Monday, May 13, 2024

Ambivalence

My grading is almost 100% done (the only thing left is one rescheduled exam that will get to me in about a week). I am generally happy that it is over. It was a large undertaking with two undergraduate classes and two law classes this semester-over 100 students to grade in total. But, while I am glad I did the work, I am also ambivalent about it.

Why am I not sipping a drink with an umbrella and congratulating myself on meeting the grading deadlines? This semester I failed two students-one in each of my undergraduate sections. To clarify: they received Fs, and I failed them. These are two different things. I also gave some lower passing grades that included parts of the alphabet I don’t often use in these and my other classes. I think I now know what it means when someone says, “this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.” This hurts. Let me be very clear, I am not angry at the students, nor do I think they weren’t interested in the class or didn’t care-I think they just couldn’t do it. I am not taking it personally-it isn’t about me. Yet, I have to wonder how I missed such large cracks forming before the students fell through.

One of these students had perfect attendance and regularly participated in class, they just didn’t submit any work during the semester[1]-absolutely none, except they showed up (after rescheduling) for their oral argument (which was only worth 15% of a grade). Out of a total of 100 possible points, they had 40. I asked them in person (privately) after the oral argument, when I should expect their work and they nodded and said, “soon.” The other student got a perfect score on the first quiz, did an amazing oral argument, and then turned nothing else in and barely showed up for the rest of the semester. This student had 41 points. I was generous in awarding points for both. I am only allowed to give a grade of incomplete if they had turned in over 2/3 of the work. I begged them to turn in a few more assignments so I could give them an  “I”: no answer.

I emailed these students (often), contacted their Dean of Students, and also their faculty advisors. Academic Support me tried all the tricks to get their attention-and received no answers anywhere I turned. I also looked on our student tracking and found that they both had done poorly in their other classes as well.[2] Was this a relief? No. Did it take a little sting out of the process? Yes[3].

And then there were the law students. They also had some issues turning in assignments. I had one student who copied an MPT point sheet basically verbatim and turned it in as their own work[4]. When confronted, they only asked if they could take the class next intersession instead[5]. I suppose on an interrogatory that would be a “neither admit nor deny” type of answer. I emailed another student asking if they wanted an Incomplete since they had not turned in any assignments (but had done the quizzes and shown up -more or less-frequently) and the response was to submit most of the assignment a few days past my deadline without answering that email or communicating that they planned to do that in any way.

They will both pass the class. Will it be a grade that lifts their GPAs? I doubt it, but it is a one credit class, so it really wouldn’t have had a profound effect either way. Perhaps this was their calculation as well. Again, I tried not to be hurt or angry.[6]

I am pretty certain that all of these students are overwhelmed. I am not sure why this semester was the most overwhelming of all the semesters since the pandemic. Perhaps our collective trauma and grief has come home to roost- a bit of academic long COVID. I know that our collective mental health has been fraught-and world events and responses to them have been a lot. Please do not think that I am fishing for “you did everything you could for them.”  I am not looking for that, I am just wondering where they were that I couldn’t see or hear them-and more importantly how did they get there? And also, are there more students hiding in that spot?

I’ll be checking those nooks and crannies more carefully during the bar prep months as well as next semester, and I am suggesting that we all do (because, goodness knows, we don't already have enough to do...).

(Liz Stillman)

 

[1] They added the class about a week in, so I thought they were catching up for a bit.

[2] One had actually failed every class this semester.

[3] But then I felt that this kind of validation is not helpful to students either. A group failure is still a failure, just not as lonely.

[4] When your explanation of a changed provision in an MPT includes the words, “an examinee might…,” you’re busted.

[5] No, they cannot because they already took the final exam.

[6] Although the cheating did tip me over into anger. I am flexible about most things, but dishonesty isn’t on that list.

May 13, 2024 in Bar Exam Preparation, Current Affairs, Stress & Anxiety, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 6, 2024

Who's Afraid of the Passive Voice?

“I used the passive voice. I am awaiting the legal writing police and will go peacefully.”

This is an actual text I sent a fellow Commissioner on a town-wide commission after sending an email expressing my disappointment that the recipients did not complete a task. Well, actually, I expressed disappointment in the task not being completed-which is, as we all know, different. I had originally written the email using the active voice, but I wanted to temper my statement by not appearing to attack the recipients. They are, after all, neither courts nor lawyers.

But here is a sacrilege I will unleash for the Academic Support audience only: sometimes, you can use the passive voice. In fact, sometimes, you should. As I await the ankle[1] bracelet that is surely coming for me, I will explain when and why you might be willing to be my partner in “crime.”

  1. Distance. Sometimes your client (or other actors in your facts) have done terrible things. Or maybe, terrible things have happened, and your clients may or may not have played a role in causing them. For example, the pedestrian was hit by a vehicle vs. my client hit the pedestrian who was walking with the light in a crosswalk on a bright sunny day (with no glare). You are going to need this distance. Because your client sucks-or the facts are not favorable to them.
  2. Tone: Sometimes, you would prefer not to assign blame as directly. For example,  this Court made the absolutely baffling decision to grant this this motion vs. Inexplicably, the decision was made to grant the motion. Courts don’t like being accused of misconduct.[2]
  3. You don’t know who did something: you cannot place an actor in the role, so you speak of the facts as happening without attributing them to anyone.
  4. You are trying to focus on the reaction to the circumstances and not the actor who created them: this comes in very handy during trials when you need to tell the Court and/or jury what a police officer knew when they stopped someone without having to say who told them that or even if it was true[3].
  5. You are stating a commonly known truth: for example: using the passive voice is frowned upon.

As someone who works with a wide range of international (mostly LL.M.) students, I have found that there are some languages that tend to veer towards the passive voice (like many romance languages) and teaching these students to identify and use the active voice is a struggle for all of us. But I do tell them that finding the passive voice is as simple as looking at bumper stickers because, as we all know, “Shit Happens.”

