Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Bar Examiners Don't Seem to Be Listening

There is so much that goes into the making of a bar exam. There are layers of research, accountability, and quality control involved in the drafting of the questions. There is beta testing of the exam content. There is scoring, rescoring, and equating. And there are levels of exam security that rival Area 51. The parties involved range from statisticians to politicians, who cautiously weigh input from the podium, the bar, and the bench. To top it all off, the job of bar examiner – at least at the state level – is a modestly compensated appointment that is held all the while keeping a day job of managing a law practice, or ruling from the bench. Too little appreciation is shown to our almost volunteer bar examiners in times of rest and high passage rates. So, I sincerely and thankfully shout out bar examiners everywhere who discharge an office of such societal importance. And I use the term bar examiners in the collective to include every role, from essay graders to the character and fitness investigators, from the licensure analysts to the admission administrators and honorable members of the board.

Bar examiners have to operate independently and make decisions about scoring and bar admissions that will be unpopular to some. But the examiners must make decisions, and it is the failure or delay in reaching a particularly important decision that has placed examiners under fire across the country. That decision: what about the July 2020 exam?

It is understandable to the legal and lay public that a law license is a privilege not to be indiscriminately awarded. It is equally clear that security protocols must be in place to maintain the integrity of the exam. What is not understandable is how some examiners can fail to make adjustments in the face of the extreme and dire circumstances of the COVID pandemic.  In less than two weeks’ time, the nation’s ABA-accredited law schools went entirely online, trained faculty (many with limited technology skills) for online teaching, and adopted pass-fail grading. There is simply no excuse for bar examiners to not be just as creative and as willing to implement emergency protocols for the prospective July 2020 examinees.

This week 1,000+ students, representing all of New York’s law schools, petitioned the New York State Bar Association’s Task Force on the New York Bar Examination for an emergency diploma privilege. Days later, New York canceled the July exam. Adding ambiguity to injury, the exam has been rescheduled to the fall, but no date is provided to examinees who need to make study, travel, and lodging plans for the two-day exam. Are you kidding us?  It’s almost like the examiners are not listening. At all.

A reasonably prudent person will interpret the New York decision as a signal for other states to follow. New York is considered highly influential, as its 2016 adoption of UBE was followed by Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, and others. The 2020 bar takers are not asking the examiners to give away law licenses without merit. They —joined in large number by law faculty, deans and alumni— are asking for necessary emergency licensing measures. They are asking examiners to think outside of the traditional bar exam box. They are asking that fairness, humanity, and the chance to earn a living be prioritized  over security worries. They are asking the examiners to listen.

(Marsha Griggs)

March 28, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exams, Current Affairs, Exams - Theory, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 23, 2020

It's Time to Consider Licensure Alternatives for the Class of 2020

The Class of 2020 has suffered blows like no other graduating class. Domestic K-12, undergraduate, and graduate students alike have been informed that they are not allowed to return to their physical campuses, and must continue their school year online. Hardest hit are the presumptive graduates of the class of 2020. They must forego prom, senior skip day, all manner of internships and externships, competitions - from moot court to state basketball playoffs, science fairs, presentations, and call-back interviews. These students resume academic life, complete with homework and online class presentations, only to confront the added heartbreak of not being able to walk across the stage adorned in cap and gown or hood. My heart aches for the entire class of 2020 who will be unavoidably denied a great rite of passage: the commencement and hooding ceremony with all its pomp and circumstance. 

But for law school graduates, the heartache may not end with foiled graduation plans. All medical and environmental indicators would suggest that the July bar exam cannot go forward as scheduled.1 But eleven law professors have said: Enough. While none of us can undo any of the devastating impact of COVID-19, state and national bar examiners can and should consider alternatives to licensure to maintain the influx of new lawyers into the legal profession. In a recently distributed policy paper, The Bar Exam and the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Need for Immediate Action, Professor Deborah Jones Merritt joined with ten other notable legal scholars to pose alternatives to licensure that would allow 2020 law graduates to enter the ranks of the legal profession without costly and undue delay.

According to the paper, the legal system depends on a yearly influx of new law graduates to maintain service to clients. The scholars, in a unified voice, reasonably predict that the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic will create an increased need for legal services. Says Merritt et al., “[o]ur 2020 graduates have knowledge and skills that will be particularly helpful in responding to the legal needs of a population stricken by COVID-19,” as “these graduates are fully equipped to function online, a skill that some senior lawyers lack.”

The paper poses six alternatives to the standard summer exam administration, and argues that postponing the exam for weeks or months is not a viable alternative with the uncertainty and medically likely resurgence of the COVID-19 virus. The paper’s authors urge the licensing jurisdictions, and most notably the NCBE that controls the Multistate exams, to consider an emergency diploma privilege, or supervised practice as an alternative in this limited and exigent circumstance that the pandemic presents.

Whether or not the bar examiners agree with the proposals, the time to act decisively is now. Keeping the class of 2020 in limbo about the administration of the July exam, piles onto the existing educational disruptions it has already suffered. Any substantial postponement of the exam will have harmful effects on the candidates who hope to join the legal profession this year.

According to Tammy King, Assistant Dean for Professional Development at Washburn School of Law, “the public service employers who need someone who can practice immediately are among those most likely to wait to make offers or to make offers and start dates contingent on bar passage.” According to reported NALP data, as many as 41.3% of 2017 graduates who were employed within 10 months after graduation secured their jobs after bar results were released. CUNY Law professor @allierobbins may speak for the class of 2020, in a March 23 tweet, "Dear Bar Examiners, Please Listen to these Women."

(Marsha Griggs)

1 The National Conference of Bar Examiners’ website contains the following update regarding administration of the July 2020 exam: “The bar exam is administered by individual jurisdictions, not by NCBE. We are in close contact with jurisdiction bar admission agencies as they consider possible options for the July exam in the event that shutdowns and prohibitions against large gatherings remain in effect.”

March 23, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exams, Current Affairs, News | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Online Learning Resources and Tips

Currently, all ABA accredited law schools have moved online. This means many of us are in new territory when it comes to working with our students. Some schools already have online or hybrid programs, but for many, this is completely new!

