September 30, 2008

A survey-based examinitation of "law school success"

I just noticed on SSRN this interesting-looking new paper by Leah Christensen, titled "Predicting Law School Success: A Study of Goal Orientations, Academic Achievement, and the Declining Self-Efficacy of Our Law Students."  Here is the abstract:

The study presented in this article asked 157 law students to respond to a survey about their learning goals and motivations for learning in law school. The student responses were correlated to different academic variables, including class rank, LSAT scores, and undergraduate GPA. The study also explored whether any relationships existed between goal orientations (mastery or performance) and law school success (class rank).

The results were illuminating: Despite the performance-based curriculum of law school, the most successful students were mastery-oriented learners.  In contrast, there was no statistical correlation between performance-oriented learning and law school success.  Furthermore, the LSAT score was the weakest predictor of law school success.  The results also illustrated something else about successful law students: There was a cost to their success. Despite high achievement and mastery-oriented learning styles, the more successful law students were also more likely to doubt their individual abilities to understand and apply the law.  In this study, highly ranked law students rated themselves low on academic self-efficacy measures.  Low self-efficacy is a trait more typically associated with performance-orientation.  What accounts for this result?  The answer may lie within legal education's goal structure: a structure completely oriented towards performance.

Posted by DAB

September 30, 2008 in Recommended readings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 14, 2008

Interesting discussion of generational law faculty realities

In my view, many debates about law school reform and innovations are impacted, at least indirectly, by generational dynamics.  Consequently, I found this new piece on SSRN by Gregory Bowman, titled "The Comparative and Absolute Advantages of Junior Law Faculty: Implications for Teaching and the Future of American Law Schools," of interest.  Here is the abstract:

In the ongoing debate about how to improve law school teaching, there is a general consensus that law schools should do more to train junior faculty members how to teach.  While this may be the case, this consensus inadvertently leads to an implicit assumption that is not true - that in all facets of law teaching, junior faculty are at a disadvantage compared to senior faculty. In fact, there are aspects of law teaching for which junior faculty can be better suited than their senior colleagues. This Article reviews scholarship concerning law teaching and identifies three teaching factors that generally favor junior law faculty: generational proximity to the law school student body; recency of law practice experience as junior practitioners; and lower susceptibility to the problem of conceptual condensation - extreme depth of subject matter knowledge that makes it difficult to see subjects from the students' perspective.

This Article employs the economic concepts of (a) economies of scale or productive efficiency and (b) absolute and comparative advantage to suggest how these junior faculty advantages could be harnessed to improve law school teaching.  With respect to productive efficiency, it is suggested that greater intra-faculty dialogue can increase a law faculty's output of effective teaching.  Currently, senior faculty members often provide assistance or advice to junior faculty in areas of senior faculty expertise or advantage - such as depth of knowledge in a course's subject matter - but this is largely a one-way flow of information.  However, if junior faculty were also to provide insight and advice to senior faculty regarding areas of junior faculty advantage, the quality of law school teaching might be significantly enhanced. Junior-senior faculty dialogue might be promoted through a variety of means, including faculty workshops and even perhaps teaching reviews of senior faculty by junior faculty.

With respect to the concepts of absolute and comparative advantage, this Article suggests that law school teaching could be improved through the specialization of teaching functions. Instead of professors individually teaching separate courses, professors might coordinate their teaching (that is, team-teach) across a number of courses in the law school curriculum, as a means to more effectively harness the respective strengths (and minimize the respective weaknesses) of junior and senior faculty in the classroom.  Through the leveraging of junior faculty advantages, overall law school teaching might be significantly improved.  This Article concludes by discussing the implications of these recommendations for law school culture in general and for the legal profession as a whole.

