Faculty Scholarship

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The traditional and dominant mode of formal assessment in law schools is an essay examination administered at the end of the semester. Unfortunately, the essay exam is prone to inaccuracies, some of which can be balanced by other forms of assessment. In addition, essay exams are extremely burdensome to grade.

The purpose of this Article is to call attention to a variety of alternatives to this traditional format that are more accurate and less burdensome than traditional essay exams. Increasing accuracy makes it possible to determine whether the instruction has been effective, allowing the instructor to address areas of weakness before the course ends and to improve future classes. Decreasing the burden of assessment of student learning allows for faster feedback, which is more effective. Faster assessment also makes possible frequent assessment, and frequent assessment provides students with the information they need to improve, promoting student learning. Some of these alternatives are formal--that is, used as a basis for assigning a grade others are not. Others, although informal, can be important educational tools themselves. [excerpt]