Monday, June 17, 2019

ASP Behind the Beard

Beard: n. a person who carries out a transaction for someone else in order to conceal the other's identity. – Oxford Pocket English Dictionary

It is a common practice for high-stakes gamblers to use a beard, a trusted acquaintance, when placing a bet. Beards keep the identity of the “shark” gambler unknown and preserve the odds. Celebrities and people who want to conceal their dating partnerships also use beards to maintain an expected public persona and to preserve their privacy.

The true role of a beard is to control or influence audience perception. Our job in academic support is to influence the perception and actions of the students we serve. ASP behind the beard allows us to fulfill our mission of student service and advancement. Behind the beard our message is not altered or concealed, only the messenger is.

My real-life experience behind the beard looks like this. For weeks, I preached and pushed a certain commercial tool to my bar takers. I negotiated a substantial discount for their purchase. I offered weekly incentives, provided demonstrations, and all but swore a blood oath that this tool would increase their chances of passing the bar. Crickets. I asked a recent bar taker to share her experience with the tool. She made one social media post that echoed verbatim my message. Within minutes of the post, I received multiple inquiries about the tool and sign-up confirmations.

Today’s law student does not respond to the pedagogy of the past. We may tell our students what is best for them academically and make recommendations for learning tools to support their development. And we may be right. But until our students “hear us” and find credible our advice and recommendations, our words fall on deaf ears. We can strategically use the peer learning model and employ student tutors, fellows, and former students to promote our messages by sharing what has worked for them to positively influence the actions of current students.

(Marsha Griggs)

June 17, 2019 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Miscellany, Teaching Tips, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 13, 2019

First Moves

If I recall correctly, the line went something like this:  "The world is filled with lonely people waiting for others to make the first move." At least, that's my recollection of the saying from the wonderful movie entitled "The Green Book," which I happened to have the opportunity to watch on my flight while traveling to the Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) Conference a few weeks back.  Little did I know at the time the tremendous impact someone would make by reaching out to me at the AASE Conference in Seattle.  

You see, it was the final day of the three-day conference.  With just a few more presentations available, I thought it best to focus my remaining time on bar prep sessions because that's my primary job.  But, while mingling in the hallways of the law school building at Seattle University, I got a friendly tug in another direction.  A person - who I had only briefly talked with at the conference - came marching and smiling right up to me and encouraged me to go to her presentation, which was set to start in a matter of moments.  The warm-hearted invitation got me.  Oh my golly, am I ever glad that I went!  Her presentation was earth-shattering.  It was the sort of talk from the heart that brought tears and promise.

Here's a brief snapshot.  

The presentation was entitled "Academic Skills Invented by Necessity - the Untapped Potential and Creativity of Disabled Learning, and Inclusive Teaching." Professor Karen Wade Cavanagh's story was featured as part of a documentary by Oprah Winfrey in 2015 entitled "Belief:"   http://www.bu.edu/law/featured-in-oprah-winfreys.

In short, Karen suffered a traumatic brain injury in a boogie boarding accident.  In her talk, Karen showed photos of her rescue. Twice Karen was brought back from the brink.  Life for Karen has since necessitated numerous surgeries and rehabilitation.  Much was starting over from scratch.  But, that hasn't stopped her (or others either).

Here's as an example...

Post-accident, while moving on a sidewalk in a wheelchair on her way to school, Karen was at an impasse.  You see, due to crumbling infractures, many of the intersections at city crosswalks were no longer graded to allow rolling back up.  Karen went down to cross the street...but couldn't get back up due to curb.  Stopped in the roadway in the crosswalk, Karen noticed joggers and walkers run and walk past her, up the curb, and back onto the sidewalk.  So, what did Karen do?  She stuck her thumb out to the next passer by.  That jogger came alongside and pushed her up and over back onto the sidewalk.  Success.  She was soon at school.

Life has tough spots for all of us.  But, as Karen's story reminds us, it's sometimes difficult for us to see the tough spots that others are facing.  

The first lesson I learned is that when I am in a tough spot, I need to just go ahead and stick my thumb out.  

The second lesson I learned is to keep my eye out for others.  Try to look at life from their perspective, not mine.  And, be ready to reach out to others.  

Life is not meant to be lived alone but rather in community with others.  To be frank, as an ASP'er, I often tend to approach the issues that my students are having from my vantage point, usually with the idea that a particular academic study tip might be of help.  But, I am often too quick to the draw with suggestions such that I miss seeing what is really going on.  That's because I am too quick to talk instead of  listen.  But, in my experience, most of the time, so-called academic issues are not academic at all.  They are life issues instead.  And, life issues requires me to open up, to be vulnerable to others, and to live within the perspective of others (and not just myself).  In short, being an ASP'er requires me to live life in "being" with others. I think that is what it means to not just be an ASP'er but truly a human being too. (Scott Johns).

P.S. Thanks Karen for making a mark that will live with me forever!

June 13, 2019 in Advice, Disability Matters, Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Reinventing Your Calling

Last fall I fell in love with Dire Straits. To make the process of moving my law school office less of a chore, I cranked up rock music after hours. This was, I will note, quite out of character -- I'm mostly a low-volume public radio listener, predictably tuning to folk or classical music. Indeed, except for a brief flirtation with country rock, I had listened to almost no popular music since college days.  But the process of painting, moving furniture, and lugging and arranging box after box of books called for something a little more energizing than Mozart. Die Meistersinger wasn't going to do the trick, so I started browsing for music from bands whose names sounded vaguely familiar. Quite by chance -- perhaps simply because it ran over two hours -- I clicked on what turned out to be the final concert of the Dire Straits 1986 world tour. From the moment I heard the guitar solo in "Tunnel of Love," I was hooked. I played the concert over, and over, spellbound by the virtuosity of lead guitarist/songwriter/singer Mark Knopfler. Soon I dived in, watching and listening to more concerts, then following Knopfler's solo career.

I've been particularly fascinated by how Knopfler has continually reinvented his professional life, staying in the music profession but always moving forward. (Music was actually Knopfler's third career, after working as a newspaper reporter and university lecturer.) Even before Dire Straits broke up, he was seeking new musical challenges. He wrote movie soundtracks (including The Princess Bride and Wag the Dog) and produced records for other artists including Bob Dylan and Randy Newman. In his solo career, he explored a wide variety of genres and collaborated with musicians as diverse as Jimmy Buffet, Emmylou Harris, and Elton John. By experimenting, pushing himself in new directions, sometimes exploring how a minimal touch could convey a message and sometimes pushing the limit of what a guitar could do, Knopfler kept his music relevant and fresh, touching the lives of listeners worldwide. 