(Liz Stillman)

 

[1] Maybe a wrist bracelet so I cannot no longer use the dreaded PV?

[2] And they are aware that the coded phrase, “with all due respect your honor,” means, “you are wrong here.” The first time a judge ever said, “I know what you mean by that,” I almost let excrement escape from my body (see, distance!).

[3] This is your hearsay “get out of jail free” card during suppression hearings. Works every time.

May 6, 2024 in Miscellany, Teaching Tips, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 26, 2024

Lost and Found

Today, I will have two former members of the United States House of Representatives come and speak to my undergraduate class as part of an amazing program called Congress to Campus. I am always incredibly excited to have these gentlemen (and so far, they have only sent me white men) come and speak to the class. More importantly, I am fervently hoping my students have questions for them[1]. I have provided their biographies; we have discussed checks and balances and separation of powers, and they should know what Congress does (and cannot do) well enough to be curious about what differs between the textbook and the reality in terms of the Federal Legislature. I think I have done my job (we’ll see, of course) of piquing their curiosity.

But that leads me to a broader question in teaching: how do we nurture curiosity in all of our students? I am not sure the first year of law school, in general, does that. Where is the adventure in the Commerce Clause? The cliff-hanger in Adverse Possession?[2] What happens when students lose their sense of wonder about law? And notice, I say when and not if, because I think the vast majority of students do (at least temporarily) lose their sense of wonder about six weeks in to the first semester, and again just about now in the second.

Part of the issue is that 1L students do not get choices. They cannot choose their classes, professors, or schedules. I don’t think that changing this entirely would be a great plan since (among other things) 1L subjects are bar tested and finding doctrinal faculty to teach 1L classes is hard enough without a popularity contest built in.[3]

I once read in a parenting book that offering your toddler choices-where you, as the adult, control all the options-prevents meltdowns. For example, offering a blue cup or a red cup (you have both ready) is easier than giving a blue cup and then trying to explain that all cups are the same in the end. You still control the options, but they get to make a choice. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying our students are toddlers, but they may similarly feel that they have very little control over their education in the first year (and beyond depending on your law school’s policies and requirements).

We are currently planning to offer an optional 1 credit Pass/Fail elective to students in their 1L spring after we freed a credit when we semesterized[4] all of our 1L classes. We have discussed this at length and even had our faculty vote (in favor) of making it happen. I am thinking the classes we offer need be something interesting enough to combat the idea of just enjoying the semester without that extra credit. It needs to feed and restore curiosity. Granted, at the moment the only times available for such classes are late on Thursday evening or early Friday morning, so not primetime, therefore I am not certain our first foray will be representative of what we could do with this credit. But we shall see. One member of committee suggested we try Accounting for Lawyers. Since I wonder if that will attract any students, my curiosity is already piqued.

(Liz Stillman)

 

[1] God knows I have questions about the governance of the country recently, but this isn’t about me.

[2] Although an elemental test in 1L Property is always nice to see….

[3] And the logistics would be difficult. We have an incoming 1L class at or near 400 students, so that would be chaos for us.

[4] It turns out this is not a word-but indulge me here.

February 26, 2024 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Professionalism, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 30, 2023

NECASP Conference Call for Proposals Extended to November 3!

Request for Proposals: Presentations and Scholarly “Works in Progress”

Northeast Consortium of Academic Support Professionals (NECASP) Conference

Friday, December 15, 2023, 11am-3pm ET, in-person and via Zoom

Hosted by the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University

 

NECASP will be holding its annual one-day conference this December. We are excited to return to an in-person conference this year, although we will still be including a remote option to accommodate those participants and presenters unable to travel to New York. Our topic this year is ASP Expanding our Reach: Are We Reaching Out and Are We Reachable?

 

Description: In order to adjust to the ever-changing needs of our students, it’s imperative we do a yearly audit of our messaging and our services to our students. So, this year, let’s get together (in person!!!) to discuss ways we can ensure we are reaching out to all of our students consistently and make sure we are accessible to them.

 

We welcome a broad range of proposals –from presenters in the Northeast region and beyond –and at various stages of completion –from idea to fruition. Please note that we may ask you to co-present with other ASP colleagues depending on the number of proposals selected. Our conference will be in-person on the Pace Law campus in White Plains, NY; however, we will have a Zoom option and will consider proposals from both in-person and remote attendees. If you wish to present, the proposal process is as follows:

 

  1. Submit your proposal by NOVEMBER 3, 2023, via email to Danielle Kocal at [email protected]
  2. Proposals may be submitted as a Word document or as a PDF
  3. Proposals must include the following:
  4. Name and title of presenter
    b. Law School
    c. Address, email address, and telephone number for presenter
    d. Title
    e. If a scholarly work in progress, an abstract no more than 500 words
  5. Whether you will be attending in-person or remotely
    g. Media or computer presentation needs
  6. As noted above, proposals are due on October 27, 2023. The NECASP Board will review the proposals and reply to each by November 17, 2023.


If you have any questions about your proposal, please do not hesitate to contact one of us, and we look forward to seeing you at our conference!

 

Information such as hotel blocks and zoom links will be forthcoming. As always, there is no fee to attend this conference.

 

 

 

 

 

2023-24 NECASP Board Members

 

Chair:   Danielle Kocal, Director of Academic Success The Elizabeth Haub School of Law / Pace University, [email protected]

Vice Chair:   Erica Sylvia, Assistant Director of Bar Success & Adjunct Professor of LawUniversity of Massachusetts School of Law, [email protected]

Treasurer:   Stephen Iannacone, Director of Academic Success, Cardozo Law, [email protected]

Secretary:   Elizabeth Stillman, Associate Professor of Academic Support, Suffolk University, [email protected] 

 

October 30, 2023 in Meetings, Professionalism, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 9, 2023

Annual North East Academic Support Professionals (NECASP) Conference-Call for Proposals

Request for Proposals: Presentations and Scholarly “Works in Progress”

Northeast Consortium of Academic Support Professionals (NECASP) Conference

Friday, December 15, 2023, 11am-3pm ET, in-person and via Zoom

Hosted by the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University

 

NECASP will be holding its annual one-day conference this December. We are excited to return to an in-person conference this year, although we will still be including a remote option to accommodate those participants and presenters unable to travel to New York. Our topic this year is ASP Expanding our Reach: Are We Reaching Out and Are We Reachable?

