Monday, September 16, 2019

Proof that Legal Education Reform Works

Florida International University has scored the highest pass rate for first time takers for the 5th straight year on the Florida Bar Exam.  (here)  The 5th straight year!  They did it by adopting teaching and learning techniques like those advocated on this blog and by legal education scholars like Dean Michael Hunter Schwartz.

This year, 111 of 116 FIU bar takers passed.  That's 95.7% versus an overall average of 73.9%.  For comparison, Florida State scored 86.8% (3rd) and Florida 87.9% (2nd).  FIU is ranked 91st in U.S, News.  The academic support program at FIU is run by Raul Ruiz and  Louis Schulze, Jr.

As I've mentioned previously, FIU succeeds where others fail because they stress active learning, metacognitive techniques, formative assessment, and problem solving.  Here is the abstract from an article by Professor Schulze on the FIU program (here):"

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." (emphasis added)

If the 91st ranked law school can score the highest on the Florida bar for five consecutive years, any law school can improve their bar pass rate.

I have written a book, How to Grow a Lawyer: A Guide for Law Schools, Law Professors and Law Students (2018), that lays out in  detail the most effective techniques for law school teaching and learning.  I have also written a book for law students, How to Succeed in Law School (2019), for law students, which includes many exercises to help novice law students adopt the best learning techniques.

(Scott Fruehwald)

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