TaxProf Blog

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

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

In Defense Of Student Evaluations Of Teaching

Student Evaluations (2017)Following up on yesterday's post, Why We Must Stop Relying On Student Ratings Of Law School Teaching — Like The University Of Oregon Is Doing:  Chronicle of Higher Education op-ed:  In Defense (Sort of) of Student Evaluations of Teaching, by  Kevin Gannon (Grand View University):

[W]e know student evaluations matter. Perhaps the better question is: Should they? Given their many demonstrable and potential flaws, why would we still use them to gather feedback on teaching and learning? It turns out the answer is more complicated than appearances suggest.

Certainly, students are not experts qualified to evaluate us on, say, whether we used the best and most applicable course readings. But they are experts on what they experienced and learned in a course, and they ought to have a voice. Just because their feedback is sometimes misused doesn’t mean it’s invalid or unnecessary.

In fact, course evaluations — despite their many problematic elements — may still provide the most accurate information available on teaching effectiveness. Elizabeth Barre, whose research into student evaluations — in particular, the metastudies of the subject — is essential reading, observed that "we have not yet been able to find an alternative measure of teaching effectiveness that correlates as strongly with student learning. In other words, they may be imperfect measures, but they are also our best measures."

And therein lies the rub: We need to assess teaching, and we often have to rely on not the best, but the least worst, option. ...

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May 8, 2018 in Legal Education, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 7, 2018

Why We Must Stop Relying On Student Evaluations Of Law School Teaching — Like The University Of Oregon Is Doing

Chronicle of Higher Education op-ed:  Why We Must Stop Relying on Student Ratings of Teaching, by Michelle Falkoff (Northwestern Law School):

Few academics will be surprised to hear that more evidence has come out showing that student evaluations of teaching are often biased.

The latest study [Gender Bias in Student Evaluations], released this year by the American Political Science Association, found that the "language students use in evaluations regarding male professors is significantly different than language used in evaluating female professors." The study also showed that "a male instructor administering an identical online course as a female instructor receives higher ordinal scores in teaching evaluations, even when questions are not instructor-specific."

Table 1

Kristina Mitchell, one of the study’s authors, summarized its findings in Slate last month and concluded: "Our research shows they’re biased against women. That means using them is illegal." Academic institutions must stop giving an inordinate amount of weight to student evaluations when making employment decisions, she argued, until the institutions can account for, address, and eliminate bias.

Unfortunately, there’s no consensus on how best to do that, and gender isn’t the only kind of bias at issue. Still, it’s time for academic institutions to do better on this front. ...

[I]t’s time to stop relying primarily on one approach — in this case, student evaluations of teaching — and move to a more holistic strategy in which multiple factors contribute to a more accurate, consistent, and well-rounded assessment.

I was convinced of that by my experience as director of the program in communication and legal reasoning at Northwestern University’s law school.

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May 7, 2018 in Legal Education, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Call for Papers: New Voices In Tax Policy And Public Finance (2019 AALS Annual Meeting)

The AALS Tax Section committee is pleased to announce the following Call for Papers:

CALL FOR PAPERS:
AALS SECTION ON TAXATION WORKS-IN-PROGRESS SESSION
2019 ANNUAL MEETING, JANUARY 2-6, 2019, NEW ORLEANS, LA
NEW VOICES IN TAX POLICY AND PUBLIC FINANCE
(co-sponsored by the Section on Nonprofit and Philanthropy Law and Section on Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation)

The AALS Section on Taxation is pleased to announce the following Call for Papers. Selected papers will be presented at a works-in-progress session at the 2019 AALS Annual Meeting in New Orleans, LA from January 2-6, 2019. The works-in-progress session is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, January 5.

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May 3, 2018 in Conferences, Legal Education, Scholarship, Shuyi Oei, Tax, Tax Profs, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

More Evidence That Student Evaluations Are Biased Against Women

Following up on last week's post, Students Rate Male Professors More Highly Than Female Professors:  Daily Tar Heel, NC State Research Shows Male Professors Receive Higher Ratings Than Female:

UNC

For professors, student evaluations are used to assist decisions on promotions, raises and tenure. But research from North Carolina State University shows that the evaluations a professor receives are linked to their gender, with male professors receiving higher and more favorable ratings than female professors [What’s in a Name: Exposing Gender Bias in Student Ratings of Teaching].

In 2014, researchers at N.C. State used online courses, where an instructor’s gender could be hidden, to test this gender bias. Four sections of an online class were taught by two instructors: a female instructor and a male instructor. Each taught two sections, using their true identity for one and adopting a name of the opposite gender for the other.

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April 17, 2018 in Legal Education, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Global IFA Writing Competitions

IFA Logo (2015)Following up on my previous post, 2018 IFA International Tax Student Writing CompetitionGlobal IFA Writing Competitions (2018):

  • IFA President YIN Scientific Award
  • Mitchell B. Carroll Prize
  • Maurice Lauré Prize

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March 14, 2018 in Tax, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 2, 2018

University Of Minnesota Study: Enhanced Individualized Feedback In One Core 1L Class Improves Student Performance In Other Classes

Minnesota LogoDaniel Schwarcz (Minnesota) & Dion Farganis (J.D. 2017, Minnesota), The Impact of Individualized Feedback on Law Student Performance, 67 J. Legal Educ. 139 (2017):

For well over a century, first-year law students have typically not received any individualized feedback in their core "doctrinal" classes other than their final exam grades. Although this pedagogical model has long been assailed by critics, remarkably limited empirical evidence exists regarding the extent to which enhanced feedback improves law students' outcomes. This Article helps fill this gap by focusing on a natural experiment at the University of Minnesota Law School.

