Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes

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Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes

Assessment is a dynamic, faculty-driven process that works to improve student learning.  By setting measurable goals of learning, we identify what we hope our students will learn by the conclusion of their education with us.  We collect and analyze evidence of their learning through both formative and summative assessment devices.  Finally, we “close the loop” by improving our academic program based on what we have learned.  Our efforts to improve bar passage, our integrated approach to career development, and our experiential and writing requirements are examples of the assessment process at work.

On this page, we will document our assessment activities, including reports that demonstrate our compliance with the American Bar Association’s Standards on learning outcomes and assessments. This webpage is modeled after the Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes page developed by Professor Larry Cunningham, Vice Dean & Professor of Legal Writing, St. John’s University School of Law.

Introduction

Overview

Learning outcomes are the lawyering skills that students are expected to obtain through the completion of a legal education.  Consistent with ABA Standards, upon completion of a J.D. degree, graduates of FIU Law will demonstrate mastery of the following student learning outcomes at the level needed for admission to the bar and effective and ethical participation in the legal profession as entry-level attorneys.

The curriculum at FIU Law has been designed to prepare students with the key skills and competencies needed to demonstrate these learning outcomes within the legal profession.

Our learning outcomes reflect considerable thought, time, and attention by the faculty of FIU Law.  They include seven outcomes, which may be summarized as: (1) knowledge of the law; (2) legal analysis, reasoning, and problem-solving; (3) legal research and writing; (4) communication; (5) interpersonal skills, professional responsibility and ethics; (6) commitment to public service; and, (7) engagement with the local and global legal communities.  These reflect the domains within which students should demonstrate competency by the conferral of their degree.  The performance indicators (competencies) track each of the learning outcomes and provide specific evidence that a student will have satisfied the outcomes.

While satisfying the ABA’s minimal competencies, these learning outcomes also go a step further and reflect our particular goals as a law school.  They incorporate the unique mission of the University and the law school in several respects.  Learning Outcome # 6, for example, looks beyond the rules of professional conduct and asks whether students understand the importance of providing legal services to the underserved and of fulfilling responsibilities to the profession as a whole.  A commitment to the global legal community and to cultural literacy – important values at FIU and at the law school – is reflected in Learning Outcomes ##5 and 7.  As a law school set in South Florida, we aim to produce graduates who have the skills required for successful participation in a global legal profession with a solid foundation in international and comparative law.  Thus, we emphasize communication (#3) and interpersonal skills (#4), including self-awareness, counseling, and concern for the environment (##5, 6, and 7).

Process

Since 2009, the law school has responded to the university’s Academic Planning & Accountability (APA) with reports on the law school’s Program Objectives, Administrative Objectives, and Student Learning Outcomes.  When the university’s submission format went online in 2012 (with the tracdat software), the process required the development of specific metrics for the first two reports (PO and AO).  For the SLO report, the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs selected a capstone course for reporting purposes.  The course instructor developed a rubric that laid out the learning outcomes and the performance indicators used to ensure their measurement and achievement.  Reports are filed annually with the APA.

In the winter of 2015, the Dean charged an interim Ad Hoc Assessments Committee with determining the law school’s compliance with the new ABA Standards.  This faculty subcommittee met in the spring, summer and fall to review the ABA standards and to draft outcomes that would be measurable as well as unique to FIU Law.  Input was solicited from the faculty during workshops held in the fall semester.  On September 22, 2016, the faculty adopted, with revisions, the following learning outcomes.

Learning Outcomes for the J.D. Degree

Upon conferral of the Juris Doctor degree, students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of substantive and procedural law.
  2. Employ legal analysis and reasoning, undertake research, and demonstrate problem-solving skills.
  3. Communicate effectively within the legal context in both written and oral form.
  4. Exercise proper professional and ethical responsibilities toward clients and the legal system.
  5. Demonstrate the knowledge and skills for competent and ethical participation within the domestic and the global legal contexts.
  6. Illustrate the value of community and public service.
  7. Demonstrate cultural literacy as a commitment to cultural diversity within the legal context.

As adopted by the Law School Faculty on September 22, 2016.

Performance Indicators for the J.D. Learning Outcomes

Students demonstrate that they have achieved these outcomes by meeting the following indicators or criteria:

Download Performance Indicators PDF

LEARNING OUTCOMES

 

Upon conferral of the Juris Doctor degree, students will be able to:

PERFORMANCE CRITERIA

 

Students demonstrate they have achieved this outcome by:

1.  Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of substantive and procedural law. Criterion 1: Identifying and applying foundational concepts of civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, property, torts, and international & comparative law, and the manner in which both statutory and judge-made law evolves.

