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What Do Law Students Want?: The Missing Piece of the Assessment Puzzle

Posted: 30 Dec 2009 Last revised: 2 Oct 2017

Emily Zimmerman

Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law

Date Written: May 24, 2010


Although a significant amount of attention has been devoted to critiquing law school assessment and proposing reforms to law school assessment, very little empirical research has been conducted regarding law students’ perspectives regarding assessment. As a result, existing examinations of and proposals to reform law school assessment are not informed by the views of those members of the law school community who are most affected by assessment: law students.

The research reported in this Article starts to fill the gap in our knowledge regarding law students’ assessment preferences. This Article presents the results of the author’s empirical research project regarding law students’ assessment preferences, which collected survey data from two years of first-year law students, at both the beginning and the end of their first-year of law school.

The Article discusses these results and their implications for law school assessment, particularly in light of recent calls to reform law school assessment. Especially in light of recent calls for law schools to integrate more summative and formative assessment into their pedagogy, one of the most important findings of the research is the drop in students’ preferences for multiple graded and ungraded assignments from the beginning to the end of the first year of law school.

In addition, the present research suggests that the individual assessment preferences of law students do not exist in isolation but may be related both to one another and to other preferences and perspectives that students have regarding legal education. These packages of preferences and perspectives may define particular profiles of law students and help legal educators develop more effective methods of legal education.

Keywords: legal education, assessment, law students, empirical research, assessment preferences

Suggested Citation

Zimmerman, Emily, What Do Law Students Want?: The Missing Piece of the Assessment Puzzle (May 24, 2010). Rutgers Law Journal Vol. 42, No. 1; Drexel University Earle Mack School of Law Research Paper No. 2009-W-05. Available at SSRN: or

Emily Zimmerman (Contact Author)

Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law ( email )

3320 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

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