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March 2, 2018 in Legal Education, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

2017 IFA International Tax Student Writing Award; Call For Entrants In 2018 Competition

IFA Logo (2015)The winner of the International Fiscal Association's 2017 International Tax Student Writing Competition is David Maranjan (Virgina), What’s in a Name? XILINX, ALTERA, and Why Using “Arm’s Length” as a Catchall is Causing Problems for Treasury,  47 BNA Tax Mgmt. Int'l J. ___ (2018)
Faculty Sponsor:  Ruth Mason

2018 IFA International Tax Student Writing Competition:
Subject: Any topic relating to U.S. taxation of income from international activities, including taxation under U.S. tax treaties.
Open to: All students during the 2017-18 academic year pursuing a graduate degree. Any appropriate papers written in fall 2017 or spring and summer 2018.
Submission Deadline:  September 30, 2018.
Prize:  $2,000 cash, plus expenses-paid invitation to the IFA USA Branch Annual Meeting in Feb 2019.

Here are the recent winners:

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February 28, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 25, 2018

NY Times Op-Ed: The Misguided Drive To Measure 'Learning Outcomes'

Here at Texas Tech University School of Law we are gearing up for our ABA site inspection.  In the past few years the ABA has required law schools to create "Learning Outcomes."  Here's the language from Section 3.02:

A law school shall establish learning outcomes that shall, at a minimum, include competency in the following:
(a) Knowledge and understanding of substantive and procedural law;
(b) Legal analysis and reasoning, legal research, problem-solving, and written and oral communication in the legal context;
(c) Exercise of proper professional and ethical responsibilities to clients and the legal system; and
(d) Other professional skills needed for competent and ethical participation as a member of the legal profession.

This is the first year that the site teams will be evaluating a law school's compliance with the new standard.  We knew it was coming and I have been on a committee for the past three years that has been trying to translate this standard into operation. While I believe we have done a good job with it, I also believe the standard to be of questionable value. 

I read with pleasure this New York Times op-ed by Molly Worthen, The Misguided Drive to Measure 'Learning Outcomes'.  I especially like its concluding line:  "[T]here's just no app for that." 

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February 25, 2018 in Bryan Camp, Legal Education, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (7)

Friday, February 23, 2018

Charleston Law Students Win 7th Consecutive National Tax Moot Court Competition

2018 National Tax Moot CourtPost and Courier, Charleston School of Law Moot Court Team Defends its Dynasty With 7th National Title:

To the uninitiated, tax moot court might sound like a bit of a snoozefest.

Unlike the academic marathon of a spelling bee or the sassy courtroom repartee of "Judge Judy," deliberations over the finer points of U.S. tax code do not make for a lively spectacle.

But to the Charleston School of Law, the 2018 National Tax Moot Court Competition in St. Pete Beach, Florida, was a chance to defend a dynasty. The school's Moot Court Board had won the championship six years in a row leading up to the event on Feb. 1-3, and its team was ready to notch a seventh national title. ...

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February 23, 2018 in Legal Education, Tax, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 22, 2018

2017 Tannenwald Tax Writing Competition Winners

Tannenwald (2016)The Theodore Tannenwald, Jr. Foundation for Excellence in Tax Scholarship has announced the winners of the 2017 tax writing competition:

First Prize ($5,000):
David Berke (Yale), Reworking the Revolution: Treasury Rulemaking & Administrative Law
Faculty Sponsor:  Anne L. Alstott

Second Prize ($2,500):
Daniel W. Blum (NYU), Treaty Shopping and its Prevention in a Post-BEPS World Limitation-on-Benefits, Beneficial Ownership and the Principal Purpose Test: Evolution, Underlying Rationales and Interrelation
Faculty Sponsor:  H. David Rosenbloom

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February 22, 2018 in ABA Tax Section, Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Colker: Stop Banning Laptops In Law School Classrooms!

LaptopRuth Colker (Ohio State), Universal Design: Stop Banning Laptops!, 39 Cardozo L. Rev. 483 (2017):

Banning laptops in the classroom constitutes a needless barrier to academic performance that is increasingly common at the university level. In this article, I review the existing literature that is cited to support laptop bans and show how that literature does not, in fact, support such a ban. Further, I report a modest empirical study that reflects that students who use laptops in a large lecture class do as well as students who do not use laptops so long as Internet use of the laptop is clearly and effectively banned. The article concludes that a permissive laptop policy should be on the list of Universal Design features that supports effective learning for all students.

Colker

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January 21, 2018 in Legal Education, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (5)

Friday, January 12, 2018

American College of Employee Benefits Counsel Student Writing Competition

ACBThe American College of Employee Benefits Counsel is sponsoring its 14th Annual Employee Benefits Writing Competition on any topic in the field of employee benefits law. The competition is open to any J.D. and graduate (L.L.M. or S.J.D) law students enrolled at any time between August 15, 2017 and August 15, 2018.

