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January 7, 2009

Student survey on laptops in the classroom, legal writing and other LSI topics of note

A new piece from The Chronicle of Higher Education, headlined "Survey Gets Law-School Students' Thoughts on Laptops, Writing, and Ethics," covers a lot of topics that often garner our attention here at LSI.  Here are a few snippets from this article:

Law-school professors are fed up with students using laptop computers in class to surf to Facebook, eBay, everything but LexisNexis. And some have even banned the distracting machines.  But results from a new survey show that an outright ban might not be such a good idea.

The 2008 Law School Survey of Student Engagement, released today, suggests that, when used wisely, laptops can actually enhance student engagement.  The survey found that class-related laptop use correlates highly with reported gains in several areas, including critical and analytical thinking.

Students who used laptops for class-related activities, like reading case briefs or taking notes, were more likely than students using laptops during class for other purposes to be engaged in classroom discussions, synthesize concepts from different courses, and work hard to meet faculty expectations, the survey found....

This year's survey gathered responses from 29,000 students at 85 law schools, up from 79 schools last year. The data were collected in a brief Web-based questionnaire that had a response rate of 53 percent.

The survey results show that most students receive opportunities to practice legal writing, a pillar of the law-school curriculum. Nearly 85 percent write at least one medium-length paper during the academic year, the survey report says, and 70 percent write at least one paper of 20 pages or more.  But more than a third of students still reported that they would like more time to practice writing, which surprised the researchers.  Such a finding, they say, shows the importance of soliciting student feedback.

"Legal education is behind most other professions in terms of having information about the student experience," said George D. Kuh, a professor of higher education at Bloomington and director of the survey.  "It is steeped in tradition, which in and of itself isn't a bad thing, but that tradition did not take into account or even consider student reports of what happened to them."

All the details of the 2008 Law School Survey of Student Engagement can be found at this site.  Available there is this official press release, which provides more highlights from the survey.  That press release includes this account of these notable findings from the 2008 LSSSE:

  • More than a third of all law students wanted more opportunities to do practice-based legal writing during law school.

  • Students pointed to clinics and professional responsibility courses as the most effective settings for learning legal ethics.

Posted by DAB

January 7, 2009 in Teaching -- pedagogy | Permalink

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