Saturday, August 2, 2014
My article is due to go out to law reviews on Friday. I have learned many, many things while writing the article, but the most important lesson learned is about teaching. Specifically, the process of submitting my piece to outside reviewers has given me renewed insight into what our students experience when they receive feedback. I know the research on students and feedback. However, it is completely different to experience getting feedback. If you have been in ASP for a while, you probably haven't received feedback since law school. Getting feedback is very tough. To write something, to spend weeks and months preparing, and then weeks and months writing, is emotionally draining and personally exhausting. You cannot help but feel that your admittedly flawed, incomplete article is a part of yourself. But then you have to let it go out to reviewers. If you are lucky, you will have tough, critical reviewers who are willing to tell you everything that is wrong with the piece, so that you can make it better before the submission process. I have been blessed with some really tough reviewers, and my piece is immeasurably better because they spent hours telling me just what is wrong with my flawed, incomplete article. I am confident that what goes out on Friday morning is no longer flawed or incomplete, but a fully-realized articulation of a problem. And it is better, stronger, and complete because of the feedback I received from outside reviewers.
The process of receiving feedback has reminded me how tough it is on our students. They spend all semester struggling with the material, and then they are judged on their learning just once or twice a semester. They cannot help but feel like they are being personally judged, evaluated, and measured. Part of our job is to help our students see that critical feedback is not meant to measure failures and self-worth, but to show them how to be stronger, better, and smarter. It is a part of the "invisible curriculum" of law schools (to use a Carnegie term) that criticism will produce stronger lawyers. We need to make that visible to students; we need to explain that we give them critical feedback because we believe they can be smarter, stronger, better thinkers and writers.
If you are a long-term ASPer, try writing an article for a law review. It may not help you in your professional evaluations, you may not need it for tenure, but you should do it because it will make you a better teacher. Reading about feedback is not the same as receiving feedback. Write because it will help you understand your students.
Saturday, May 3, 2014
The Fourth "Colonial Frontier" Legal Writing Conference — Saturday, December 6, 2014
Hosted by: The Duquesne University School of Law, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Conference Theme: Teaching the Academically Underprepared Law Student
For generations, college and law school educators have often voiced the belief that their students are not as prepared as they used to be. Although some educators may disagree about whether there really has been a change in students since the apocryphal “good old days,” there is a growing body of scholarship suggesting that 21st Century college graduates and law students lack the critical thinking skills necessary for law study and that as educators we are facing new challenges in teaching these students. See e.g. Richard Arum & Josipa Roksa, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning On College Campuses (2011); Susan Stuart & Ruth Vance, Bringing a Knife to a Gunfight: The Academically Underprepared Law Student & Legal Education Reform, 48 Val. L. Rev. 1 (forthcoming 2013), available at http://works.bepress.com/ruth_vance/1 (the theme of this conference is based on this article’s title). Scholars and other commentators have pointed to many causes for the real (and perhaps perceived) problems that new law students have coping with the demands of academic and professional training. These causes include the declining quality of pre-college schooling and a focus on standardized testing, lowered expectations at the undergraduate level, a decrease in the numbers and “quality” of incoming law students, the generational characteristics of current law students, the effects on student learning from psychological problems such as anxiety disorders, the deleterious influence of the Internet and computer technology, and more. This conference will offer attendees an opportunity to hear from others who are interested in these questions, and, hopefully, learn how to better teach current law students or change the current educational environment.
We invite proposals from educators who want to speak to these issues. The Duquesne Law Review, which has published papers from two previous Colonial Frontier conferences, plans to devote space in its Spring 2015 symposium issue to papers from the conference.
We welcome proposals for 30-minute and 50-minute presentations on these topics, by individuals or panels. Proposals for presentations should be sent as an e-mail file attachment in MS Word to Professor Jan Levine at firstname.lastname@example.org by June 2, 2014. He will confirm receipt of all submissions. Proposals for presentations should be 1000 to 2000 words long, and should denote the topic to be addressed, the amount of time sought for the presentation, any special technological needs for the session, the presenter’s background and institutional affiliation, and contact information. Proposals should note whether the presenter intends to submit an article to the Duquesne Law Review, based on the presentation. Proposals by co-presenters are welcome. Proposals will be reviewed by Professors Julia Glencer, Jan Levine, Ann Schiavone, and Tara Willke of the Duquesne University School of Law, and by the editorial staff of the Duquesne Law Review.
Proposals for presentations will be accepted by June 15, 2014. Full drafts of related articles will be due by September 5, 2014; within a month of that date the Duquesne Law Review will determine which of those articles it wishes to publish; and final versions of articles will be due by January 12, 2015.