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January 12, 2018 in Legal Education, Tax, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 5, 2018

From Business Tax Theory To Practice In Law School Clinics

Alina S. Ball (UC-Hastings) & Manoj Viswanathan (UC-Hastings), From Business Tax Theory to Practice, 24 Clinical L. Rev. 27 (2017):

The past decade has seen a dramatic increase in the number of business law clinics in legal academia. This increase in clinical transactional courses has not, however, resulted in a proliferation of transactional tax clinical offerings. Although tax issues, including federal, state, and local tax matters, are an integral consideration of nearly every business transaction, most business law clinics explicitly exclude tax representation from their client services. For clients of business law clinics that are social enterprises — companies that combine market-based business strategies and social mission — this lack of tax-focused representation is problematic for two reasons.

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January 5, 2018 in Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

An Empirical Analysis Of Law School Learning Strategies

Jennifer M. Cooper (Tulane) & Regan A. R. Gurung (Wisconsin), Smarter Law Study Habits: An Empirical Analysis of Law Learning Strategies and Relationship with Law GPA, 62 St. Louis. L.J.  ___ (2018):

Non-empirical law school study advice that emphasizes reading and briefing cases, memorizing rules, and outlining without frequent self-testing and formative self-assessment is contrary to cognitive science and leads to a "law school learning trap." Law students fall into a "law school learning trap" by focusing on memorization of cases and rules for "class prep," putting off practice application of the law as "exam prep." Law students and legal educators misjudge the power of testing as a learning tool, instead relying on non-empirical, anecdotal resources to guide law student study methods.

Empirical research from a Law Student Study Habit Survey shows that practice application of the law through self-testing, self-quizzing, and elaborative strategies positively correlates with academic success in law school, while reading and briefing cases, weak critical reading skills, and rote memorization of rules without practice applying the law negatively correlates with academic success in law school.

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November 28, 2017 in Legal Education, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Socratic Method

The Socratic method is much maligned these days.  I do not personally use it when teaching Tax.   I use a problem method where I lecture on a topic then assign homework problems to the students which we then go over in the next class period.  

But I do use the Socratic method of teaching when I teach my first year students Civil Procedure.  I confess I am not great at it, but I think that, properly used, it really helps students learn how law is both determinate and indeterminate at the same time.   It's not determinate when you are trying to predict the legal outcome (is the deduction allowable or no?  does the court have personal jurisdiction over the defendant or no?).  But it becomes determinate once the legal authority rules!  That was the point of my post the other week about the power of fact-finding.  

Here's a nice opinion piece in the Washington Post about how Socrates would not make it as a teacher in today's high schools.

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November 26, 2017 in Bryan Camp, Legal Education, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

2018 Tannenwald Tax Writing Competition

Tannenwald (2013)The Theodore Tannenwald, Jr. Foundation for Excellence in Tax Scholarship and American College of Tax Counsel are sponsoring the 2018 Tannenwald Tax Writing Competition:

Named for the late Tax Court Judge Theodore Tannenwald, Jr., and designed to perpetuate his dedication to legal scholarship of the highest quality, the Tannenwald Writing Competition is open to all full- or part-time law school students, undergraduate or graduate. Papers on any federal or state tax-related topic may be submitted in accordance with the Competition Rules.

Prizes:

  • 1st Place:  $5,000, and publication in the Florida Tax Review
  • 2nd Place:  $2,500
  • 3rd Place:  $1,500

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November 22, 2017 in Legal Education, Tax, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 28, 2017

A 'Marvel'ous Dinner

Tax Court (2017)On October 19th the Tax Court was in Lubbock in the person of Chief Judge Paige Marvel.  The Court’s involvement with the ABA Tax Section is well known, but I did want to give a shout-out to its equally important involvement with legal education.  Each year the tax faculty at Tech Law (myself, Alyson Outenreath, Steve Black, Vaughn James, and Terri Morgeson) hold a Tax Careers Panel at the Law School (graciously sponsored in recent by the Texas State Bar Tax Section). We always time it so that we can invite the Tax Court Judge to be on the panel. We are delighted that every judge has participated.

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October 28, 2017 in Bryan Camp, Law School, Legal Education, Miscellaneous, Tax, Tax Profs, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

FBA Tax Law Student Writing Competition

FBA

The Federal Bar Association Section on Taxation invites J.D. and LL.M. students to participate in the 2017 Donald C. Alexander Tax Law Writing Competition:

The Federal Bar Association Section on Taxation is once again sponsoring an annual writing competition and invites law students to participate. The Donald C. Alexander Tax Law Writing Competition is named in honor of former IRS Commissioner (1973-1977) Don Alexander, who passed away in 2010. Mr. Alexander was a widely admired role model and advocate for writing skills and style in the area of tax law throughout his career.

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October 10, 2017 in Legal Education, Tax, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

IFA International Tax Student Writing Competition

IFA Logo (2015)The International Fiscal Association is sponsoring the 2017 International Tax Student Writing Competition:

Subject:  Any topic relating to U.S. taxation of income from international activities, including taxation under U.S. tax treaties.

