Monday, May 14, 2018
Marie Summerlin Hamm, Benjamin V. Madison & Ryan P. Murnane (Regent), The Rubric Meets the Road in Law Schools: Program Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes as a Fundamental Way for Law Schools to Improve and Fulfill Their Respective Missions
This Article thoroughly explores the implications of the American Bar Association’s new standards requiring law schools to adopt Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs) and to develop sound methods to assess objectively whether graduates of a given law school are meeting that school’s stated PLOs. The Article offers a summary of assessment as part of higher education in Europe before the establishment of the United States. The Article further discusses the evolution of PLOs in American education and the methods used not only to assess outcomes but also by which accrediting bodies verify schools’ assessments. The Article then describes the process that Regent University Law School developed in the process of evaluating two of its PLOs — ones that articulate the law schools expectation that graduates of the J.D. program will have attained competency in legal analysis, communication, and writing. As we turn to our particular effort at assessment, the Article reviews best practices in assessment. Moreover, the Article describes each step the Law School took in curriculum mapping, determining courses in which assessment would be appropriate, and development of rubrics for assessment. The Article describes some of the less-than-obvious issues that law schools can run into in performing assessments. For instance, our school learned that it was essential that the persons assessing competence have a common understanding of what that would look like in a student’s work product. Finally, the Article describes the triangulated, direct assessments that resulted in findings that students were competent in the PLOs in question. Finally, the Article suggests how the Law School had — even before completing the initial assessments — began developing an assessment plan for other PLOs and moving forward on assessment of other PLOs.