Building a Culture of Assessment in Law Schools

32 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2018 Last revised: 9 Oct 2018

Larry Cunningham

St. John's University School of Law

Date Written: July 19, 2018

Abstract

A new era of legal education is upon us: Law schools are now required to assess learning outcomes across their degrees and programs, not just in individual courses. Programmatic assessment is new to legal education, but it has existed in higher education for decades. To be successful, assessment requires cooperation and buy-in from faculty. Yet establishing a culture of assessment in other disciplines has not been easy, and there is no reason to believe that it will be any different in legal education. A survey of provosts identified faculty buy-in as the single biggest challenge towards implementing assessment efforts. This article surveys the literature on culture of assessment, including conceptual papers and quantitative and qualitative studies. It then draws ten themes from the literature about how to build a culture of assessment: (1) the purpose of assessment, which is a form of scholarship, is improving student learning, not just for satisfying accreditors; (2) assessment must be faculty-driven; (3) messaging and communication around assessment is critical, from the reasons for assessment through celebrating successes; (4) faculty should be provided professional development, including in their own graduate studies; (5) resources are important; (6) successes should be rewarded and recognized; (7) priority should be given to utilizing faculty’s existing assessment devices rather than employing externally developed tests; (8) the unique needs of contingent faculty and other populations should be considered; (9) to accomplish change, stakeholders should draw on theories of leadership, business, motivation, and the social process of innovation; and (10) student affairs should be integrated with faculty and academic assessment activities. These themes, if implemented by law schools, will help programmatic assessment to become an effective addition to legal education and not just something viewed as a regulatory burden.

Keywords: culture of assessment, faculty, learning outcomes, innovation, change management

Suggested Citation

Cunningham, Larry, Building a Culture of Assessment in Law Schools (July 19, 2018). Case Western Reserve Law Review, Forthcoming; St. John's Legal Studies Research Paper No. 18-0023. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3216804

Larry Cunningham (Contact Author)

St. John's University School of Law ( email )

8000 Utopia Parkway
Jamaica, NY 11439
United States
718-990-7616 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.stjohns.edu/academics/bio/larry-cunningham

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