 

Criterion 2: Identifying and applying concepts of other core areas of law, such as administrative law, business organizations, evidence, tax, and wills & trusts.

 

Criterion 3: Identifying and applying concepts in areas of law not otherwise required by the Law School curriculum.

2.  Employ legal analysis and reasoning, undertake research, and demonstrate problem-solving skills. Criterion 1: Identifying relevant legal issues raised by clients’ legal problems.

 

Criterion 2: Identifying relevant legal rules applicable to each issue, including synthesizing multiple authorities into a cohesive rule.

 

Criterion 3: Identifying legally significant facts applicable to each issue.

 

Criterion 4: Analogizing the facts to and distinguishing the facts from those of the precedent cases in specific and helpful ways to determine the likely outcome of the case.

 

Criterion 5: Applying the relevant legal rules to the legally significant facts and, as necessary, analogizing and distinguishing authorities, and responding to counterarguments.

 

Criterion 6: Drawing appropriate conclusions based on the facts, taking into account the clients’ interests, goals, and objectives.

 

Criterion 7: Locating, analyzing and synthesizing primary sources relevant to the legal issue at hand.

 

Criterion 8: Locating, analyzing and synthesizing secondary sources relevant to the legal issue at hand.

3.  Communicate effectively within the legal context in both written and oral form. Criterion 1: Drafting and editing documents that objectively analyze a legal problem.

 

Criterion 2: Drafting and editing documents designed to persuade a reader.

 

Criterion 3: Drafting and editing documents that create legal rights and obligations.

 

Criterion 4: In all documents, writing in a clear, concise and effective manner.

 

Criterion 5: In all documents, employing rules of grammar, spelling and citation.

 

Criterion 6: Making persuasive oral arguments or presentations.

4.  Exercise proper professional and ethical responsibilities toward clients and the legal system. Criterion 1: Listing the sources of the laws governing lawyers.

 

Criterion 2: Identifying and explaining the applicable law that governs lawyers.

 

Criterion 3: Using the laws governing lawyers to recognize ethical and other professional dilemmas.

 

Criterion 4: Applying the laws governing lawyers to help resolve ethical and other professional dilemmas.

 

Criterion 5: Exercising professional judgment to help resolve ethical and other professional dilemmas.

5.  Demonstrate the knowledge and skills for competent and ethical participation within the domestic and the global legal contexts. Criterion 1: Identifying and effectively engaging in appropriate dispute resolution processes.

 

Criterion 2: Being aware of their own strengths and weaknesses as they relate to the legal profession.

 

Criterion 3: Capably managing a legal project – interaction with clients; case, research, memorandum, negotiation, and dispute resolution processes such as litigation, mediation, or arbitration from inception to conclusion.

 

Criterion 4: Effectively planning and controlling their use of time.

 

Regarding the global context in particular, graduates will demonstrate achievement of this learning outcome by,

 

Criterion 5: Exhibiting civility, awareness of cultural differences, and treating others with respect and consideration.

 

Criterion 6: Displaying diversity skills, including awareness of different legal cultures and institutions, and sensitivity toward social and cultural differences.

 

Criterion 7: Identifying and effectively engaging in appropriate dispute resolution processes involving international or foreign clients, issues that affect more than one national legal system, and different fora including courts and arbitration tribunals.

 

Criterion 8: Recognizing the interconnectedness of societies and cultures locally and throughout the world and demonstrating a commitment to help find solutions to problems that impact peoples, institutions, and society in general.

6.  Illustrate the value of community and public service. Criterion 1: Contributing to the profession’s fulfillment of its responsibility to ensure that adequate and high quality legal services are provided to those who cannot afford to pay for them.

 

Criterion 2: Participating in school and outreach activities designed to improve the profession, especially in programs involving community and public service.

 

Criterion 3: Contributing to the profession’s fulfillment of its responsibility to enhance the capacity of law and legal institutions to further the aims of justice.

 

Criterion 4: Assisting in the training and preparation of new community and service-oriented lawyers.

 

Criterion 5: Advancing the local, national and international legal community’s commitment to socially responsible stewardship of the environment.

7.  Demonstrate cultural literacy as a commitment to cultural diversity within the legal context. Criterion 1: Exhibiting an awareness of cultural differences that may impact representation of one’s clients, one’s role as a legal professional, and one’s relationship with society and the different legal systems of the world.