Reinventing oneself can be intimidating. Just ask our students, who enter law school as talented individuals who face the task of learning an entirely new way of thinking and writing. Indeed, the law school academic support profession exists largely to help students make the transition. For persons who have been successful in one manner of thinking, in one way of studying, stretching themselves into a new realm is uncomfortable at best. It would be far easier to (as it were) continue performing a predictable style of rock music with an occasional change in band members. Instead, we help our students master new skills so they can take their practice of law into a variety of directions to keep themselves relevant and prepared.

Reinventing oneself can also be exhilarating, allowing for new experiences, new collaborations, and new insights. Today I had the unalloyed pleasure of sitting down with The Learning Curve (soon available on SSRN for browsing and download) the very day it came out and devouring the whole issue, cover to cover, in one sitting. Exploring the articles in the issue was rather like being a kid in a candy shop with a nonstop inner conversation.  "Oh, what a great insight!" "Would that work here?" "I'd sure like the faculty to see this." "Now, there's an idea I can put right to work." We experience the same sense of possibilities at conferences. If one message came through in the current issue of The Learning Curve, it is how reinventing how we approach our calling will invigorate our work and help us touch our students lives for the better.  (Nancy Luebbert)

June 12, 2019 in Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Time to Change Your World

It is June 11.  Recent law school graduates, separated from the exaltation of graduation by two weeks of breakneck lectures, rote memorization, and mystifying practice questions, are increasingly conscious of the brief (and increasingly briefer) interval between now and the administration of the bar examination.  Less than 50 days to learn all this new material, to recollect even more old material, and to master the skills needed for three different testing modes!  If your students are like mine, they are still displaying a lot of grit and energy, but are beginning, after experiencing the intensity of bar preparation, to wonder if they will be able to accomplish all they need to succeed in the end.

Seven weeks does not seem like enough time to accomplish much.  Or does it?  Consider:

It is June 11.  The Second Continental Congress has been considering the Lee Resolution, a proposal that the American colonies should formally declare their independence from the British Empire.  Unable to agree without the text of an actual declaration in hand, the Congress appoints the Committee of Five – Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston – to draft a statement that all the colonies might agree upon.  The Committee of Five presents their draft document less than three weeks later.  The document is considered by the Congress as a whole, after which some changes are made on July 3.  On the morning of July 4, the Declaration of Independence, in its final form, is adopted by the Second Continental Congress.

It is June 12.  A French army, led by Joan of Arc, wins its first offensive victory at the Battle of Jargeau.  After relieving the siege of Orleans earlier that spring, Joan had persuaded much of the French army to join her in opposing the English force that had occupied France and had prevented the coronation of the rightful French king, Charles VII.  After Jargeau, Joan leads this army as it takes town after town and turns the tide against the English.  After the army takes the city of Reims, the coronation of Charles VII takes place on July 17.

It is June 13.  Having received from Daniel Ellsberg copies of the top-secret Vietnam Study Task Force – a collection of original government documents supplemented with historical analysis created by the Department of Defense as a history of the Vietnam War – the New York Times begins publishing excerpts that revealed details of U.S. military involvement in Vietnam that were not previously known publicly.  These excerpts soon become known as "The Pentagon Papers."  The Nixon Administration, hoping to discourage future leaks of classified information, seeks an injunction against the Times to prevent further publication.  This action tests the limits of the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of the press as bounded by claims of national security concerns, and it moves apace all the way to the Supreme Court.  On June 30, the Court, in a 6-3 decision, upholds the right of the New York Times to publish The Pentagon Papers.

This is a great week to begin to change the world.  Remind your students that, this summer, they have the time to change theirs.

June 11, 2019 in Bar Exam Preparation, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 10, 2019

Finding Rest in the Cycle

Take a rest. A field that has rested yields beautiful crops. – Ovid

In a profession where, by definition, we support and give so much to our students we face the risk of having not enough left to nourish ourselves. Those of us who, in addition to teaching and academic support roles, play a role in professional or supplemental bar prep programs see no end to the academic year. The graduation procession precedes exam grading and final grade submission, only to be followed immediately by a new order of coaching, providing practice essay feedback, and guiding students through the stress of bar study.  We are not immune to the stressors that we try to guide our students through. Our minds echo with resounding worry about whether our students have done enough, whether we’ve helped enough, and whether any one of our students will pass the bar. And while our student-graduates wait in angst for months to learn the results of the summer exam, those in ASP quickly progress to the next peak in the 12-month cycle with very few lulls.

The cycle is seemingly endless. After the arduous 10-week period of bar prep, we go almost immediately into orientation training, then to fall semester teaching, then again to exam grading followed by a feverish period of winter bar prep. Yet in this relentless cycle we must find time to rest and replenish ourselves. All the more so for those of us with scholarship or other additional responsibilities. Those in the throes of summer bar prep should remember that we alone cannot shoulder the weight of the bar results for our schools or for any one student. We must guiltlessly take the time off that is available to us with a sense of enjoyment and entitlement. By taking well-needed time for rest and restoration, we model balance to our students. When summer responsibilities do not allow for a full vacation, we can fit smaller periods of rest into our week by taking a three-day weekend, dedicating one day per week to work from home (if school policy permits), leaving early on a Friday or starting late on a Monday during the summers. We too are at risk of burnout and savoring a simple pleasure, like a long walk or a short drive, a call to a non-lawyer friend or a 15-minute sanity break, can rest our minds and lift our spirits.

