Professional-Identity/Professional-Formation/Professionalism Learning Outcomes: What Can We Learn About Assessment From Medical Education?

50 Pages Posted: 3 May 2017

See all articles by Neil W. Hamilton

Neil W. Hamilton

University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)

Date Written: April 30, 2017


The accreditation changes requiring competency-based education are an exceptional opportunity for each law school to differentiate its education so that its students better meet the needs of clients, legal employers, and the legal system. While ultimately competency-based education will lead to a change in the model of how law faculty and staff, students, and legal employers understand legal education, this process of change is going to take a number of years. However, the law schools that most effectively lead this change are going to experience substantial differentiating gains in terms of both meaningful employment for graduates and legal employer and client appreciation for graduates’ competencies in meeting employer/client needs. This will be particularly true for those law schools that emphasize the foundational principle of competency-based learning that each student must grow toward later stages of self-directed learning - taking full responsibility as the active agent for the student’s experiences and assessment activities to achieve the faculty’s learning outcomes and the student’s ultimate goal of bar passage and meaningful employment.

Medical education has had fifteen more years of experience with competency-based education from which legal educators can learn. This article has focused on medical education’s “lessons learned” applicable to legal education regarding effective assessment of professional-identity learning outcomes. The principal lessons learned in Part III with respect to assessment are: 1. realize that structural differences require legal educators to adopt a “bottom up” and more focused strategy regarding assessments; 2. choose one or two competencies from the faculty’s professional-identity learning outcomes for a pilot project; 3. create a stage development model (milestones/benchmarks) for the one or two competencies selected for the pilot program; 4. create formative assessments (including self-assessments) for the competency selected for the pilot program; 5. select assessments that foster the habit of self-reflection and self-evaluation; 6. emphasize mentoring and coaching in giving feedback and guiding student reflection; 7. create a progression of curricular modules and assessments to foster each student’s growth toward the next stage of development of the competency; and 8. consider student portfolios as an effective formative assessment.

Keywords: legal education, medical education, professionalism, professional formation, learning outcomes

Suggested Citation

Hamilton, Neil W., Professional-Identity/Professional-Formation/Professionalism Learning Outcomes: What Can We Learn About Assessment From Medical Education? (April 30, 2017). 13 University of St. Thomas Law Journal (2017 Forthcoming), U of St. Thomas (Minnesota) Legal Studies Research Paper No. 17-06, Available at SSRN:

Neil W. Hamilton (Contact Author)

University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota) ( email )

MSL 400, 1000 La Salle Avenue
Minneapolis, MN Minnesota 55403-2005
United States

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