 

Criterion 2: Exhibiting an awareness of social differences that may impact representation of one’s clients, one’s role as a legal professional, and one’s relationship with society and the different legal systems of the world.

 

Criterion 3: Striving to rid the legal profession and our society of prejudice based on race, religion, national or ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, or socio-economic status, and to help rectify the effects of those prejudices.

 

Criterion 4: Communicating effectively with people across cultures and legal systems.

 

Criterion 5: Thinking critically about one’s own culture and its potential global influences.

Assessment Plan

On September 22, 2016, the faculty adopted an assessment plan for 2016-2023.  The purposes of the plan are:

  1. To strengthen this law school’s academic programs of legal education by gathering data about student learning in relation to a set of pre-identified Student Learning Outcomes (SLO), analyzing the data to determine whether students are achieving the identified learning outcomes, preparing a report with the results and recommendations, and adopting changes where necessary to respond to identified problem areas and to improve the overall quality of the programs.
  2. To articulate an effective, workable, faculty-driven, and efficient process to assess student learning outcomes at an institutional level over a seven year period (the ABA’s sabbatical site visit schedule).
  3. To identify the roles of faculty and relevant administrators in conducting institutional assessment.
  4. To demonstrate compliance with the ABA’s requirement that, by the 2017-2018 academic year, every accredited Law School has a publicly available assessment plan.
  5. To ensure that the students acquire the requisite knowledge, skills and values expressed in the law school’s Mission Statement, which our institution deems important for the legal profession and the practice of law.
  6. To demonstrate compliance with the SACSCOC (university accrediting body).

As explained further in the assessment plan document, during each annual cycle, one learning outcome will be assessed using a combination of direct and indirect measures.  An ad hoc assessment team will gather and analyze data and propose recommendations to the Assessment Committee[1], which is responsible for coordinating all of our assessment efforts.

The faculty adopted the following timetable for assessment.

Learning Outcome/Year 2016-2017 2017-2018 2018-2019 2019-2020 2020-2021 2021-2022 2022-2023
1. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of substantive and procedural law Plan Collect & analyze data, propose follow-up Follow-up
2. Employ legal analysis and reasoning, undertake research and deploy problem-solving skills Plan Collect & analyze data, propose follow-up Follow-up
3. Communicate effectively within the legal context in both written and oral form Plan Collect & analyze data, propose follow-up Follow-up
4. Exercise proper professional and ethical responsibilities toward clients and the legal system Plan Collect & analyze data, propose follow-up Follow-up
5 (a). Demonstrate the knowledge and skills for competent and ethical participation within the domestic and the global legal contexts Plan Collect & analyze data, propose follow-up Follow-up
5(b). Demonstrate the knowledge and skills for competent and ethical participation within the domestic and the global legal contexts Plan Collect & analyze data, propose follow-up
6. Illustrate the value of community and public service Plan
7. Demonstrate cultural literacy as a commitment to cultural diversity within the legal context.


[1]
The Assessment Committee inherits the work of the Ad Hoc Assessment Task Force, formed for the “development” phase of the law school’s assessment plan.  The Assessment Committee may overlap with the Curriculum Committee.  Assessment “teams,” made up of two or three faculty members, form a plan, collect data, and report the data to the Assessment Committee for analysis.  See “Assessment Plan,” attached.

Curriculum Map

In the fall 2016, the faculty mapped individual courses to the learning outcomes using a survey distributed by the Dean’s Office.  As new courses are adopted, this curriculum map will be updated.  The curriculum map will be used by the Assessment Committee to improve the curriculum where necessary and to conduct assessment activities.

  • Curriculum Map 1 (Summary). If a learning outcome is addressed in a particular course, an “X” appears.
  • Curriculum Map 2 (With Level of Competency). Faculty members were asked to identify the level of competency for each desired learning outcome.
    • “Introductory” means key ideas, concepts, or skills related to the learning outcome are introduced, but it is expected that they will be developed later in a student’s course of study.
    • “Competent” means students must demonstrate proficiency in the learning outcome by the end of the course.
    • “Advanced” means students have advanced instruction in and/or additional practice with the knowledge, value, or skill, such that they demonstrate the learning outcome with a high level of independence and a level of understanding and sophistication expected of graduates, not students. It is doubtful that a student will achieve this level of mastery of a subject or skill in a first year course.
  • Curriculum Map 3 (with Assessment Instruments)

Note that for courses with multiple sections, data was averaged.  Individual coverage and course goals will vary from instructor to instructor.