  • Open to:  All students during the 2016-17 academic year pursuing a graduate degree. Any appropriate papers written in fall 2016 or spring and summer 2017.
  • Submission Deadline:  September 30, 2017.
  • Prize:  $2,000 cash, plus expenses-paid invitation to the IFA USA Branch Annual Meeting in February 2018.

Here are the recent winners:

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September 24, 2017 in Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 9, 2017

ABA Tax Section Releases 17th Annual Law Student Tax Challenge Problem

ABAThe ABA Tax Section has released the J.D. Problem (rules; entry form) and LL.M. Problem (rules; entry form) for the 17th Annual Law Student Tax Challenge:

An alternative to traditional moot court competitions, the Law Student Tax Challenge asks two-person teams of students to solve a cutting-edge and complex business problem that might arise in everyday tax practice. Teams are initially evaluated on two criteria: a memorandum to a senior partner and a letter to a client explaining the result. Based on the written work product, six teams from the J.D. Division and four teams from the LL .M. Division receive a free trip (including airfare and accommodations for two nights) to the Section of Taxation 2018 Midyear Meeting, February 8-10, 2018 in San Diego, CA, where each team will defend its submission before a panel of judges consisting of the country’s top tax practitioners and government officials, including tax court judges. The competition is a great way for law students to showcase their knowledge in a real-world setting and gain valuable exposure to the tax law community. On average, more than 50 teams compete in the J.D. Division and more than 30 teams compete in the LL .M. Division.

IMPORTANT DATES

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September 9, 2017 in ABA Tax Section, Legal Education, Tax, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

McMahon Wins University Of Cincinnati 2017 Teaching Award

McMahon2017 Goldman Prize for Excellence in Teaching:

For over 30 years, students at the University of Cincinnati College of Law have had the opportunity to recognize excellence in teaching by recognizing professors who distinguish themselves in the classroom, and whose accomplishments in research and public service contribute to superior performance in the classroom.

Congratulations to this year’s Goldman Prize for Excellence in Teaching awardees: ...

Stephanie McMahon, Professor of Law
Professor Stephanie McMahon goes above and beyond the standard for teaching. Wrote a student in her nomination letter, “She is one of those professors you remember forever who has the ability to change your view on a subject that most expect to dislike.”

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August 15, 2017 in Legal Education, Tax, Tax Profs, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Bird-Pollan Wins University Of Kentucky 2017 Teaching Award

Bird-Pollan (2017)UK Law's Jennifer Bird Pollan is 2017 Duncan Teaching Award Recipient:

Jennifer Bird Pollan, James and Mary Lassiter Associate Professor of Law, is the recipient of the 2017 Duncan Teaching Award at the University of Kentucky College of Law. 

Every year, a UK Law faculty member is recognized for excellence in the classroom, courtesy of the Robert M. and Joanne K. Duncan Faculty Improvement Fund – established in 1982 to promote outstanding teaching performance at the college.

Professor Bird-Pollan joined the UK Law faculty in 2010. She teaches a variety of Tax Law courses, including Basic Income Tax, Corporate Tax, Partnership Tax and International Tax. She is fully engaged in the academic welfare of her students and they enjoy her both inside and outside the classroom.

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August 14, 2017 in Legal Education, Tax, Tax Profs, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Turing on AI and Lawyer-Automatons

As I've mentioned previously, the Savannah Law Review is hosting a colloquium on September 15, 2017 entitled The Rise of the Automatons, examining the legal implications of automation.  Ominous predictions like "the Singularity is coming" usually provoke me, and this one prompted my project for this summer, Halting, Intuition, Heuristics, and Action: Alan Turing and the Theoretical Constraints on AI-Lawyering, now available.  

I'm unimpressed with frenzied reactions generally and in this area particularly. Here's the abstract:

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August 5, 2017 in Colloquia, Legal Education, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Winners Of The 2017 Tax Analysts Student Writing Competition

Tax Analysys Logo (2013)2017 Tax Analysts Student Writing Competition:

Tax Notes:

  • Jeremy Mandell (Illinois)
  • Christopher Massie (Illinois)
  • Zoe Nutter (Sydney)

State Tax Notes:

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August 1, 2017 in Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Finkelstein On How And Who To Teach Transactional Skills

What is the optimum mix (if there is to be a mix at all) in legal education as among theory, doctrine, and "skills"? And as to the "skills," who is going to teach them? And as to transactional skills, historically the least amenable to either simulation or clinic pedagogy, add "how" to the question of "who."  Oh, and by the way, what do law professors have against getting practitioners actively involved in both the "who" and the "how"?

Those are the subjects of a provocative article, Barriers to Entry: Putting it Together School by School (to be published in the Journal of Experiential Education) by Jay Finkelstein, a corporate and securities partner at DLA Piper in the D.C. area.

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July 5, 2017 in Legal Education, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (6)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Alice Abreu Receives Temple University's Great Teacher Award

Abreu (2017)Temple Law Professor Alice Abreu Honored with Great Teacher Award:

From the volume of letters offered in support of her nomination, it is clear that Temple Law Professor Alice Abreu has been a Great Teacher for a very long time. On April 25th, Temple University made that official by honoring her with the Great Teacher Award, the highest honor bestowed by Temple upon its faculty.