(Marsha Griggs)

June 10, 2019 in Bar Exam Preparation, Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Learning to See Anew

I can't count the number of times I've been on this country road. I'm familiar with its rolling hills in all seasons, from before dawn to after midnight. I know the bends in the river, the decaying barns, the grain terminals; I can predict where the deer will jump out, where the pheasants will strut, where the hawks will watch for prey. But one night my spouse and I saw something new to us. It was dusk, with wind-driven snow scouring the countryside, when we both spied a red-tailed hawk just sitting in a field a few yards from the road. Now it made sense on such an evening that hawks wouldn't soar the skies seeking dinner: I would have expected any self-respecting bird to find a protected spot to huddle, head tucked under its wing, waiting out the storm. But this hawk contentedly rested out in the open as though it were a cow chewing its cud on a summer day. We looked at each other, amazed. "Have you ever seen a hawk just sitting on the ground before?" Yet two miles down the road we saw another hawk sitting on the ground just like the first, and then another. In a thirty-mile stretch, we probably saw a dozen red-tails resting on the snow-covered ground. The next time I drove the road, on a pleasant spring morning, I kept my eyes open to see if the sitting hawks had been a one-time phenomenon that winter evening. They weren't. While most hawks were soaring or perched on telephone poles, I caught sight of two just sitting in a wheat field. Later on a rainy day I saw the same. Before long I saw field-sitting hawks day and night, in every season. I had learned to see the fields anew, with a wonderful reward. 

In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard writes about the act of seeing:

Specialists can find the most incredibly well-hidden things. A book I read when I was young recommended an easy way to find caterpillars to rear: you simply find some fresh caterpillar droppings, look up, and there's your caterpillar. More recently an author advised me to set my mind at ease about those piles of cut stems on the ground in grassy fields. Field mice make them; they cut the grass down by degrees to reach the seeds at the head. . . . The mouse severs the bottom again and again, the stem keeps dropping an inch at a time, and finally the head is low enough for the mouse to reach the seeds. Meanwhile, the mouse is positively littering the field with its little piles of cut stems into which, presumably, the author of the books is constantly stumbling. . . . 

The lover can see, and the knowledgeable. I visited an aunt and uncle at a quarter-horse ranch in Cody, Wyoming. I couldn't do much of anything useful, but I could, I thought, draw. So, as we all sat around the kitchen table after supper, I produced a sheet of paper and drew a horse. "That's one lame horse," my aunt volunteered. The rest of the family joined in: "Only place to saddle that one is his neck"; "Looks like we better shoot the poor thing, on account of those terrible growths." Meekly, I slid the pencil and paper down the table. Everyone in that family, including my three young cousins, could draw a horse. Beautifully. When the paper came back it looked as though five shining, real quarter horses had been corralled by mistake with a papier-mâché moose; the real horses seemed to gaze at the monster with a steady, puzzled air. I stay away from horses now, but I can do a creditable goldfish. The point is that I just don't know what the lover knows; I just can't see the artificial obvious that those in the know construct. 

Caterpillar droppings (2)

I've been privileged over the past two weeks to work with a small group of CLEO scholars. As our group works together to read, summarize, and comprehend cases, all of us are learning to see anew. Reading legal cases, the students are learning to see a text in a whole new way. Seemingly trifling words take on a new significance, like the brownish and blackish spots on leaves that seem like just so much direct but which actually signify a caterpillar above. Just as it's the rare person who can recognize "frass" (who knew there was a special name for caterpillar poop?) without the guidance of a more knowledgeable other, it's the rare reader who can comprehend that common words like "intent" are used in an entirely new way. Even apart from dealing with torts concepts, wrestling for the first time with the categories lawyers use when summarizing ("briefing") a case (such as issue, rule, reasoning, and holding) is akin to trying to ride a quarter horse when your total prior familiarity with the genus equus comes from graphic novels. The students aren't the only ones grappling with new ideas and vocabulary: while I am, in Annie Dillard's words, "the knowledgeable" and perhaps "the lover" in the law, I struggle with concepts such as sociocultural theory, materializing, and concept-based instruction, all of which are likely second nature to anyone who has earned an education degree in the past two decades. In order for me to see what is painfully obvious to specialists in this field, I too need assistance to learn to read and think in a new way, to see familiar territory in a new light. (Nancy Luebbert)

 

June 6, 2019 in Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Stop Making Sense

Yesterday, the quiz show Jeopardy! enjoyed its highest ratings in more than 14 years, <spoiler> on the day that 32-game winner James Holzhauer lost to librarian Emma Boettcher and fell just short of breaking the all-time record for most money won during regular play.  (Sadly, James walked away with only $2,464,216.)  My friends in the trivia community have been watching James's exploits with various mixtures of admiration, envy, bemusement, and exasperation.  The latter two emotions have been prompted not by James himself, but by the sense-making reactions of casual viewers and the media to his success, and then to his defeat.

James racked up an intimidating number of high-scoring games -- including all of the top-ten highest-scoring games of all time -- and he sometimes won by six-figure margins.  To a lot of pundits, these overwhelming victories suggested a new and singular player: either someone with unmatched, superhuman genius, or someone who had come up with a novel strategy that had "broken" the game forever.  From the perspective of a lot of fans at home, this made sense.  How else could someone achieve such never-before-seen results without some sort of mystical secret ingredient?

But to a coterie of former players and dedicated aficionados, there was nothing mysterious or unduplicable about James's style of play.  He is a tremendous player, to be sure, certainly among the best.  But the skills he brought to the game are pretty much the same skills other great players have exhibited before.  He knows a lot of trivia; he is very adept at using the signaling device to snatch the opportunity to answer first; he understands the optimal strategies for choosing clues and making bets.  His historically high scores are due mainly to a gutsy willingness to risk losing all or most of his pot by making big bets that, when successful, have left him with insurmountable leads.  In the past, even the strongest players played more conservatively, hedging their bets so a wrong answer wouldn't take them out of the running.  But James is a professional gambler, and he decided to maximize his return by maximizing his risk.  This was a choice, not an aptitude, and anyone playing against him would have the capacity to make the same choice. 

In fact, in yesterday's game, Emma did just that, making her own big bets to take a lead that James could not overcome.  When the game hinged on one final question -- one that all three contestants would have the chance to answer, and on which each would have to make a wager -- Emma, in the lead, bet most of her accumulated winnings.  James, close behind in second place, did something the audience had never seen him do before -- he bet only a tiny fraction of his pot, not even enough to catch up to Emma's pre-final score.  Across the country, Twitterers and newspaper columnists alike responded incredulously.  He wasn't even trying! they wrote.  He's throwing the game on purpose!  Commentators tried to make sense of the motivation behind such uncharacteristically tame behavior as James's desire to go home to be with his young daughter or his unwillingness to destroy the previous all-time record, out of respect to the record-holder, Ken Jennings.