I've been hosting bar workshops and classes on zoom for awhile now. I wanted to share some things that I have found to be useful when teaching on zoom, as well as lists of resources I've compiled from elsewhere. (Elsewhere being our listserv and twitter, or through colleagues)

My own tips:

  1. If possible, ask that students leave video on. I find this works better to foster community, and you get better participation. 
  2. However, they should mute their microphone when not talking. This one might be obvious, but even the sound of typing gets picked up on the microphone, and can be distracting to other students. 
  3. The chat feature can be wonderful, but probably only in small groups. I find it works well if I have a workshop of under 20, but it would likely be distracting in a larger class. Its a great way for students to participate, or to keep track of questions until the end.
  4. I have found the polling feature to be a great way to get people to participate. Obviously this is best used for multiple choice style questions, but I think it can be used creatively for all manner of things. 
  5. Share screen to share essay prompts, sample answers, power points- great! However, the white board is great in theory, but I find it hard to use. Maybe it's me, or my lack or artistic ability. Instead, I pull up a blank word document, which I find easier to create charts and graphs on, like I would in a non virtual classroom.

Other resources:

CALI (Center for Computer Assisted Legal Instruction)

And online learning guide from Roger William's  and LawTutors' Brittany Raposa:

https://lawtutors.net/online-learning-guidelines-in-the-wake-of-covid-19/

Suffolk Law's Sarah Schendel compiled a great list of resources on twitter:

https://twitter.com/s_james_s/status/1237529688437751810

and finally, an article about better focus with online learning:

https://99u.adobe.com/articles/6969/10-online-tools-for-better-attention-focus

 

If you have your own tips, or I've left out any great resources, please leave them in the comments!

(Melissa A. Hale)

 

March 18, 2020 in Advice, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 16, 2020

A Message for Unchartered Territory

I'm sharing a message from Professor Janet Thompson Jackson of Washburn School of Law for all of us in this period of social distancing. Feel free to share it with your students or incorporate it into your own mindfulness meditation.
 
This is a very stressful and uncertain time.  None of us has lived through anything like this before.  You may be feeling scared or you may be unconcerned or you may be somewhere in the middle. However you are feeling is okay. I suggest you sit with your feelings for a bit and then ask yourself if where you are emotionally is serving you and others in a helpful way.
 
If you find yourself in a constant state of panic or worry, that is likely lowering your immune system, which is not what you want right now. Feeling some anxiety in a time of uncertainty is normal, but it’s good to make an effort to move out of that state. Try making a daily list of good things that happened during the day, even small things like laughing at a movie or show. Keeping a gratitude list helps us to shift perspective.
 
Or, you may be unconcerned and think that everyone is overreacting. That, too, is a legitimate feeling. It's good to realize, though, that your reaction may be your own response to stress. This might be a good time to extend some grace and compassion to others, including yourself.  Everyone is pretty much doing the best they can under the circumstances. Maybe demonstrating a sense of calm without any criticism is just what someone else needs right now.  You also may want to take some time to donate to an organization that is working to help people who are living in the margins and are particularly challenged at this time.
 
You may find yourself somewhere in between. You may vacillate between the extremes, but are able to come back to the middle most of the time. A good way to keep your equilibrium is to look for ways you can be of service. Is there someone you know who doesn’t do well with social isolation who could use a call or text (or even better, FaceTime or other video chat)? 
 
Here are some other ideas to help stay emotionally and physically healthy in uncertain times:
  1.  Meditate. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Sitting or laying down and focusing on your breathing will work. Or stare at a candle for a few minutes or listen to calming music.  Even 5 minutes of mindfulness helps. Try it a couple times a day, like in the morning and before bed.  The effects last longer than you would think.

  2. Give your devices a break. Isolation sometimes makes us even more attached to our devices, especially when we’re trying to keep up with the fast changing news. Try planning a time during the day or evening when you will not be on any device for an hour if possible. If that seems too long start with 15 min and work your way up.

  3. Laugh. Find a funny movie, book, song — anything that makes you laugh. Laughing is good medicine.

  4. Read something uplifting. Give the news a break and pick up a book that makes you feel good.

  5. Move. The gym may not be a good idea right now, but you can work out, dance, do yoga or other
    movement at home.

  6. Be kind. Just be kind to yourself and others. 

  7. Sleep. Now is a great time to catch up.

March 16, 2020 in Current Affairs, Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Southwest Consortium of Academic Support Professionals Recap

This past Thursday and Friday, I was in Lubbock for the SWCASP2020, hosted by Cassie Christopher at Texas Tech. Both Cassie and Steven Foster (our editor and founder of SWCASP!) put on a fantastic event.

The morning started with a presentation by Preyal Shah and Meijken Westenskow from UNT Dallas College of Law, 'It Takes a Village: Establishing Working Relationships with Doctrinal Faculty", and that was followed by Zoe Niesel from St. Mary's University School of Law with "Using Academic Support Techniques in the Doctrinal Classroom: One Civil Procedure Professor’s Experience." 

Both presentations gave attendees wonderful and concrete takeaways to implement at their schools. Preyal and Meijken took us through various models of working with doctrinal faculty, and the pros and cons that come along with each one. Zoe took us through her experience implementing academic support practices in her own civil procedure course. I have a literal pages of ideas from both presentations, and can't wait to implement them all.

This was followed by our keynote speaker, Raul Ruiz, from Florida International, discussing his work on spaced learning and bar passage. 

In the afternoon Antonia Miceli, from Saint Louis University School of Law, presented on "Integrating the Multistate Performance Test from Day One"  It gave us great ways to place the MPT in various settings, and she even had us do an exercise where we thought about where we could use practice MPTs, and potential benefits and challenges. 

The conference ended with Jamie Kleppetsch from DePaul University College of Law, with "2L Curriculum Chasm: Creating the Skill Bridge Between 1L and 3L" In true ASP fashion, she gave us a syllabus and materials to start implementing a 2L course of our very own, along with a checklist of things to think about.

You might sense a theme - academic support conferences leave us all with concrete takeaways and lists of things to implement at our home schools. And to that end, I promise the member's only section of the AASE website will be making its debut soon, with many of these materials!

However, that's not the only takeaway. The best part of any of these conferences are the lunches and dinners, and shared conversations in hotels and shuttles, and walking during breaks. Most of us have a department of 1 or 2, maybe 3 or 4 if we are very lucky. But that sometimes makes it hard to find support for ourselves. These conferences help us build a community, and that community sustains us throughout the year.

Which is why it is breaking my heart that regional conferences in Chicago and NY are being canceled. It's necessary, but I will very much miss the community gathering. 

(Melissa Hale)

March 11, 2020 in Current Affairs, Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Threats, Context, and Attention

Human beings -- of which law students are a subset -- are notoriously unreliable when trying to figure out what to worry about.

