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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

Catherine J. Wasson

Elon University - School of Law

Barbara J. Tyler

Cleveland Marshall College of Law - Cleveland State University

Date Written: May 31, 2011

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Wasson, Catherine J. and Tyler, Barbara J., How Metacognitive Deficiencies of Law Students Lead to Biased Ratings of Legal Writing Professors (May 31, 2011). Touro Law Review, Vol. 28, 2012; Elon University Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2011-03; Cleveland-Marshall Legal Studies Paper No. 1856185. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1856185 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1856185

Catherine Wasson (Contact Author)

Elon University - School of Law ( email )

201 N. Greene Street
Greensboro, NC 27401
United States

Barbara Tyler

Cleveland Marshall College of Law - Cleveland State University ( email )

Cleveland, OH 44115-2214
United States
440-951-9331 (Phone)

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