May 14, 2008 in Recommended readings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 10, 2007

Just Released: Law School Leadership Strategies

Law School Leadership Strategies: Top Deans on Benchmarking Success, Incorporating Feedback from Faculty and Students,and Building the Endowment outlines the role of today's educational leaders and discusses the current state and future shape of law school management. Details at Law Librarian Blog. -- Joe Hodnicki

December 10, 2007 in Recommended readings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 19, 2007

Transforming Legal Education: Learning and Teaching the Law in the Early Twenty-First Century

Highly recommended. -- Joe Hodnicki

Transforming Legal Education: Learning and Teaching the Law in the Early Twenty-first Century
by Paul Maharg

List Price: $124.95
Hardcover: 346 pages
Publisher: Ashgate Pub Co (October 31, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0754649709
ISBN-13: 978-0754649700

Book Description: Transforming Legal Education makes the case for substantial change in the ways law is studied.  In a wide-ranging critique of current educational practices in our law schools and in society, the book argues for a contemporary adaptation of John Dewey’s concept of pragmatic and experiential learning, for a wider interdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning, and for greater engagement with technology-enhanced learning. 

In Part 1 of the book Maharg argues the case for deeper and more sustained interdisciplinary educational practice, drawing upon problem-based learning, rhetorical theory and practice, and approaches to education in other disciplines such as music and literature.  The book also argues for a more profound understanding of the history of legal education.  In the three case studies that comprise Part 2, Maharg explores three historical episodes in legal educational practice – the formation of the realist curriculum at Columbia in the 1920s; ethical education at Edinburgh University in the later eighteenth century; and thirteenth century glossed texts.  Part 3 consists of an extended case study of technology and experiential learning, incorporating aspects of the approaches analysed in Parts 1 and 2.  Throughout, the book holds that Dewey’s critique of education in his day is still relevant to legal education today.  His solutions, based upon variants of experiential learning, are taken by Maharg and applied in the extended case study of simulation learning in Part 3.  The book’s conclusion states the case for collaboration between legal educational institutions, and for a more experientially-grounded approach to theory and practice; and ends with a hubristic account of several hours of a student’s study time in 2047.

Online Companion Resources: The technological aspects of the book will be updated in the Zeugma blog, while the Transforming Initiative, a platform for those of us who are interested in contributing to the debate about the future of legal education, will be based upon a community of practice wiki. See generally, the book's website.

November 19, 2007 in Recommended readings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 09, 2007

A focus on what law schools can do better

Thanks to this post at f/k/a, I see that the latest issue of the bi-monthly online magazine The Complete Lawyer puts a focus on "What Can Law Schools Do Better?"  Here is a list/links to the feature pieces:

This issue also appears to have a lot of other intriguing pieces on the topic of legal education, and I hope in future posts to spotlight what strikes me as some of the more innovative aspects of the contents.

September 9, 2007 in Recommended readings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 01, 2007

Scholarship on the evolution of scholarship

Though I aspire to someday do scholarship on the scholarship discussing scholarship, here I will be content to spotlight two pieces from the genre I noticed at the always great MoneyLaw:

Abstract: Recent research details the close connections between a school's US News rankings and citations to a school's main law journal.  This brief essay builds on that research. Drawing upon John Doyle's database at Washington and Lee Law School, it looks to the 100 most-cited secondary student-edited law journals, with the goal of seeing the connections between well-cited secondary journals and school ranking.  A final table provides a ranking of the most-cited secondary journals.

Abstract: The authors contend that a boom in law school rankings has encouraged many U.S. law schools to take new measures to encourage and publicize faculty scholarship. The establishment of associate deans for faculty research is one such measure. The authors conducted a study to determine the number of law schools that have these dean-level positions. They argue that many law schools have established these positions as part of their efforts to improve their standing in the increasingly important rankings. The authors begin with a historical overview of the original law school model and discuss how that model evolved over time. They focus on how those changes led to a competitive law school market that helped lay the groundwork for U.S. News & World Report and other law school rankings. They then explore numerous alternative ranking methodologies and conclude with a study of ABA-accredited law schools that have appointed associate deans for faculty research.

