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Predicting Law School Success: A Study of Goal Orientations, Academic Achievement, and the Declining Self-Efficacy of Our Law Students


Leah M. Christensen


Thomas Jefferson School of Law


TJSL Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1235528
Law and Psychology Review, Vol. 33, Spring 2009

Abstract:     
The study presented in this article asked 157 law students to respond to a survey about their learning goals and motivations for learning in law school. The student responses were correlated to different academic variables, including class rank, LSAT scores, and undergraduate GPA. The study also explored whether any relationships existed between goal orientations (mastery or performance) and law school success (class rank).

The results were illuminating: Despite the performance-based curriculum of law school, the most successful students were mastery-oriented learners. In contrast, there was no statistical correlation between performance-oriented learning and law school success. Furthermore, the LSAT score was the weakest predictor of law school success. The results also illustrated something else about successful law students: There was a cost to their success. Despite high achievement and mastery-oriented learning styles, the more successful law students were also more likely to doubt their individual abilities to understand and apply the law. In this study, highly ranked law students rated themselves low on academic self-efficacy measures. Low self-efficacy is a trait more typically associated with performance-orientation. What accounts for this result? The answer may lie within legal education's goal structure: a structure completely oriented towards performance.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 34

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Date posted: August 20, 2008 ; Last revised: December 11, 2012

Suggested Citation

Christensen, Leah M., Predicting Law School Success: A Study of Goal Orientations, Academic Achievement, and the Declining Self-Efficacy of Our Law Students. TJSL Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1235528; Law and Psychology Review, Vol. 33, Spring 2009. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1235528

Contact Information

Leah M. Christensen (Contact Author)
Thomas Jefferson School of Law ( email )
1155 Island Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
United States
619-961-4264 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://www.tjsl.edu/faculty-l-christensen
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