facts (vs. the wrong choices) relate to the holding. Make sure you ask them to tell you HOW they got to their answer, so you can tease out any flawed reasoning.
3) End the class with the same question you asked at the start of class. This time, have them vote on the best answer. If they come up with answers that are off the mark, give them the correct answer, but ask them to compare how the correct answer is different from the incorrect statement.
4) The final activity in class should be an exercise. Have students demonstrate their learning by asking them to show how the concept works in context.
•How would it work in the real world, for a practitioner? What type of challenges might they encounter if they see this issue as a practitioner?
•How would it work on an exam? How would a professor test this concept? Have them make up and answer their own hypos.
•How would it get put into an outline? Ask them to outline their notes from class, and explain why they feel
•How would they find the concept in their reading? What would they need to look for in the text of a case?
Again, this is only one example. It is not the only way of incorporating active learning in your teaching.

January 12, 2012 in News, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tenure-Track Position in ASP and Bar Prep at Appalachian School of Law

The Appalachian School of Law is looking for a full-time, tenure-earning faculty member interested in teaching in its Academic Success and Bar Preparation programs starting in 2012, preferably in the spring of 2012. ASL is committed to student achievement, and this position will be primarily responsible for developing, leading, coordinating, and implementing programs that support ASL’s goals of assisting law students as they develop and improve legal study and test-taking skills, adjust to the challenges of law school, pass the bar exam, and prepare to enter law practice.

Minimum requirements include a J.D. degree and admission to the practice of law. Ideal candidates will have experience working in a higher-education setting in the areas of teaching, academic assistance, academic counseling, or similar administrative, teaching, or practice experience. The successful candidate also must have excellent written and verbal communication skills, and the ability to work effectively with a wide range of constituents within the diverse law school community, including students served by the Academic Success Program, faculty members, and the law school administration.

ASL is located in the scenic-mountainous region of southwest Virginia, in an area that is experiencing growth with the recent completion of a new town center. All aspects of ASL’s academic program—from the structured curriculum and the required summer externship to the weekly community service commitment—are designed to respond to the unique needs and opportunities of a law school in this region. ASL received full accreditation from the American Bar Association in June 2006.

Women, people of color, and others with diverse backgrounds are encouraged to apply. To apply, please send a cover letter and a resume to Priscilla Harris, Chair, Faculty Appointments Committee. For email, send to, including in the subject line, “ASP Position.” For mail, send to Priscilla Harris, Appalachian School of Law, P.O. Box 2825, Grundy, VA 24614.


January 10, 2012 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)