Temple Law Dean Gregory Mandel took the opportunity to heap praise upon Professor Abreu, tempered with light-hearted teasing for her “boundless and infectious passion for tax law.” “Yes, you heard me correctly,” he confirmed to laughter from the faculty in attendance. “I realize that phrase has never before been uttered.” Mandel went on to describe the “universal admiration of all who know Professor Abreu,” not only for her “zeal for tax law,” but also for her “passion for teaching… and her excitement for drawing colleagues into the intersection of tax law and their practice areas.”

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May 16, 2017 in Legal Education, Tax, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

2017 Tannenwald Tax Writing Competition

Tannenwald (2013)The Theodore Tannenwald, Jr. Foundation for Excellence in Tax Scholarship and American College of Tax Counsel are sponsoring the 2017 Tannenwald Tax Writing Competition:

Named for the late Tax Court Judge Theodore Tannenwald, Jr., and designed to perpetuate his dedication to legal scholarship of the highest quality, the Tannenwald Writing Competition is open to all full- or part-time law school students, undergraduate or graduate. Papers on any federal or state tax-related topic may be submitted in accordance with the Competition Rules.

Prizes:

  • 1st Place:   $5,000, and publication in the Florida Tax Review
  • 2nd Place:  $2,500
  • 3rd Place:  $1,500

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February 21, 2017 in Legal Education, Tax, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Northwestern Study: Excellent Teaching Is Unrelated To Excellent Research (And Vice Versa)

NorthwesternBrookings Institution: Are Great Teachers Poor Scholars?, by David Figlio (Northwestern) & Morton O. Schapiro (Northwestern):

Colleges and universities must balance many goals, and research universities in particular aspire to excellence in both teaching and research. University administrators and policymakers alike are interested in ensuring that publicly-supported private and public universities operate at high levels of instructional and scholarly quality, but to date we know little about whether scholarly excellence comes at a cost in terms of teaching quality, or vice versa.

We bring to bear unique matched student-faculty data from Northwestern University, a midsized research university that is one of the 26 private universities among the 62 members of the Association of American Universities, to investigate the relationship between teaching and scholarly quality. Using the full population of all first-year undergraduates enrolled at Northwestern between fall 2001 and fall 2008 (over 15,000 students in all), we empirically generate two new measures of teaching quality—one an indicator of inspiration (the rate of “conversion” of non-majors to majors) and the other an indicator of deep learning (the degree to which a professor adds lasting value to students’ learning that is reflected in success in future classes). We also investigate two measures of research quality—one based on a measure of the relative importance of a scholar’s research in the field, and the other a measure of national or international prominence as reflected by major awards.

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January 28, 2017 in Legal Education, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (5)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Course Source: The Casebook Evolved

Stephen Johnson (Mercer), The Course Source: The Casebook Evolved, 44 Cap. U. L. Rev. 591 (2016)

Psychologist Abraham Maslow once noted that “it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” Law students are changing, law schools are criticized for failing to prepare practice-ready lawyers, and there is nearly universal consensus that legal education must transform. However, the principal tool that many faculty rely on to prepare their courses, the Langdellian casebook, is ill-suited for the transformation. The prototypical casebook that is still the standard for many courses today was designed for the Socratic dialogue and case method mode of instruction. While there is still a place for that method of instruction in legal education, other methods of instruction, the carriage bolts and lag screws of modern legal education, cannot be hammered down with the traditional casebook.

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January 11, 2017 in Legal Education, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, December 18, 2016

2016 Tannenwald Tax Writing Competition Winners

Tannenwald (2016)The Theodore Tannenwald, Jr. Foundation for Excellence in Tax Scholarship has announced the winners of the 2016 tax writing competition:

First Prize $5,000:
Jesse Boretsky (Yale), Redefining a Blurry Line: A Proposal to Reform the Taxation of Pension Fund Business and Investment Income
Faculty Sponsor:  Yair Listokin

Second Prize (tie, $2,000):

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December 18, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Chodorow:  Snape On Taxes

SnapeTaxProf Blog op-ed:  Snape on Taxes, by Adam Chodorow (Arizona State):

Every fall, as I prepare to teach again after a 3-month hiatus, I am reminded of a scene from the first Harry Potter book. The students, some bright-eyed, others fearful, file into Professor Snape’s dungeon classroom for their first Potions class. Glaring out at his students, he introduces them to the subject he loves, but which he fears they will barely comprehend. The passage reads as follows:

You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potion-making,” he began. He spoke in barely more than a whisper, but they caught every word – like Professor McGonagall, Snape had the gift of keeping a class silent without effort. “As there is little foolish wand-waving here, many of you will hardly believe this is magic. I don’t expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses…I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death – if you aren’t as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach.

