The Big News from the Conference on Assessment: Steve Bahls, Chair of the Student Learning Outcomes Subcommittee of the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar’s Standards Review Committee, presented the draft of the new Standards on assessment. From his presentation, it sounds as if some form of these Standards will be recommended by the ABA.
Where do the new Standards take us? First, the ABA, fortunately in my view, is not taking an extreme position. The proposed Standards would require that all schools do some assessment of certain required competencies, such as “legal analysis and reasoning, legal research, problem solving, written and oral communication in a legal context.” Beyond that, each school is required to identify additional learning outcomes based upon its own mission. So, the ABA appears to be seeking to preserve a good degree of law school autonomy.
The real sea change comes, however, from the requirement that each school must “employ a variety of valid and reliable measures systematically and sequentially throughout the course of the students’ studies.” Thus, a school simply will not be able to use a single summative final examination in the future, at least not in all its courses. This is no doubt a good thing, but it will involve a huge change in how we teach.