Monday, October 29, 2012

Important New Article on Self-Directed Learners

I believe that the most important skill we can give to our students is the ability to be self-directed and self-reflective learners.  (here)  Neil W. Hamilton, Verna Monson, and Jerome M. Organ have just posted an important new article on this topic entitled Encouraging Each Student's Personal Responsibility for Core Competencies Including Professionalism on SSRN.

Abstract: "The market for entry-level positions in law firms is changing as competitive market pressures drive a “new normal” for law firms, and law schools must respond to meet students’ educational needs in this “new normal” market. A high percentage of law firms are rethinking their business models and adopting proactive talent management strategies like competency models to respond to competitive market pressures. One core competency in these models that influences all the other competencies is an internalized commitment to self-development toward both excellence in all competencies and active initiative in exercising all of them. This paper focuses on how legal education can foster each student’s internalized commitment to self-development toward excellence and initiative."

An excerpt:

This essay focuses on the specific competencies of ‘commitment to career-long self development toward excellence in all competencies’ and ‘proactive initiative in exercising all competencies’ in Table 2. Law students and early-career lawyers must learn to internalize self development toward excellence and proactive initiative in developing these capacities and skills. In this new normal, students and early career lawyers must anticipate having several jobs over the course of their careers that may require development of new skills. Law schools must define clear learning outcomes to signal to students the importance of developing these competencies. This education assessment model requires law school faculties to:

1. Identify student educational needs (including the meta-cognitive capacities of self directed learning and self-regulation capacity);

2. Articulate student learning outcomes (educational objectives) that respond to student educational needs;

3. Plan and implement an educational program and curriculum that help students achieve the learning outcomes;

4. Identify instructional methods that integrate formative and summative assessments that are cost-effective, manageable, and meaningful; and

5. Evaluate the effectiveness of the educational program and curriculum."

A problem is that "In legal education, then, law students get acclimated to being ‘dependent’ learners rather than self-directed learners. Law professors like to be in ‘control’ of the classroom, dictating what gets learned and how it is learned, resulting in a social context in which students feel very little encouragement toward or ability to engage in self-directed learning toward all the competencies beyond those involved in immediate course work."

The solution to this problem is being explicit. "A student cannot own something without awareness that it is important. Law firms implementing competency models begin with an orientation for associates that explains the full model followed by reminders and training as needed at evaluations and transition stages as well as formal training to help lawyers understand the model. Similarly, day one of law school should begin with introducing the lawyer competency model, explaining its importance, and informing students it is each student’s personal responsibility to engage in activities inside and outside the classroom that develop self-directedness. . . . The presentation should make clear that the responsibility for development of these competencies does not reside with faculty or administrators, but with each student. This emphasis should foster the developmental growth of personal responsibility towards self-directedness."

Everyone in legal education needs to read this article!

(Scott Fruehwald)

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