Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Students’ preparation for higher-level thinking

If you thought legal writing students are less prepared than in the past, you may not be imagining it.  Kenneth Bernstein recently posted a piece on the Washington Post blog titled A Warning to College Profs from a High School Teacher. “I have some bad news for you,” he writes. Among his points: many of his students came to high school without having had “meaningful social studies instruction” because No Child Left Behind undervalued that subject. And the students’ previous writing experience required neither deep thinking nor “proper grammar, usage, syntax, and structure.”  His Advanced Placement course was expected to cover so much material that he had difficulty making time to explore it in depth. And even grading of Advanced Placement tests does not consider grammar, rhetoric, or format (such as including an introduction and conclusion). The tests are scored by a rubric, and a student who hits the points on the rubric passes.

In short, Bernstein seems to be saying that excessive reliance on formulas has replaced emphasis on deeper, independent thinking—which is just the kind of thinking students need to do in our courses.


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