Editorial: Legal Education Reform

This short New York Times editorial discusses possible means of reforming law school. Specifically it discusses how some law schools are embracing two year plans and others are considering a two years in class and one year apprenticing.  The point of the article is that the case method taught in most American law schools is antiquated and need to be replaced.

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Fair Representation for Adjuncts

Adjunct faculty members play an important role in all levels of higher education.  They bring a practical aspect to the classroom and often work hours that meet nontraditional students’ needs.  However, there is a war being waged between adjunct faculty and full-time faculty with regards to benefits and union representation.   An article posted in The Chronicle of Higher Education on November 20, 2011 discusses this issue and the underlying problems behind it.

The article entitled “Unions Confront the Fault Lines Between Adjuncts and Full-Timers,” address in length the debate of adjunct faculty being underrepresented in the three largest unions for faculty of higher education.  The three organizations are the American Association of University Professors, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Education Association.  It is alleged that these three organizations are run by, and for, the benefit of tenure track faculty and recently have not supported the efforts of adjuncts opposing current employment practices.

Adjuncts are now faced with a pressing problem of continuing union representation by the AAUP, AFT, and NEA or starting a new union solely for the benefit of adjuncts.  There are benefits to both and this is an issue that is likely to continue and gain attention.

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Time to Overhaul Casebooks?

According to Michael Hunter Schwartz of Washburn University School of Law, “Legal education has enough scholar-driven casebooks. What legal education needs right now are learning-centered casebooks written by experts in law teaching.” His recent article describes shortcomings of currently available casebooks and defines desirable features of casebooks to maximize student learning.

He presents five distinctive goals for casebooks, including:

-creating practice-ready lawyers.
-improving instructional design.
-fusing pre-existing values with legal values.
-assisting with effectiveness of day-to-day classroom teaching.
-providing meaningful opportunities for practice and feedback.

Download the full article here.

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Why Science Majors Change Their Minds

Politicians and educators are pushing students toward STEM majors, but their efforts are proving unsuccessful.  Younger students think science is fun; however, their excitement dwindles when they begin college and enter what Professor David E. Goldberg calls “the math-science death march.”  As declared STEM majors drop out of their programs at nearly double the rate of other programs, educators realize that something needs to change.  Faculty members are beginning to use more interactive teaching methods, which they hope will be a solution to the problem, and will both grab and maintain their students’ attention.  Find out more in this New York Times article.

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Teaching Analytical Writing Through Rubrics

A goal across all levels of education, particularly undergraduate and beyond, is to instill strong analytical thinking and writing skills in students. After learning the value of rubrics when teaching these skills, Maria Rost Rublee, Ph.D., University of Tampa, researched analytical writing rubrics, but found that most instructor resources were geared toward middle and high school level students, not undergraduates. She decided to construct her own.

After creating the rubric, Rublee shared it and expectations of critical writing with her students. She also conducted an informal assessment of the success of the rubric. The result? Students better understood the expectations of a quality, analytical paper, and this showed in their final grades. See her results and rubric in this article.

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Goal: Transformation of Public Schools

Recently, superintendents in Connecticut met to propose solutions to meet the needs of a changing student population, ever-expanding technology, and growing influence of a global economy. The results included both broad-spectrum goals, such as aligning education with how students learn, and specific elements, like allowing access to school materials year-round and for extended hours. The proposal stresses that these changes must be part of ongoing transformations, not simply a one-time modification.

The full report includes 12 key themes, such as:

-Raise the Bar
-Make it Personal
-Start with Early Childhood
-Make it Personal by Design
-Retool Assessments and Accountability
-Leverage Technology
-Continue Transformation

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A Shift Toward the Practical

For several years, the job market has been tight for new law school graduates. In an effort to garner attention from employers, several schools are adding new courses or changing requirements to make graduates more attractive. For example, Harvard Law School has created a problem-solving class for first-year students, and Washington and Lee University School of Law has updated courses by swapping out Socratic-based classes for case-based simulations led by practicing attorneys. Read more about these changes in this Wall Street Journal article.

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The ABA Standards Review Committee recently concluded that law schools must better articulate student learning goals and performance measures. A suggested method to accomplish this goal is peer editing. Currently, most legal education centers on final exams, with few additional assessments. It is advised that engaging students in peer editing exercises will improve not only writing and analytical skills, but also self-confidence and building successful collaborative relationships.

This article, published by the Nevada Law Journal, comprises three parts. Part I describes the process and benefits of utilizing peer review techniques. Part II introduces a framework for instructors to organize peer-editing assignments. Part III concludes with a call to law schools to incorporate peer feedback throughout programs.

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Out With Textbooks, in With Laptops for an Indiana School District

Utilizing technology in the classroom is not a news. However, an entire school district doing away with textbooks and replacing them with laptops for the all 2,600 student is newsworthy. The attached article outlines the hurdles and accomplishments that one school district overcame to replacing the traditional textbook with laptops for students in grades 5-12.

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Practice Ready

Law firms lamenting the fact that the recently hired associates are not ready to practice right out of law school is not new. Several law schools have banded together to change that perception. This article from National Jurist outlines how a consortium of law school are working to produce practice ready attorneys.