The attendance fee for the conference will be $50 for non-presenters. Duquesne will provide free on-site parking to conference attendees. The conference will begin 9:00 a.m. with a welcoming breakfast and reception at the Duquesne University School of Law, followed by two hours of presentations. We will provide a catered, on-campus lunch, followed by 90 additional minutes of presentations, ending at approximately 3:00 p.m. We will then host a closing reception in the “Bridget and Alfred Pelaez Legal Writing Center,” the home of Duquesne’s LRW program.
Pittsburgh is an easy drive or short flight from many cities. To accommodate persons wishing to stay over in Pittsburgh on Friday or Saturday evenings, Duquesne will arrange for a block of discounted rooms at a downtown hotel adjacent to campus, within walking distance of the law school and downtown Pittsburgh. We will also provide attendees with information about the Pittsburgh area’s attractions, including our architectural treasures, museums, art collections, shopping, and world-championship sports teams.
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
A friend of mine named Dr. Arne Pilniok is a German law professor who teaches at The Department of Law at the University of Hamburg, Germany. Dr. Pilniok edits a new, German, peer-edited law journal focusing on legal education, and he has asked me to share a solicitation of articles.
The journal is looking for articles by US law teachers focusing on teaching methods and on ways to make legal education more practice focused. The first issue of the journal appeared this quarter; it is published by a well-respected German publisher called Nomos. The journal is called "Zeitschrift für die Didaktik der Rechtswissenschaft" (ZDRW), and it will be published four times a year. The journal does have a website, www.zdrw.nomos.de, but, unfortunately, it is only in German. Of course, articles authored by US law teachers will be published in English.
This fall, I published a short piece that Dr. Piniok edited for a book also published by Nomos; the experience of working with Dr. Pilniok was great.
Here is Dr. Pilniok's email address: email@example.com. If you have any questions for me, feel free to reply to me privately.
Michael Hunter Schwartz | Dean and Professor of Law
UALR William H. Bowen School of Law
(o) 501.324.9450 | (f) 501.324.9433
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Dear ASP colleagues:
The Learning Curve is the official publication of the AALS Section on Academic Support, showcasing
brief articles treating theoretical or practical ideas related to student support and teaching excellence. Recently we shifted to a twice-yearly publication structure, and we look forward to sharing our first summer issue next month. Its articles explore ways to incorporate "Fun and
Games" into your programs.
We are considering articles for the January 2014 issue now, and we want to hear from you! We are
particularly interested in submissions concerning professional development in ASP, and encourage both new and seasoned ASP professionals to submit their work. Can you share some advice regarding scholarship – generating ideas, outlining, navigating the submission process, etc.? Are you doing
something innovative in your classroom? Do you have a fresh take on technology or what it means to be “ASPish”? Can you tell us something about the history of ASP teaching?
Please ensure that your articles are applicable to our wide readership. Principles that apply
broadly, i.e. to all teaching or support program environments, are especially
welcome. While we always want to be supportive of your work, we discourage articles that focus solely on advertising for an individual school’s program.
Please send your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org by no later than August 30, 2013. Please attach it to your message as a Word file. Please do not send hard copy manuscripts, and please do not paste a manuscript into the body of your e-mail. Articles should be 500 to 2,000 words, with light notes, if appropriate. Please note that Publisher does not support footnotes that run with text.
Endnotes or references lists will be used in publication and are strongly preferred in manuscript submissions.
For more information, or to inquire about the appropriateness of a topic, contact Jennifer Carr at Jennifer.Carr@unlv.edu. Please include “Learning Curve” in the subject line of your inquiry.
We look forward to reading your work and learning from you!
The Learning Curve Editors
Jennifer Carr, Heather Harshman, and Courtney Lee
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
The Section is seeking a double session for this program consisting of two 90-minute parts. The first part would be devoted to more theoretical presentations on what the psychological and sociological literature tells us about how problems with well-being might affect the professional development of law students and the responsible practice of law. The second part would be devoted to presentations and demonstrations on how we can teach students to improve their well-being as part of an integrated approach to the development of a personally satisfying and ethically responsible professional identity.
The Balance in Legal Education section draws both its governing board and its general membership from all segments of the legal academic community, and believes that its program topic will be both interesting and relevant to many of you.
The list of speakers is currently only partially formulated, so we invite proposals for speakers, as well as papers from non-speakers. The Section has obtained a commitment from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Review to publish papers relating to this program. If you have an interest in being considered as a panel member on this topic, or in submitting a paper for publication (or both), please contact me at your earliest opportunity, but in any event no later than April 30, 2013, at email@example.com. Your submission should include a brief description of the perspective that you would bring to the topic, whether you wish to be a member of the panel and/or prepare a paper for publication, and a copy of a current curriculum vitae. We encourage new as well as experienced teachers to submit proposals. We will give preference to presentation proposals that include interactive demonstrations of teaching methods and collaborative work with other program participants, and we are especially interested in how these issues can be addressed in large traditional classroom settings.
