Does Practice Make Perfect? An Empirical Examination of the Impact of Practice Essays on Essay Exam Performance
45 Pages Posted: 21 May 2008 Last revised: 10 Dec 2012
Date Written: 2008
This article sets out an easily duplicable, cost-effective way to empirically measure the impact of teaching innovations. It does so in the context of examining the impact of five required essay writing exercises which focused on teaching first-year law students to break a legal rule into its component parts and perform complex factual analysis within the applicable doctrinal framework. The article discusses the not-so-surprising empirical finding that practice essay exercises accompanied by generalized feedback improve first-year law student essay exam performance with regard to the skills that were the focus of the practice exercises. It also discusses a somewhat more surprising finding: students who received the most statistically significant benefit from the practice exercises were students with above-the-median LSAT scores and above-the-median UGPAs. The article explores potential reasons that the practice exercises did not have the same benefit for all students, including students' potentially different metacognitive skills and the impact of the in-class exam speededness factor. It proposes suggestions for improving the effectiveness of future in-class writing exercises and it suggests ideas for future studies. In sum, this article lays the groundwork for those interested in empirical exploration of the effectiveness of any given teaching methodology.
Keywords: practice essays, empirical study, metacognition, law school exam performance, speededness
JEL Classification: K00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation