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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A Simple Low-Cost Institutional Learning-Outcomes Assessment Process For Law Schools

Andrea Anne Curcio (Georgia State), A Simple Low-Cost Institutional Learning-Outcomes Assessment Process, 67 J. Legal Educ. 489 (2018):

Law school institutional learning outcomes require measuring nuanced skills that develop over time. Rather than look at achievement just in our own courses, institutional outcome-measures assessment requires collective faculty engagement and critical thinking about our students’ overall acquisition of the skills, knowledge, and qualities that ensure they graduate with the competencies necessary to begin life as professionals. Even for those who believe outcomes assessment is a positive move in legal education, in an era of limited budgets and already over-burdened faculty, the new mandated outcomes assessment process raises cost and workload concerns. This essay addresses those concerns. It describes a relatively simple, low-cost model to measure institutional law school learning outcomes that does not require any initial changes in individual faculty members’ pedagogical approach or assessment methods.

It explains how a rubric method, used by the Association of American Colleges and Universities [AAC&U] and medical educators to assess a wide range of nuanced skills such as critical thinking and analysis, written and oral communication, problem-solving, intercultural competence, teamwork, and self-reflection, could be adapted by law schools. The essay explains a five-step institutional outcomes assessment process: 1. Develop rubrics for institutional learning outcomes that can be assessed in law school courses; 2. Identify courses that will use the rubrics; 3. Ask faculty in designated courses to assess and grade as they usually do, adding only one more step – completion of a short rubric for each student; 4. Enter the rubric data; and 5. Analyze and use the data to improve student learning. The essay appendix provides sample rubrics for a wide range of law school institutional learning outcomes. This outcomes assessment method provides an option for collecting data on institutional learning outcomes assessment in a cost-effective manner, allowing faculties to gather data that provides an overview of student learning across a wide range of learning outcomes. How faculties use that data depends upon the results as well as individual schools’ commitment to using the outcomes assessment process to help ensure their graduates have the knowledge, skills and values necessary to practice law.

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