Growing Smart

Forgive me for one more post about the Miami School of Law's hiring plans, but a comment on one of my earlier posts revealed that I had failed to be clear about one of the more remarkable aspects of the proposed faculty-growth strategy: If we stick to the plan, we're going to add a lot of faculty, but we're not going to grow the JD student body at all.

This is not a plan to suck in more tuition dollars and graduate more folks who will add to the competition for a fairly fixed pool of jobs. Rather it is a plan to do more for the students we get. Some of the jobs will be funded by doing more with less — and might mean that while my job satisfaction might increase from happier students and an ever more vibrant intellectual atmosphere, my salary future isn't inevitably as rosy as it might otherwise have been (especially if we buy expensive laterals). Some of the jobs are being paid for with new money that the central administration is going to make available to us.

The bottom line — again, assuming that we're not all selling apples on street corners — is that students should benefit enormously from smaller classes, from an even more diverse and exciting curriculum, and from a significantly improved student/faculty ratio.

By any analysis, this is a student-centered proposal.

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6 Responses to Growing Smart

  1. disghusted says:

    “students should benefit enormously from smaller classes,”

    Why? This is not elementary school. Can you point to empirical studies that *law students* benefit from slightly smaller classes?

    “from an even more diverse and exciting curriculum”

    What is lacking now? More b.s. seminars that will only meet twice a semester and you can just sit and read papers for a weekend to assign grades?

    “and from a significantly improved student/faculty ratio.”

    Good lawyers don’t repeat themselves, this is the same as the first argument, which has no support.

    How about lowering the overpriced tuition instead?

  2. Michael says:

    My impression, both as a student and a teacher, is that there are qualitative differences between (1) classes with up to about 25 students, (2) classes in the 25-50-something range; (3) bigger classes.

    That’s not as true if all you you do is lecture, but most of us do much more than that in class.

    Plus, there is more to fac/student ratio than classes: it has effects on faculty participation in student extra-curricular activities, in the number of independent writing projects the faculty can supervise and so on.

    There’s always more subjects one might like to add to the curriculum (and more sections of popular subjects).

    I don’t know what law school you attend(ed), but in ours I know the Dean’s office expends some effort to ensure we adhere the to ABA rules on class hours, which means you couldn’t get away with “only meet[ing] twice a semester”. I think some of my best teaching has been in seminars — but it is can more work for both students and teachers than a four credit course.

  3. John Flood says:

    Smaller classes enable more engagement between professor and students. Every student can contribute to class discussion fully. Writing projects can be monitored and mentored over a more extended period producing a better paper. Very occasionally a paper comes close to being of publishable quality. Within a smaller class both sides learn. I know I will come out richer than when I started the class.

  4. eric says:

    At Elon we’ve been giving a good deal of thought to the question of class size, as part of our broader focus on student engagement. While there is a lack of research on class size in law school specifically, there is a body of research on the effect of class size in higher education (as distinct from elementary school). One recent survey of that research makes the following observation:

    “In general, large classes are just as effective as small classes in imparting factual information. Smaller classes are more effective when the goals are problem-solving, critical thinking, long-term retention, and attitude toward the discipline.”

    Problem-solving and critical-thinking are, of course (or maybe not “of course”, but I contend they ought to be) at the core of legal education. There is certainly no good reason to imagine that the benefits of smaller classes should not obtain in law school as in other higher education settings.

    Certainly it would be beneficial to have more research-based evidence to guide law schools in making decisions about class size. But it is simply untrue to suggest that there isn’t any pertinent research to support the case for smaller law school classes as a means of improving student engagement and achievement.

  5. Cassandra says:

    While more professors would help, nothing is going to change until the new Dean and Professors stand up and force other professors to change what is not working.

    Take LRW for example. Stotzky is way to busy with other commitments to effectively oversee the program. Last year the research topics were not even coordinated so Moot Court could not hold a round robin type tournament. Some LRW professors are great, others are horrible, you cannot regularly speak with any of them. Complaints about something as basic as papers not being returned before revisions are due are shrugged off.

    Anyone with ears ought to know about this problem, but as long as Stotzky is there nobody will challenge him. It is this ambivalence to excellence that is really holding the school back.

    Hire Donald Trump as the next interim Dean.

  6. Go Democrats says:

    If anyone is that displeased with the disorganization of UM, feel free to transfer to St. Thomas University. We always accept transfers lol

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