Tales from the Assessment Trail

Like many schools, here at UMKC Law we have been working steadily on our assessment plan.  After two retreats, six focus group meetings with attorneys, countless meetings and even more emails, we have narrowed our outcomes down to 126 skills and values outcomes.  Each faculty member has exercised their six “votes” on those outcomes that they would like to first target for comprehensive assessment across the curriculum. 

It will come as no surprise that outcomes in the category of legal analysis garnered the most votes.  Devising comprehensive assessment for this outcome will simply be a matter of some conversations to insure we agree on a shared rubric. 

But coming in a close second in the polling was the outcome “be able to listen actively.”   It is a fascinating outcome on which to focus.  Apart from courses providing clinical skills training, active listening isn’t taught as pervasively as is analysis.  Even less so do we regularly assess our students’ ability to listen actively.  When one considers the amount of time students sit in classrooms listening (or at least hearing), it seems there could be ample opportunity to test the “listening” part of active listening.  The empathy part, on the other hand, could prove to be a game changer in our curriculum development.

Our next task, then, will be to determine where we currently teach this skill, where else we will want to incorporate this teaching, and – perhaps most challenging of all – how we can assess the skills of the entire student body.  Somehow the image of massive piles of bluebooks, most of which say “What I hear you saying is…” doesn’t quite cut it.  Suggestions?

3 Responses

  1. The ADR profs regularly teach active listening skills using a number of role-plays, exercises, and self-assessments.

  2. Clinicians do as well! I would be happy to collect such active listening skills exercises on my CELT/BP site… just e-mail them to krama@albanylaw.edu.

  3. In our 1L Global Lawyering Skills course, we put students from different sections together to do a “client interview.” Each section was working on a different memo problem, so students in one section asked students in the other section questions to get the facts for the problem (we each provided a set of facts to the students in the other section). The students then traded places. We could assess in the next class period how much information the students had learned by having a class discussion about the facts, which also ensured that my section had all the facts it needed to research and write the memo. This year was the first try, and we all thought it came out very well, perhaps because we told the students this “client interview” would be the only chance they had to get the facts for the memo. The class period before the “interviews,” we presented materials on client interviewing and active listening so the students had a good idea of what they were trying to do.

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