Monday, November 21, 2016

Using Cognitive Psychology to Improve Student Performance, Part Six: Putting it All Together II by Louis Schulze

Louis Schulze has just posted the last in a series of posts on how to improve student performance:

Using Cognitive Psychology to Improve Student Performance, Part Six: Putting it All Together II by Louis Schulze.  Excerpts:

"[A]s a precursor to this post, I’ll say this: Law schools need to stop believing (and investing) in quick fixes and magic bullets. (Further, if a school’s median incoming LSAT is poor, no single, siloed, non-integrated, or externalized program can magically improve the bar pass rate to 94%. Magic wands cannot cure questionable admissions practices. Claims to the contrary exist solely to skimp on supportive measures while ignoring reality). Instead, any earnest effort to bolster bar passage requires a serious, rigorous, multi-faceted program contextualized within doctrinal learning."  [And, is based on educational research on how students learn, as Professor Schulze has emphasized throughout this series.]

"In a hurried effort to stem the tide of crashing bar pass rates, some law schools have implemented stop-gap measures designed to prevent future rate decreases. Too many schools have done so by buying into the “one-size-fits-all” silver bullet methods, usually by slapping together an isolated, siloed final semester bar prep class. Lacking expertise in the specific disciplines of bar preparation and academic support, deans and faculty find themselves attracted to relatively inexpensive programs offered by independent contractors or outside companies who slickly boast of 95% pass rates and promises of turning each 145 LSAT student into a 150 MBE score. Like the self-help guru cottage industry of the 1970s, these gurus are long on talk and short on substance.

What’s wrong with the gurus? First, they deprive students of self-regulated learning. One of the most important facets of learning is that students manage their own learning, understand their own weaknesses, and plan how to improve. Bar exam gurus undermine this by offering “tutoring.” That word sounds terrific to faculty and students but it’s actually one of the least effective methods of learning law. Tutoring outsources the responsibility of learning to the tutor, thus undermining the student’s development and use of self-regulation. When a student suspects that she’s not getting it, she ignores that problem, and does nothing about it, because she’s sure the tutor is on top of it. The weaknesses, therefore, never get remediated. You’ll actually never see the word “tutor” used in any FIU Law AEP information."

This has been an excellent series on how students learn.  As I mentioned in earlier posts, FIU has used the method to achieve the highest bar pass rate for first-time takers on the 2016 Florida bar exam.

(Scott Fruehwald)

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