Paul L. Caron

Monday, November 23, 2009

New Issue of The Law Teacher: 'Sometimes, We Really Do Suck'

The Law Teacher The Institute for Law Teaching and Learning has published the Fall 2009 issue of The Law Teacher. Stewart Harris (Appalachian) offers advice for those soon to hand out student evaluation forms in Sometimes, We Really Do Suck:

While I don’t try to influence my written student evaluations — other than by teaching well — I have occasionally told my classes that cryptically negative comments, such as, “You suck,” while perhaps true, are not particularly helpful. I have then clarified that it’s perfectly all right for them to write that I suck, but that if they want me to stop sucking, they had better tell me, with some degree of specificity, just how I suck.

Here are the other articles:

  • Taking a Small Step Toward More Assessments, by Sophie Sparrow (Franklin Pierce), p.1
  • Book Review: Contracts -- A Context and Practice Casebook, by Roy Stuckey (South Carolina), p.3
  • Teaching Issue Spotting Explicitly, by David Nadvorney (CUNY) & Deborah Zalesne (CUNY), p.4
  • Lawyer as Counselor — Winning Isn’t Always Everything, by Susan M. Chesler (Arizona State), p.6
  • Negotiation and Drafting in a Contracts Course, by Stephen A. Gerst (Phoenix), p.7
  • Teaching with Sarcasm, by Harriet N. Katz (Rutgers-Camden), p.9
  • Political History of Law, by Sabah Carrim (KDU College, Malaysia), p.10
  • An Experiment in Participation, by Leigh Goodmark (Baltimore), p.12
  • Conference: Teaching Law for Engaged Learning (April 10, 2010), p.14
  • AALS Annual Meeting Sessions Related to Teaching and Learning, p.15
  • The Activity-Based Seminar, by Stacy Caplow (Brooklyn), p.16
  • Book Review: Teaching Law by Design, by Robin A. Boyle (St. John’s), p.19
  • Call for Presentations: Teaching Law Practice Across the Curriculum (June 16-18, 2010), p.20

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I enjoyed Stewart Harris's article about evaluations. Here are some of my practices. First, I tell the students how seriously I read their comments. I think that prompts them to put more effort into the evals. Second, several times during the semester, I have them vote on the usefulness of material we just covered -- whether they recommend "keeping it" or "chucking it." If it doesn't work for them, toss it, and next time try some other material on whatever point you're covering. That doesn't mean watering down my standards; it just means that the material has to meet my standards and theirs. Third, in my course packet I have included a synopsis of the usual criticisms I get from students. It helps set their expectations, helps them decide whether to drop my course, and forces me to think about why I get certain criticisms over and over.

Posted by: John Steele | Nov 30, 2009 8:15:20 AM