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Empirical Evidence that Formative Assessments Improve Law Students' Final Exam Performance

25 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2011 Last revised: 25 Oct 2011

Carol Springer Sargent

Macon State College

Andrea Anne Curcio

Georgia State University - College of Law

Date Written: 2011

Abstract

Despite the recent widespread call for law professors to incorporate more feedback during the semester, there is a relative dearth of empirical evidence about the impact of practice materials and feedback on law student performance. This study begins to fill that gap. Using five ungraded quizzes, a graded midterm, and reflection exercises, this study shows that feedback improved student performance on a cumulative final exam up to a full letter grade compared to a cohort with only a traditional end-of-semester final exam. The study confirms an earlier study showing that learning gains from formative assessments concentrate among those with stronger LSAT scores and UGPAs. The study discovers that, due to the weak correlation between LSAT scores and UGPAs and first year law grades, the benefit of formative assessments reaches students with both above and below the median first year law grades. This article discusses the formative assessment methodology that led to significant final exam performance improvement for two-thirds of a large-section Evidence course. It also explores reasons why one-third of the students, those with weaker LSAT or UGPAs, did not get a discernible benefit from the practice materials and suggests areas for future work.

Keywords: law school, legal education, legal pedagogy, pedagogy, empirical legal studies, assessment, law students, empirical research, law student performance

JEL Classification: K00, I21, I29

Suggested Citation

Sargent, Carol Springer and Curcio, Andrea Anne, Empirical Evidence that Formative Assessments Improve Law Students' Final Exam Performance (2011). Journal of Legal Education, 2012; Georgia State University College of Law, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2011-25. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1939964

Carol Springer Sargent

Macon State College ( email )

100 College Station Drive
Macon, GA (478)471-2724 31206
United States

Andrea Anne Curcio (Contact Author)

Georgia State University - College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 4037
Atlanta, GA 30302-4037
United States

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