Thursday, January 04, 2007

Polls

Over the last few weeks, I have polled readers on three issues. Only a handful of readers responded so who knows what the “truth” is. Still, for those interested, here are the results.

Issue 1

Is there a market for easy tenure review letters?
Thirty-two people responded. Twenty-one answered “yes.” Three answered “no.” The rest had no opinion or checked a box that was not responsive. I found the result surprising. I thought law professors would answer defensively and claim that tenure and review processes were “clean.” They did not. What do you make of a profession that has no front end evaluation of scholarship, no back end evaluation, and hands out life time annuities?

Issue 2

Do you use multiple choice questions on law school final exams?

Thirty people responded. Thirteen use no multiple choice. Twelve use them for less than half of the total grade, four for less than half, and one person for the entire final. These numbers may overstate the number of multiple choice users because I was really only interested in whether people used machine gradable multiple choice. The text of the post made that clear but the actual poll question may not have.

Some commentators defended their use of multiple choice saying there are different “learning styles.” That my be true but the only learning style it makes sense, to me at least, to test is that which is most closely related to reasoning through complex situations. I am not convinced that machine gradable multiple choice question do that.

Issue 3

This question was more complicated. It was an assessment law school health. Only 23 people responded and there is no guarantee that 23 different law schools are represented. Ten ranked their law schools as, well, pretty awful places. Another 4 placed their law schools just a notch up from awful. You would have to look at the post to get a flavor of what “awful” means.

What does any of this mean? The low numbers are disappointing. Let's hope the results are not representative.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The question about a market for easy tenure letters does not automatically lead to the conclusion that there is no gatekeeping on the tenure business once hired. Many people who don't get tenure these days appear to leave on their own, usually coaxed to leave by the Dean and faculty leaders based on a negative prediction about tenure prospects. Some of this is in response to the movement for more rigorous third year review, which at many schools is specifically designed to result in some faculty leaving the school. In either case, a tenure letter may never be solicited at all at this stage. In a few other cases, the tenure denial occurs at the university level after the candidate receives a lukewarm or even negative review from the law school dean. This overcomes the glowing positive letters from outside readers.

1/05/2007 12:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The question about a market for easy tenure letters does not automatically lead to the conclusion that there is no gatekeeping on the tenure business once hired. Many people who don't get tenure these days appear to leave on their own, usually coaxed to leave by the Dean and faculty leaders based on a negative prediction about tenure prospects. Some of this is in response to the movement for more rigorous third year review, which at many schools is specifically designed to result in some faculty leaving the school. In either case, a tenure letter may never be solicited at all at this stage. In a few other cases, the tenure denial occurs at the university level after the candidate receives a lukewarm or even negative review from the law school dean. This overcomes the glowing positive letters from outside readers.

1/05/2007 12:49 AM  
Blogger Jeff Harrison said...

I agree there is some gatekeeping along the lines the reader suggests and my hunch is that the better the school the more effective it is. This is speculation but I think as you move down the rankings two things occur. First, the informal process weeds out those who do not fit politically and socially as much as it weeds out underachievers. Second, deans view their jobs as advocates for whomever the faculty passes on regardless of the quality of the candidate or the objectivity of the review letters.

1/05/2007 8:48 AM  

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