3rd Annual Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers Conference, day 2

by Paul Maharg on 20/09/2014

First up today is a role play on the roadblocks to assessment, organised by Professor Mary Lynch..  We identified and discussed common roadblocks to assessment and propose ways to break them down.  Mary pointed out in her introduction that US education is at an interesting moment, after the Task Force; but there are possible roadblocks ahead that we need to think about.

In the role play, about new ABA guidelines on assessment and how one faculty’s members adapt (or not) to them, the issues raised were (as identified by the audience):  time faculty are stretched as they are, accredit ors are not serious, there is no incentive in this sort of thing, role of students was missing, status concerns within the faculty, autonomy of the faculty – academic freedom, resources that will be require or sacrificed from other parts of the budget, redundancy, how do you measure this, should we be measuring at all (eg No Child Left Behind argument), what’s the role of learning science in legal education, the belief that the Bar Exam is the only legitimate form of assessment, what is being assessed, language of assessment can be daunting, fear of accountability.

We then discussed these issues at our tables, and fed back on issues.  Fear of accountability was fed back to the group — use of time, resources, re-allocation of employment resources.   Another group focused on incentives — comparable to the incentives for research.  Linking resources to achievement of outcomes; summer stipends, change course evaluations, teaching ought to be improved.  Resistence to ABA mandates was discussed at the next table.  Don’t assume faculty are all against it; gather existing data to minimise change, and show examples from other institutions.

Clear explanation of assessment at all levels was required, we need to tap into university resources; show off success stories, create internal and external resources for faculty.  Outside facilitators could be useful.  Senior faculty could be incentivised.  Stipends are carrots; sticks are meaningful review (creative assessment).  Inertia…  Incentives — committee relief, formalise committee participation; bring ETL simulation resources, give them a platform, where faculty could meet and maintain momentum of a project (these were good points, I thought).

Is it possible to measure learning?  Three ideas on this.  Training is required.  Specific take-aways from events were needed.  Focus the faculty on graduate LOs.  Form a coalition of the willing.

Resistance to skillsets…We should try to name the insecurity and the fear of doing new things.  Make it clear it’s OK to make mistakes.  Student voice should be brought in.  Place of students?  Have a student rep on a curriculum committee, esp re assessment.  Peer grading, self-assessment.  Have someone into learning science on the committee.

May then began to wrap up, calling for more ideas and reflections on how to help your institution to move forward.  This was a fine session, opening up a lot of practical issues that typically need to be thought through when we think out of our curricular and pedagogic boxes; and the whole conference was involved.  Thanks to Mary Lynch for organising it.

I’ll need to miss the next session — dealing with stuff including the referendum result, more of which here on this blog when I have time; and it’s my session after lunch (slides will be up on the Slides page, as usual).

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