Tonight I am giving a talk at a conference sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Law Teaching (CELT) at Albany Law School. The conference, which has attracted over 100 attendees (mostly clinical and doctrinal professors), is entitled Setting and Assessing Learning Objectives from Day One. The full program for the conference can be found here. It looks to be a terrific conference that will advance the discussion about outcomes-driven assessment and curricular design in legal education.
In many ways, this conference is the continuation of the Legal Education at the Crossroads: Assessment Conference that I hosted at the University of Denver in September of 2009. Much has happened in this area since that conference, and it is a good time for those who are moving the discussion forward to gather again to learn from each others’ experiences and developing knowledge.
My talk tonight, which starts off the conference, is entitled Update on Outcomes Reform in Legal Education. I have decided that I need to provide some background before I get to updates – I am concerned that some of the attendees might feel like they are coming into the middle of a conversation, so a little background is warranted. Of course Mary Lynch, the conference organizer and Director of CELT, has given me an impossible task. Providing a precise update on a topic that is expanding like kudzu throughout legal education is almost impossible.
But here is a link to the Prezi that will go with my talk. I have used the age-old journalist’s model of the Five “Ws” and one “H” to structure my remarks. And I have intentionally used the metaphor of the background picture – we are climbing a mountain, and assessment can be the red guide rope that we have needed for many years.
During my talk, I will cite several reference points. Of course, the latest draft of the Accreditation Standards on outcomes are important, and we will look at that. Here is a link to the current draft. On the subject of objections to outcomes assessment, everyone should read Mary Lynch’s article (forthcoming in the William Mitchell Law Review) The Top Ten Myths Concerning Student Learning Outcomes in Legal Education. In her article, Mary describes and addresses 10 common objections that most of us involved in outcomes assessment have heard from some of our colleagues.
I will also reference Bloom’s taxonomy, and how helpful it (and several of its offspring) can be when trying to articulate learning outcomes. Here is a link to the graphic version of the taxonomy that I used in my talk, which also includes several other versions of the Bloom “wheel.” I make reference to the Shultz/Zedick Lawyering Effectiveness factors, and you can find a list of those, and an article describing them, here. And I will speak a bit about my concern that there exists some confusion between the terms Professionalism and Professional Identity; they are not the same, and I think understanding PI as a separate learning outcome is a critical step in achieving the goals of the Carnegie report, as will being able to assess how well (and in what direction) we are advancing the development of professional identity in our students. I have a blog post about the confusion issue here, where I try to explain my view of the separation between the two concepts.