Monday, October 1, 2012
There has been a shift in focus at many law schools across the country due to the ever changing legal market, the downturn in the economy, and the push for reforms in legal education. When change takes place as a reaction to outside forces, it is not always done thoughtfully with a deliberate action plan. Reacting is limiting and may lead to unfavorable results. Responding, rather than reacting, will lead to changes that are logical, intentional, and will help create a positive momentum system wide.
How does this shift affect Academic Support Professionals and the services we provide students? A reaction to the change in our student body, whether it is their LSAT scores, the numbers of students enrolling, or their undergrad GPAs, could deplete academic support services to students if the services provided are not highly valued or acknowledged as a benefit. Funding for such programs may be transferred to areas in the law school that directly feed advancement in US News rankings or to other programs that shine a spotlight on the school.
However, I submit that when academic support services are viewed as integral parts of the law school curriculum, students benefit, law schools benefit, and the legal profession benefits. It is counter intuitive to think that support services for students can be reduced during these changing times; but, I know it is happening. I am lucky that my institution values academic support but I know that many other ASPers face a more troubling reality. Yet, students, more now than ever, need academic support professionals to guide them through their arduous law school experience.
If students are entering law school with lower UGPAs and LSATs, Academic Support Programs should be expanded to meet the needs of their student populations not minimized to fit shrinking budgets. While budget issues are a real concern, providing much needed academic support and graduating practice ready students are arguably more important. Academic Support Professionals are uniquely situated to guide students throughout their law school journey, especially non-traditional students or those with risk factors that may impede their success.
How should we as Academic Support Professionals respond to these changing times? I think we can all construct a lengthy list in our minds as to why the services we provide are essential to the educational growth of our students. However, I urge you to go one step further. Write down your list and share it with as many members of the faculty and administration at your law school as you can. In doing this, you have enlightened others (that have power and influence) as to the many ways in which you shape the law school community. You have also identified ways in which you can help respond to the ever-changing nature of legal education and the makeup of your student body.
Another response is to assess and evaluate your program. While many of us do this already, we could all benefit from taking some time to revisit the idea and determine whether we are reaching our desired outcomes. How is your program currently being assessed? What can you learn from the data that has been collected? Is there something else that should be included? Reflecting on what is working and what needs improvement will enhance the quality and efficiency of your program and will keep you directly engaged with carrying out its mission.
Lastly, a great way to respond to the changing nature of legal education is to get more involved in the discussion. Think about presenting a new or innovative teaching method or step up to present a work in progress. The more that we as a community can support each other and highlight the essential nature of our work, the more valuable we are individually to our respective law schools and collectively as a whole. Consider collaborating with others and finding ways to get involved. By responding, rather than reacting, to the changing times, we will make a positive impact on our law students and on our profession.
Saturday, October 8, 2011
I just received a review copy of Barry Friedman and John CP Goldberg's Open Book, Succeeding on Exams from the First Day of Law School. While I have not had the chance to read the book closely, my first impression is that this is a book we will be seeing a lot in ASP. It is relatively short (180 pages) and uses cartoons and humor throughout. The structure of the book is clear; I can flip to the table of contents to find chapters on specific topics (IRACing, outlining, etc) without having to search. It starts with an introduction on how to use the book, which is especially useful, since most students do not know how to use exam skills books.
There are many good ASP books out there, but I think this one will get added to the pile I use and recommend to students. (RCF)
Monday, February 7, 2011
This is a call to everyone in ASP who has something to say, but is afraid to write. Most of us don't need to write for our job. However, if you don't write, it's almost impossible to move past "staff" status. There aren't as many writing mentors in ASP as there are doctrinal folks who can help junior faculty while they are writing. So I am writing about my writing process to let new ASPer's know that it is not them; writing is tough. But it's worth it.
I have been working on a major writing project for the last couple of months. I finally finished this weekend; I had to do the bulk of the writing on days off and weekends because my workload was too heavy to allow much writing 9-5. Finishing a writing project is both a relief and filled with anxiety. It is incredibly satisfying to be done, but then comes the intense worry that it's not good enough, a citation is missing, or that I forgot a topic essential to the discussion. One of the reasons I don't write as much as I should (outside of this blog) is due to the anxiety it provokes when I finish. Unless I have a deadline, I will never stop second-guessing my work.
