In addition to the proposed revisions regarding academic freedom, the ABA Standards Review Committee also posted proposed revisions regarding Faculty Responsibilities – Standards 401-404. [To see draft click on: http://www.abanet.org/legaled/committees/comstandards.html
The proposed revisions focus appropriately on student-centered learning and the need to make good teaching a central focus of law school accreditation. The proposed standards make no changes to 401 and continue to link the faculty’s qualifications and experience level to the “stated mission of the law school” as well as to the programmatic requirements contained in other standards on Objectives and Curriculum of law school programs (301 & 302). Nor do the proposed revisions tinker with requiring the faculty to “possess a high degree of competence, as demonstrated by its education, experience in teaching or practice, teaching effectiveness and scholarly research and writing.”
The heart of the new revisions lies in its “new emphasis on mission and self-direction “ (Commentary to 404). For example, much earlier in the revision process the faculty-student ratio was discarded as an old-fashioned input measure. Thus, in these proposals, Standard 402, which concerns the “Size of the Faculty”, is changed from a focus on “fulltime faculty” to “a sufficient number of faculty” to meet the ABA standards and the school’s educational goals and to “advance” the individual school’s mission. The commentary notes that “this Standard is rather oddly limited to ‘full-time faculty’. The real concern is that there are enough teachers of all rank and terms of employment who can meet the[sic.] these goals.”
The proposed revisions also more fully elaborate on the role of full time faculty. First, in 403, they articulate what has been the accreditation practice – that full time faculty should teach “ substantially all of the first one-third of each student’s coursework and more than half of the upperclass credit hours or student contact hours. “ Then in 404, the provisions start by inserting the word Teaching (hallelulah!) as a major responsibility and also includes responsibility for “assessment of student learning.” The 404 revisions also require schools to make clear faculty expectations regarding “Course and curricular development, including the preparation of students for emerging areas of practice and other professional innovations.”
Finally, they emphasize – by moving from an interpretation into the text – an obligation for law schools to provide “orientation, guidance, monitoring, and evaluation” to “all persons providing instruction to students” – not just new faculty.
All in all, the revisions for this section do focus on outcomes, assessment and student-centered learning – which, conceptually, is all good! They also, in conjunction with the proposed revisions to academic freedom standards (contained in my last post) place more power and authority directly in the hands of each law school’s administration which can now define an individual law school’s mission in a manner that may well dilute the role, power and security of the full time faculty. That’s my first blush analysis – what do others think?
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