How Metacognitive Deficiencies of Law Students Lead to Biased Ratings of Legal Writing Professors
33 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2011 Last revised: 17 Dec 2012
Date Written: May 31, 2011
The focus of this article is the aberrant student comment, the comment that generates scalding heat, but no light. We focus on those comments because we believe it is time to expose a deeply disturbing aspect of the student ratings process at its worst: it allows students to use the ratings process to abuse and bully a professor with no responsibility for the consequences of their actions. We believe that the aberrant and ugly comments on student ratings arise synergistically from two sources: (1) students’ metacognitive deficiencies, specifically the phenomenon known as the "Dunning-Kruger effect"; and (2) specific factors that have a particular effect on ratings of legal writing professors. Using psychological research on metacognition, the authors argue that metacognitive deficiencies in novice learners prevent them from recognizing their own poor performance and from recognizing their professor’s competence. This phenomenon, when coupled with the persistent institutional biases against legal writing professors, can damage a teacher’s career. Research into metacognition offers the legal academy a way to rethink the use of the standard student evaluation form and find ways to solicit more reliable and meaningful feedback from our students.
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