Friday, June 14, 2013

New scholarship on motivating law students to learn.

In a new article by Professor Cassandra Hill (Thurgood Marshall), she argues that in the discussion of effective classroom teaching, what often gets lost in the shuffle is that students must take responsibility for their own learning.  Professor Hill discusses strategies for motivating students and assessing their commitment to coursework in the context of measuring learning outcomes.  The article is titled The Elephant in the Law School Assessment Room: The Role of Student Responsibility and Motivating Our Students to Learn and can be found at 56 How. L.J. 447 (2013) and here on SSRN. 

From the abstract:

The American Bar Association’s proposed new accreditation standards call for law schools to assess the effectiveness of their academic programs. Law schools are now doing so, quickly giving rise to an assessment movement that closely examines desired educational outcomes and professors’ efforts to attain them. But assessment has to date focused on the professor, who is just one part of the professor-student partnership. All but ignored are the contributions and motivation of the other critical component — the student.

This Article posits that to assess academic programs’ effectiveness, assessment must evaluate the contributions of students and not just professors. With such data, professors could target students’ progress and motivation strategically, making strides in both teaching and learning.

Part I of this Article sets out the responsibility for learning shared between professor and student and examines existing research in the field of student responsibility for learning. Part II explains the profound benefits of assessing student responsibility, and Part III presents methods for measuring student perspectives and participation. Part IV identifies practical strategies for igniting students’ motivation and commitment to learning.

Assessment aims to prepare students for legal practice. But unless law professors consider the level of responsibility students take for their own education, any assessment results will lack proper context. By assessing students’ contributions too, professors can take the necessary steps to enhance their students’ academic and professional competence.


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