CALI Assessment SIG

Oct 25

by Jane Winn
24 October 2015 DRAFT

Why was this SIG formed?

Starting in the 2016-2017 academic year, American law schools will be required to implement new ABA accreditation standards requiring the publication of student learning outcomes and the use of formative and summative assessment to measure and improve those outcomes.  This SIG was formed to create a forum where law school faculty members could discuss the implementation of those new standards in their own teaching and at their own law schools.

Who can join this SIG?

Anyone teaching at an American law school subject to the new ABA accreditation standards.

How is the SIG organized?

The primary means of communication among SIG members will be by email using an email listserv.  In addition, periodic conference calls may be organized or a website created.

How can I join the email list for this SIG?

Contact John Mayer, the Executive Director of CALI, at to ask to be added to the list.

Who organized this SIG?

Jane Winn, University of Washington Law School (bio) and a CALI board member

What will the SIG do?

A proposed first project is to collaborate on the development of rubrics for some very basic legal reasoning skills.  Starting with generic legal reasoning skills permits the SIG to be as inclusive as possible because these basic legal reasoning skills should have some relevance to almost all courses across the law school curriculum.

As a proposed starting point, the description of very basic legal reasoning skills used in discussions of rubrics will be taken from this essay:

Winn, Jane K., Introduction to Common Law Legal Reasoning as Taught in American Law Schools (September 3, 2015). Available at SSRN:

How will developing rubrics assist in compliance with the new ABA learning assessment standards?

Rubrics clarify for both the instructor and the student how progress in achieving learning outcomes is assessed.  The use of formal, written rubrics simplifies the process of providing feedback to students, thus reducing the burden on faculty members of compliance with the new standards.

If consensus can be achieved on rubrics for basic legal reasoning skills, then that might help to streamline the process of developing rubrics for learning objectives tied to specific doctrines, skills or courses.

The development of widely accepted rubrics in an open, transparent process by faculty members might help increase the effectiveness of information technology such as “learning management systems” when used as a means of helping students achieve learning outcomes.

How can I learn more about the ABA standards?

ABA 2015 Draft Guidance on New Standards for Assessing Learning Outcomes

ABA Standards (complete)

Lori E. Shaw, Victoria L. VanZandt, Student Learning Outcomes and Law School Assessment:  A Practical Guide to Measuring Institutional Effectiveness (2015)

How can I learn more about rubrics?

Most universities in America now have special units set up to support the needs of faculty members trying to improve their teaching through the adoption of tools like rubrics, so your first, best resource is likely to be the staff of that unit at your home institution.

Many colleges, universities and schools have posted information about rubrics online:

The Institute for Law Teaching & Learning provides information about rubrics for use in legal education:

Why is CALI, the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Education sponsoring this Special Interest Group?

To further its mission:

CALI advances global legal education through computer technology, employs research, collaboration, and leadership to assist a diverse audience in the effective use of this technology in legal education, and promotes access to justice through the use of computer technology.

Why should I consider participating in this SIG now instead of waiting until new, easy to use products appear on the market?

Many different vendors including the legal databases vendors, bar review preparation services and other commercial entities are making major investments in the development of products they believe will help law faculty members demonstrate compliance with the new ABA accreditation standards.  In order for faculty members to make an informed decision about whether to rely on such products, they will first need to understand how the new ABA accreditation standards apply to their own teaching.

What is the biblical story of Jacob and Esau?

Chapter 25 of the book of Genesis tells the story of Isaac’s twin sons, Esau and Jacob.  Esau has the birthright of the firstborn son but his younger brother Jacob wants it.  With the help of Rebecca, Jacob first tricks Esau into giving up his birthright in exchange for a mere bowl of lentil porridge and then tricks their blind and aged father Isaac into recognizing the transfer.

What relevance does the story of Jacob and Esau have to the issue of whether or not to participate in this SIG?

Law faculty members acting through institutions of faculty self-governance today serve as intermediaries between prospective lawyers and the American public.

The context within which legal education is delivered is being transformed as a result of changes in ABA accreditations, changes in the market for legal services, changes in the way technology is used to deliver instruction and other developments.  A highly readable, very general introduction to these issues can be found in Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, The Second Machine Age:  Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies (2014).

If faculty members “outsource” the problem of managing the transformation of legal education to commercial vendors, they may find like Esau that they have inadvertently forfeited their birthright—to control the process of transformation through the institutions of faculty self-governance—to commercial vendors.