 

Description: In order to adjust to the ever-changing needs of our students, it’s imperative we do a yearly audit of our messaging and our services to our students. So, this year, let’s get together (in person!!!) to discuss ways we can ensure we are reaching out to all of our students consistently and make sure we are accessible to them.

 

We welcome a broad range of proposals –from presenters in the Northeast region and beyond –and at various stages of completion –from idea to fruition. Please note that we may ask you to co-present with other ASP colleagues depending on the number of proposals selected. Our conference will be in-person on the Pace Law campus in White Plains, NY; however, we will have a Zoom option and will consider proposals from both in-person and remote attendees. If you wish to present, the proposal process is as follows:

 

  1. Submit your proposal by October 27, 2023, via email to Danielle Kocal at [email protected]
  2. Proposals may be submitted as a Word document or as a PDF
  3. Proposals must include the following:
  4. Name and title of presenter
    b. Law School
    c. Address, email address, and telephone number for presenter
    d. Title
    e. If a scholarly work in progress, an abstract no more than 500 words
  5. Whether you will be attending in-person or remotely
    g. Media or computer presentation needs
  6. As noted above, proposals are due on October 27, 2023. The NECASP Board will review the proposals and reply to each by November 17, 2023.


If you have any questions about your proposal, please do not hesitate to contact one of us, and we look forward to seeing you at our conference!

 

Information such as hotel blocks and zoom links will be forthcoming. As always, there is no fee to attend this conference.

 

 

 

 

 

2023-24 NECASP Board Members

 

Chair:   Danielle Kocal, Director of Academic Success The Elizabeth Haub School of Law / Pace University, [email protected]

Vice Chair:   Erica Sylvia, Assistant Director of Bar Success & Adjunct Professor of LawUniversity of Massachusetts School of Law, [email protected]

Treasurer:   Stephen Iannacone, Director of Academic Success, Cardozo Law, [email protected]

Secretary:   Elizabeth Stillman, Associate Professor of Academic Support, Suffolk University, [email protected] 

 

 

 

October 9, 2023 in Meetings, Professionalism, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 28, 2023

AASE Must Have Materials

I was extremely grateful to see everyone at AASE.  It was my first conference since 2020, and I had a blast.  I learned so much from the presenters, so if you couldn't make it, I wanted to pass along quick synopsis of presentations to go grab the materials.  Before I make my list, I will apologize to those not on the list.  There were great presentations not on my list that I didn't see (others may blog about those).

 - Bridging the Gap by Tina Benigno, Melissa Hale, and Toni Miceli - They did a great job explaining a few different ways to conduct a pre-matriculation program.  Tina and Toni have a great program.  The information on how they did it is useful.

- 10 Tools for Academic and Bar Success Educators by Erin Crist, Debbie Shapiro, and Dawn Young - I loved this presentation because they reminded me of the different ways to help students learn material.  They demonstrated 10 teaching techniques.  Many people, or at least me, tend to use techniques that work for them.  I know I use one of the techniques on their list nearly every class because I like it.  This made me think of other ways to teach similar concepts but with a different technique to reach different students.  Their handout was really good.

- Measuring Hope by Paula Manning - Watch her SSRN page for an upcoming article about hope.  She argues that many of the concepts we teach (Growth Mindset, Self-Regulated Learning, etc.) have hope as an underlying theme.  She used a specific academic definition of hope and showed how it could impact our students.  

- Consciousness Raising by Marta Baffy - Marta explained how using language learning techniques in law school classes could help our students understand new concepts.  Her exercises were great.

- NCBE Session - This will end up being a full blog post at a later time, but I didn't want to completely ignore it.

- Teaching Like NextGen Happened by Kris Franklin - She discussed a world where everything was awesome, and we taught students how to do lawyering tasks in all classes.  Programs used curriculum maps to support learning outcomes.  She talked about how to conduct classes with those skills, then encouraged participants to write a book to compete with hers.  I will probably just stick with trying to integrate her materials into my class.

- Outsourcing Self-Regulation by Marsha Griggs - Watch her SSRN page for an interesting article that argues the judiciary is outsourcing the regulation process when courts rely so heavily on an outside agency to license attorneys.

- From Mayhem to Magic by Ellen Douglas and Kristin Lasker - They demonstrated a great tool for departments to use to collaborate on projects.  Their powerpoint information will be good if you are looking for better organization and project management.

- MBE Analysis by Scott Johns and Ashley Cetnar - They did an interesting experiment with two different ways to approach MBE questions.  One side of the room only had the call of the question and answer choices, and the other side only had the facts with the call of the question without answer choices.  It seemed both sides did equally well answering the question.  

- Ludic Pedagogy by Bryce Woolley - Bryce discussed Ludic pedagogy (which is similar to games in the classroom), then he demonstrated how he used a branching program to create a choose your own adventure game for a bar exam question.  This would take significant time, but the resource looked engaging.

I could not attend everything, but I loved everything I attended.  When the materials are on the AASE website, I highly suggest going through all of them.  I can't wait until next year (with potentially more potato stress balls).

(Steven Foster)

May 28, 2023 in Professionalism, Publishing, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 22, 2023

Best Practitioners

Greetings from Santa Clara, California, and 10th Annual AASE conference! The sun is shining, and it is amazing to see everyone-the people I have missed in our pandemic years as well as people I had not met in person before today (like the amazing editor of this blog, Steven Foster!)

