Monday, May 1, 2017

Using Science to Build Better Learners: One School's Successful Efforts to Raise Its Bar Passage Rates in an Era of Decline by Louis N. Schulze Jr.

I have written several times on this blog about how Florida International University has dramatically raised its scores on the Florida bar.  In February 2015, FIU hit rock bottom with only 63% of first-time takers passing the Florida bar.  (The rate in July 2013 had been 78.2%.)  On the last four Florida bars, however, FIU graduates had the highest or second pass rate.  In July 2016, its pass rate was 87.5%, compared to a state rate of 68.2%.

Louis N. Schulze, Assistant Dean and Professor of Academic Support at FIU, has now written a paper detailing how he and his colleagues achieved these remarkable results.

Using Science to Build Better Learners: One School's Successful Efforts to Raise Its Bar Passage Rates in an Era of Decline.


"What measures can law schools take to improve student performance and bar passage? The answer is not what you think.

Recent developments in the science of learning show that most law students learn wrong. In fact, ineffective methods of learning pervade all levels of education. We now know that widely accepted learning and study strategies that were once considered gospel are actually deeply flawed. Yet we still embrace and propagate those myths.

Meanwhile, bar passage rates and law student performance are plummeting. Everyone in legal education is asking “what can we do?” But, “what can we do?” is the wrong question. The right question is to ask how students can capitalize on the science of learning to be more effective learners.

In this essay, I discuss principles from the science of learning that law schools and students should embrace. In the context of the methods we have implemented at Florida, International University College of Law, which had the highest bar passage rate in Florida for three consecutive exams, I detail the project of transforming the learning of law away from the ineffective methods of yore and towards effective strategies that can make a difference on student performance and bar passage.

And it all has to do with science, not lore."

I have been reading general education research for the last few years, and Dean Schulze's approach is what many others have used with great success in other academic fields.  Any law school that adopts these techniques will improve their bar pass scores, and, more importantly, turn out much better lawyers.  I realize that this is a strong statement, but the use of these techniques have time and time again produced better retention of knowledge and understanding of material.

(Scott Fruehwald)

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