[NOTE: Updated on 24 October 2009 to link to the abstract of Professor Callister's new article, Time to Blossom: An Inquiry into Bloom’s Taxonomy as a Means to Ordered Legal Research Skills. Updated on 24 September 2009 to link to the ABA Student Learning Outcomes Subcommittee's September 3, 2009 draft of the revised 300 Standards. Updated on 22 September 2009 to link to Fred Dingledy's Findings from a Survey of Law School Legal Research Programs. Updated on 8 September 2009 to include citations to recent articles on law student learning styles.]
This blog will occasionally comment on legal research instruction, because such instruction is an important form of education respecting legal information processing. 2009 has seen a number of interesting developments in legal research education in the U.S.:
1. Special Issue of Legal Reference Services Quarterly
Professor Barbara Bintliff of the University of Colorado Law School and Associate Dean Duncan Alford of the University of South Carolina School of Law have co-edited a two-part special issue (Part I here and Part II here) of Legal Reference Services Quarterly devoted to Teaching Legal Research. The articles in those issues discuss a very wide range of topics respecting legal research education, and aggregate a great deal of useful and current research.
2. Boulder Statement and Boulder Conference
Professor Bintliff led the drafting this summer of the Boulder Statement on Legal Research Education. The statement describes the objectives of legal research instruction in terms consistent with the legal education reform framework expressed in William Sullivan et al., Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Practice of Law (2007) (commonly known as The Carnegie Report and summarized here) and Roy Stuckey et al., Best Practices for Legal Education (2007) (commonly known as The Stuckey Report). The statement was drafted during a discussion among law library directors, law librarians, and legal research educators about legal research pedagogy, held at a Conference on Legal Information: Scholarship and Teaching, organized by Professor Bintliff, and held at the University of Colorado Law School on June 21-22, 2009, as part of its Boulder Summer Conference Series. Professor Bintliff will convene a second Boulder Summer Conference on Legal Information on July 9-10, 2010, which will include discussion of legal research pedagogy and ways to implement the Boulder Statement. A call for papers respecting the second Boulder conference will be issued in early 2010.
3. Testing Legal Research Skills on U.S. Bar Examinations
Inclusion of legal research testing in U.S. bar examinations seems more likely. At the July 26, 2009 American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Annual Meeting program entitled Legal Research Questions on the Bar Exam: Preparing Our Students [available as Webcast; registration required] organized by Associate Law Librarian Mary Ann Neary of the Boston College Law Library, Erica Moeser, President of the National Conference of Bar Examiners stated that legal research questions were likely to be included in a component of the U.S. bar examination within “three to five year[s].” That program also featured interesting descriptions by law library directors and law librarians respecting their current legal research instruction courses and how well those courses are suited to preparing law students for testing of legal research skills on the bar examination. In addition, several articles in Part II of the Legal Reference Services Quarterly special issue discuss bar examination testing of legal research skills, and a number of additional resources on this topic are listed in the handout to the AALL program (included in the complete conference handout package, available for a fee).
4. Legal Information Literacy
A number of recent developments involve legal information literacy:
- The AALL Academic Law Libraries Special Interest Section Student Services Committee has developed a Sample Survey of Law Student Research Habits and Skills. This survey tests law students’ legal information literacy and legal research skills at four points in the course of their law school experience: at the start of law school, after completing the first year legal research course, after law-related summer employment, and in their final semester or quarter of law school.
- AALL has convened a Joint Committee on Articulating Law Student Information Literacy. According to an announcement published on the 2009 AALL Annual Meeting blog, the members of this committee “will work together towards developing a set of [information literacy] standards oriented toward measuring the research skills and abilities of law students.”
- Molly (Mary) Brownfield, Reference Librarian at the Duke University Goodson Law Library and Dennis C. Kim-Prieto, Reference Librarian at the Rutgers University (Newark) Law Library, presented a program at the 2009 AALL Annual Meeting entitled What We Learned from Our SAILS: Using Law Students as Human Subjects and Measuring Law Student Information Literacy (audio available, registration required, and a fee may apply). A summary of the program appears here. The program discusses the results of the presenters’ research on whether an information literacy assessment instrument called SAILS (Standardized Assessment for Information Literacy Skills) developed for use in undergraduate libraries, was suited to assessing legal information literacy skills of law students. The presenters’ research involving students at the Rutgers Newark School of Law indicated that the SAILS instrument is not well suited to assessing law students’ legal information literacy skills. A bibliography and other resources on this topic are listed in the handout to the program (included in the complete conference handout package, available for a fee).