But, again, to those who have played the game, there was nothing inconsistent or irrational about James's small bet.  If you're in second place going into the final question, and you have more than half of the leader's score, then the leader is virtually always going to bet enough so that, if she answers correctly, her score will be more than twice your pre-final score.  Even if you bet everything you have from second place, if the leader gets the final question right, you cannot catch her.  There's nothing you can do to win if the leader gets the final question right -- so you need to think about how to maximize your chances of winning if she gets it wrong.  And if she gets it wrong, she loses the amount that she bet -- often, an amount that is big enough to drop her score below your pre-final score.  In such a case, if you want to make sure that you will win if the leader answers incorrectly -- whether or not you answer correctly yourself -- then you want to make a bet small enough to stay ahead of the leader's final score if she gets the last question wrong.  And that is why James bet small at the end.  He was still playing to win.

I'm saying all of this not to minimize the accomplishments of a truly great Jeopardy! player, and not even primarily to teach people sound game strategies.  What I'm hoping I've done is illustrate how the natural human inclination towards sense-making can easily lead to misjudgments and misinterpretations, especially when people know something well enough for it to seem familiar, but not truly intimately.  Sense-making is the act of coming up with plausible rationalizations for why things are the way they are.  It is not necessarily a bad tendency -- it is, after all, how scientific inquiry begins.  But "plausible rationalizations", while comforting, are often inaccurate, and relying on them uncritically can be dangerous.

Our students and recent graduates preparing for the bar exam are just now in that space where they've seen enough of the structure and content of the bar exam for them to seem familiar, but not enough of them to really intimately how to do well on it.  As they take practice tests and observe their fellow preparers and hear stories about people who performed well or poorly in the past, they might run into some of the same issues with sense-making that I described in everyday Jeopardy! viewers:

  • Misjudging the ratio of cause to effect -- People are naturally impressed by outcomes, and when causes are not well understood, there is sometimes an assumption that big differences in outcomes can only be explained by big differences in causes.  Many viewers saw James's high scores, nearly twice as high as previous records, and assumed that he was twice as smart or twice as quick as anyone who had played before him.  In reality, he was probably only slightly more skillful than most of the folks he played against, but the nature of the game is such that, once a player gains a small advantage in scoring, he can exploit and multiply that advantage enormously.  In a similar way, bar studiers who see big differences between themselves and their classmates, or who see only small improvements in their own performance over time, might not be familiar enough with the task of bar preparation to recognize the true magnitude of the causes of those differences.  They might assume that small improvements (or plateaus) indicate that they have not learned much, when in fact they've made a great deal of progress and are nearing a tipping point of improvement.  They might assume that they could never get scores as high as some classmates', because they are just not smart enough or don't have time to study as much as they'd need to, when in fact in absolute terms they might only need to improve, say, recall by ten percent.  (Or the mistake could be in the other direction -- for example, assuming that adding fifteen minutes of flash card study every day will double their MBE score.)  Over time and with practice and feedback, they should get better at making these judgments, but this early in the summer, we should be generous with lending some perspective to their rationalizations.
  • Tendency to search for a single overarching cause -- Systems are complicated, and humans like simplicity.  There is something comforting and manageable about identifying one thing -- like a super big brain or a revolutionary game strategy -- that totally explains how to achieve a particular outcome.  Thus, we see graduates who insist that the key to doing well on the bar is religiously answering a certain number of MBE questions each night, or memorizing the contents of a particular outline (especially one that someone who passed the bar before them has endorsed).  The truth is that the bar exam is multimodal and designed to test multiple skills and multiple dimensions of understanding.  There is no single overarching cause of success on the bar, no matter how comforting that would be, and helping students to recognize early on the rich multiple approaches to success will help them proceed more realistically towards their goals.
  • Tendency to attribute unexpected observations to new causes -- At a primal level, there is something unsettling about the unexpected, and one sense-making reflex is to assume that anything we haven't seen before must be a manifestation of some new element.  James's unexpectedly small bet was completely explainable within the schema he used to make his earlier large bets, as applied to a new set of conditions, but viewers unfamiliar with that schema assumed that the small bet indicated a complete change in goals and strategies.  In the same way, a student who sees an unexpected drop in practice test scores one week might tell themselves that it's because the testing room has changed or the weather is hotter or the lecturer that week is not as good.  But the reality might simply be that the method of study the student had been using for the previous few weeks, which was fine when they had only covered three or four subjects, is now just not able to help the student handle the burden of six or seven subject's worth of materials.  

Of course, it is sometimes true that new observations are attributable to new causes.  The reason sense-making can be dangerous for students is not because every plausible rationalization is wrong, but because, without support, students may not be able to tell the difference between sound and unsound rationalizations.  The students most likely to succeed on the bar, just like the contestants most likely to win on a game show, are those who learn enough before the big day about the challenge they face to be able to actually make good sense of what they are doing.

[Bill MacDonald]

June 4, 2019 in Bar Exam Preparation, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Science, Study Tips - General, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 3, 2019

The Compliment of Criticism

Don't let compliments get to your head and don't let criticism get to your heart. -- Lysa TerKeurst

The other day we held a bar workshop at my school. At the end of the session we collected evaluation forms from the students. I could hardly wait until the students were all out of the room to look at their written comments. A colleague and I sat at the edges of our seats to read what the students wrote about “our” workshop. As we thumbed through the evaluation forms, we read an abundance of smile-generating comments like: Good, Good, Excellent, Learned something new, Would recommend this session to others, and Glad I came. But our smiles askewed when we reached the one comment that read this session was longer than I expected and the presentation was poor.

Of the many laudatory comments, only one offered anything other than praise. And yet that one evaluation form is all that we focused on for the rest of the afternoon. My colleague and I became defensive and responded to the anonymous feedback as if talking to the student who submitted it. I suspect that our reaction was not atypical in the academic support teaching profession. We probably reacted in the same manner that many professors do as we review our course evaluation forms, student emails, or other summative feedback. We focus almost blindly on what someone did not like at the expense of commentary reflecting the effectiveness of our teaching and service.