Here are the things I've learned so far (today was the day for "newbies" to learn the ins and outs of Academic Support):

  1. There are palm trees here-but they are not indigenous to this area. But they are so pretty swaying in the wind. I know they'd not survive a New England winter, but I wouldn't mind giving a try....
  2. ASP People are the best people-actually, I already knew that, but proof of this fact was undeniable today. We are the kindest, most generous, and collegial academics out there. And if you argue with me about that, I'll most likely ask you for your sources and then have you frame a counterargument because that is what we do, but I won't be thrilled about it.
  3. Although I am far from a newbie, I was bolstered by listening to the most respected folks I know tell me what their process is, and even more exciting: it is my process too!!! Which is not to say I didn't learn amazing new things, but I am so happy I am engaging in best practices. Phew!
  4. We are doing world class scholarship and lifting each other up with it. This is wonderful!!
  5. I cannot wait to see what else (and who else!) I will encounter tomorrow.

I am looking forward to spending more time learning from, as well as hanging and laughing with the amazing community. We value each other when we aren't universally valued in other realms. we are family.

(Liz Stillman)

 

May 22, 2023 in About This Blog, Meetings, Professionalism, Program Evaluation, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Last Chance to Register for AASE

If you plan to attend AASE, they sent out the final reminder to register for the upcoming AASE conference.  
 
They are asking that everyone planning to attend in-person register by May 8 for planning purposes.
 
Register here:  associationofacademicsupporteducators.org/events/...  (Make sure you're logged in for member pricing.)

May 7, 2023 in Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 16, 2023

New York Academic Support Workshop on May 5th

This year’s topic is a broad one – Transitions. (Logistically, yes, it means the names on this call are a wee bit different than what you’ve seen in past years.)

Broadly, colleagues may view this call as an invitation to think about macro-level transitions. What should academic and bar support programs do at this current moment, where transitions abound: (1) a transition out of COVID-impaired and back to largely in-person legal education and academic and bar support (and what we resolve to take from it), especially for the Class of 2023; (2) the critical transition from the current Uniform Bar Exam to the NextGen bar exam, and its implications for pre-equipping the Class of 2026 and subsequent classes now; or (3) a transition for legal education into a period of applicant downturn and larger economic headwinds.

Others may view this call as an invitation to think about smaller-scale transitions. Specifically, how can we help this generation of platform-native students transition between or within academic and bar tasks: absorption to resource creation; exam reading to outlining to writing; legal reading, writing, and synthesis in law school to exam-speed counterparts; virtual connection to in-person community support and accountability? Between law school world and their external obligations, especially for first-generation students who often bear the weight of both their own individual worlds and family or household responsibilities?

Still others may view this call as an invitation to transition our expectations for the viability, status, and balance of our profession. How can we ease the transition for new ASPers from their previous professional success to full-time ASP work? Facilitate a transition from our current levels of status (or lack thereof) to better ones? From the trenches with students towards strategic planning and implementation? From an existence that more than occasionally exploits our trademark help-the-students-at-all-costs, can-do attitude to one that is more equitable and more respective of our boundaries as healers and human beings?

The workshop will take place virtually on Friday, May 5, from 1:00 to 4:00 PM Eastern.

We’ll divide the afternoon into three sessions (with short breaks in between):

  • The first session will address transitions most closely related to academic success;
  • The second session will address transitions most closely related to bar success;
  • The third session will address potentially broader cultural, institutional, or status-related transitions.    

We hope to feature two or three discussion topics (or “vignettes”) during each session. Proposals from those interested in leading a discussion should summarize, in one or two paragraphs, the nature of the transition, and then pose two or three questions for the group’s consideration as we collectively grapple with the subject matter. We hope, in this way, to bring to bear the breadth of our experiences, viewpoints, insights, and abilities to find a way forward through the transition.

Please RSVP to attend the workshop—and submit proposed discussion topics—using this form, by Tuesday, April 25, at 5:00 PM Eastern. Because this is not a formal conference and will take place virtually, there’s no fee to attend. We’ll send out a finalized workshop agenda and Zoom details when we confirm who will attend and what specific topics our discussion leaders will present.

April 16, 2023 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Manage Expectations

Almost everyone in my family is a massive sports fan.  College football Saturdays are a tradition, so we talk non-stop about the current rankings and debate the what-ifs.  A couple weeks ago after another fun Saturday, my 8-year old concluded Alabama football isn't very good this year.  While many people in Tuscaloosa might agree with him (and want to fire every coach on the team), the statement is absurd.  For non-college football readers, Alabama football has been the most dominant team over the past 15 years.  They expect to win every game.  My son made this pronouncement after they lost their second game this year.  They are still ranked in the top 10 out of 130 teams, which is extremely good.  However, since expectations required perfection, they fell short.

I want to remind all of us to manage our expectations going into the winter season.  For students taking exams, no one writes perfect exam answers.  Professors intentionally construct hard exams.  You will probably miss a few (or more) small nuances.  Everyone will.  You can also still be successful on the exam while missing those nuances.  Also, don't expect perfect grades.  I understand most law students obtained great undergraduate grades.  However, very few people graduate with all A's in law school.  My suggestion for exams is to focus on preparation.  Create a good plan that includes understanding the material, completing practice questions, and seeking feedback.

To our amazing future attorneys (February Bar takers), you will make mistakes.  No one answers every MBE question correct.  The vast majority of students don't start bar preparation with a passing score.  Embrace mistakes as learning opportunities.  Work as hard as you can within your program, but also, give yourself grace.  When you miss an assignment, pick it up tomorrow.  It is easy to miss a day, but don't let it snowball to 2.

