The new ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools (“ABA Standards”) require law schools to develop and publish learning outcomes that explicitly state what they want their students to be able to do and know upon completion of the law school curriculum. The ABA Standards also require that law schools develop a plan to assess these learning outcomes through course assessment, programmatic assessment,and institutional assessment.In addition to the ABA, regional accreditors of higher education also require that universities and law schools have an extensive learning outcome and assessment plan.These requirements essentially ask schools to answer two questions:
1.What does your law school want your students to know and be able to do when they graduate?
2.How will you know that your students have obtained these competencies?
These new accreditation standards will create a fundamental shift in legal education, both as it relates to the substance of what is taught in law school and to the way schools develop their curriculum. This Article will detail a process that law schools can use to comply with the ABA Standards that require law schools to develop a comprehensive assessment plan. Because the process will require the faculty to fully engage in curricular planning and development, it is likely going to remove some control individual professors have over their courses, a change that is likely to be met with some resistance. Instead, the process will require a great deal of collaboration among the entire faculty, and it should produce a comprehensive and more effective approach to preparing students for the practice of law. As an example, this Article will detail the steps that The John Marshall Law School took to review and change its professional skills curriculum to incorporate an extensive assessment plan that measured the students' competencies throughout the entire professional skills program.
Part I of this Article will outline the accreditation requirements for developing and publishing learning outcomes. Part II will provide an overview of the process of curricular planning in light of the new ABA Standards. Part III will explain the steps schools can take to develop learning outcomes and map those across the curriculum. Part IV will discuss the elements of what makes an assessment plan effective, with a focus on the best ways to use formative assessment to improve the metacognitive skills of the students. Part V will detail the approach The John Marshall Law School took to improve its professional skills curriculum and the assessment of its students. Overall, the Article provides some ideas that law schools can adopt when attempting to comply with the new ABA Standards on outcomes assessment.
Anthony Niedwiecki, Prepared for Practice? Developing A Comprehensive Assessment Plan for A Law School Professional Skills Program, 50 U.S.F. L. Rev. 245 (2016)