This is not to say that we cannot recognize potential threats in a general way; only that, because of the way we are hard-wired to process threats, we sometimes overestimate certain threats, which in turn can cause us to underestimate, or even overlook, other threats.  An article in The Washington Post several weeks ago explained why the public and the media seemed to be more panicky about the new coronavirus than about other looming threats.  The article did not suggest that the virus is not dangerous or shouldn't be taken seriously, but it did try to explain why it has been featured so prominently in public discourse, when other greater and more palpable threats to health, like influenza or poor nutrition, barely merited discussion.  Among the reasons for this amplification of attention:

  • "We instinctively worry more about new risks than familiar ones" -- perhaps in part because we worry more about things we cannot control, and things that seem new and mysterious also seem more out of our control.
  • We worry more about things that remind us of other things that frighten us -- the way a new global pandemic might remind us of The Plague or any of a dozen science-fiction movies -- because that fear is more readily elicited.
  • We tend to pay more attention to threats that other people are talking about, because we are social animals and we assume there is a reason that other people are anxious.

Again, the point of the article was not to suggest that the new virus did not merit any concern.  It was merely trying to explain why, for example, people who were blasé about obtaining a flu shot might be terrified of a disease that (at the time) hadn't even reached their hemisphere yet.

In a similar way, law students can sometimes be hyperaware of the existence of a particular threat to their performance, but might devote so much attention to it that they neglect or even overlook other concerns that, in reality, might have a bigger impact on their grades and other outcomes.  They might pay a lot of attention to the risks of failing at new tasks -- like writing case briefs or mastering IRAC format -- simply because they are new and mysterious, and perhaps at the expense of addressing more familiar and pervasive concerns like grammar or logical reasoning.  Students who are afraid of, say, public speaking might devote inordinate attention to being prepared to recite case details if they are cold-called in class -- as if the professor were planning to determine that student's grade for the course based on one recitation -- and in the process those students may not have the time or energy to try to extrapolate deeper implications from the case or to fit it into a larger picture.  And if it seems like the rest of the class is saying that a particular resource or exercise is the key to acing a certain class, how many students are going to be able to resist the call of that bandwagon, even if a different resource might be more effective for them?  

The things our students worry about, they are probably justified in worrying about them.  But sometimes the way they worry about them might draw their attention from other threats to their performance that deserve more emphasis, more consideration, and more action.  

[Bill MacDonald]

March 3, 2020 in Advice, Current Affairs, Encouragement & Inspiration, Science, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 27, 2020

The Dolly Parton Challenge for ASP

Last week, Steven Foster, Director of Academic Achievement for Oklahoma City University School of Law shared an interesting article about student perceptions of social media usage. The article caption: Social Media is Tearing Us Apart, caused me to reflect upon my evolving thoughts about academic use of social media.

In my early years of teaching, I was largely dismissive of student use of social media outlets. I viewed online social networking as inutile, with no academic or pedagogical purpose. Many of us, born avant the age of social media influence, worried that tools like Instagram and Facebook were counterproductive distractions during intense bar study periods. Yet, there were anecdotal (if not fully accurate) correlations between students who spent too much time surfing and socializing on social mediums and those who ultimately failed the bar exam. The sage advice of the day directed bar studiers to deactivate social media accounts and avoid screen time during bar study.

Fast forwarding to the present day, those in ASP and bar prep may be better served to use the litany of social media tools for programmatic good. Social media, at its best, is an ideal tool to connect with and aid students. To that end, I will use this weekly blog post as a Dolly Parton challenge — ASP style.*  

LinkedIn

Law students are likely groomed by career development administrators to create professional online profiles. LinkedIn is one of the go-to sources for online professional profiles. LinkedIn connections can also be wonderful resources for ABA data reporting. ASPers can and should accept connection requests from current and recent law students. Law grads who are seeking JD-employment, or those who are newly positioned, typically keep their LinkedIn profiles up to date. Another great use of LinkedIn, for ASP related purposes, is its searchability. Unlike other social mediums, students and young lawyers generally use their legal names and their profiles are easily searchable by name and location.

Facebook

I set up a private group on Facebook for my students during bar study.  I allow only current bar takers to join the group. Within the group, I share daily bar study affirmations, announcements, and bar study tips. I post Questions of the Day (“QOD”) to engage students. I create an environment where students can be comfortable posting answers, even wrong answers. They use the group forum to interact with peers and learn from each other. At the end of each day, I post the answer and explanation to the QOD which generates additional questions. Our students are going to be on social media anyway, why not use the tool to engage them in bar study, I say.

Instagram

Although "the gram" does not provide the group interaction capabilities of  of Facebook, it is a great tool to market program events. Using memes and graphically captioned announcements for, e.g. practice exams, meeting with bar examiners, deadlines, office hours, and free lunch, will easily capture student attention. Having an Instagram presence also aids in outreach to Gen Z and the later-born Millennials who are deliberately not present on  Facebook. 

Twitter

Although excluded by Dolly Parton, #AcademicTwitter is not to be slept on. St. John’s University School of Law legal writing professor, Renee Allen is the reigning queen of law school Twitter. She has over 2,000 followers to her @profallentweets handle. She has written and presented on effective usage of social media in law school academic support. According to Professor Allen, "Twitter is great for networking, learning, and self-promotion . . . and it can humanize law profs, which is super important for students who follow [us]." 

Tinder

Well, I’ll leave to one of the other bloggers to find a fit for Tinder in Academic Support and Bar Prep. 😉

(Marsha Griggs)

*The Dolly Parton challenge refers to a four-photo mosaic of potential profile photos for social media sites LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Tinder.     

  •                    
  • Washburn Dolly Parton Challenge

January 27, 2020 in Advice, Current Affairs, Miscellany, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 24, 2020

Student Feelings of Social Media

Social Media icons created an artificial environment to bring people together.  We can connect with high school friends across the country, and families can post pictures for far away relatives.  The connections can keep everyone updated and feeling connected.  However, our attempts for connection may have gone too far.  

Current middle and high school students understand social media better than many people much older.  Common Sense Media and Kahoot! conducted a recent survey of over 400,000 middle and high school students.  56% of those surveyed believe social media is tearing us apart instead of bringing us together.  Some could argue adolescence amplifies the discord of social media, and while that is plausible, law students have similar tendencies.  Every semester includes a social media debacle at my school, and I am sure the same occurs across the country.  I see discord regularly within our students.

Also included in the findings:

-31 percent said it was okay to share something on social media, even if it's not true, if it is funny and you like what it says.

-80 percent believe some people spend too much time making the posts perfect to impress others.

Younger students recognize the problems with social media.  Their recognition may be able to change how people use social media in the future.  You can read the short article on the findings at Education Week here.

(Steven Foster)

January 24, 2020 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 13, 2020

The Allure and Allusion of Score Portability

The Uniform Bar Examination (“UBE”) has juggernauted from an idea to the primary gateway for entry into the practice of law. To the resounding support of law graduates and law schools, a supermajority of states has abandoned individual state law exams for a uniform exam written by a private entity. The UBE is the exam of the future and I anticipate that at least three more states will have adopted the UBE by year end. The UBE remedies many voiced complaints about varying degrees of exam quality and exam difficulty across states. Perhaps the most touted feature of the UBE is score portability.