For my ASP colleagues, you can't be perfect.  You probably want to hold extra final exam workshops while meeting with every student who needs help and provide non-stop individual feedback.  Unfortunately, there isn't enough time in the day to do everything you want to do.  Your school probably asks you to do more than you can reasonably accomplish in 8-10 hours.  Give yourself grace if you can't get to everything.  Talk to a few faculty members for extra help providing feedback to students.  Encourage students to meet with their doctrinal professors.  Use time blocking strategies to focus on specific tasks long enough to mark things off your to-do list.  Lastly, walk through your law school and smile at students studying.  Your time is limited, but some students just need to see you pulling for them.  A smile could make their day.

The end of the semester is a sprint.  Most of us (students and professors) are in law school because we continually push ourselves beyond our limits.  While I encourage everyone to push yourself to new heights, I also want to remind you that you are Alabama football.  Very few people get an opportunity to go to law school (<2% of population), and even less are ASPers.  Don't expect perfection over the next couple weeks.  Instead, focus on studying or helping students each day.  Try to enjoy the spring through the next couple weeks.

(Steven Foster)

November 20, 2022 in Study Tips - General, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 28, 2022

The Manifold Ways of Reaching Law Students - A Blog Post by Louis Schulze (FIU)

In late August, ASU Law Professor Charles Calleros wrote a guest post calling for essay submissions describing different law schools’ academic support programs.

As described before, the purpose of this project is to assemble a number of those descriptions to demonstrate the many ways law schools can commit to their students’ success by investing genuinely and substantially in a robust academic support program. A Short Series of Blogs.  He noted that future contributions to this project would include guest posts by Jacquelyn Rogers (Southwestern) and Louis Schulze (FIU), and he invited others to contribute towards a larger piece. Those interested in contributing to the project should send a draft to me at [email protected]

In the meantime, Louis Schulze’s description essay can be found HERE.

October 28, 2022 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Study Tips - General, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 10, 2022

Atonement

We all make mistakes. We have all made mistakes that have inadvertently or thoughtlessly hurt others and ourselves. In this season of atonement (Yom Kippur was on Wednesday), we are supposed to confess our misdeeds, ask for forgiveness, and most importantly forgive those who have apologized to us. Forgiveness is a power we all have, but unlike some other super-powers (like laser eyes and Hulk-like strength), it is one we should never use sparingly.

I spend a lot of time telling students to give themselves a little grace. I am guessing we have all told students that they need to stop beating themselves up over the circumstances (or actions-or omissions) that led them to academic distress. Owning whatever the issue was is a great first step but dwelling in the shame of it is not a productive way to achieve success. That being said, I also think that students who do not own their role in getting into academic distress--people who blame the professor, the administration, or anything else without taking on some of the accountability--are less likely, in my experience, to turn things around. We can only change what we control-and if the circumstances that led to academic distress are out of their control, they cannot plan to do better.

One of my favorite traditions of Yom Kippur is something called tashlich where we symbolically cast our transgressions of the past year (in the form of bread) into a body of water (for my family, the Muddy River in Boston). I always joke that our local geese are extremely cranky from having eaten all those sins[1]. It is an exercise in physically controlling our errors and then not letting them take up space in our lives anymore. Does it mean that throwing bread into a river will change your life if you’ve, let’s say, committed murder? Absolutely not. But it does let you give yourself some grace from smaller errors-even where the person who was affected has not used their super-powers to forgive you.

To that end, I will throw my breadcrumbs of misdeeds out to you all and ask for forgiveness. And I will also engage my super-power to forgive others, even those who have not asked for it. I cannot control how others have behaved, but I can control whether or not I let it live in my head, so consider my forgiveness an eviction notice.

(Liz Stillman)

 

[1] I will also always answer the question of how my holidays were with, “Sho-far, sho-good.” You’ve been warned.

October 10, 2022 in Current Affairs, Religion, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Alarming Information on Challenging Students

If you talk to older faculty members, you will inevitably hear about "kids nowadays".  Their inability to read or write complete sentences.  I don't agree with that sentiment.  However, a recent article in Education Weekly indicates the pandemic may have exacerbated problems with some populations access to challenging assignments.  Over the past few years, kids may not have been challenged as much as before, so their skills may be lagging behind.  I believe that may have happened in law school classrooms as well.  The expectations changed to merely survive under the circumstances.  That approach was warranted, but we need to now increase expectations in a way that stays within desirable difficulties while improving student performance.  I find that balance difficult.  Looking to other areas of education may help in that process.  

Good luck to everyone in the new year.

Here is the link to the Education Weekly article:  https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/some-students-are-routinely-denied-challenging-work-the-pandemic-made-that-worse/2022/08?utm_source=nl&utm_medium=eml&utm_campaign=cm&M=4913724&UUID=7029b5431a7e3a2a604b5704b1ce9ce6&T=6663472

(Steven Foster)

September 3, 2022 in Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 26, 2022

GLS Conference

The Legal Writing Prof. Blog advertised a conference some of you may be interested in.  The Global Legal Skills Conference Committee is organizing a series of three virtual workshops to help raise awareness about how the war in Ukraine is impacting legal skills education in that country and to provide a platform to discuss ways we can help our Ukrainian colleagues through collaboration and networking.  

Each session will be two hours long -- an hour of presentation followed by an hour of discussion in break out rooms.

First Session: WHAT THE GLS COMMUNITY CAN LEARN FROM OUR UKRAINIAN COLLEAGUES AND HOW WE CAN HELP THEM

DATE/TIME: Thursday, June 30, 2022, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. CDT.  

Click here to locate the specific day and time for your time zone.

Plenary session will feature:

  • Artem Shaipov,  Legal Advisor/Team Lead for Legal Education Reform, USAID Justice for All Activity in Ukraine
  • Serhiy Riznyk, Vice-Rector for Research, Teaching, and International Cooperation at Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, Ukraine
  • Prof. Dmytro Boichuk, Head of the Center for Legal Education Quality Assurance at the Yaroslav Mudryi National Law University in Kharkiv, Ukraine
  • Mariia Tsypiashchuk, Board Member of the Association of Legal Clinics of Ukraine, Head of the Pro Bono Legal Clinic of the National University of Ostroh Academy,Ukraine
  • Adil Abduramanov, President of the European Law Students’ Association in Ukraine.

