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October 06, 2016

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anon

I don't have any strong objection to these posts (other than to the fact that you quoted my last point about "this sounds like Kingfield" but refused to post my comment.)

Thus, not as an objection or criticism, but, really, just an honest observation: when you take out all the window dressing (references to studies of human learning, cognition, etc.) do you really portray this post as "new" thinking about law school learning?

Read the material, attend class, maintain skepticism, outline, read "Understanding ..." and the hornbook, take practice tests at the end of the semester.

This was the plan in the Paper Chase. This has been the standard fare for at least forty years. There is literally NOTHING new about any of these prescriptions. I am not guessing here.

Sorry, but it seems so much of the "new" stuff, with all the buzzwords and fancy jargon -- is just the old stuff.

Law profs love to pose as something else: an economist, a psychiatrist, a human cognition expert, etc.

Nothing here is new vis a vis the students, but what is new is the rampant dilettantism. I look forward to something new about teaching.

So far, these posts about law school student learning are sort of cliché.

Louis Schulze

Anon,

Thanks for your thoughts. Let me start by saying I think there's some validity to what you're saying. What I'm hearing is that you thought I was saying "here's some completely new method of learning that students should use." If traditional study methods were A,B,C, and D, you thought I was saying that I just created "E." Instead, I'm saying let's use the science to do A.B, C, and D in a more effective and efficient way and to convince students and faculty that these improvements ought to be used.

Let me see if I can address your specific concerns.

1. One of your thoughts was that profs are dilettantes, and (implicitly) that my foray into cognitive science is evidence of that. Here's the thing, in my line of work I HAVE to know this stuff. Part of my work is to support students who are struggling in law school. At my school, the vast majority of these students don't lack for aptitude. Most are just going about the law school learning thing WAY wrong. Why? Because that's the way they were taught how to learn in undergrad, etc.

In other words, these aren't students who shouldn't be in law school; they just need to change their learning in a big way. I have to know the details of learning science in order to figure out what they're doing wrong, how to tweak their approaches to studying, and how to prepare them to move forward on their own. When I recommend methods to them that are WAY outside what their colleagues are doing, I can back it up with science and not anecdote.

Academic support is not about just reteaching the law or correcting split infinitives. In order to produce real results (less attrition, improved grades, increased bar passage rates), we have to use very different methods than just more of the same of what students do in their classes.

2. Your second point was that everything I've said was just the same-old, same-old. That's not really my experience, and my point in this post was to try to move the ball in terms of the way law professors think about how students should learn. In my experience, speaking to ASP colleagues across the nation, too many (well-meaning) profs attempt to control students' learning. Moreover, too many schools are trying to improve bar passage rates by implementing programs that increase control over students. My thesis in this post was that schools should actually go the opposite direction.

Additionally, and I grant you that I didn't make this clear, I teach students all this stuff about cognitive science. Honestly, they tell me that my methods completely run counter to everything they (think they) know about how to "do" law school and all the messaging they get about studying.

More broadly, you say that my advice boils down to read the materials, read hornbooks, etc. That's not the case. What's new about what I'm saying includes: (1) students should create cognitive schema from the beginning of the semester (via outlining or other methods); (2) students should test their knowledge weekly as self-regulation and not just assume they get it; (3) students should develop their own study methods and consider it their responsibility to master the material; they shouldn't follow the mob or follow their college study routines; and (4) they should use spaced repetition and cognitive schema to digest doctrine better (more on this in later posts). They shouldn't assume that if they follow their professor's syllabus, that's all they need to know.

In short, throughout the semester, they should go beyond reading and attending class every single week by doing the additional steps I've laid out. This is very different from what law students actually do and what many faculty think is (or should be) the norm.

3. I also want to address your point that the citations to studies are mere window dressing. If I just come in here and say "here's what I do, just trust me," I wouldn't be that convincing. Instead, I'm trying to prove my points by saying "you don't have to believe me; this is based on empirically proven concepts." In my experience, this approach makes it more likely that students and faculty buy in.

4. Lastly, you say you look forward to new teaching methods. The point of my series of posts here is not to discuss what faculty could do differently. It's to discuss what students should do differently.

Scott Fruehwald

Look at it this way: Would you rather have a 1990 PC or a 2016 PC? Yes, the approach to legal education that Professor Schulze is discussing in these posts is that much better than the traditional method. The new approach can incorporate the Socratic/case method, but there needs to be much more. In two words that more is active learning. Professor Schulze has been giving the details in these posts, like retrieval practice, spaced practice, metacognition, and self-regulated learning. I am sure that there is more to come in his future posts.

The main point is that law schools can do much better by using these extensively-tested methods. Some law schools, like FIU, are already doing so, but all law schools must adopt the approaches to turn out the best students they can.

Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance King

The best training and learning experience I received in law school was when the Professors pushed forward with the material even though I didn't completely understand or catch on. It took me awhile to begin to "think like a lawyer" and absorb the concepts. It was a challenge. Many of my classmates came from "law" families and had an aptitude for this stuff. Nobody coddled me. Along with the regularly assigned material, I had to double down and read the Nutshells, Gilberts and Hornbooks. I had a strong desire to catch on. That experience even helps me today when I appear before a volume court judge. The law is always a learning process. Nobody should be coddled in law school. That judge with 300 defendants on her docket is not going to wait so you can "catch on."

Scott Fruehwald

The approach that Professor Schulze is talking about doesn't coddle law students. In fact, it is more rigorous than existing methods because it involves active learning. Also, read his comment above: "If I just come in here and say 'here's what I do, just trust me,' I wouldn't be that convincing. Instead, I'm trying to prove my points by saying 'you don't have to believe me; this is based on empirically proven concepts.'"

Louis Schulze

Captain,

I couldn't possibly agree with you more. It sounds like you used ... wait for it ... metacognition and self-regulation.

Thanks for your support.

LNS

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