UBE takers may "port" or transfer their scores into other UBE states, thus, relieving examinees from the arduous chore of having to sit anew for a bar exam. However, the promise of score portability is allusive at best. Transfer procedures vary by state. The fees to transfer one’s UBE score may be as high as $1700, possibly more than the cost of taking the bar exam in the transferring state.[1] For a majority of students who exit law school burdened with student loan debt, these transfer costs will make the promise of portability unrealizable.

According to attorney and bar prep professional Ashley Heidemann, “the UBE is not as portable as law students are led to believe.”[2] Heidemann feels that the promise of portability is highly deceptive to law students who believe that a widespread uniform exam means that once licensed, UBE attorneys will be able to transfer into other states at any time.[3] “The biggest misconception students have,” says Heidemann, “is that UBE scores can be transferred to a different UBE jurisdiction at any time. In reality, UBE scores are only good for generally two to five years, meaning one cannot transfer a score from one state to a different UBE state after their specified time period is over.”[4]

Even staunch supporters of the UBE seem to think that the UBE has not yet reached its greatest potential. UNLV Professor Joan Howarth advocates for a uniform cut score, citing that a six point score differential could effectively exclude hundreds of bar takers from the practice of law.[5] Melissa Hale, Director of Academic Success and Bar Programs at Loyola University Chicago School of Law says, “I’d love to see a more uniform process [regarding admission and transfer policies].” Hale, who sees the UBE as an improvement over predecessor exams and self-identifies as pro-UBE, wants to make sure that students understand the score transfer process and that it is “not without hurdles.”

As more and more states adopt the UBE, academic support professionals will need to stay in the know and keep students informed about the true costs and limitations of score portability. That is — until or unless a uniform cut score becomes a reality. Stay tuned, we may be closer than we think!

(Marsha Griggs)

 

[1] Marsha Griggs, Building a Better Bar Exam, 7 Tex. A&M L. Rev 1 (2019).

[2] Interview with Ashley Heidemann, President, JD ADVISING LLC (Mar. 25, 2019).

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Joan W. Howarth, The Case for a Uniform Cut Score, 42 J. LEGAL PROF. 69, 72 (2017).

January 13, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Current Affairs, Exams - Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Preparing to Dig In

It seems fitting that at my law school -- like most others, I presume -- the Thanksgiving holiday immediately precedes the fall semester final exam period.  Thanksgiving dinner and final exams have so much in common.

Each of them seems far off as the golden days of summer begin their inexorable diminution.  On Labor Day, we are all aware that [Thanksgiving dinner/final exams] will be the next significant break in our routines, but in the hazy warm thrill of the start of the academic year, it is so difficult to even consider the coming cold, dark days.

However, by the equinox, people start to pay attention to the distant approach of [Thanksgiving dinner/final exams].  Conscientious people even realize that they should probably start making plans early, so they don't find themselves without options in a last-minute rush to prepare.  But many folks, caught up in the rush of day-to-day life, might put off such measures, figuring they can address their reservations closer to the deadline.

Before you know it, though, here comes Halloween, and then suddenly it seems like reminders of [Thanksgiving dinner/final exams] are everywhere!  No matter how much dread they inspire, you have to admit they spark a bit of excitement, too, since [Thanksgiving dinner/final exams] will mark the real start of the winter holidays.  And, besides, no matter how onerous and monotonous the yearly ordeal might appear, it always carries with it at least the possibility of a pleasant surprise or two.

As time accelerates and the time for [Thanksgiving dinner/final exams] lurches to mere days away, all at once it seems like life has gone a little haywire.  You're still have to attend to all your ordinary quotidian responsibilities, but now you have to pile on top of that the preparations for [Thanksgiving dinner/final exams].  Schedules have to be coordinated, supplies have to be obtained.  Participants will struggle to nail down time-honored formulae, so they can be ready (if and when necessary) to apply these recipes to whatever ingredients are provided to produce a satisfying result.  Hopefully, even the most dilatory attendees will manage to eke out a little free time before [Thanksgiving dinner/final exams] to focus on preparation and maybe even a few practice creations.

Finally, the big day arrives!  It feels like you spend half the day in a frenetic rush, anxiously making sure you haven't forgotten anything.  But then the actual event -- [Thanksgiving dinner/final exams]! -- begins, and you are totally engrossed.  Confined in a room full of people, all of whom seem to be sitting a little too close, making a little bit too much noise.  But this is something you are doing together.   Sometimes one person just dives right in, and a bunch of people around him follow suit, not wanting to fall behind.  They might well spend too much attention on one or two meaty choices, and entirely overlook other valuable tidbits.  They could end up regretting not having given themselves enough time to digest things properly.  Other people might approach [Thanksgiving dinner/final exams] too cautiously, overly mindful that it will be a multi-course affair.  Afraid to make a mess or to risk something disagreeable, they may find at the end that they barely made a dent in their undertaking.  Hopefully, though, most of our students will pace themselves, knowing they are going to be there for a few hours, and will think carefully about how much they want to have on their plate at one time, so that they can get through the entire experience having indulged appropriately in every choice, and in a palatable way that leaves them drowsy and satisfied.

May this year's [Thanksgiving dinner/final exams] be a cause of celebration for all of us!

[Bill MacDonald]

 

November 26, 2019 in Current Affairs, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Food and Drink, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 25, 2019

Making Real Connections

We’re more connected through social media than ever before . . . [yet] we’re losing our ability to think and feel. It’s hurting our personal connections and making us more distant and lonely.  – Dallas Morning News Editorial Board

This week I recount the sad story of the late Ronald Wayne White. Who was Ronald Wayne White? His name may not ring a bell. White was not a celebrity or public figure. If Ronald Wayne White is known for anything, it is for being unknown. According to published reports, White was found dead inside his apartment this month. Medical examiner reports confirmed that his death had been undiscovered for three years. There are indeed unanswered questions surrounding this late discovered death, but the sad fact is that a man “apparently went missing for three years and no one noticed he was gone.”1

White’s tragic story is an opportunity for us to examine our connections to others. Those who attend and work inside law schools are subject to a special kind of isolation that is par for the course. Based on the volumes of reading, outlining, researching, writing, editing, and memorizing that is required to succeed in law school, we expect students and faculty to work in isolation for long stretches of time. The top students regale in finding that isolated corner hidden deep in the stacks of the fourth floor of the library where no one comes near to make a sound or disturb the concentration necessary to maintain top student status. I too am guilty of lauding solitude. I have, with giddiness, told my colleagues how much I look forward to holiday breaks alone at home to make some headway on my writing project.

