Tuesday, May 2, 2023
Academic and Bar Support Scholarship Spotlight
1. DeShun Harris (Memphis), Let’s Talk About Grading, Maybe: Using Transparency About the Grading Process to Aid in Student Learning, 45 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 805 (2022).
From the abstract:
Talking about grades and grading in law school can feel as taboo, if not more, than talking about sex. Among law faculty, there is often no training and no discussions about how to grade other than being asked to moderate final grades to meet a curve. Students often seek information from each other or online sources where numerous blogs provide them with advice on how to talk to professors about grades, how not to disclose grades to others, and other advice about dealing with grades. What is not as forthcoming for many students is how exactly their professors evaluate their work product. But without discussions about grading practices among faculty and students, are law schools missing an opportunity to use grading discussions as part of their assessment efforts?
Much like the hit song Let’s Talk About Sex encourages its audiences to talk about sex as a means of emotional intelligence, law schools can talk about grading as an educational tool. This Article will discuss the history and meaning of grades to demonstrate how grading has evolved and can evolve. It will also discuss the processes professors use to grade and how to guide faculty to develop a shared understanding of grading standards. Finally, it will discuss how professors can engage students in grading conversations so that they can learn how to self-regulate and engage in the professional standards of the legal profession more effectively.
2. Nachman N. Gutowski (St. Thomas (Miami)), STOP THE COUNT; The Historically Discriminatory Nature of the Bar Exam Requires Adjustments in How Bar Passage Rates are Reported, If at All, 21 Seattle J. Soc. Just. 589 (2023).
From the abstract: Despite its ugly history and persistent disparate impact on racial and minority groups, the Bar Exam is still a required step for (nearly) every jurisdiction in a law school graduate's quest to become an attorney. Deficiencies abound in the exam's inability to effectively evaluate the minimum competency of what newly minted attorneys should possess. It is left to the local jurisdiction to collect, analyze, and determine what mode to release and calculate results. There has been a recent shift in focus, and change of scope, in the American Bar Association Ultimate Bar Passage, Standard 316. Nevertheless, the local authorities provide pass rate data via public reports that are often not in line, or are even in definitional conflict, with the ABA standard.
A lack of standardized public disclosure for statistics on bar results has exacerbated inequities. The meteoric rise of the Uniform Bar Exam and its widespread adoption is impacting how results are compiled and reported. Solutions are straightforward, if not simple, to implement. Reporting agencies must assess and update their individualized calculation and publication methods to ensure accuracy and conformity to set standards. The American Bar Association must update its questionnaire and, at the very least, clarify its definition of first-time takers. Finally, the National Conference of Bar Examiners must proactively assist and provide data to law schools on examinees who transfer Uniform Bar Exam scores between jurisdictions, particularly within the first two years of graduation.
3. Jane Grise (Kentucky) & Dorothy Evensen (Penn State), Getting It Right From the Start, __ Tenn. L. Rev. __ (forthcoming 2023).
From the abstract:
For over 150 years, law professors have used the case method, which presumes that students arrive at law school with the capacity to closely read and analyze cases. This is a false assumption. Reading cases is challenging because cases represent a discipline specific genre that has a complex subject-matter, a novel structure, and challenging vocabulary. However, students do not need to unduly struggle if they are taught how to read cases “right from the start” of their legal education.
This article first reviews the development of the case method and the challenges it poses for incoming students. It goes on to describe a pedagogical approach, aligned with sociocultural theory, that has met with success in a variety of disciplines including legal education. The essence of the approach is that students can more effectively develop proficiencies in critical reading and legal analysis when they move through developmental phases where they are oriented to goals and concepts, engage in mediated activities with more knowledgeable people, verbalize concepts, and ultimately internalize concepts and processes. The article explains how this method produced significant positive learning outcomes for students in a summer pre-law program. The article concludes by discussing how the approach can be used in the law school setting and provides suggestions for curriculum, syllabi, and program organization. This new model for legal education enables students to develop a solid foundation, so they can learn more effectively through the case method.
Posted by: Louis Schulze (FIU Law)