A Dean’s Perspective on the Costs and Benefits of Assessment

More from the Building an Assessment Plan from the Ground Up Conference:

Dean Susan Duncan, Dean and Professor of Law at the University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law, presented from the dean’s perspective on assessment. She began her remarks by reinforcing the notion that all faculty have to be involved. She noted her concern that the conference is largely attended by legal writing professors and the disproportionate number of women at the conference and urged attendees to be sure that this does not become a service obligation that is “farmed out” to female faculty and legal writing faculty. She also noted the few number of deans in the audience, reiterating the message that deans must be fully supportive of assessment for it to be successful.

Dean Duncan noted that the new accreditation requirements (referring to both assessment and the experiential course requirement) will have an impact on resources, including:
• Devoting of new faculty positions to teach the experiential learning courses
• Paying stipends for field-work supervisors
• Training faculty for increased skills teaching or for better assessment
• Increasing teaching assistants (research assistants are a usual part of the law school environment, but she suggested that teaching assistants may become a more important part)
• Bringing in outside advisors or consultants
• Reducing teaching and service loads to assist faculty in transitioning to the new environment of assessment and skills instruction
In addition, the positive resource result may be that Deans can use the results from assessment plans in fundraising.
She suggested that one of the many benefits of assessment may be the increased formation of professional learning communities in law schools, in which faculty with shared interests will work together to share assessment practices and data.

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