Monday, August 25, 2008
Assistant Professor of Academic Support
Hofstra Law School
hillary.burgess [at] hofstra [dot] edu
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
First things second.
Spotlight time. Presenting ... ALEX RUSKELL. Alex took over leadership of the Academic Success effort at Roger Williams University School of law this academic year. From all reports, he's doing a super job!
Before this year, Alex served as the Director of the Academic Support Program at Southern New England School of Law, and before that, Associate Director of the Legal Writing Center at the University of Iowa College of Law. In his earlier life, he litigated in Boston, focusing on securities and corporate non-competition agreements. He has also served as General Counsel for a mid-size publishing company, Associate for a large oil and gas firm, and as an Assistant in the Texas Attorney General’s Office of Environmental Crimes.
His academic background is varied — and thus well-suited to academic support! He holds an M.F.A. in Fiction from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, an A.L.M. in English from Harvard University, a J.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. in English from Washington and Lee University.
Before practicing law, he taught in a Russian orphanage and counted otters for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Both of these resulted in several articles, printed in The Tampa Tribune and many other publications.
Alex frequently presents at writing conferences and symposiums across the country, most recently at the 2006 AWP Conference in Austin, Texas, where he sat on a panel questioning the continuing vitality of the American novel.
Now, how does this tie in with "sharing"? Alex gave me permission to post his latest exam-answering advice to the RWU SOL students. It's terrific. Here goes . . .
Monday, September 17, 2007
By Hillary Burgess, Adjunct Professor, Rutgers School of Law
Law students often complain that the only way they know whether or not they understand the material is by their final grade. Similarly, as faculty, we face frustration that “we know we discussed this topic ad nauseam,” so why didn’t the students get it right on the exam?
When I first started teaching, I used “minute papers” to get feedback from students throughout the semester. In class, I distribute a handout that has 3-5 questions on it. The questions were sometimes topical (explain such and such a concept that we learned last time), meta-topical (explain what you still don’t understand about such and such a topic), or administrative (what about the lectures is/is not working for you). I give the students 3-5 minutes to write the papers. I’ve found this method allows me to evaluate how well I’ve taught the ideas we’ve discussed as well as what the students like and don’t like about the means to get there and the means of evaluation.
While minute papers don’t provide direct feedback to the class, I do summarize the results for the students, which gives students feedback relative to the rest of the class. Summarizing the results lets students who are not getting key concepts become aware that they are one of a few. I always welcome these students to my office hours (or since I’m currently an adjunct, to email or call me) for additional guidance. I’ve found those students tend to feel supported whether or not they take me up on the invitation. I’ve also found that summarizing the results can reduce the impact that one disgruntled student can have by letting him or her know indirectly (provided its true) that most of the students are excited about whatever that student is disgruntled about. If many students are disgruntled about a particular aspect of the course, I can address the issue directly and explain its pedagogical soundness or, more likely, come up with an alternate pedagogically sound solution.
I used these papers more when I was starting out as an adjunct because I wanted to make sure that what I thought was good teaching was actually reaching the students. In my undergraduate courses, I have to admit, I give so many tests and papers (usually one or the other every other week) and have so much one-on-one contact with students, that students give and receive all the feedback they want.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have small enough classes that I’ve been able to continue my undergraduate school’s philosophy that “every class is a writing class, regardless of the topic” in both my undergraduate and law school classes. However, in my law class, I’ve found that students become used to the “no work until finals week,” and despite that they complain that they don’t get feedback mid-semester, some of them will complain about mid-semester assignments! Minute papers might be the best solution to this dichotomous problem – it allows me to communicate with each student while taking very little of their time (and gives me less to grade).
In any case, I wanted to share (and remind) you about this idea as I recently reminded myself about it. I welcome comments and feedback. Prof@hillaryburgess.com.
Sunday, February 13, 2005
Feed us some articles. The next time you stumble upon the perfect skill-teaching strategy, when your Dean doubles your budget and you figure out what to do with all the extra cash, whenever anything strikes you as relevant to the rest of us -- write it up. Send it along. We know you're out there!