Understanding the Impact of Inadequate Feedback: A Means to Reduce Law Student Psychological Distress, Increase Motivation, and Improve Learning Outcomes
43 Cumberland Law Review ___ (2013)
33 Pages Posted: 3 Dec 2011 Last revised: 10 Apr 2013
Date Written: October 1, 2011
Although there has been substantial criticism and empirical evidence demonstrating the negative psychological effects of current legal education on law students, there has been little discussion of the steps law schools and law faculty can take to alleviate these effects.
This article argues that when law school faculty neglect to make careful and informed choices about the words used in the feedback provided to law students, ignoring the impact of those words on students’ potential for success in law school, law practice and life, we contribute to our students’ psychological distress and decline in motivation and performance - which may well carry forward to the legal profession and justice system. This article uses the lens of self-determination theory to explore a simple and concrete step law school faculty can take to improve students’ outlook and outcomes, by making changes in feedback practices that contribute to the autonomy-thwarting educational environment that is devastating for many students.
The article reviews self-determination theory and then examines the effects of self-determined learning on motivation, cognitive functioning and well-being. It identifies and details the characteristics of teaching environments that support self-determined learning and applies these concepts to the context of written feedback statements, by examining some common feedback statements and suggesting strategies for changing those statements to the types of statements that can enhance motivation, and improve cognition, learning outcomes and well-being. The article argues that motivated, happy, healthy and successful law students and lawyers do not have to be the rare exception - and law school faculty can alter feedback practices to help ensure they are not.
Keywords: feedback, legal education, autonomy, self-determination, postive psychology, optimism, mindset, motivation, lawyer stress, law student, law school
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