Follow-up workshops will take place at the same time on:

  • Thursday, July 28, 2022 
  • Friday, August 26, 2022 

Attendance at each online session will be limited to 100 people, but a recording of the plenary presentations will be made available for those who cannot attend.

Please click here to register for the series.

June 26, 2022 in Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 19, 2022

LSAC Webinar on their new Boot Camp Product

The LSAC is offering a new program to help students transition to law school.  The first conference I attended was funded by the LSAC, and I am glad they are still trying to help law students succeed.  I don't know much about their new offering, but I encourage everyone to go to their Q&A to hear about it.  The information is below.

On Wednesday, June 22, from 12:00 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET, join us for a Q&A about Legal Analysis Boot Camp, a LawHub educational program coming in July. The Legal Analysis Boot Camp is the inaugural offering of Law School Success, a one-year subscription priced at $59 that offers academic skills programming to support students throughout their first year of law school. Specifically, there will be a fall semester academic skills program entitled Law School, What You Really Need to Know, and spring semester programming entitled Becoming an Expert Learner.

This presentation is intended for academic support educators and admission professionals.

During the program, we’ll preview some of the course content and answer questions about the curriculum of Legal Analysis Boot Camp, which is designed to:

  • Equip incoming law students with the basic tools of logical reasoning (including IRAC) that they will use in their law school classes
  • Walk students through solving a legal analysis problem, from extracting rules of law from cases, to synthesizing those rules, to dissecting a fact pattern, to drafting an exam answer using IRAC

Register for the June 22 Webinar 

Our presenters — Susannah Pollvogt, LSAC’s senior director of legal education solutions, and Melissa A. Hale, LSAC’s director of learning for legal education — will tell you all about the Legal Analysis Boot Camp curriculum and other Law School Success offerings to come so you can encourage 1L students to participate. A portion of the presentation will be devoted to answering your questions.

June 19, 2022 in Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 16, 2022

Survey says....

I am on the precipice of turning in all my final grades for the spring. I am looking forward to taking a much-needed break before my summer class begins…on Wednesday. What will I do with my abundant “free time” besides walking the dog, feeding the children, laundry, and saving the universe? I’ll probably go through the survey I sent my summer students and pull out the important information to prepare for class.

For the past few summers, I have taught a class for incoming accelerated JD students which is basically a law school success bootcamp. We only meet for six sessions and the class is one credit (pass/fail), but these students are taking their first semester of law school (with a different curriculum than non-accelerated students) over the summer. They will have midterms around the time we are having BBQs, so they need to be quickly brought up to speed. There isn’t a lot of time, so I carefully plan the syllabus and try to get to know students ahead of time by posting a survey.

I always like sending a survey to students before class begins (accelerated or not) because that way I can ask for pronouns and nicknames early. I’ve recently rephrased my nickname question from: “I should call you,” to, “What would you like me to call you?” I did this mainly because every semester at least one student would write their cell phone number in the box below when I used the former phrasing. It did make me wonder if they really wanted me to phone them and I was disappointing them by just chuckling at how literal they were being.

I try to ask some fun questions, like TV shows they have recently loved and whether they have food allergies (I like to bake for my students without harming them). I also ask if there is anything I need to know about them-and offer both some multiple-choice options and a blank box for “other.”  They can check all that apply. One of the choices I offered this summer was, “I have recently been abducted by aliens and enrolling in law school was a condition of my release.” I got 11/21 checks on that box, so I am thinking this will be a fun group. I also got some important pieces of information: I have a lot of students who have been out of school for a while, a bunch have children or parents they are caring for at home, one is pregnant, and one has a degree in musical theater (which is great to keep in mind for when I finally get to stage “ASP: The Musical”).

My final survey question was new for this class. Since we have limited time together, I want to be sure I can offer as much support as possible (support is our middle name, after all). So, I asked, “My most pressing question about this class, or law school in general, is…” and put a text box below for their questions. Here are a few of the questions I got (almost every student who answered the survey had one):

  1. What is the most important thing to do to succeed?
  2. What are some common mistakes or missteps you see your students take?
  3. What proactive steps can I take to ensure that I have a job right after graduation in the field of law I prefer?
  4. My interests and enthusiasm regarding a particular field/area of law are still quite varied. Is there a typical semester or point in time where most undecideds choose a specific path?
  5. Will I still be able to have normal life?
  6. When is a reasonable time in one's law school-career for their anxiety level to decrease to a normal level?
  7. Are we gonna live?

These are not questions that can be answered with a shrug and a joke about the traditional law school answer being, “it depends,” even though it might be the right answer to some of them. The last three questions in particular need to be carefully addressed at the start, middle, and finish of classes, semesters, and years in law school.  A simple: “no”, “maybe never”, and “holy sh*t, I really hope so” just aren’t going to suffice.

So, to roughly paraphrase Phineas and Ferb[1], I know what I am going to do tomorrow.

(Liz Stillman)

 

[1] Yes, again, can you believe it? I should really go through the survey question on TV shows and pick something intended for adults….

May 16, 2022 in Orientation, Stress & Anxiety, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Defending Self-Critique

Law schools have not yet fulfilled the Carnegie Report’s call for more formative assessment.  One reason for falling short is conflicting narratives about what is “good” formative assessment.  One specific narrative seems particularly troublesome:  That the only legitimate method for providing formative assessment is for the instructor to sit down with each student and explain their errors.  This post pushes back on that narrative.

