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Showing posts from March, 2018

The Experiential Simulation Course Checklist, Part 1

When developing courses to meet the requirements for experiential simulation courses, there are three ABA standards that come into play: Standard 303(a)(3), Standard 302, and Standard 304.

When combined, there are eight bullet points that one must meet to comply with the standards for experiential simulation courses**:
"Primarily experiential in nature" (Standard 303(a)(3)):  To meet this bullet point, an ABA Guidance Memo provides additional help. It notes that the "primarily" suggests "more than simply inserting an experiential component into an existing class." Furthermore, the "primarily" "indicates the main purpose of something." It is clear that the experiential nature of the course should be central to the course's design and should be prevalent across the entire length of the course. In fact, the ABA notes that the "experiential nature of the course should . . . be the organizing principle of the course, and the substan…

Cultivating Trust in the Classroom

Cultivating trust is one of the keys to effective collaboration. This is especially true in the classroom. The relationship between instructor and student can have a huge effect on how much the student learns. But how do we cultivate trust?

Here are just a few ways:

1) Creating "psychological safety." In a study by Google of what helps teams collaborate well, Google found that psychological safety, as measured by taking turns in discussions and team members demonstrating high degrees of social sensitivity. In the classroom context, this means students need to feel free to ask questions and speak up without fear of rejection by those sharing their classroom space. Instructors can foster this by making it clear that there are no "stupid" questions, by cultivating a supportive classroom atmosphere, and by encouraging students who ask questions or make comments with positive reinforcement.

2) Listening actively. When students feel that instructors and classmates are l…

Cognitive (Over)Load in First Year Legal Research Instruction

The research and analysis that we teach our students are processes, but when our students’ grades are based primarily on the documents they produce, students can have a difficult time internalizing those processes. This is partially due to what cognitive psychologists refer to as cognitive load.Cognitive psychologists define cognitive load as “the mental burden that managing working memory imposes on a person.”[1]
According to a 2015 law review article on cognitive load and legal writing: "Cognitive load theorists opine that the process of learning complex new information can exhaust a student’s finite working memory, perhaps capable of holding as few as two or three elements at a time. The complexity of the ‘element interactivity’—the interaction between various elements of the material to be learned—alters cognitive load. Thus, the complicated process of analyzing legal problems, researching their possible solutions, and communicating that analysis in writing can overwhelm stu…

Supporting Colleagues With Instructional Programming Ideas

In our respective law schools, we don't always have control over the amount of mandatory research instruction our students receive and who is doing that instruction. As such, to ensure that our students have the research skills they need for practice, librarians must use their creativity to come up with instructional opportunities for our students. There are so many iterations of non-credit legal research programs out there. Law librarians run certificate programs for students on legal research, run lunchtime brown bags on how to conduct topical research, partner with vendors to provide programming to benefit their students, hold quick Peanut Butter & Jelly and a Demo sessions highlighting a single resource, and much more.

Sometimes it takes multiple iterations of an idea to work. This means that we need to hesitate before discouraging a colleague who wants to try something, even if we've tried something similar before. It often takes the right team and spark of energy for…

Rethinking Formative Assessment

We've seen an increased significance placed on formative assessment in the legal academy. Standard 314 of the ABA Standards requires that law schools use both formative and summative assessment methods in their curriculum. Its rational for doing so is "to measure and improve student learning and provide meaningful feedback to students." The ABA defines formative assessment methods as "measurements at different points during a particular course or at different points over the span of a student's education that provide meaningful feedback to improve student learning."

Those of us in the legal research instruction business are no strangers to formative assessment. We are leaders in this in the law school curriculum, with rarely a class going by in which students do not practice their skills. Lately, though, I've been wondering whether I'm going about formative assessment in the way that will best provide meaningful feedback to students. In the mandator…

Research Conferences as a Practice Skill

Many first year legal research and writing include a conferencing component. Most of these conferences, however, focus primarily on the writing process. Conferences are held after students have struggled through the research process and have drafted at least some part of a memo or brief. There are many pedagogical reasons for the importance of research conferences (e.g. students are provided with individualized feedback), but one that is often overlooked is that research conferences help prepare students for practice by giving them opportunities to collaborate with other legal professionals and to orally communicate about the legal issues they are facing.

Through research conferences, students learn how to discuss the authorities they have located effectively and to communicate how they are relevant to the legal issues they are facing. This practice collaborating is key. As Susan Azyndar noted in her article "Work with Me Here: Collaborative Learning in the Legal Research Classro…

Research as Analysis in the Modern Legal Academy

For decades, those discussing best practices in legal education have highlighted the importance of skills education (see the Crampton Report, the MacCrate Report, the Carnegie Report, and Best Practices for Legal Education, for just a few examples). But, as legal writing, advocacy, and clinical courses have all emerged to take their rightful place as key components in law students' education, legal research has remained a shadow skill. Despite numerous reports from those hiring our students being dissatisfied with their research skills, legal research education remains relegated to the background even in first year skills classes with "legal research" in their very title.

At least in part, this is due to legal research having been divorced from the analysis that is central to the Langdellian model of legal education. In reality, analysis is central to successful research, and it is only by reclaiming research as an analytical skill in the modern legal academy that resear…