Responding to 'Educating Lawyers': An Heretical Essay in Support of Abolishing Teaching Evaluations

12 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2008

See all articles by Dennis R. Honabach

Dennis R. Honabach

Northern Kentucky University - Salmon P. Chase College of Law

Abstract

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

Honabach, Dennis R., Responding to 'Educating Lawyers': An Heretical Essay in Support of Abolishing Teaching Evaluations. University of Toledo Law Review, Vol. 39, No. 311, Winter 2008, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1255823

Dennis R. Honabach (Contact Author)

Northern Kentucky University - Salmon P. Chase College of Law ( email )

Nunn Hall
Highland Heights, KY 41099
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
100
Abstract Views
1,085
rank
333,410
PlumX Metrics