  1. Self-critique is more effective than we appreciate.

Most would agree that individualized feedback from an instructor, the expert both on the subject and the way the student will be graded, is most effective.  But especially when using a model answer or quality student answer,[1] allowing students to compare their work against the ideal version, doing so not only assists with doctrinal comprehension, legal writing, and exam skills, but also builds metacognitive abilities.[2]  Having the capacity to determine one’s own weaknesses is crucially important, as demonstrated by countless studies showing the performance-enhancing effect of improving metacognition.[3]

The assumption that all feedback must come from the instructor certainly undercuts the mission to improve students’ metacognition.  When students find themselves professorless during bar study, they will scramble around helplessly if they have absorbed the legal education fable that only professor knows best.  Moreover, new lawyers will certainly struggle in the early years of practice when they need to run to the partner/ division chief/ client to do the metacognitive work for them.

Although some students certainly will do a poor job of self-critiquing (“I mentioned res ipsa loquitur just like the model did!  I should get full points!”), this is no reason to underappreciate self-critique.  First, in my experience, most students DO figure out their weaknesses from this process.  While before the self-critique process they think their C-minus should be an A-minus, seeing the student essay that booked the course tends to leave them thinking otherwise.  Second, even if the student still does not see the problems, this is where academic support faculty come in.  In partnering with doctrinal faculty, academic support faculty can meet with underperforming students and comment not on the law but on the student’s metacognition.  This method distributes personnel resources in a way that makes robust feedback more possible, fosters metacognition, demonstrates to students the valuable connection between doctrinal and academic support faculty, and frees up time for doctrinal faculty.

  1. Calcifying the status quo.

A particular danger with the solely instructor-based feedback narrative is that it preserves the status quo.  We all know that formative assessment is lacking in legal education.  The principal argument against remedying that problem is that individualized feedback is so time-consuming that one can accomplish little else.  When those inclined to pursue efficient formative assessment are then met with the chorus of voices claiming that self-provided feedback is inadequate, they throw the baby out with the bathwater, dismiss formative assessment, and turn back to the same one-final-exam process used since 1877.  Therefore, creating this strict dichotomy between individualized feedback and self-provided feedback makes the perfect the enemy of the very good and leaves students with nothing instead of at least something.

Final thoughts.

None of this is meant to say that instructor-led feedback is unnecessary or inferior.  Feedback from course instructors is crucial.  But when that type of formative assessment is not feasible, self-critique is a solid option.  

There is a lot more to discuss on this subject.  Unlike almost all other graduate programs, why do we think that TAs providing feedback is an unspeakable heresy?  Why do we almost never use summative assessment as formative assessment by improving the process of post-semester self-critique?  (FYI, simply letting students see their exam answers does not accomplish this goal.)  Why do we see testing only as formative and summative assessment but not as a learning tool in-and-of itself? 

Unfortunately, the time constraints on writing about the time constraints of formative assessments are such that I have to stop tying now.  Ironic.

 

Louis Schulze, FIU Law

--------------

[1] Self-critique without a model answer is possible, too, but I concede that having a model answer is preferable.  To those who would avoid providing such an answer because doing so would take time to write or risk being imprecise, I would argue that a simple solution is to release the strongest student answer.

[2] Metacognition is the process of assessing one’s knowledge:  Do I really know the felony murder rule, or do I just think I know it?  As I tell my students, it is like hovering over one’s knowledge and objectively scrutinizing one’s real comprehension.

[3] See generally J.A. Gundlach & J. Santangelo, Teaching and Assessing Metacognition in Law School, 69 J. LEGAL EDUC. 156 (2019) (reporting on empirical study of first-year law students, finding that students who demonstrated strong metacognitive skills were more likely to perform well).

April 26, 2022 in Exams - Studying, Exams - Theory, Study Tips - General, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 3, 2022

The Secret Sauce - Not So Secret

As author Kathryn Rubino poses: "What if I told you there was one thing you could do in your 1L year that would improve your grades in all your classes?" Rubino, K., One Thing Can Improve All Your Law School Grades, Above the Law (May 2, 2016). Frankly, that sounds too good to be true.  

"Well," as Rubino writes: "it isn't science fiction. There is...research from Dan Schwarcz and Dion Farganis at University of Minnesota Law School suggesting that law students who get individualized feedback from their professor in one subject are more likely to do better in ALL their classes (emphasis in original)."  Id. Still have doubts about the power of individualized feedback to really change lives? Well here's a link to the research so that you can make up your own mind:  https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2772393

In my own case, I sometimes forget the power that one can have in the individual moments.  As an academic support professional, sometimes I fear that I am looking in all of the wrong places, aiming for some momentous program that will change lives for the better. But sometimes the key to change is right in front of us, if we only look.  Just one 1L faculty member, providing individualized feedback to just their students in that one class, can have life-changing impact for that professor's students - across the board.  That's something to cheer about, and to get on board with too. (Scott Johns).

 

March 3, 2022 in Advice, Learning Styles, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Peer Pressure, Vaccine-or-Test Requirements, and Legal Analysis

In working with bar applicants preparing for the February 2022 bar exam, I keep hearing concerns about analogical reasoning, one of the legal analysis skills tested on the bar exam.  And, for first-year law students, many whom are taking persuasive legal writing courses this semester, analogical reasoning is a key persuasion method.

I noticed the power of analogical reasoning while reading an article describing the Supreme Court oral arguments last week in the vaccine requirement case. J. Bravin, et al, "Supreme Court Shows Skepticism over Biden Vaccine or Test Mandate," WSJ (Jan. 7., 2022).

As a bit of background, the Court was considering two issues, first, whether the federal executive branch had power through OSHA via Congressional authorization to mandate covid-19 vaccines in workplaces with more than 100 employees, and second, whether the federal executive branch through its Medicare and Medicaid Office had congressional authorization to mandate covid-19 vaccines for medical personnel working in medical settings and receiving funds from the federal government.