While a certain degree of do-not-disturb-mode is both necessary and beneficial for productivity, I worry that we have become desensitized to isolation. We are all at risk of transcending deep focus into dangerous seclusion. Our law students, especially those who are far from home, or those who have no stable home to claim, are not immune to the risk. Loneliness is not a state of friendlessness, it is a position of lacked connection. People who are married, students in study groups, and faculty who interact well with colleagues can still suffer from debilitating loneliness that can only be cured with meaningful connection.

Connectivity cannot be measured by “likes” and social media followers alone. Please check on your students, your colleagues, and yourselves. If you have students who are far from home or without family, why not invite them to Thanksgiving dinner? Likewise, if there are international students in your program who are removed from our culture, maybe treat them to a meal over break. Perhaps your need to develop a work in progress or meet an article submission deadline can be morphed into an opportunity to interact with your colleagues by planning a “write-in.” Faculty colleagues from all disciplines can find an agreed window of time just to get together to write. Sometimes the camaraderie of shared presence and singleness of purpose can act as a proxy for interaction. Maybe extend your shared driveway morning wave, by baking (or buying) cookies and delivering them to a neighbor or senior citizen on your block that you have not spoken words to in years. Real connections don’t have to be big to be meaningful, they just have to be made.

(Marsha Griggs)

1 A man was found in his apartment three years after his death – and what it can teach us about loneliness (Dallas Morning News Editorial, November 21, 2019).

November 25, 2019 in Advice, Current Affairs, Encouragement & Inspiration, Food and Drink, Miscellany, News, Stress & Anxiety, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Charisma of Numbers

Today's Washington Post has a fascinating and disturbing article about the company HireVue and its signature product, an artificial intelligence hiring system through which employers can set up automated "interviews" with prospective employees.  The system "uses candidates’ computer or cellphone cameras to analyze their facial movements, word choice and speaking voice before ranking them against other applicants based on an automatically generated 'employability' score."  Based on these scores, HireVue's clients -- which include large organizations like Unilever and Goldman Sachs -- can choose which candidates they would like to bring in for actual human interaction.

The growing reliance of employers on HireVue and its competitors suggests several issues of interest to law students.  Can we expect that someday soon, they too will be forced to welcome their new computer overlords by developing another set of skills -- namely, the art of using just the right expressions and intonations to appeal to the interviewing algorithm?  How do we even know what appeals to that algorithm, and whether the appealing features actually bear any relationship to job performance, if HireVue releases no information about what it is measuring, what it assigns value to, or, indeed, even what a candidate did wrong?  (The mystery and validity issues echo some complaints about the UBE, but at least bar examinees are told their scores.)  Like it or not, this Pandora's boxing ring is now open, and it's only a matter of time until young attorneys are sent in to altercate.

To get some perspective on the rigor of the HireVue system, the Post reporter spoke to researchers in applicable fields, including Luke Stark, an AI researcher who was

skeptical of HireVue’s ability to predict a worker’s personality from their intonations and turns of phrase. . . . Systems like HireVue, he said, have become quite skilled at spitting out data points that seem convincing, even when they’re not backed by science. And he finds this “charisma of numbers” really troubling because of the overconfidence employers might lend them while seeking to decide the path of applicants’ careers.

The charisma of numbers is something I feel I run up against over and over again.  And I say this as a person who values data and statistics!  I believe it is difficult to make consistently effective decisions or to take wise action without obtaining and evaluating relevant numerical information.  And, true, in a field in which our success is largely measured numerically (GPAs, retention rates, bar passage rates), numbers can possess either star power or infamy.

But, notwithstanding their dazzle and clout, numbers should only be powerful if they are attached to something meaningful.  If they are being misused or misunderstood, that can mean mistaking the sizzle for the steak.   Figures can be seductive when they seem rounded, or extravagant, or provocative, or revealing.  It's easy to jump on the conspicuously appealing numbers -- the highest GPA, the apparently significant pattern in MBE scores, the increase in median starting salaries -- just as it's easy to be attracted to the confident, well-spoken cutie who walks into the party.  But the GPA might be based on a disproportionate number of generously graded courses; the MBE pattern might be statistically insignificant; the median salary increase might represent slippage, not advancement, if similar schools are seeing an even larger increase.  Causes, reliability, and context all matter.

The danger of the charisma of numbers is that sometimes, even when a person is only looking at the surface, they don't feel like they are being shallow, because numbers are supposed to be scientific and rational.  We need to remember, and teach our students and colleagues, that, even with the most alluring numbers, you should really spend some time with them first, get to know their flaws and idiosyncrasies, before you commit to them.

[Bill MacDonald]

October 22, 2019 in Advice, Bar Exam Preparation, Current Affairs, Diversity Issues, News, Program Evaluation, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 28, 2019

CaliLeaks – A Step in the Right Direction

Social media timelines are aflutter since the California Bar Examiners released, days early, the question order and subjects for the July written exam. After someone “inadvertently transmitted” test information to “a number of deans of law schools,” the CA examiners disclosed the same information to all registered July 2019 California bar takers. The internet remains undefeated and the information now hovers in the public domain accessible to us all for comment and critique. The CaliLeaks, as I refer to them, sent ripples of shock, resentment, and gratitude throughout the community of future, past, and present bar takers.

Dear California Bar Examiners, you did the right thing. You responded to a mistaken disclosure by disseminating the same information to all bar takers, to prevent any actual or perceived unfair advantage. You made a mistake and you owned it. There is a lesson in every mistake and I hope that other bar examiners, and especially the NCBE, with its foot on the jugular of all but a few states, will learn from yours.

In an ideal scenario, the premature and selective leak of confidential information to some law deans would not have occurred. No student should be disadvantaged in terms of familiarity with the exam content, inside knowledge, or the opportunity to pass. We now know the identities and school affiliation of the receiving deans. I am naive enough to believe that respected academic leaders would not compromise the integrity of the bar exam by sharing confidential information about its content. I am also cynical enough to recognize the good reason of those who question whether bar takers from some schools may have received information days before bar takers from other schools. Notwithstanding the many unanswered questions, California's disclosure (the one to all of its bar takers) is something that could have and should have happened long ago.

For goodness sake, the bar exam is based, at least in theory, on fundamental legal principles learned in law school. Knowing the general subject area to be tested is not a dead giveaway to the question content. Bar examiners in Texas have provided general subject matter information for decades. It is a preposterous notion that knowing the subjects that will be tested will lead to a flood of unqualified lawyers. Consider the law school final exam as the loosest conceivable model. Law students know to expect Property questions on their Property final exam, but it still leaves them to their own devices to prudently review the full scope of course coverage from possessory estates and future interests, to conveyances, recording acts, and landlord-tenant rules. Disclosure of the tested question areas should not be Monday morning tea, instead it should be the norm in bar examination. Telling would-be lawyers what they need to know to be deemed competent to practice law isn’t a blunder or a gracious act. It is the right thing to do.

I challenge any lawyer, law student, or law professor to imagine the futility and frustration of completing a full semester of required first-year courses, spending weeks preparing for final exams, and then not learning until the beginning day of final exams which courses will be tested and which will not. As unthinkable as this notion may be, this precisely describes the current practice of bar examination in most states and under the UBE. Time will tell if California’s leak leads to a more reasonable exam process and to less arbitrary bar failure rates. If it does, then others should follow suit. We need a better bar exam and California’s error could be an accidental step in the right direction.

(Marsha Griggs)

July 28, 2019 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Current Affairs, Exams - Studying, Exams - Theory, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Growth Mindset of John Paul Stevens

Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, one of the most distinguished jurists of modern times, died on Tuesday. The author of more than 400 decisions as well as notable dissents in cases including Bush v. Gore and Citizens United, Justice Stevens was considered a "judge's judge," intensely patriotic without being partisan, free of ideological baggage, and devoted to the rule of law. Former President Gerald Ford praised Stevens in 2005, saying "I am prepared to allow history's judgment of my term in office to rest (if necessarily exclusively) on my nomination thirty years ago of Justice John Paul Stevens."  Chief Justice John Roberts noted that Stephens, in addition to his "unrelenting commitment to justice," served with "an inimitable blend of kindness, humility, wisdom, and independence." 

As I explored more about his life today, I was struck by how  Stevens was not content to rest on his laurels, but rather continually pushed himself out of his comfort zone. His graduate study in English was interrupted by World War II, where he put his analytical skills to work as a code-breaker for the U.S. Navy in the Pacific Theater. He originally made his mark as an antitrust lawyer, first in as an associate in private practice, then as associate counsel to a U.S. House committee investigating antitrust activities, then, only three years after admission to the bar, as an antitrust litigator and partner in a firm he co-founded. Widely respected for his expertise, he wrote influential articles and taught at the University of Chicago and Northwestern law schools while remaining active as a litigator.

Stevens could have remained a respected antitrust scholar and practitioner, but in 1969 he took on the thankless task of serving as counsel to a commission formed to investigate corruption allegations against two sitting members of the Illinois Supreme Court. The commission was evidently expected to perform only a perfunctory investigation, for the person bringing the charges was a well-known conspiracy theorist with little credibility. Nevertheless, Stevens conducted a vigorous investigation which verified the allegations and ultimately led to in the resignation of both the current and a former chief justice. His refusal to take half measures led to considerable acclaim, an appointment to the Seventh Circuit by President Nixon, and ultimately to his appointment in 1975 to the U.S. Supreme Court where he served with distinction for 35 years.

It's not unusual for law students or lawyers to form a narrow view of their own abilities. Knowing they are competent in one area of doctrine or in one application, they allow that expertise to bind them into a narrow view of what they can and should do, rather than exploring how their expertise in one arena could translate into competence and even brilliance in another or a wider field. John Paul Stevens could have made his mark only as an English scholar, or only as a Bronze Star code-breaker, or only as a litigator, or only as a law professor. But he continually stretched to do more, developing expertise in constitutional law and new skills on the Court like coalition-building. And even after retirement at age 90, he stretched himself more, writing three books over the next nine years. His belief in constantly stretching himself to do more and better work can be an inspiration to all of us to not content ourselves in one narrow path.  (Nancy Luebbert)

 

 

 

 

July 17, 2019 in Advice, Current Affairs, News, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Strength in Numbers

Today is the first day of the 7th Annual Association of Academic Support Educators [AASE] National Conference.  This year well over 200 law school academic support educators are gathering in Seattle, Washington, to share what we have learned about how to help our students succeed in law school and on the bar examination.  For me, it is an enlightening pleasure every year to swap stories and strategies with my brilliant colleagues.

Today's lead-off plenary session, presented by Michael Barry and Zoe Niesel of St. Mary's University School of Law and Isabel F. Peres of Seattle University School of Law, discussed the use of robust data analysis to create predictive models to help identify and calibrate the guidance provided to specific students in preparation for the bar exam.  Several other sessions on the agenda this week address the need to use specific, articulable information throughout the process of providing academic support: from laying out detailed strategic plans to assessing student development to predicting bar passage rates.  Certainly, like any mature field of study in which reliable and reproducible outcomes are valued, academic success recognizes the importance of definition, measurement, recording, and scrutiny.

Part of me feels there is an irony in this, in that the AASE Conference is also an opportunity to work with and learn from some of the most accomplished veterans in the field, people whose spontaneous intuition often appears to be more perceptive and accurate than a detailed mathematical data analysis.  Not only that, there is also a pervasive insistence throughout the Conference on recognizing the ineluctable humanity of each student -- of seeing every one not just as a set of numbers, but as an unpredictable human with immeasurable potential.  The numbers might tell us that student X has a 64% chance of passing the bar, but we might nevertheless work with X as if we sense he really has a 90% chance -- and in doing so, might even help X move from 64% to 90%.

The reality, of course, is that there is no contradiction.  Experienced and gifted professionals are observant; they work with data they may not even be consciously aware of when they assess a student's strengths and weaknesses.  In that context, rigorous scientific analysis can be just as much about confirming the deep knowledge of the veteran as about uncovering previously unsuspected truths.  It can also be about articulating facts and relationships observed by others through long experience in ways that make those facts and truths easier to explain to those new to the field.

Thus, our annual conferences are a double celebration of strength in numbers, recognizing not only the value of sharing the wisdom and lore of our most experienced professionals in a group setting, but also the importance of capturing and confirming this wisdom through data that can back up our intuition, guide our choices, and persuade skeptical students and colleagues.

[Bill MacDonald]

May 21, 2019 in Academic Support Spotlight, Current Affairs, Encouragement & Inspiration, Meetings, Professionalism, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Strength in Numbers

Today is the first day of the 7th Annual Association of Academic Support Educators [AASE] National Conference.  This year well over 200 law school academic support educators are gathering in Seattle, Washington, to share what we have learned about how to help our students succeed in law school and on the bar examination.  For me, it is an enlightening pleasure every year to swap stories and strategies with my brilliant colleagues.

Today's lead-off plenary session, presented by Michael Barry and Zoe Niesel of St. Mary's University School of Law and Isabel F. Peres of Seattle University School of Law, discussed the use of robust data analysis to create predictive models to help identify and calibrate the guidance provided to specific students in preparation for the bar exam.  Several other sessions on the agenda this week address the need to use specific, articulable information throughout the process of providing academic support: from laying out detailed strategic plans to assessing student development to predicting bar passage rates.  Certainly, like any mature field of study in which reliable and reproducible outcomes are valued, academic success recognizes the importance of definition, measurement, recording, and scrutiny.

Part of me feels there is an irony in this, in that the AASE Conference is also an opportunity to work with and learn from some of the most accomplished veterans in the field, people whose spontaneous intuition often appears to be more perceptive and accurate than a detailed mathematical data analysis.  Not only that, there is also a pervasive insistence throughout the Conference on recognizing the ineluctable humanity of each student -- of seeing every one not just as a set of numbers, but as an unpredictable human with immeasurable potential.  The numbers might tell us that student X has a 64% chance of passing the bar, but we might nevertheless work with X as if we sense he really has a 90% chance -- and in doing so, might even help X move from 64% to 90%.

The reality, of course, is that there is no contradiction.  Experienced and gifted professionals are observant; they work with data they may not even be consciously aware of when they assess a student's strengths and weaknesses.  In that context, rigorous scientific analysis can be just as much about confirming the deep knowledge of the veteran as about uncovering previously unsuspected truths.  It can also be about articulating facts and relationships observed by others through long experience in ways that make those facts and truths easier to explain to those new to the field.

Thus, our annual conferences are a double celebration of strength in numbers, recognizing not only the value of sharing the wisdom and lore of our most experienced professionals in a group setting, but also the importance of capturing and confirming this wisdom through data that can back up our intuition, guide our choices, and persuade skeptical students and colleagues.

[Bill MacDonald]

May 21, 2019 in Academic Support Spotlight, Current Affairs, Encouragement & Inspiration, Meetings, Professionalism, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Be Careful What You Wish For

Dear Santa,

How are you?  How is Mrs. Claus?  I hear the aurora borealis is quite nice right now.  I hope you can snag a few minutes to enjoy it.

I know how busy you are this month, so I will get right to the point: I have been a very good Director of Academic Success this year.  Or at least I have not been bad.  Fine – the truth is, I have had many students thank me effusively for my help and support, but I have also noticed a few people in the back of my class roll their eyes.  I don’t know if the latter have already learned what I am trying to teach, or if they have detached themselves from my class because it’s non-doctrinal, or if maybe some of them have pollen allergies that are causing them eye irritation.  Anyway, look me up – I’m pretty sure I’m on the “nice” list. 

Because I have been good this year – probably – I feel like I deserve an extra special present.  I have given this a great deal of thought.  My first idea for a present was a watch like the one on that old episode of The Twilight Zone – you know, the one with the pocket watch that froze time for everyone but the user when her clicked the button on top?  That would be an awesome present – more time!  Imagine having 150 essays to comment upon, and clicking on that watch to stop time all around me.  I could start commenting at 9:01 am, and finish before 9:02!  No more deadline stress!

But then I realized that I would have to sit through 50 or 60 hours of commenting, and then, once I got the world started again, I’d *still* have to do another entire day of work.  I’d probably age three or four times as fast as all of my colleagues, too.  Eventually my driver’s license would say “60” but my real age would be over 100.  No thank you.  I think I’ll just keep improving my time management skills.  After all, I am always suggesting the same thing to my students.  They may as well learn now that that quest never ends.

So then I came up with a second idea.  One of the toughest parts of my job is learning the names, faces, backgrounds, interests, strengths, and weaknesses of all 450+ students in my law school.  Don’t get me wrong – I have some great students with some amazing stories and aspirations – but it is hard to keep everything about everybody straight.  I don’t have a photographic memory.  But you could give me one!  How about one of those fancy electronic computer watches with a built-in camera, microphone, and speakers?  If I had that, then I could just take a quick photo every time I interact with a student, and then quickly type in or audio-record what they tell me about themselves. 

Still, once I had the photographs, I’d still need to cross-reference them to class lists, and I’d have to study all the facts to remember who is whom.  Every class I taught would become like a massive open-book test – I’d be spending half the class looking people up.  Plus, I get to know and understand facts better if I learn them and then work with them, rather than always just looking them up.  Again, like I say to my students.  So, ixnay on the atchway.

This brought me to my last idea, which, honestly, is probably asking a lot.  It’s not something I could find in a store here in the States, but, I mean, you are Santa Claus, right?  A genuine saint and performer of miracles?  So I thought I might as well ask.  What I want for Christmas is a mind-reading machine.  Nothing too conspicuous – maybe something I can strap to my forehead, or maybe a special kind of hat that connects my brain waves with other people’s brain waves?  See, students come into my office all the time to ask for help, but often, when they do, they can’t necessarily explain to me exactly what it is they need.  Sometimes they just have trouble putting their concerns into words, but more often it’s because they aren’t really clear themselves on what the issue is.  And we might have to meet more than once before we both finally can articulate exactly what help the student needs.

If I had a little mind-reading hat, though, BOOM!  Every time someone comes into my office, I could scan them, size them up in an instant, and send them along with whatever homework I think would help.  That would be supremely efficient!  Although, then I would not get to spend much time with any particular student.  I wouldn’t really get to know anybody.  And, the students wouldn’t really get to know me . . . and, I guess, in a way, they wouldn’t get to know themselves as well.  I mean, I could tell them, “This is what is giving you trouble,” and maybe they’ll take my word for it, but maybe not?  Sometimes people trust a discovery more when they feel like they made it, or at least helped to make it, themselves.  And, when it comes right down to it, while I want to help my students address individual issues, what I really want is to help them learn the process of figuring these things out themselves, following the example of working with me.  And I guess they won’t get that if I’m always just telling them what to do.

Well, where does that leave me?  I can’t see myself not continuing to want more time, memory, and understanding any time soon, but you don’t have to worry about that.  I’ll just keep gleaning what I can the way I have been.  So, for my actual Christmas list, I’ll just wish for peace on earth, goodwill towards all, and a substantial Barnes & Noble gift card.  Oh, and to keep getting to do this work for another year.

Thanks, Santa,

[Bill MacDonald]

December 11, 2018 in Advice, Current Affairs, Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

A Fly on a Wall: Observations of a T.A.

      This year, I became a teaching assistant (TA) once again. This was not planned and what started as just another responsibility on my list of responsibilities resulted in an amazing experience. For our TA program, we try to select students who have performed well in a particular course with a particular professor and students who have performed well across the board academically. However, this fall I was faced with a dilemma. I tried to recruit TAs for a professor who did not teach the previous academic year so my pool was smaller and furthermore, the class time conflicted with an elective course that almost every 3L was enrolled in. I presented the professor with three options, one of which was to have me as the TA, just for this year. She chose the latter.

      I was well aware of the challenges I would face so I approached this new task with some trepidation but saw all the amazing rewards and value I would reap from this experience. The primary challenges I anticipated included student discomfort because I am the Director of the academic support program and not their peer. I also anticipated discomfort with my presence in the classroom as students might perceive me as a person who was monitoring their every move. I anticipated low attendance at the bi-weekly TA sessions because I did not have the professor as a student, I did not attend this law school and thus students believed that I did not have much to offer them. This particular situation intrigued me the most as TAs who have worked with new professors in the past, have had similar experiences. However, these TAs have been successful and usually work closely with the professor to provide even more helpful material to the students. Moreover, students are more independent spring semester and take less advantage of various resources. Finally, I found it interesting that students could feel uncomfortable with me particularly because I train the TAs and work with students studying this topic for the bar exam.

      The positives I looked forward to were opportunities to evaluate the structure of the current teaching assistant program, to get to know or become familiar with about one- third of our 1L class, to work collaboratively with one of our professors and to expand the offerings of my office. Sometimes as ASP’ers, we are so removed from the law school experience that we forget certain aspects of what it means to be a student even when we try to remind ourselves every year. I looked forward to coming away from this experience with new ideas and avenues to be effective with students and maximize how to effectively utilize my TAs in the future.

      Within the TA responsibilities, TAs attend each scheduled meeting of the doctrinal course they are assigned to. They prepare lesson plans and materials for every teaching assistant lab session. They are generally available for questions during office hours. They also work closely with the professor and complete additional tasks the professor might request such as tracking class participation, passing out papers, etc…. The materials produced for the lab sessions are either reviewed by me or the senior TA. I submitted to all of these expectations and requirements. My senior TA reviews my materials; I try to put everyone at ease so I tried to create a safe environment for my senior TA to enjoy reviewing my materials. I mentioned this to the students at the first lab session and they laughed.

      What was most informative about student behavior within the classroom was sitting through the course lectures and observing students. Initially, students were uncomfortable, particularly, the ones who decided to sit near me but that discomfort subsided over time. In my opinion, students became too relaxed. I ensured that I came to class prepared with casebook, laptop, pen, and paper. I sat next to a talkative student who was by no means uncomfortable with my presence. I was conscientious about being mentally present, free from distraction, and focused. It is amazing how many clues professors provide and how much advice about preparing for exams this professor dispensed. It appeared that students were not always paying attention though. I saw students on Facebook, instant messenger (apparently speaking with students in the class and others outside of the class), shopping, buying concert tickets, working on legal writing assignments, scrolling through pictures, texting, stepping out the room to take phone calls, drawing, researching topics (associated and unassociated with the class), laughing at and with one another, engaging in side conversations, asking me what was just said (trying to read my notes), falling asleep, passing physical notes, playing video games, watching movies, and watching sports. It is amazing what happens in a law school classroom in the span of one hour and forty minutes. Students got more and more comfortable as the weeks progressed so I saw more and more on computer screens. Some privacy screens work very well, I could see nothing while seated in the back of the class.

      When I am in front of a class, presenting, I notice that some students are distracted but I never imagined the extent.  I understand that some students need to be accessible for work, children, and emergencies.  I also understand that some students doodle to focus and listen.  I had no idea of the volume of distractions available in class.  I can certainly understand why some professors ban computers in the classroom. 

      I wonder if this is the new student norm, all these stimuli competing for their attention.  When I was in law school, the early years of laptops, I do not recall all this going on but maybe I was focused because I was fearful of appearing unprepared when called on. (Goldie Pritchard)

April 4, 2018 in Current Affairs, Learning Styles, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Let’s Pause for ABA Mental Health Day!

Please see yesterday’s post by my colleague Kirsha Trychta for great background information and resources here.

What is happening in cyberspace

The ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and the ABA Law Student Division are cosponsoring a Twitter Town Hall. The hope is to have a national conversation from coast to coast today. More information here:

  R

Here’s what’s happening at our law school

  • Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to wear green to show support for mental health awareness.
  • The Office of Student Engagement asked that students share what they do to manage stress in law school. Faculty and staff were asked to share stress and anxiety relief strategies, highlight stress-reduction techniques and healthy recipes. 
  • A student organization, the Mindfulness Society, in collaboration with the Office of Student Engagement is hosting a lunch segment providing tips on stress and anxiety management in anticipation of final exams. Fun activities and take home treats are planned for those who attend.

What are you doing today?

(Goldie Pritchard)

March 28, 2018 in Current Affairs, Encouragement & Inspiration, News, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

A Unique Spring Break Experience

On Monday, March 5, the first day of the week-long spring break, the campus of Michigan State University welcomed several different visitors. You most certainly may have heard about the event through various news outlets but if you did not, then here is a link to a local news outlet in case you missed it.

During spring break, most of our students are out of the building but a few stick around to work on projects, outlines, prepare for competitions, and/or simply hope to get ahead before the semester recommences. All students cannot afford to go home or on a trip several times a semester or year, few stay local by choice. For those who stick around for whatever reason and who may have lost focus due to the events on campus, a number of alternative events were planned by various entities at the university. However, it was equally as important to the law students that they have something specific to support the law student constituency group. The Black Law Student Association with the support of Diversity and Equity Services Office created an alternative event titled “MSU Law BLSA Unity Space.” The program was intended to serve as an individual or group study time with inclusive conversation and food.

I showed up at  the law school event because I am the student organization adviser and was in the building. As expected, there were few students in attendance and the event was free-flowing. It was a great community building event, with not much studying. First-year students met upper-level students from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Students ate and connected with other students from their state of origin. At this event, I realized that I interact, on an individual basis, with students from different social groups who do not typically interact with one another. Students shared advice about courses, law school experiences, summer opportunities, feelings of isolation and alienation, and negative classroom experiences. We also engaged in more serious conversations about protests, history, voices, law school citizenship, and empowerment. The event was more than what the organizers and participants anticipated. Some students were curious about what was occurring on campus and followed the protests and speech on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. The event went beyond the anticipation of both organizers and participants.

The comfortable setting enabled students to ask administrators about their experiences in law school which lead to candid conversations. Students appeared elated, realizing that administrators were human beings with conflicts and challenges. It humanized us all. Administrators for student engagement, career services, and the Dean stopped by to interact with students. I had the opportunity to meet and speak with students I have never previously interacted with. Our students are so talented and it was great to learn about their talents, knowledge, and interests. (Goldie Pritchard)

March 7, 2018 in Current Affairs, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)