What if Snape taught tax? Many of our students would likely equate the two subjects. Regardless, with apologies to J.K. Rowling, here’s what I imagine he would say:

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September 1, 2016 in Celebrity Tax Lore, Legal Education, Tax, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, August 19, 2016

Call For Participants In Tax Discussion Group: Summer 2017 SEALS Annual Conference

SEALs Logo (2013)From Alyssa DiRusso (Cumberland);

I am in the process of proposing a discussion group for SEALS 2017 to discuss assessment and pedagogy in tax courses. Because this will be a discussion group and not a “panel,” participants are still permitted to join a panel presentation as well. Please let me know if you are tentatively interested in being part of the discussion group for purposes of the proposal. You do not need to be a member of SEALS to participate, so long as at least half of the group consists of members. The annual meeting of the Southeastern Association of Law Schools will be held at The Boca Resort in Boca Raton, Florida, from July 30-August 6. Here is the draft of the discussion group proposal:

Discussion Group: Pedagogy and Assessments in Tax Courses

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August 19, 2016 in Conferences, Tax, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Larson:  Developing Critical Thinking Skills And Practice-Ready Lawyers

Joni Larson (Indiana Tech), To Develop Critical Thinking Skills and Allow Students to Be Practice Ready, We Must Move Well Beyond the Lecture Format, 8 Elon L. Rev. 443 (2016):

Casebooks are constructed around the case method of teaching - reading appellate opinions to understand the law. However, when the case method approach is compared to what an attorney is expected to do in practice, there is a definite gap. If students are to emerge from law school with practice ready skills, they must be given the opportunity to learn and practice a variety of skills and develop the necessary qualities that will allow them to effectively and efficiently enter the practice of law.

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August 18, 2016 in Legal Education, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 12, 2016

13th International And European Tax Moot Court Competition

KI13th International and European Tax Moot Court Competition 2016-2017:

KU Leuven (Brussels) and IBFD will organize in academic year 2016-2017 the 13th edition of the International and European Tax Moot Court Competition. ... 

Students will work intensively on a case drafted by IBFD researchers specifically for purposes of this competition. They will draft memoranda and present their case to a panel of renowned judges selected from academia and private practice. The Academic Chairman of the IBFD, Professor Pasquale Pistone, will serve as Arbitrator.

The 13th edition contains two parts. A first, written, phase runs from October till December 2016. The second, oral, phase will be held in Leuven from 26 March till 1 April 2016. There is no pre-selection based on the written phase, hence, all participating teams will defend their case during the oral pleadings.

The 2016-2017 Competition is open to sixteen universities. Universities are invited to send in their application by the specific deadline depending on the start of the academic year:

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August 12, 2016 in Legal Education, Tax, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 6, 2016

SEALS 2016 Annual Conference

SEALs Logo (2013)The Southeastern Association of Law Schools 2016 Annual Conference continues today in Amelia Island, FL.  Among today's highlights:

Philosophies and Approaches to Law School Teaching
What are the philosophies of teaching held by experienced and effective law professors? How do these teachers approach the law school classroom? More specifically, how do the professors define their learning goals for their students? What are the things these teachers do that make them effective? This panel answers these and other questions about the art and science of teaching.

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August 6, 2016 in Conferences, Legal Education, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 10, 2016

Brunson:  Is It Time To Ban Clickers In The Law School Classroom?

ClickersThe Surly Subgroup:  Teaching Tax — On Clickers and Laptops, by Sam Brunson (Loyola-Chicago):

I’ve used clickers in class ever since I started teaching. In fact, thanks to Paul Caron’s tireless advocacy, I’ve known I was going to use clickers since before I entered academia.

And, like Paul, both I and my students have found clickers tremendously helpful in the classroom. In my experience, they do three main things:

  • They force all students to actively engage with the class. It’s easy enough to sit back in class and passively absorb (or not) the content. Sure, whomever I call on has to actively engage, but I can only call on a small portion of my class on any given day. But clicker questions allow students to not only listen, but actually answer, at least a handful of questions.
  • They tell me how well the students grasp what I’m teaching. If most of the students get the right answer, I know my explanation and the discussion were helpful. If a significant portion get it wrong, I know that I need to go back and address it again (and, depending on the answers they choose, I may be able to figure out where I or they went wrong).
  • They tell my students how well they grasp what I’m teaching. If most of the students get the problem right, a student who gets it wrong knows that she may need to go back and review the topic. Or ask a question. Or do something else.

But I have a problem: ...

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June 10, 2016 in Legal Education, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Making Better Use Of The First And Last Five Minutes Of Class

SmallJames Lang (Professor of English and Director of Center for Teaching Excellence, Assumption College; ), Small Changes in Teaching (March 2016):

The First Five Minutes of Class:

The opening five minutes offer us a rich opportunity to capture the attention of students and prepare them for learning. They walk into our classes trailing all of the distractions of their complex lives — the many wonders of their smartphones, the arguments with roommates, the question of what to have for lunch. Their bodies may be stuck in a room with us for the required time period, but their minds may be somewhere else entirely.

It seems clear, then, that we should start class with a deliberate effort to bring students’ focus to the subject at hand. Unfortunately, based on my many observations of faculty members in action, the first five minutes of a college class often get frittered away with logistical task. ...

I offer four quick suggestions for the first few minutes of class to focus the attention of students and prepare their brains for learning.

  1. Open with a question or two. ...
  2. What did we learn last time? ...
  3. Reactivate what they learned in previous courses. ...
  4. Write it down. ... Let a writing exercise help you bring focus and engagement to the opening of every class session. Build it into your routine. Class has begun: time to write, time to think.

