November 17, 2006
Essay v. Multiple Choice: Choose one!
The latest issue of the Journal of Legal Education (Vol. 56, No. 1, p. 140) has a great article by Kenney F. Hegland of the University of Arizona questioning the trend towards multiple-choice tests in legal education. While I have been moving away from standard law school tests altogether, it seems that many profs are headed in the other direction, towards the most orthodox of methods.
Hegland pins the move to multiple-choice exams, in part, on the perceived trend of valuing scholarship over teaching: "Perhaps we are abandoning essay exams, not because we believe that they are educationally valueless, but because we have more important things to do. A good case can be made that our best use lies in scholarship rather than grading. If this is the rationale, then I think we should acknowledge that we are sacrificing some of our students' education, perhaps only a small part, on the altar of scholarship."
Though a link is not available, I urge you to find and read the rest of the article if you are thinking of moving to multiple-choice exams.
-- Mark Osler
How does innovation impact law school hiring?
The law school faculty hiring season is now in full swing, and that has me thinking about how innovation impacts law school hiring processes and decisions. As a faculty member who is usually just on the periphery of most hiring decisions, I tend to view a faculty candidate more favorably if he or she has a track record of (or at least an interest in) law school innovation. But I am probably not representative of most faculty members, and debates over particular candidates typically focus on "scholarly potential" and rarely on "innovation potential."
Moreover, I suspect and fear that faculty candidates who appear a bit too innovative may actually hurt their prospects in the law school hiring market. Despite the fact that most law faculties tend to be politically liberal, many faculty members can be quite reactionary when new persons champion ways to shake up the prevailing law school universe.
Posted by DAB.
November 15, 2006
A comical look at curricular reform
As noted here at the WSJ Law Blog, Jeremy Blachman, a 2005 Harvard Law grad and progenitor of Anonymous Lawyer, has this comical take on Harvard's new first-year curriculum. Jeremy proposes a bunch of new classes he would like to see at his alma mater, and here is his set-up:
I'm not sure I like the changes [to the HLS curriculum]. In a world where law school needs to compete for young people's attention with extreme sports, reality television, and Mark Foley's instant messages, Harvard needs classes that are both relevant and sexy. The rest of the faculty should take Alan Dershowitz's lead. He's offering a class this year called "Thinking About Taboo Subjects." The description includes words like "rape and child molestation," "torture," "eugenics," "abortion," "holocaust denial," and "scholarship." Even more promising, the class has the word "thinking" in the title. Not "reading," or "writing," or "completing a 40-hour intensive clinical project." Just "thinking." It sounds like a class even I would have been able to get excited about.
But classes like Prof. Dershowitz's are only the start. If I were in charge (and I shouldn't be) I'd leave the entire existing curriculum behind -- contracts, property, and that confusing class about exploding packages and broken swimming-pool slides -- and implement a completely new set of classes to reflect what young attorneys will need to thrive in their fledgling legal careers. A new law school curriculum for the next hundred years, since one curriculum change every century seems to be about all they're able to handle.
Though I like Jeremy's comical list of new classes (which include "Being a Supreme Court Justice" and "It's Not Like It Seems on TV"), I cannot help but give some serious thought to what the 1L year would look like if schools really had to create a curriculum with a "completely new set of classes."
Posted by DAB.
November 14, 2006
Blogs' impact on legal eduction
Over at Balkinization, Jack Balkin has this fascinating post asking "How do blogs change legal education?" Here is a snippet:
Does the presence of law professors outside their law school whom they can read everyday change their understanding of the law? What about the use of blogs in the classroom? And what about the presence of fellow students (from other schools or from their own institution)sharing experiences about what law school is like?...
I see my work on this blog as a natural extension of my work as a teacher, which reaches not only lawyers and law students but also the general public; naturally I hope that legal blogs also make traditional legal education richer. But I'd like to know whether law students believe that is so, or whether blogs make legal education less rewarding, less exciting, or more confusing for them. I'd be interested in hearing what people think in the comments section, particularly from students who have been in law school since the rise of the legal blogosphere.
