College Level Student Assessment
School of Law Committed to Assessing Student Learning
- As a professor, what does student learning mean to you? How do you assess student
learning in your courses?
- As the phrase "student learning" implies, to me student learning means that the focus should be on what students are actually learning, and not on what I think I am teaching the students. The phrase reflects a shift from input-based education to output-based education.
- In my Legal Practice course, I use a variety of indirect and direct assessment methods (e.g., course evaluations, self-assessment, course assignments). Furthermore, because I teach both legal research and legal writing as part of my course, I use formative assessment methods to provide my students with meaningful feedback. In fact, I often provide them with individual feedback as well as overall group feedback. My goal is to help them learn as much as possible in the time I have them in my class.
- What do you value most about assessment?
- The fact that there is an assessment "cycle" that includes development, implementation, analysis of results, and an action plan for improvements. In addition, the assessment "cycle" actually provides some flexibility, as the faculty is not expected to learn everything about student learning overnight. And most importantly, outcomes assessment puts the focus on the right group: our students.
- How do you communicate with your faculty colleagues about assessment initiatives within
the School of Law?
- The American Bar Association (ABA) recently approved new standards that require outcomes assessment, including Student Learning Outcomes for the law school, each concentration, and each course. As a result, both of our accrediting bodies (SACSCOC and ABA) now have the same approach to student learning. The ABA values process and faculty engagement, and therefore last semester the law school faculty participated in a faculty retreat, and the primary objectives were to focus on Student Learning Outcomes and to learn about the assessment cycle in general. To comply with the new ABA standards for Student Learning Outcomes, our faculty has provided feedback in a number of ways, including participation in an online survey. Students and law school alumni also provided feedback by completing the survey. Our faculty is also dedicated to learning more about assessment methods, further demonstrating the law school's commitment to assessment.
- Can you talk a little about how you strengthened the School of Law's assessment plan?
- We are strengthening the law school assessment plan by formalizing the plan. Our plan will reflect a true assessment cycle, and all faculty will be involved in one way or another. We also formed an Assessment Committee during the fall semester, so a number of faculty members are leading the charge to strengthen our overall plan.
- Were you surprised by any of your assessment findings?
- Yes! For example, we want our law students to graduate with knowledge of the rules and standards of professional responsibility. One assessment tool for professional responsibility is the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE), and students must pass this national exam in order to practice law in Texas. As part of the assessment cycle, we learned that law schools in Texas were not receiving the exam results, but that the results could be requested. Now, we request the results after every administration of the MPRE so that we can use the results as a direct measure of student learning.