In writing, as in learning, openings matter. Don’t fritter them away.

The Last Five Minutes of Class:

In my experience — having observed many dozens of college courses over the past two decades — most faculty members eye the final minutes of class as an opportunity to cram in eight more points before students exit, or to say three more things that just occurred to us about the day’s material, or to call out as many reminders as possible about upcoming deadlines, next week’s exam, or tomorrow’s homework.

At the same time, we complain when students start to pack their bags before class ends. But why should we be surprised by that reaction when our class slides messily to a conclusion? We’re still trying to teach while students’ minds — and sometimes their bodies — are headed out the door. We make little or no effort to put a clear stamp on the final minutes of class, which leads to students eyeing the clock and leaving according to the dictates of the minute hand rather than the logic of the class period. ... [L]et us turn to better ways we can make better use of the final five minutes in class.

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April 12, 2016 in Book Club, Legal Education, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 11, 2016

Should Law Schools Give Summer Grants To Faculty For Teaching Projects As Well As For Research?

Summer GrantsMost law schools offer summer research grants.  The latest Society of American Law Teachers survey reports summer research grant awards at 82 law schools (41% of all law schools), ranging from $3,000 at Gonzaga (ranked #132 in U.S. News) to $27,500 at Georgia (#33).  Only one of the Top 25 law schools (Iowa) responded to the SALT survey, and anecdotal evidence suggests that summer research grants are much higher at those schools, often 2/9 of salary. The Best Practices for Legal Education blog "suggests that in addition to research grants, schools consider summer teaching innovation grants":

At Georgia State, like at many schools, our dean has encouraged us to integrate experiential learning throughout the curriculum.  And, he has put his money where his mouth is.

Faculty can compete for  summer teaching innovation grants which are funded at the same level as research grants. Both junior and senior faculty members have taken advantage of the summer grant  opportunities to either revamp existing courses or create new ones.

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April 11, 2016 in Legal Education, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

AALS YouTube Channel On Law Teaching

Friday, March 4, 2016

2016 National Tax Moot Court Competition Results

Moot CourtHere are the results of the 2016 National Tax Moot Court Competition sponsored by the Florida Bar Tax Section:

  1. Charleston (photo below)
  2. Loyola-Chicago
  3. Alabama

Best Brief:  Oregon (runner up: Loyola-Chicago)

Best Oralist:  Anna Boning (Charleston)

Charleston Post and Courier, Charleston School of Law Wins National Tax Moot Court Championship:

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March 4, 2016 in Tax, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Winners Of The 15th Annual Law Student Tax Challenge

15th LSTCABA Tax Section, Winners of the 15th Annual Law Student Tax Challenge:

The Section is pleased to announce the winners of the 15th Annual Law Student Tax Challenge, a contest designed to give students an opportunity to research, write about, and present their analyses of a real-life tax planning problem. The competition is open to both J.D. and LL.M. law students. The teams presented oral arguments before a panel of distinguished tax lawyers and tax court judges attending the Section of Taxation 2016 Midyear Meeting in Los Angeles, CA, with the winners honored at a reception during the meeting.

The awardees from this year's competition include:

J.D. Division

1st Place:
Scott Woody and Frank Cardoza
University of New Mexico School of Law
Coach: Mary Pareja

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March 1, 2016 in ABA Tax Section, Tax, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 17, 2015

University of Chicago Law School Study: Better Scholars Are Better Teachers

Tom Ginsburg (Chicago) & Thomas J. Miles (Chicago), The Teaching/Research Tradeoff in Law: Data from the Right Tail, 39 Evaluation Rev. 46 (2015):

Background: There is a long scholarly debate on the trade-off between research and teaching in various fields, but relatively little study of the phenomenon in law. This analysis examines the relationship between the two core academic activities at one particular school, the University of Chicago Law School, which is considered one of the most productive in legal academia. Method: We measure of scholarly productivity with the total number of publications by each professor for each year, and we approximate performance in teaching with course loads and average scores in student evaluations for each course. In OLS regressions, we estimate scholarly output as a function of teaching loads, faculty characteristics, and other controls. We also estimate teaching evaluation scores as a function of scholarly productivity, fixed effects for years and course subject, and faculty characteristics. Result: Net of other factors, we find that, under some specifications, research and teaching are positively correlated. In particular, we find that students’ perceptions of teaching quality rises, but at a decreasing rate, with the total amount of scholarship. We also find that certain personal characteristics correlate with productivity. Conclusion: There recent debate on the mission of American law schools has hinged on the assumption that a trade-off exists between teaching and research, and this article’s analysis, although limited in various ways, casts some doubt on that assumption.

Chicago Chart

Orin Kerr (George Washington), Is There a Teaching/Scholarship Trade-off in Law Schools?:

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July 17, 2015 in Legal Education, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Measuring Teaching Excellence: Shifting From Delivery Of Course Content To Impacting Student Lives

CTEInside Higher Ed, What Is Teaching Excellence?:

College and university faculty are expected to be excellent teachers. In public, college leaders emphasize to potential students and their parents that at their institution, teaching matters above all else. Colleges seem to unabashedly promote that the teaching done by their faculty is markedly better than at peer institutions -- or that the opportunities for close working relationships between students and faculty are unique to their campus. ...