The comments to the post are rich and diverse, and perhaps others here would like to chime in on this great topic. Posted by DAB.
November 13, 2006
Automated Podcasting for Educational Use
David Aldrich, Bradley Bell and Tim Batzel of the University of Washington have written Automated Podcasting Solution Expands the Boundaries of the Classroom, a paper that looks at an automated podcasting solution for educational use. The authors review design considerations for a university podcast program and include an overview of the University of Washington's podcasting architecture.
When Should a Law Conference be YouTubed?Gene Koo asks in comments to my earlier posting whether law conference hosts are generally game to YouTubing a conference. The answer, of course, is that it depends. I don't think conference hosts would want an audience member to film without permission and then post publicly. A law conference is not a campaign event by Senator George Allen. Why not? Some conferences are not public. More importantly, speakers often assume that they are speaking to a limited audience--those there that day. The contemporaneous audience feedback will help the speaker understand how her remarks are being interpreted and received by the audience. But doesn't YouTubing even those conferences help discipline those who would say different things to different audiences? Doesn't it make people more honest? In fact, I think it might make people less honest. Speakers might be less willing to make controversial statements knowing that those who disagree or who are the objects of their critique might be listening in. In academia, especially, one needs the freedom to moot arguments before an audience freely, without the constraints on what is popularly acceptable. I, of course, favor YouTubing as much as possible. But I would hope that, for law conferences, it would be done only with the permission of the speakers. Not all law professors are ready to share with the world at large in the manner of LonelyGirl15. Anupam Chander
Scouting the scouts
The AALS recruiting conference is the venue of choice for scouting would-be law professors. What we entrenched incumbents often forget, however, is that the scouts we send to the hiring combine are themselves being scouted by candidates for hints to our law schools' underlying cultures. At MoneyLaw, I've reported some feedback from this year's crop of entry-level candidates. Here's a taste:
Generally speaking, scout teams should leave the dean at home. Whenever deans did attend, they almost always asked the worst questions.
November 12, 2006
Students' perspective on testingA few days ago, I posted some thoughts on testing methods in this space, and placed a similar post on my Baylor blog, which serves as a useful and informal way of communicating with my students. You may find their comments interesting-- they are available here. -- Mark Osler
Seeking your input in a survey of new attorneys
LexisNexis has offered to help us (the Berkman Center's research initiative) learn more about how prepared new lawyers are for today’s legal work world by conducting a survey of recent graduates. I ask anyone with an interest in the topic to submit your suggestions for what this survey should entail. While not every question can be answered by this survey, I hope to get some good ideas as well as instigate some good discussion.
Because our project focuses on the influence of technology on practice and on education, I would especially appreciate questions that poke in that general direction.
So, to restate the question: As someone interested in legal education or training (whether you’re a law professor, law firm manager, CLE provider, director of professional development, legal technologist, law librarian, associate, or law student), what did you wish you knew about today’s newest attorneys (say, those with 0-5 years of experience)? Also, given limited resources, should we attempt to survey one population (say, big firm associates) more thoroughly, or try to get participants from across practice settings?
The Law Conference Will Be YouTubed
Law conferences often offer a useful means to come quickly up to speed on the hottest issues. Presenters typically provide enough background to make them accessible to a general legal audience. Yet only a few people can ever hope to attend any particular conference--typically because the conference is physically remote from most of its potential audience.
YouTube offers an important means for making law conferences available to a broader audience. Of course, a law school might use its own resources to host such video on its own website, but many law schools have not committed such significant resources for this purpose. Even more importantly, law school videos--even those from the most well-endowed law schools--often have technical issues in playback. YouTube, by contrast, simply works--and on a great array of platforms. Furthermore, YouTube provides both the storage space and bandwith which might prove expensive for a law school to offer on its own.
But here's a technical question for IP lawyers who deal in documentaries: To what extent does one need permission from conference speakers (and potential audience members, who speak also?) to broadcast their statements to the world via the Web? I would think that it is good etiquette to make people aware that their words might be publicized in this way, but is there a legal obligation to seek permission?