212
JEFF MINNETI
5. Providing the academic skills training law students need to be
successful
In addition to crafting objectives and assessments, legal educators must
consider how students will learn what they need to know and how they
will learn the skills they must acquire. Many law schools employ academic
success programs to provide academic skills training to students. The ABA
has signaled that such programs are a welcome and perhaps necessary
facet of legal education
.
21
Academic success programs vary widely across
law schools. Generally, in the first year, the programs focus on critical read-
ing, legal synthesis, legal argument, using analogy and policy to bolster le-
gal argument, and exam-taking strategies. Some programs are mandatory
for all students, others mandatory for students with weak entering creden-
tials, and others are wholly voluntary but target students at risk for poor
exam performance. Delivery of academic skills training varies as well: in
some schools academic success professionals teach first year substan-
tive courses; at others academic success programming is entirely separate
from other classes; and at still others, academic success programming is
taught in a separate class setting, but the skills are taught in the context of
students’ substantive courses
.
22
In my judgment, the more the academic skills training is integrated into
students’ substantive courses, the more effective the training. Integration
occurs when an academic skill, such as legal synthesis, is expressed as
part of the objective in a substantive course lesson plan. For example, a
professor’s objective might state: “Students will derive the tests for contrac-
21 See e.g. Leslie Yalof Garfield,
The Academic Support Student in the Year 2010
,
69
.
22 See
.
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