So many of us in academic support or other teaching professions may put too much weight on the criticism and not enough weight on the compliments. Perhaps it is because we invest so much in the success of our students and the excellency of our programs that we forget the role that criticism can play in our own professional development. As this summer’s bar prep gets rolling full throttle, I’ve made a promise to myself to not let my view of the forest be impeded by one tall tree. While I am providing my students with daily affirmations, I pledge to affirm and nurture myself and my wellbeing. In doing so, I will be better able to service my family and my students who depend on me.  As you read your course evaluations and performance reviews this summer, challenge yourselves to take criticism with a grain of salt (or a bottle of wine) and be thankful for the wonderful learning opportunity that the feedback provides.

(Marsha Griggs)

June 3, 2019 in Advice, Bar Exam Preparation, Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, Program Evaluation, Stress & Anxiety, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Muscle Learning & Bar Prep Success

Last week at the annual Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) Conference, Professor Paula Manning shared an analogy about learning that gripped my mind and heart.  

You see, as Professor Manning reminded us, working out to get in shape is tough work.  Building muscles, well, takes daily pain.  It requires us to push ourselves, to lift beyond what we think we can, to walk further than we think we can, and to run harder than we think we can.  And, it requires us to work out nearly everyday.  Moreover, as Professor Manning related, the next day after a heavy workout can feel just downright aching.  "Oh do those muscles hurt."  But, we don't say to ourselves: "Wow, that hurt; I'm not going to do that again."  No, instead, we say to ourselves: "That was a really great workout; I'm building muscle."  In short, we are thankful for the temporary pain because we know that it will benefit us in the future.

But, when it comes to learning, as Professor Manning reflected upon, we often tend to not view the agonizing daily work of learning as beneficial in the long term.  Rather, if you are like me, I tend to avoid the hard sort of learning tasks, such as retrieval practice and interleaving practice, for tasks which, to be frank, aren't really learning tasks at all...because they aren't hard at all (such as re-reading outlines or highlighting notes, etc.).  But, if you and I aren't engaged in difficult learning tasks, then we aren't really learning, just like we aren't really building muscles if we just walk through the motions of exercise.  

So, for those of you just beginning to embark on preparing for your bar exam this summer, just like building muscles, learning requires building your mind to be adept at legal problem-solving by practicing countless multiple-choice and essay problems on a daily basis.  In short, the key to passing your bar exam is not what you do on bar exam day; rather, it's in your daily practice today that makes all the difference for your tomorrows.  

As such, instead of focusing most of your energies on watching bar review lectures, reading outlines, and taking lecture notes, spend most of your learning in problem-solving because that's what you will be tested on this summer.  Big picture wise, for the next six weeks or so, half of your time should be spent in bar review lectures, etc., and the other half should be spent working through practice problems to learn the law.  So, good luck in working out this summer!  (Scott Johns). 

May 30, 2019 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 27, 2019

For the Love of ASP

Most of our readers have seen the announcement that I am retiring. My work in ASP at law schools has spanned nearly 18 years - at U of Akron as well as Texas Tech. I have been humbled by the outpouring of well wishes and kind words on the listserv and in personal emails. I was honored and deeply touched to receive an award at the recent AASE conference.

My years in ASP have been a pleasure. There are many reasons for that: 

  • I love working with students. I want them to achieve at the highest level of their potential and not just survive law school. Learning new strategies can transform their law school semesters.
  • I love seeing students and alumni flourish in their lives and careers. It gives me great joy to hear about their successes: improved grades, competition wins, officer positions, job offers, bar passage, promotions, marriages, new babies, and more. And, I have also been with them through disappointments and tears. I have had the honor of being part of so many lives.
  • I love learning. There is a 1980 framed poster in my office from the official opening of the U.S. Education Department that reads "Learning never ends." Each day I learned something new from my students, my colleagues, or other resources to improve my work.
  • I love the ASP/bar prep community. You are awesome colleagues! The amount of sharing of ideas, materials, and encouragement is unlike that in other legal professional groups. I am convinced that you are some of the nicest people to work with as colleagues anywhere on earth.
  • I love the dear friends in ASP/bar prep with whom I have shared many experiences. Whether we have seen each other only at conferences, worked on AALS or AASE projects, talked by phone, or emailed regularly, I have been privileged to be your friend. Your friendship and support have been phenomenal.

I wish each and every one of you personal satisfaction, opportunities to learn, camaraderie with other ASP'ers, and career successes. 

God bless!

Amy Jarmon

Renee-fisher-1106303-unsplash

 

May 27, 2019 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Beyond War Stories

Thanks to Bill McDonald for his reflections in yesterday's post about the start of this year's annual Association of Academic Support Educators conference. I'm looking forward to hearing much more in the days and weeks to come about the presentations and ideas coming out of the AASE conference. The AASE conference (and the predecessor LSAC Academic Support conferences) have always been inspiring because our colleagues come together not to demonstrate their brilliance (although brilliance abounds) but to share and collaborate. 

I  missed the AASE Conference this year because a higher priority came up -- taking my mother to the 70th reunion of the Class of 1949 at West Point. (You don't need to be a math whiz to figure out why this mission took precedence.) For this generation, the wives, widows, and children were as integral to the cohesion of the class as the graduates themselves, and the nature of military service meant that classmates and their families crossed paths time and again over the course of their careers. Although there were misty eyes at times, overall the atmosphere was one of joyful community as 49ers and their families gathered to celebrate their legacy, strengthen their community, and move forward.

The 70th reunion could have been merely an occasion for swapping war stories (literally in this case), but it was so much more. The classmates, spouses, and widows -- who might , in their nineties, be forgiven for resting on their laurels -- gathered not only to remember and celebrate what had been but to move forward with plans for helping current students and younger alumni. They paid active attention to presentations on the academy's present and future, asking probing questions and offering insights gleaned from decades of service. They planned for the future of a lodge they had given the academy, but, recognizing their own frailties, enlisted younger classes to oversee this initiative in the future. In turn, those around them -- children, grandchildren, graduating "firsties," and younger alumni -- actively listened, questioned, learned, and bonded, not just with the elders but with each other. 

The best group meetings in which I have participated, including state bar conventions and AASE conferences, have much in common with the amazing reunion I just attended. Those present give themselves fully to the experience, not yielding to distractions which would divide their attention.  Participants understand that sharing their history and building relationships doesn't distract from their purpose but instead allows them to move forward. A spirit of mutual respect and admiration is paramount, even as participants debate, challenge, and question each other. Enthusiasm is tempered with realism about proposed and existing projects. And the experience invigorates those who attend, sending them forth with new purpose.  So if in doubt -- go. It will be worth it! 