Writing is a lot like running. I am a long-time distance runner (almost 20 years!). Even for the best writers, it's sometimes a grind. In both writing and running, it's hardest when you are out-of-shape. We generally don't think of needing to be "in shape" to write, but writing makes writing easier and more fluid. This does feel a little unfair, because when you most need to feel good about writing (or running) is when you are getting back after a long break. But that is when it is hardest and most painful.
For nearly two months I resorted to exhaustive, probably unnecessary, research because writing was too painful. I could not get more than a paragraph or two on a page, and I knew I needed 10,000-15,000 words. It seemed insurmountable because I had not written that much in years. I knew I could do it, but I could not remember how I did it, what my process was, what I did in terms of a timeline. But after two months, I found that my one-two paragraphs while researching out came to about 3000 words, and suddenly I had about 20% of the project done. And it didn't seem like I could never do it. When I would come back to running after taking time off due to illness or injury, it would seem like I could never get over the 1-3 mile range. And then, after a couple of months, I could hit 5 miles without stopping. And at five miles, a half marathon doesn't seem so unreasonable after all.
The second hardest time is when you get writer's block, or in running, when you plateau. This usually happens when you have been at it for a while. You become acclimated to the process and you stop responding. Nothing you do seems to make it better. This tends to happen at the worst possible time; when you need to get a project finished, but your mind is empty, or when you are training for a major race, and your legs don't want to cooperate. The experts say beware of overtraining, but work through it. It will break. This was were I was at about two weeks ago. I desperately needed to get past the 5000 word mark, but everything I wrote was terrible. None of it fit with the theme. I couldn't transition between topics. Every word was painful. But I knew I had two weeks, so I worked through it, and it did come together. But during that period, I probably erased more than I wrote. Through erasing and rethinking, I came out with a much stronger theme.
The last painful period for me is finishing up. As I said at the start, I never want to finish because I am afraid it's not good enough or dreadfully flawed. The easiest way for me to get over this is to send it out to be proofread. As soon as I hit "send" I think of five topics I needed to cover but forgot while I was writing. I would never remember what I needed to add if I didn't hit send. The anxiety of someone else reading my work, and finding it lacking, produces the adrenaline to put it all together. Quite honestly, what I send out to be proofread usually is lacking. It's not my best work, and it's not even very good work. In running, this is usually the period when I need training partners to keep going. I am in a pretty bad state about two-three weeks before a race, and I need companions to keep me going. I will not walk unless injured, so even when I hate running, I keep going because I am too proud to be the person who slows down the group.
In that last rush of adrenaline, I can usually knock out a substantial portion of the paper. The fear won't go away until it's published. In this way writing is still like running...you cross the finish line, and you immediately start planning your next race. In my case, I wrote three pages of a law review article while finishing my last work. Writing and researching made me realize how much more there is to say on the topic. So I started with just a heading. Then I jotted some notes about where I wanted to go with the topic. The I took a break from the major project and put in several more topic headings. There was no fear, no anxiety, as there is when I start writing after a long break. It was smooth. (RCF)
Saturday, December 13, 2008
At the NECASP meeting, it was mentioned that the Legal Writing listserv also functions as a place for scholars to bounce ideas around about things they would like to publish, questions about publishing, and general advice on writing as scholars. For a variety of reasons, that has not happened within Academic Support/Success.
Is there interest in creating a TWEN site (or something similar to a TWEN site) where people who want to publish on ASP topics can go to as a resource as well as a place to get advice from peers? I volunteer as the point person for creating such a site if there is enough interest. I know the (invaluable, wonderful) Mike Schwartz has mentored several of us through our first published pieces, and I have heard from a handful of other people that Mike is currently mentoring as they prepare their first pieces. The site could be a place for us to share ideas, but also share our accumulated knowledge.
Types of questions from newbie writers:
Where should I publish an article about ASP? Are there options outside of the Journal of Legal Education?
What is the best software for citations? How expensive is the software? Should I be able to get it from my school's IT office?
Although I have checked Westlaw/LexisNexis, and Googled, the topic I am interested in writing about, does anyone know of sources that I may have missed?
I am doing empirical research, but I need a few more schools as controls for my study. Does anyone know of a good school to contact? Who at the school should I contact for permission?
If you are interested, email me and I will get started if there is enough interest.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Here is an opportunity to publish an article directed at the ASP community. Natt Gantt is looking for submissions for the spring edition of "The Learning Curve," the newsletter of the AALS Section on Academic Support.
He is looking for articles both on research projects in the ASP community and on insights from those practicing in the ASP field. He also welcomes announcements that would be of interest to ASP folks.
Natt would like submissions by May 1 but can be somewhat flexible on the submission date. For a look at articles and essays published in earlier editions of the newsletter, click on "The Learning Curve." (dbw)