Predicting Law School Success: A Study of Goal Orientations, Academic Achievement, and the Declining Self-Efficacy of Our Law Students
Law and Psychology Review, Vol. 33, Spring 2009
34 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2008 Last revised: 11 Dec 2012
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.
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