(Nancy Luebbert) 

May 22, 2019 in Encouragement & Inspiration | 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)

Friday, May 17, 2019

Congrats 1Ls!

Congratulations first-year students!  You made it through a grueling year.  Law school is a long and exhausting process.  The semesters are draining, and everyone feels burned out at the end of each year.  Many people could not make it through this intellectual, emotional, and sometimes even physical battle.  You should congratulate yourself because making it through is an accomplishment.  Optimism will help you successfully continue this journey through the next 2-3 years. 

For now, FORGET YOUR FINALS.  You turned in your answers, and at this point, you can’t change anything you wrote.  Talking to other students will only stress you out, and many times, your classmates are wrong.  No one writes perfect answers.  You can miss issues and still receive reasonable grades.  Even if you missed entire questions, you still can’t change it.  Don’t worry, your grades will be out soon enough.  Take this time to relax and hopefully gain experience.

The focus now should be on what to do during the summer.  My suggestions for the summer are:

1.  Gain Experience.  If you can't find a paid internship, volunteer somewhere.  No only do you gain valuable legal experience, you will also see the law in action.  Learning science indicates that we remember information better and longer if we understand context.  Helping litigate a personal injury case, working on a contract, and helping with a real estate transaction can provide context to solidify first year knowledge.

2.  Make connections.  I encourage everyone to make connections inside and outside the legal field.  Spend time with friends and family.  Make new friends, and enjoy time away from the law school.  Also, make connections with practitioners.  You should attend events with both new and experienced attorneys.  

3.  Read a book for pleasure.  You probably didn't get to read for pleasure the past year, so read something fun during the summer.

4.  Read a book for improvement.  You made it through the first year and understand what law school requires.  Spend a little time thinking about where you can improve.  Grab a good book to help improve in that area.  Your Academic Success professor at your law school can give you some ideas.  I also suggest reading books about how we learn, make habits, and persevere.  I love the books Grit, Make it Stick, and Atomic Habits.

5.  Take a break.  The most important piece of advice is to take a break and breath.  The academic calendar is packed.  August will be here fast, so take a moment to breathe.  Rest will be invaluable.

Law school is tough, and not everyone can do it.  Celebrate that you made it, and enjoy your summer.

(Steven Foster)

May 17, 2019 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 13, 2019

Keep Your Perspective on Grades

Few law students are able to ignore grades - especially if the final exam is the only grade for a course. Whether students have been successful or unsuccessful in the past with their grades, they become anxious about the current exam, the upcoming exam, and the just past exam.

How one feels coming out of the exam is really immaterial because the class as a whole is what determines the outcome. I remember coming out of a property exam hoping I did not fail. I knew property really well but had been unable to finish the exam. When grades were posted, I got a very high grade because I finished more than others and that professor wrote the exam so no one would be able to finish it.

Here are some things to consider as you go through exams and afterwards:

  • Ignore the rumor mill. It has little truth on it this time of year. Use your common sense to spot the ridiculous. Example: Our exams are graded by anonymous numbers, and professors assign final grades by anonymous numbers. The rumor mill had the 1Ls convinced that grades for the semester would now be assigned alphabetically by last name so the only people who would receive A grades were last names beginning with A or possibly a few students with last names beginning with B.
  • It is common to walk out of an exam and realize that you missed an issue, misunderstood a question, forgot an ancillary rule, and made other mistakes. It's okay. Do not beat yourself up about the errors. It happens to everyone. Put the exam behind you and move on.
  • You do not want to talk with classmates about the exam after it is over. Just smile, wish the person luck on the next exam, and walk away. Why? You will stress because someone will mention an issue you missed - but it wasn't there and that person was wrong. Someone will brag about how easy the exam was when you thought it was very hard. Someone will predict doom and gloom and cause you to worry and lose focus on the next task.
  • The days of having to get 90-100% on the exam to get an A grade in a course are over. You left that grading scale behind with college. It is not unusual for a law school A to equal just 70-75% of the possible points - and sometimes even fewer points.
  • A final exam measures your performance on one day on one particular set of questions. You may know that course at a deeper level than your grade will show. Maybe the curve was tight. Maybe there were very few questions on a topic you knew well. Maybe you blanked on a topic. Maybe you were ill.
  • You are not your grades. Good or bad grades, you are far more than your grades. You are the same capable, intelligent, funny, caring, amazing person who came to law school the first day you arrived.
  • If  you want to improve your future grades, the academic support professionals at your law school can assist you in learning new strategies that will boost your academic results. See them early and often next semester.

Take your exams in stride. Do the best you can each day under the circumstances. It is the daily work that pays off in better grades. If you have a bad day, get some rest; start over again the next morning. Best wishes for exams. (Amy Jarmon)

May 13, 2019 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Researching the Researchers and Testing the Testers

In light of the rough and tumble bar passage declines over the past half-dozen years of so, numerous blogs and articles have appeared, trying to shed light on what factor or factors might be at play, running the gamut from changes in the bar exam test instrument, changes in law school admissions, changes in law school curriculum, etc.  In addition, the academic support world has righty focused attention on how students learn (and how we can better teach, assist, coach, counsel, and educate our students to "learn to learn").  Indeed, I often prowl the internet on the lookout for research articles exploring potential relationships among the social (belonging), the emotional (grit, resiliency, mindset) and the cognitive in relationship to improving student learning.  

Nevertheless, with so much riding on what is really happening to our students in their law school learning and bar preparation experiences, I am a little leery about much of the research because, to be frank, I think learning is, well, much more complicated than some statistical experiments might suggest.

Take one popular issue...growth mindset.  Studies appear to demonstrate that a growth mindset correlates with improved test scores in comparison to a fixed mindset.  But, as statisticians worth their salt will tell you, correlation does not mean causation.  Indeed, it maybe that we ought not focus on developing positive mindsets but instead help our students learn to learn to solve legal problem and then, along the way, their mindsets change.  It's the "chicken and the egg" problem, which comes first.  Indeed, there is still much to learn about the emotional and its relationship with learning.

Take another popular issue...apparent declines, at least with some segments of bar takers - in LSAT scores.  Many argue that such declines in LSAT scores are indeed the culprit with respect to declines in bar exam outcomes.  But, to the extent LSAT might be a factor, by most accounts, its power is very limited in producing bar exam results because other variables, such as law school GPA are much more robust.  In short, LSAT might be part of the story...but it is not the story, which is to say that it is not truly the culprit.  Indeed, I tend to run and hide from articles or blogs in which one factor is highlighted to the exclusion of all else.  Life just isn't that simple, just as learning is not either.

So, as academic support professionals indebted to researchers on learning, particular cognitive scientists and behaviorists, here are a few thoughts - taking from a recent article in Nature magazine - that might be helpful in evaluating to what extent research findings might in fact be beneficial in improving the law school educational experience for our students.

  1. First, be on the lookout for publication bias.  Check to see who has funded the research project.  Who gains from this research?
  2. Second, watch out for positive statistical results with low statistical power.  Power is just a fancy word for effect or impact. If research results indicate that there is a positive statistical relationship between two variables of interest, say LSAT scores and bar exam scores, but the effect or impact is low, then there must be other latent factors at play that are even more powerful.  So, be curious about what might be left unsaid when research results suggest little statistical power.
  3. Third, be on the guard for research results that just seem stranger than the truth.  They might be true but take a closer look at the underlying statistical analysis to make sure that the researchers were using sound statistical tests.  You see, each statistical test has various assumptions with respect to the data that must be met, and each statistical test has a purpose.  But, in hopes of publishing, and having accumulated a massive data set, there's a temptation to keep looking for a statistical analysis that produces a positive statistical result even when the most relevant test for the particular experiment uncovers no statistically meaningful result.  Good researchers will stop at that point.  However, with nothing left to publish, some will keep at it until they find a statistical test, even if it is not the correct fit, that produces a statistical result. As a funny example, columnist Dorothy Bishop in Nature remarks about a research article in which the scientists deliberately keep at it until they found a statistical analysis that produced a positive statistical result, namely, that listening to the Beatles doesn't just make one feel younger...but makes one actually younger in age. 
  4. Fourth, do some research on the researchers to see if the research hypothesis was formed on the fly or whether it was developed in connection with the dataset.  In other words, its tempting to poke around the data looking for possible connections to explore and then trying to connect the dots to form a hypothesis, but the best research uses the data to test hypothesis, not develop post-hoc hypothesis.

Here's a link to the Nature magazine article to provide more background about how to evaluate research articles: https://www.nature.com. (Scott Johns).

May 9, 2019 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Whom Do You Want to Serve? How Can You Best Serve Them?

At my law school, it is a truism that no one wants to speak after our former dean, Don Burnett: his eloquence makes others' comments pale in comparison. More than once listening to him, tears have filled my eyes: I glance around surreptitiously and find that he is having the same effect on others. Dean Burnett's eloquence stems from his core belief in the nobility of the legal profession. We bear a weighty responsibility, he reminds us: people entrust lawyers with their property, with their families, with their liberty, and sometimes with their very lives. Law is a noble profession, a serving profession.

In my experience, relatively few students come to law school without a vision of helping others. I have been privileged to read thousands of law school admissions statements and hundreds of essays explaining students' academic choices for their upper-division years. The overwhelming majority of students have a vision, however hazy, of people, communities, or causes they would like to serve: children, families in crisis, artists, inventors, the elderly, immigrants, ranchers, wilderness, inner cities, healthy rivers, women's rights, freedom of expression -- the list is as varied as the welcome diversity of each class. I firmly believe law schools have a duty to affirm and strengthen that flame of service even as we give students the often hard-edged tools it takes to plan and advocate for clients in the worlds of government, business, and the law. Academic support becomes most powerful when what we do explicitly connects with our students' yearning to serve -- not just to help our graduates become practice-ready in the broad sense, but to become ready to practice on behalf of the communities and causes about which they care most deeply. 

In 2011, solo practitioner Laurie Daniel-Favors wrote a wonderful celebration of "servant lawyers" that is just as relevant as it was a decade ago. When you think about whom you consider the "sheroes and heroes" of the legal profession, she writes:

"[T]hey likely have one thing in common: they were the greatest servants. They are the attorneys who were committed to their passion and even more committed to helping the people who needed them. It is this spirit of service that makes them stand out in our minds as people who got it right."

Law school academic support is, by definition, a profession dedicated to service. No one ever entered or stayed in the profession for réclame, short hours, or high pay. At our various institutions, we serve and advocate for different constituencies -- under-represented populations, students with disabilities, students in academic difficulty, veterans, bar takers, bar repeaters, or the entire student body. We span the gamut from associate deans and full professors to unheralded staff. Like the students we serve, we have a vision of serving a community.  When I entered law school, all I knew was I wanted to help ordinary people: I have been privileged that all my legal positions, but especially this one, have enabled me to in some way touch the lives of others. I'm looking forward to the upcoming AASE conference, partly to reinforce my skills and learn new approaches to help my students, but mostly to be energized and inspired by peers who show the legal profession at its best.

(Nancy Luebbert)

May 1, 2019 in Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Invite a Friend or Two - Won't You?

Sometimes, okay, oftentimes, I feel like a turtle.  Yes, I have feet (and arms?) and a nice study neck.  But, mostly, as an academic support educator, I often feel like a gigantic "paper weight," living under a big shell, lumbering along without seemingly making much of a difference.  Of course, that's not true at all, because, in the world of academic support, the big differences are not in our programs or our pizzazz but in the individual lives that we so often touch, inspire, motivate, and uplift (and the students that touch, inspire, motivate, and uplift us too).

