Thursday, July 18, 2019
Lighting the Fires of Learning in Law School: Implementing ABA Standard 314 by Incorporating Effective Formative Assessment Techniques Across the Curriculum
The American Bar Association now requires law schools to incorporate formative assessment into the law school curriculum by providing feedback to students relating to course-specific learning goals before the end-of-semester exam. Peer reviews and self-evaluations are two powerful formative assessment techniques that faculty can use to meet the new ABA standards to assess the students’ learning outcomes while courses are ongoing, creating more effective learning environments within the classroom.
This article argues that peer reviews and self-evaluations can be successfully used across the law school curriculum to deepen student understanding, encourage student cooperation, and develop students’ abilities to be self-regulated learners in law school. We provide background on the power of formative assessment in general as a teaching and learning tool, and then move on to focus specifically on peer reviews and self-evaluations. The nature and essential components of these formative assessment tools in teaching and learning contexts are explained, with a discussion of research supporting their usefulness in enhancing learning across multiple educational contexts and disciplines. We provide examples of how both peer review and self-evaluation exercises have already been used in some courses and make specific suggestions regarding how these tools can be used across the law school curriculum as effective formative assessment tools, serving the goals of ABA Standard 314 without creating an undue burden on faculty even in large classes that rely primarily on a lecture or Socratic dialogue format. Finally, we conclude that incorporating formative assessment across the law school curriculum will benefit teachers and learners alike and suggest ways for law schools to create express incentives for faculty to develop and implement peer review and self-evaluation exercises across the curriculum.