There is no shortage of lip service from various academic ranks on the value of teaching excellence. ... But what exactly is teaching excellence? Institutional commitments, workshops, conferences and journals, all sharing the intent of improving teaching and content delivery, do not necessarily translate to a universal agreement on exactly what it is we are improving.

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April 23, 2015 in Legal Education, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Tax Teachers of the Year

AALS

The AALS has released the names of Teachers of the Year (2013-14) at their respective law schools. The Tax Prof Teachers of the Year are Joshua Blank (NYU), Jeffrey Maine (Maine), and Shu-Yi Oei (Tulane).

April 7, 2015 in Legal Education, Tax, Tax Profs, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Faherty Student Tax Writing Competition -- $3,000 First Prize

Friday, March 20, 2015

LegalED: Igniting Law Teaching -- A TEDx-Style Conference on the Future of Legal Education

March 20LegalED hosts its second conference today on Igniting Law Teaching: A TEDx Style Conference on the Future of Legal Education (webcast) at American:

The conference will feature talks by 30 law school academics and practitioners from the US, Canada and England in a TEDx-styled conference to share ideas on teaching methodologies.  LegalED’s Teaching Pedagogy video collection includes many of the talks from last year’s conference, which have been viewed collectively more than 5000 times. ...

The Igniting Law Teaching conference is unlike other gatherings of law professors.  Here, talks will be styled as TEDx Talks, with each speaker on stage alone, giving a well scripted and performed 8 minute talk about an aspect of law school pedagogy.

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March 20, 2015 in Conferences, Legal Education, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 6, 2015

L.A. Times: Classroom Technology Bans Improve Student Performance

GadgetLos Angeles Times, Classes That Go Off the Grid Help Students Focus:

USC professor Geoffrey Cowan is a scholar of free speech and communication. But Cowan, the former dean of the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, insists that students sometimes should be cut off from the social media and websites that are so prevalent in their lives.

Cowan bans the use of laptops, cellphones and wireless devices during the freshman introductory class "The Changing World of Communication and Journalism" that he co-teaches in the fall with current Annenberg Dean Ernest J. Wilson III. Like a growing number of professors nationwide, the USC professors say that electronic equipment, even just for note taking, causes students to mentally disconnect from lectures and distracts them from class discussions.

The sneaky, or sometimes brazen, texting, Web surfing and Facebook browsing disrupts the teaching and learning environment, they say.

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March 6, 2015 in Legal Education, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

2015 Tannenwald Tax Writing Competition

Tannenwald (2013)The Theodore Tannenwald, Jr. Foundation for Excellence in Tax Scholarship and American College of Tax Counsel are sponsoring the 2015 Tannenwald Tax Writing Competition:

Named for the late Tax Court Judge Theodore Tannenwald, Jr., and designed to perpetuate his dedication to legal scholarship of the highest quality, the Tannenwald Writing Competition is open to all full- or part-time law school students, undergraduate or graduate. Papers on any federal or state tax-related topic may be submitted in accordance with the Competition Rules.

Prizes:

  • 1st Place:  $5,000, and publication in the Florida Tax Review
  • 2nd Place:  $2,500
  • 3rd Place:  $1,500

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February 17, 2015 in Legal Education, Tax, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

American College of Employee Benefits Counsel Student Writing Competition

ACBThe American College of Employee Benefits Counsel is sponsoring its 11th Annual Employee Benefits Writing Competition on any topic in the field of employee benefits law. The competition is open to any J.D. and graduate (L.L.M. or S.J.D) law students enrolled at any time between August 14, 2014 and August 15, 2015. Two $1,500 prizes will be awarded. The submission deadline is June 2, 2015.

January 17, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Geier Publishes Free Income Tax Textbook

CALIDeborah H. Geier (Cleveland State) has published a free eLangdell textbook, U.S. Federal Income Taxation of Individuals (CALI 2014):

As one, lone law professor, I have little direct ability to reduce tuition costs for my students. When writing this textbook, however, I decided to decline expressions of interest from the legacy legal publishers in favor of making this textbook available as a free download over the internet (in ePub format for iPads, Mobi format for Kindles, and pdf format for laptops), with an at-cost, print-on-demand alternative for those who like a hard copy. Fortunately, eLangdell (a division of CALI, the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction) has been an ideal partner in this regard.

In addition to eliminating (or lowering) student cost, this mode of publication will permit me to quickly and fully update the book each December, incorporating expiring provisions, inflation adjustments for the coming calendar year, new Treasury Regulations, etc., in time for use in the spring semester, an approach that avoids cumbersome new editions or annual supplements. This publication method also makes the textbook suitable for use as a free study aid for students whose professors adopt another textbook, as this textbook walks the student through the law with many more fact patterns and examples than do many other textbooks. While this practice adds length, I believe that it also makes the book more helpful to students in confronting what can be daunting material. Finally, having the textbook easily accessible to foreign students enrolled in a course examining the U.S. Federal income taxation of individuals is important to me, and having the textbook available as a free internet download succeeds well in that regard.

A Teacher’s Manual is available for professors who adopt the book (or parts of it) for use in their course.

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December 11, 2014 in Book Club, Tax, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (2)