The U.S. Supreme Court split the issues (with a split court too).  In a 6-3 decision, the Court held that OSHA did not have the regulatory power to mandate vaccines in large workplaces while, in contrast, in a 5-4 decision, the Court held that the executive branch has such power in the medical field for those receiving federal government medicare and medicaid funding.

Already, we see a tension between the two holdings.  Those tensions require explanations and that's where you, as an attorney, are critical.  It's your explanation of similarities or differences that constitutes analogical reasoning. And, to the extent that your explanation of those differences or similarities is persuasive is what I call "analogical reasoning as a form of peer pressure." In short, analogical reasoning suggests that you have friends, powerful friends and powerful tradition that backs the position that you are now arguing on behalf of your client.

Take last Friday's oral argument over the "vaccine or test" requirement.  In the workplace requirement case, Justice Sotomayor asked of attorneys: "What’s the difference between this [vaccine or test requirement] and telling employers, where sparks are flying in the workplace, your workers have to wear a mask?"  Id.

In other words, the Justice is asking an analogical question, seeking an explanation as to why the vaccine requirements are any different than other normative OSHA workplace safety requirements, such as masks to protect industrial workers from flying sparks and fire hazards.  That's not an easy question to answer. It requires much of us - curiosity, courage, and showing connections.

The premise behind the question is that no one doubts that OSHA has congressional authority to regular workplace hazards with reasonable tools to prevent harm that, at the same time, allow workers to complete their work successfully.  Masks to prevent workers from suffering eye injuries due to flying sparks is just such a prototypical regulation that is, obviously, permissible.  That's the "peer pressure" component.  Once that is settled, the party who opposes the vaccine or test requirement now has the burden to show how covid-19 is different from other types of workplace hazards, such as flying sparks.  It's not impossible to do but it requires deep thinking.

As a tip, you might try an exercise, listing in one column the precedent situation (masks to prevent spark hazards) and the other column the disputed situation (vaccines to prevent virus hazards).  Then, under each column, brainstorm possible differences and similarities, as many as possible.  Once you've finished brainstorming, now look for connections that might explain how the two situations are similar (and why) and for differences that might explain how the two situations are dissimilar (and why).  

The art of analogical reasoning is then explaining which of those two (similarities or differences) is more persuasive, moving, and powerful and why that is the case.  That's analogical reasoning.

For the OSHA requirement, we might say that the two situations (masks for spark mitigation versus vaccines for virus mitigation) are similar in that both are hazards that are preventable, that are prevalent in the workplace because of the close working conditions between workers and the hazards faced, and that the workplace situation exacerbates the hazards because of the duration of time that workers are present in the workplace.  In contrast, one might say that the two situations (masks for spark mitigation versus vaccines for virus mitigation) are dissimilar in that sparks are hazards not common to the public at large, tied specifically to the type of work done, and limited to particular workplace activities while the virus is widespread regardless of whether one is working or not, the virus is not the byproduct, like sparks are, of producing products or services for the employers, and that the virus is not limited to specific workplace activities but is present everywhere and in all such that if OSHA has that power it has virtually unbridled power, at least one might say.

At bottom, analogical reasoning is about using comparisons and contrasts to bedrock principles and trying to extend or prevent extension of those principles to new or novel situations.  In short, it's a form of peer pressure, which, in my own case, is one of the most powerful pressures of all.  So be friendly when you engage in analogical reasoning.  Don't press too hard.  Let your explanations do the pressing.  (Scott Johns).

 

January 13, 2022 in Bar Exam Preparation, Learning Styles, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 8, 2022

ASPalooza

Happy New Year!

I know that we are still basking in the (blue light) glow of the ASP sessions of the AALS annual meeting, but I wanted to make sure that I mentioned a few of the highlights (ones that I saw-I probably missed some important things since the AALS session schedule is like a Cheesecake Factory menu).

First, my amazing colleague at Suffolk University Law School, Sarah Schendel, was honored with the Trailblazer Award at the annual meeting of our section on January 4th. This was a richly deserved recognition of her scholarship and contributions to ASP! Also, we welcomed new leadership to our executive board and thanked our past leaders for their amazing work.

The Academic Support and Technology, Law and Legal Education Joint Program (Co-Sponsored by Pre-Law Education and Admission to Law School) panels on “Leveraging Technology to Increase Student Engagement in Online Courses” and “Who Should Own the Course Content Created for Online Delivery?” on January7th were informative and timely--considering that many schools will likely reopen remotely this spring (we are going remote for the first two weeks). Charles Calleros wonderfully explained the best practices to establish and maintain student engagement. I loved the idea of creating a more flipped experience with DIY videos paired with short quizzes that Martha Ertman discussed. Our own Louis Schulze’s methods of using the Zoom chat to empower students to be experts was incredibly interesting. The other methods he outlined to keep students engaged were really helpful as I organize classes for the upcoming semester.  Jane Grise’s discussion of how screens effect our reading and attention was something I will be absolutely be more cognizant of in planning my two weeks (hopefully!) of remote classes -she also presented us with an opportunity to get up and dance (well, she said to stretch, but it was a Friday and all).

The next panel on the ownership of created materials used in online delivery was eye-opening (and full of twists and turns). While the work-for-hire doctrine might make our scholarly writings and course materials (absent contractual provisions to the contrary), the property of the schools we work for since we are employees, the panelists (and some great questions from the crowd) have left me wondering who has rights to our created ASP study techniques and skills materials since these are mainly expressions of ideas and whether writing is actually within the scope of my employment. I will be looking at my employee handbook more carefully to determine our institutional intellectual property policies. I took three pages of notes on the applicable intellectual property law during this panel-and later this weekend, I’ll be sure to put them in outline form (little ASP humor).

All in all, I was reminded, yet again, of how amazing the ASP community is-we are intelligent, prolific, and generous.

(Liz Stillman)

January 8, 2022 in Meetings, Publishing, Teaching Tips, Web/Tech, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0)