Wednesday, July 25, 2018
Measuring law student outcomes has recently become an important part of legal education. The Journal of Legal Education has just published a symposium on outcomes:
Symposium: Law Student Learning Outcomes And Assessment, 67 J. Legal Educ. 373-614 (2018).
From the Editors:
"A quiet revolution is taking place in legal education. For close to a century, law schools used the bar exam as the principal method of testing whether students were graduating with the knowledge they needed to practice law. But in 2014, new ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools (“ABA Standards”) were adopted and implemented in time for accreditation visits occurring in 2016-2017. These revised accreditation standards require law schools to develop programmatic student learning outcomes as well as methods to assess those outcomes. (ABA Standards 301, 302, 314, and 315 — see appendix I). These new requirements are sparking some of the most significant, systemic changes to law school pedagogy that we have seen in many years.
The assessment standards stem from a broader movement in higher education from a traditional, input-based, prescriptive system of accreditation (focusing on budget, facilities, academic metrics of incoming students and the number of faculty) to an outcome-based system of accreditation. The ABA has also embraced a shift from historic output measurements, such as bar passage or job placement, to a focus on student learning outcomes and the assessments of such student learning outcomes. Law schools faced with these new standards must quickly familiarize themselves with best practices in designing student learning outcomes and assessments, and ideally schools will use this opportunity to modify and improve their programs. With such changes underfoot, the JLE devotes this issue to the new ABA Standards on assessments — on formative and summative assessment to be employed by individual faculty members as well as practices and requirements governing institutional assessment."