Responding to 'Educating Lawyers': An Heretical Essay in Support of Abolishing Teaching Evaluations
12 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2008
The Carnegie Report and other assessments of legal education are unflattering, to say the least. The implication is that law professors care too little about teaching. This essay suggests that surprisingly the explanation for the apparent failure of legal education is that legal educators focus TOO MUCH attention on "teaching." We pay too much attention to evaluating the quality of teaching and too little on assessing student learning. In evaluating a professor's teaching, we tend to focus exclusively on the performance of the professor. In doing so, we accomplish little. While there are numerous flaws in the way we evaluate teaching, the most troublesome may be that we do not agree on what good teaching is and thus we can debate endlessly the accuracy of every assessment. Interminable discussion about what is good teaching or bad teaching leads to little improvement. This essay argues that if we seriously want to encourage change, we must get beyond the "what is good teaching?" debate. To do that, we should abolish teaching evaluations entirely! Instead, we should focus on student learning. By focusing our attention on assessing student learning, we would create incentives for faculty members to develop their effectiveness as teachers. We would also create incentives for professors - and faculty evaluation committees - to develop methods of demonstrating effectiveness. Results, not style, would thus become important. Thus, as heretical as it may seem, the first step towards improving law school teaching is to abolish the use of teaching evaluations entirely.
Keywords: Carnegie Report, legal education, faculty evaluation, teaching, law school
JEL Classification: K00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation