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Formative Assessment in Doctrinal Classes: Rethinking Grade Appeals

Formative Assessment in Doctrinal Classes: Rethinking Grade Appeals

Reviewed by Sandra Simpson, Gonzaga University School of Law

Article: Formative Assessment in Doctrinal Classes: Rethinking Grade Appeals

Written by: Professor Roberto Corrada, University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Published: Journal of Legal Education, Volume 63, Number 2 (November 2013)

In this article, Professor Corrada makes a compelling case for allowing students to appeal their grade on the mid-term exam.  Professor Corrada realized that creating long and detailed rubrics for exams was not helpful if students never reviewed them.  To give them an incentive to review his exam comments, he began giving a mid-term exam, which, he reasoned would encourage students to look at the feedback.  He noted when students came to review their exams with him, many of them had good arguments and probably deserved a better grade.  He felt that he demanded excellence from his students and so shouldn’t he demand that of himself.  The idea of allowing students to appeal their midterm grade was his solution. If the students had a chance to appeal, they might glean more from the review of their midterm.

In developing this idea, he came up with a system which is both efficient and workable. His appeal rate is about 70%, and he believes almost every student reviews his/her/their exam.  Among the many advantages he has found is that it encourages students to think critically about what they are writing and to question assumptions. Further, through explanation students often realize they don’t write what they mean; learning to fix this common error is key to a successful law practice.

The article addresses concerns including the extra time this process takes (which is not as much as one might expect) and gives the reader a step-by-step guide to implementing this appeals process.


Review:  Teaching Online Will Make You a Better Teacher in Any Setting

Review: Teaching Online Will Make You a Better Teacher in Any Setting

Reviewed by Sandra Simpson, Gonzaga University School of Law

Article: Teaching Online Will Make You a Better Teacher in Any Setting [1]

Written by Kevin Gannon [2]

Published in The Chronicle of Higher Education

The article, “Teaching Online Will Make You a Better Teacher in Any Setting,” is a great article which highlights how pushing ourselves to teach in another setting will make us a better teacher.  Here the other setting is a completely different setting.  Professor Gannon makes it clear that online teaching is not where good teaching goes to die, but quite the opposite.  He makes the point that “teaching in another setting forces you to “critique and modify, or affirm and expand, the way you operate in the physical classroom.”  Specifically, online teaching, he says, helps you design and assess the course more effectively; helps you really think about why you spend time on what you do; and prompts you to explain/communicate more effectively in all your courses.  This is a motivating piece which has moved to the forefront of importance due to the ever-expanding online offerings at all out schools.


[1] The article can be found here https://www.chronicle.com/article/Teaching-Online-Will-Make-You/247031?cid=wcontentgrid_hp_9

[2] Professor Gannon is a Professor of History, Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Review:  Normalizing Struggle

Review: Normalizing Struggle

Reviewed by Sandra Simpson, Gonzaga University School of Law

Article: Normalizing Struggle[1]

Written by Catherine Martin Christopher
Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Bar Success, Texas Tech University School of Law

In this article, Professor Christopher makes an excellent argument for normalizing and even celebrating our students’ struggle to acquire, retain, and apply the information taught in law school.  She encourages us not to see our students’ struggle as a problem and but rather asks us to “reorient our attitudes toward the struggle.”  Not only will this help our students learn and retain knowledge better but it will help our students be better equipped to handle the stressors of being a lawyer.

The article starts with examining how our current system conflates struggle with failure, which marginalizes our students, and continues by discussing how pervasive the struggles are among our students.  Part III teaches us how to reframe the struggle to being productive, and Part IV gives us some best practices to help students to work with their struggles.  Lastly, the article ends with encouraging the institution as a whole to normalize and encourage the struggle.  Even though I consider myself fairly well-read when it comes to assessment and teaching techniques, I found a plethora of new articles to read in the article’s footnotes.  What is more, I found some great ideas to incorporate into my classes this fall. These ideas ranged from good topics for first day discussions with students to good ways to implement information retention strategies.  One of my favorite parts of this article paints an image of an elementary student standing in front of a chalkboard with chalk in her hand unable to solve the problem on the board.  She is in front of everyone.  The teacher, not wanting her student to be humiliated, has the child sit down and calls another child up to solve the problem.  Professor Christopher asks the thought-provoking question of “what if it wasn’t embarrassing to not have the right answer?”  To me this is a mind-blowing concept, and yet it is so simple.  What if we helped the student solve the problem by embracing the student’s struggle?  I am inspired, and the article gives me the tools to do this!  Don’t let the 33 pages of this article scare you away from reading it.  The time slips by quickly and the ideas are abundant.


[1] Forthcoming in the Arkansas Law Review 2019 but can be accessed at SSRN https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3378829

Review:  Fifty Ways to Promote Teaching and Learning

Review: Fifty Ways to Promote Teaching and Learning

Reviewed by Sandra Simpson, Gonzaga University School of Law

Article:  Fifty Ways to Promote Teaching and Learning
Written by Gerry Hess, Michael Hunter Schwartz, & Nancy Levit[1]

As the introduction to Fifty Ways to Promote Teaching and Learning states, “In 1999, The Journal of Legal Education published an important article for law schools seeking to improve the quality and quantity of faculty scholarship output, James Lindgren’s Fifty Ways to Promote Scholarship.”  Lindgren’s article reports that at least one law school saw improvement in scholarly output after implementing some of these ideas.  The current article reviewed here, addresses the other side of a professor’s job, teaching.  It provides fifty ways to promote teaching and learning in your law school.  The authors make clear that not all schools will find all the suggestions useful, but implementing some of the ideas should help schools promote good teaching and learning, and creating a culture of teaching and learning.  The article is filled with great ideas from administrative and financial support for teaching sabbaticals to requiring learning objectives in every course.  “The core idea is creating a culture of learning about teaching and continuous improvement of all faculty members as teachers.”  At its core, this article encourages deans and faculty to discuss teaching and learning, adopt some of the ideas, and track the schools progress.

As a side note, our faculty had a round table discussion about the ideas in the article.  The article was circulated to all of our faculty at Gonzaga.

[1] This article was published in The Journal of Legal Education, Volume 67, Number 3 (Spring 2018).

 

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