Nevertheless, I've decided to take a very little tiny step - in sticking my neck out beyond my shell - to proactively involve my colleagues in our work (and myself in their work too).  I'm going to invite my friends to join me at next month's Academic Support Conference, hosted by Seattle University, from May 21 to May 23, 2019. Association of Academic Support Educators Conference   In fact, I'm going to talk it up - big time - with my staff and faculty colleagues.  Frankly, it's time for me to live adventurously, to stretch myself, to live boldly in community with my colleagues  Consequently, I'm inviting all of my law school faculty and staff colleagues to join with me at the upcoming national academic support conference.  And, as a preview, I'm going to send them the conference schedule along with a few tantalizing morsels about what's on the agenda, such as:

• Can Law Schools Have It All: ASP as a Checkbox or Mechanism for Change 

DeShun Harris, Camesha Little &Yolonda Sewell

• Using Data to Encourage Student Engagement

Kevin Sherrill & Kate Bolus

• How Dreamers Dream of Becoming A Lawyer: Where DACA and Bar Pass Meet

Micah J. Yarbrough

• Best Practices for Creating an Inclusive Classroom: Case Study Veterans and Non-Traditional Students

Jane Bloom Grise

• Building Teams for Student Success

Kent D. Lollis, Russell McClain & Laurie Zimet

• Planting Seeds: Using Academic Support Skill Building and Language across the Curriculum

Marcia Goldsmith & Antonia Miceli

• The Elephant in the Room: Removing the Stigma Associated With Mandatory Academic Support Advising and Course
 
Joni Wiredu and Kertisha Dixon

• An Introduction to Expert Learning (and teaching) for Law Students)

Paula Manning

• What does it mean to teach legal reasoning

Kris Franklin

• Introduction to the Science of Learning

Louis Schulze & Jamie Kleppetsch

• Evolution of an Academic Support Program

Stephanie Thompson

• Next Generation Data Analytics and Individualized Intervention for Bar Takers

Mike Barry, Zoe Niesel & Isabel F. Peres

So, please join me in inviting your law school colleagues too!  The more the merrier, as they say!  And, I look forward to seeing you at next month's conference in Seattle (and I hope to introduce you to some of my many legal writing, career counseling, student affairs, clinical, and doctrinal colleagues)! (Scott Johns).

 

 

April 25, 2019 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Study Tips - General, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Useful Forgetfulness and Study Tools/Outlines: Could There Be Too Much of a Good Thing?

Perhaps you've heard the phrase "Too big to fail."  Well, that might be true, at least according to some, with respect to some business enterprises in the midst of the last recession.  

But, at least from my point of view, that saying is not true at all with respect to student study tools and outlines.  In my experience, too big of an outline can lead to less than stellar final exam results.

Here's why...There's a learning concept called "useful forgetfulness."  

As I understand the educational science behind useful forgetfulness, it is in the midst of the filtering process - in which we decide to trim, shorter, collapse, and simplify our notes and outlines - that best promotes efficacious learning because the decision to leave something out of our outline means that we have made a proactive decision about its value.  In short, the process of sorting the important legal principles from the not-so-important leads to active and enriching learning.  

Nevertheless, for most of us, we are sorely afraid about leaving anything out of our outlines because we often lack confidence that we can make such filtering choices about what is important versus what is not important.  Consequently, we often end up with massive 50 plus page outlines in which we know very little because we have not made hard reflective decisions to prioritize the important.  So, here's a tip to help with trimming your outline down to a workable size to best enhance your learning.

First, grab a piece of paper and hand-write or type out, using both sides of the paper, the most important things from your outline.  If you think a rule might be important, don't put it in your outline yet because you can always add to your study tool later.  Instead, only put the rule down in your mini-study tool if the legal principle immediately jumps out to you as critically important.

Second, take your mini-study tool on a test flight.  Here's how.  Grab hold of a few essay problems or multiple-choice questions and see if you have enough on your "one-pager" outline to solve the problems.  If a rule is missing, just add it.  And, as you practice more hypothetical problems in preparation for your final exams, feel free to add more rules as needed.  And, there's more great news.  In the process of seeing a rule that might be missing from your mini-study tool, you'll know that rule down "cold" because you will have seen it applied in context. So, feel free to have less in your outlines because, with respect to study tools, less can indeed be more!  (Scott Johns).

April 18, 2019 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Learning Styles, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Only Thirteen More Meeting Days 'Til Exam Period!

This time of year sneaks up on us like the holidays in December.  It seems like only yesterday we were welcoming students back for spring semester.  We blink, and then poof!  Final exams are less than three weeks away.  And before they start, we have so much to take care of.  Drafting final exams, for one thing.  But, at the same time, staying on top of our current classes -- in particular, at least in my case, pushing feedback on written assignments out to students so they can make use of it as they prepare for finals.  Plus the approaching end of the semester often means a traffic jam of administrative work, as committees and working groups hasten to complete projects before a big chunk of their members leave for sabbaticals, holidays, or other teaching gigs over the summer.

When it gets crazy busy like this, it is important to set aside at least a measure of our thought and energy for that portion of our student population that might otherwise get lost in the background noise.  Sure, part of what makes us so busy are the students we've developed relationships with -- those who regularly seek us out because of anxiety or confusion or a habit of pursuing every advantage -- and part of it may be required meetings with students on academic probation.  We'll see those folks without much extra effort on our parts.  But there are other students who could use our help who might not put themselves on our radar screens.  Maybe they are shy; maybe they are overconfident; maybe they are just underestimating how much they have to do to get ready for the approaching finals.  Maybe they feel so busy that they can't make time for us.  

These are often students, not currently in academic difficulty, for whom a little support, guidance, or intervention will have a far more significant positive effect this week than it would have if it were delivered when the student showed up at the threshold to our office, panicking, a few days before finals.  So, even though we are busy, making the effort to identify and check in with these students now makes good cost/benefit sense.

If you have not already done so, consider taking some time over the next few days to:

  • Go through your calendar or appointment records from the fall and early spring and make note of any students who have sought help in the past, but from whom you have not heard for a while.  Send them quick e-mails, asking them how they are doing and inviting them to drop by or make an appointment if they'd like to talk about preparing for the end of the semester.
  • Check in with faculty (especially those teaching 1L courses) to ask if there are any students they have concerns about whom they haven't already referred to you.  At this point, spring midterms are probably all completely graded, and those professors may have information they didn't have at the start of the semester.
  • Remind the students (again, especially 1L students) in class or via social media or your school's information portal how close they are to the end of the semester, how busy your office gets at this time of year, and how wise it is to come to see you sooner rather than later if they have any concerns.

When we are this busy and things are moving towards a close so quickly, reaching out to students in the grey area can demand a bit of mindfulness.  But even one fruitful meeting with a student now might be more effective than a flurry of desperate conferences the week before finals.  That would be time well spent.

[Bill MacDonald]

April 16, 2019 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Meetings, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)