Monday, July 25, 2016

UALR Learning Outcomes

I will first examine the learning outcomes of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law. I have chosen UALR because it is headed by Michael Hunter Schwartz, who was the first legal education scholar to use general education research on a large-scale. (He took a community college course in learning theory.)

Statement of Educational Goals Concerning Knowledge, Skills, and Values

A. KNOWLEDGE. Every graduate should have knowledge and understanding of the following at a level sufficient to practice ethically as a lawyer and to pass the bar examination in any United States jurisdiction:

1. The organization, hierarchy and relationships of legal systems;

2. The sources of primary law and the ways they relate to one another;

3. The nature of legal rules and institutions;

4. The fundamental sources and tools of legal research;

5. The principles of the fundamental areas of American substantive law, including civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law and procedure, evidence, property, and torts;

6. The nature, sources, and content of ethical standards applicable to lawyers and the practice of law in the United States.

B. SKILLS. Every graduate should have the following skills:

1. Within a specific or discrete subject matter, to engage in effective problem solving by:

a. identifying and diagnosing problems;

b. generating alternative solutions and strategies;

c. developing and implementing plans of action; and

d. keeping the planning process open to new information and ideas.

2. To comprehend legal texts and apply the legal principles extracted from the texts to new factual circumstances by:

a. comprehending a legal text, such as a case, a statute, an administrative rule, a secondary source, or a contract;

b. comprehending a series of legal texts and synthesizing them into a coherent legal narrative, including the ability both to harmonize apparently conflicting authorities and to recognize genuinely conflicting authorities; and

c. applying governing legal principles to new factual situations, including the abilities to spot issues, to formulate issues, to develop potential legal solutions, and to assess their validity.

3. To conduct effective and efficient legal research by developing a research strategy, identifying potentially relevant sources of law, locating legal texts that provide the governing legal principles for a factual situation, and understanding the role that legal reasoning plays in legal research.

4. To communicate effectively orally and in writing by presenting material in a clear, concise, well-organized, and professional manner that is appropriate to the audience and circumstances.

a. For all communication, to use active listening, empathy, and emotional intelligence.

b. For written communication, to write

1) an effective objective memorandum predicting the resolution of one or more legal issues;

2) effective trial and appellate briefs advocating a position for a client; and

3) a legally effective document other than in the litigation context.

5. To work cooperatively as part of a team.

6. To practice effectively by:

a. recognizing and resolving potential ethical issues;

b. developing systems and procedures to ensure the efficient allocation of time, effort, and resources, and the timely performance and completion of work; and

c. facilitating effective working relationships.

C. VALUES. Every graduate should understand and exemplify the following values:

1. As a member of a profession dedicated to the service of clients, a commitment to professionalism and to the rules of professional responsibility, including:

a. attaining and maintaining a level of competence in the lawyer’s own field(s) of practice;

b. representing clients in a competent manner;

c. increasing the lawyer’s knowledge of the law and improving the lawyer’s practice skills; and

d. other aspects of professionalism, including honesty, integrity, reliability, respect for others, diligence and hard work, maturity, and judgment.

2. As a member of a profession that bears special responsibilities for the quality of justice, a commitment to:

a. promoting justice, fairness, and morality in the lawyer’s practice in harmony with the lawyer’s ethical duties to clients;

b. contributing to the profession’s fulfillment of its responsibility to ensure that adequate legal services are provided to those who cannot afford to pay for them;

c. contributing to the profession’s fulfillment of its responsibility to enhance the capacity of law and legal institutions to do justice; and

d. showing respect for all people.

3. As a member of a self-governing profession, a commitment to:

a. participating in activities designed to improve the profession;

b. assisting in the training and preparation of new lawyers; and

c. striving to rid the profession of prejudice based on race, religion, national or ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, or socio-economic status, and to rectify the effects of those prejudices.

4. As a member of a learned profession, a commitment to selecting and maintaining employment that will allow the lawyer to develop as a professional and to pursue the lawyer’s professional and personal goals.

This list divides learning outcomes into three parts: knowledge, skills, and values. This division corresponds to the Carnegie Report's three apprenticeships: 1) the “cognitive apprenticeship,” which focuses on expert knowledge and modes of thinking, 2) the “apprenticeship of practice,” which educates students in “the forms of expert practice shared by competent practitioners,” and 3) the “apprenticeship of identity and purpose,” which “introduces students to the purposes and attitudes that are guided by the values for which the professional community is responsible.” As the Carnegie Report noted with its apprenticeships, UALR's knowledge outcome corresponds with what has traditionally been taught in law school, while skills and values deals with subjects that until recently hadn't received much coverage in law school. This shows that we need to continue to teach most of the subjects we have been teaching in law school, but that we also need to significantly expand the scope of legal education to include practice skills and professional identity.

The knowledge section encompasses the traditional subjects of law school, but it does so in a detailed manner so that individual professors can see what they specifically need to teach in their classes.

The skills list is a detailed list of the skills students will need in practice. Much of this part covers metacognitive thinking, which is necessary to produce self-regulated learners. It includes problem-solving skills, reading skills, research strategy skills, communication skills, cooperation, ethical/professionalism skills.

The final section concerns values (professional identity). Having spent the last couple of years writing a book on how to teach law students professional identity, I find this list to be comprehensive and detailed. This section divides into serving clients, serving the community (justice), serving the profession, and choosing one's profession.

In sum, the UALR learning outcomes is an excellent list. Compare this list to what you were taught in law school and see which you prefer.

(Scott Fruehwald)

Update: Dean Schwartz has informed me that the learning outcomes were in place before he came to UALR.  It is great to see such a proactive faculty.

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