5. ABA Standards Revision
The American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar Standards Review Committee is conducting a review of the ABA Standards for Approval of Law Schools. “[S]ubstantial instruction” in legal research is required by current standard 302(a)(2), and may be addressed in a revised version of the standards. The ABA Student Learning Outcomes Subcommittee’s September 3, 2009 draft of the revised 300 Standards is available here. (HT Vice President Rensberger.) In July and August 2009 a task force of the AALL Academic Law Libraries Special Interest Section chaired by Professor Kristina Niedringhaus of the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law gathered comments from law librarians respecting possible revisions to the standards.
6. Law School Admission Project Report
An important work of empirical research respecting the value of legal research in legal practice has been released. Professor Marjorie Shultz of Boalt Hall very graciously agreed to permit the posting of a 2003 report, entitled Phase I Final Report: Identification and Development of Predictors for Successful Lawyering, that explains the methodology used to determine the attributes of successful lawyers, called “effectiveness factors,” identified in The Law School Admission Project: Looking Beyond the LSAT. That project seeks to develop a new law school admissions examination designed to predict attributes associated with successful performance as a lawyer. “Researching the Law” is one of these “effectiveness factors.” The report also summarizes previous empirical research identifying the possession of legal research skills as an attribute necessary for effective performance as a lawyer. More information on this report is available here.
7. Law Student Learning Styles
Finally, t Two articles published in the Spring 2009 issue of Perspectives: Teaching Legal Research and Writing discuss new evidence respecting law students’ learning styles. This evidence may suggest ways in which legal research instructional methods might be altered to accord better with law students’ preferred modes of learning.
- In Law Students Are Different from the General Population: Empirical Findings Regarding Learning Styles, Professor Robin Boyle Laisure, Director of Academic Support, and Assistant Director of the Writing Center at St. John’s University School of Law; Professor Jeffrey J. Minneti, Director of Academic Success at Stetson University College of Law; and Professor Andrea Honigsfeld of Molloy College report results of a study comparing the learning styles of law students at St. John’s and Stetson with those of “a random sample of 95 students from college and graduate schools around the United States.” The results “showed that the learning styles of the students in the law schools differed significantly from those in the college and graduate schools for 14 different elements of the 26 elements studied.” The authors summarized their findings as follows: “[A]s compared with those in the General Student Population, the law students more strongly assessed themselves as Verbal Kinesthetic, Analytic, experiencing higher energy levels in the Late Afternoon/Evening, Single-Task preferenced (as opposed to multitasking), less likely to learn in Small Groups or Teams than Independently, and preferring Routines and Patterns.”
- In Teaching Every Student: A Demonstration Lesson That Adapts Instruction to Students’ Learning Styles, Professor Minneti and Professor Catherine J. Cameron of Stetson Law demonstrate how such empirical evidence about law student learning styles might be used to improve legal research instruction. In their article, Professors Minneti and Cameron describe a demonstration legal research and writing lesson designed to accord with the learning styles of their students as determined through the Building Excellence Learning Styles Survey. The authors also report the detailed results of that survey for the 2008 Stetson Law incoming class.
8. Fred Dingledy’s Survey of Law School Legal Research Programs
Fred Dingledy, Reference Librarian at the College of William & Mary Law Library, has published the results of an informal survey of academic law libraries respecting their law schools’ legal research instructional programs. Ten libraries responded, and the results are full of detail and difficult to summarize. Readers are encouraged to examine Mr. Dingledy’s prose description of the results as well as the table providing complete results.
9. Professor Paul Callister’s Article on Bloom’s Taxonomy as Applied to the Pedagogy of Legal Research Instruction
Professor Paul D. Callister of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, has posted on SSRN the abstract of his new article, entitled Time to Blossom: An Inquiry into Bloom’s Taxonomy as a Means to Ordered Legal Research Skills. Here is the abstract:
“Within law librarianship and legal education, there has been far too little scholarly engagement on the underlying pedagogy at the heart of legal research instruction. To correct this deficiency, law librarianship needs to open a dialogue and should consider adapting Bloom’s Taxonomy as a common schema for a collaborative effort.
“This paper was initially presented at the ‘Conference on Legal Information: Scholarship and Teaching,’ held at the University of Colorado Law School on June 21-22, 2009, as part of its Boulder Summer Conference Series. It follows the author’s own recently published challenge to law librarianship and legal research instructors to create a Bloom’s taxonomy for legal research education. See Paul D. Callister, Thinking Like a Research Expert: Schemata for Teaching Complex Problem-Solving Skills, 28 LEGAL REFERENCE SERVICES Q. 31, 48-49 (2009).”