2017 Assessment Institute

It’s been a while since my last blog post, for which I’m very sorry! The Fall was a busy semester. I was in Cambodia on a Fulbright and a bug I picked up there knocked me off my feet for a while.  But, I’m better and back to blogging.

Max Huffman at Indiana University McKinney School of Law alerted me that the annual Assessment Institute will be held this year from October 22-24 in Indianapolis.  Law school assessment will be featured on the Graduate Track, which Professor Huffman will be co-directing.  There is a request for proposals. Looks like it will be a great event.

Upcoming ILT Conference on Formative Assessment

Although the ABA standards concern themselves primarily with programmatic assessment—this is, whether a school has a process to determine if students are achieving the learning goals we set them and then using the results to improve the curriculum—they also speak to course-level assessment. While the ABA standards do not require formative assessment in every class (see Interpretation 314-2), the curriculum must contain sufficient assessments to ensure that students receive “meaningful feedback.”

Thus, I was delighted to learn from the ASP listserv that the Institute for Law Teaching and Emory Law School will be hosting a conference on course-level formative assessment in large classes on March 25, 2017, in Atlanta, Georgia. More information at the link above.

Checklist for Getting Started with Assessment

I’m at a conference, Responding to the New ABA Standards: Best Practices in Outcomes Assessment, being put on by Boston University and the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning.  The conference is terrific, and I’ll have a number of posts based on what I’ve learned  today.

It strikes me that law schools are at varying stages of assessment.  Some schools—particularly those who have been dealing directly with regional accreditors—are fairly well along.  

But other schools are just getting started.  For those schools, I recommend keeping it simple and taking this step-by-step approach:

  1. Ask the dean to appoint a assessment committee, composed of faculty who have a particular interest in teaching and learning.
  2. Start keeping detailed records and notes of what follows.  Consider a shared collaboration space like OneDrive or Dropbox.  
  3. As a committee, develop a set of 5-10 proposed learning outcomes for the JD degree, using those in Standard 302 as a starting point.  (Alternatively, if you wish to start getting broader buy-in, ask another committee, such as a curriculum committee, to undertake this task.)  If you school has a particular mission or focus, make sure it is incorporated in one or more of the outcomes.
  4. Bring the learning outcomes to the full faculty for a vote.
  5. Map the curriculum.  Send a survey to faculty, asking them to identify which of the institutional outcomes are taught in their courses.  If you want to go further, survey faculty on the depth of teaching/learning (introduction, practice, mastery).  Compile a chart with the classes on the Y axis and learning outcomes on the X axis.  Check off the appropriate boxes to indicate in which courses the outcomes are being taught (the point of assessment is to identify whether students are actually learning them).  
  6. Identify one of the outcomes to assess and how you’ll do so: who will measure it, which assessment tools they’ll use, and what will be done with the results.
  7. Put your learning outcomes on your school’s website.

All of this can probably be done in 1-2 years.  It essentially completes the “design phase” of the assessment process.  Separately, I’ll post about some ideas of what not to do in the early stages …