March 1, 2007 in Recommended readings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 23, 2007

Simulations, part 1: Thinking like (and being) a lawyer

In my next few blog posts I’m going to focus on the role of simulations in the law school curriculum, writing both with reference to my current research as well as my own experience developing and participating in simulations.

Simulations and games can provide learning environments in which students develop the knowledge, skills, values, and identity that uniquely define a profession, according to Prof. David Shaffer of the University of Wisconsin. His new book, How Computer Games Help Children Learn, outlines how carefully-designed games can, with appropriate scaffolding by teachers, help learners develop appropriate “epistemic frames” for understanding the world and solving problems. While Shaffer’s book focuses on K-12 education, its focus on professional frames offers a very promising avenue to implement the recommendations of the Carnegie study to integrate doctrine with lawyering skills and ethical and moral considerations.

Simulations and Epistemology: “Thinking like clients”

Stanford might well be the leading law school developing simulation-based courses as part of its broader efforts to reshape upper-level classes, as Dean Larry Kramer described in an earlier LSI post. In a recent chat, Dean Kramer described to me the goal of these simulations as helping law students to “think like a client” rather than merely “think like a lawyers” across different doctrinal areas. Through simulations, law students work in teams with students from other graduate schools to solve a fully-described, substantive problem. “The responses from students,” he states, “have been tremendous.”

To get a better sense of how Stanford’s simulations might help law students to “think like clients,” I spoke with Stanford’s Vice-Dean, Mark Kelman, who offered several examples. In one recent course, eight law students worked prepped eight graduate science students for a simulated patent litigation (validity and infringement) case. The law students’ role was to help the scientists convey technical information to a lay audience. According to Kelman, “For the lawyers, if you can’t learn to both prep and understand the people who are the source of the IP, you’re grossly handicapped in your work.”

What, then, does it actually mean to “think like a client”? Returning to Shaffer’s framework of (1) knowledge, (2) skills, (3) values, and (4) epistemology, it seems clear to me that the IP simulation Prof. Kramer sketched out does not intend (primarily) to teach lawyers the knowledge or skills to be an engineer. Rather, by introducing law students to engineers’ values and broader sense of identity, these simulations help future lawyers better represent future clients by better understanding their needs. (Conversely, future engineers learn how to work with their attorneys to craft more effective IP protections for their inventions).

Of course, learning to “think like a client” is itself a skill – one that Dean Kramer is betting as foundational to not just “thinking like” but actually being a lawyer.

-- Gene Koo

January 23, 2007 in Deans and innovations, Recommended readings, Teaching -- pedagogy | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 06, 2006

Readings for the law school innovator?

I want to start assembling a reading list for would-be law school innovators.  Such a list should, of course,include lots of classics and modern pieces.  While readers perhaps use the comments to suggest classics, here is a modern piece by Carol Parker.  Her article is entitled "Institutional Repositories and the Principle of Open Access: Changing the Way We Think About Legal Scholarship" and is available here at SSRN.  Here is part of the abstract:

Open access to scholarship, that is, making scholarship freely available to the public via self-archiving in online institutional repositories (IR's), is a natural fit for legal scholarship given our tradition of making legal information available to citizens.  Legal scholars have enjoyed the benefits of open access to working paper repositories such as SSRN for more than ten years — even if they have not thought of this practice as "open access."  It is a natural progression for legal scholars to now self-archive published articles as well, and they are beginning to do so as awareness grows of the benefits of providing open access to legal scholarship.  IR's generate new audiences for legal scholarship and the publicity and download counts generated by repositories provide new ways to measure scholarly impact and reputation. IR's can be used to publish student scholarship, empirical data, teaching materials, and original historical documents uncovered during the research process. IR's also preserve digital work. Approximately 40% of U.S. law schools now have some form of institutional repository.

December 6, 2006 in Recommended readings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack