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Monday, December 05, 2022

Oral assessments (if not exams) (Updated)

Responding to Gerard's post: In Fed Courts and Civil Rights, a chunk of the grade (about 30/165 points) is based on oral arguments. I usually have 20-30 students in each. The class gathers for a full day at the end of exams. Each student argues one case and judges one case. A petitioner and respondent argue the case before a panel of 3 students and me. It is a lot of fun and the students enjoy it. And it allows me to test them in real-time--to push back and/or correct their understandings and arguments and thus to measure how well they get stuff.

I have not been able to pull the trigger--which I think is what Gerard is suggesting--on making it the sole big assessment. That comes from a written opinion on a third case (as well as two smaller in-semester papers). I am not sure our internal academic policies on the curve and blind grading allow it. But it is an interesting thought would make my life easier. And that other people, such as Gerard, would consider it suggests it is worth thinking more about.

PS: A colleague described doing oral exams years ago at another school, in Fed Courts. He met with each student and had a conversation about some subjects or issues. Sometimes, to ease student discomfort, he took it outside--they walked around campus talking about federalism.

Update: One more thing, perhaps against the idea. In litigation, the balance between oral and written has shifted overwhelmingly towards the latter--fewer appeals get oral argument, fewer trial motions get oral argument, district judges spend less time on the bench. So do we do a disservice by emphasizing oral over written in getting them ready to practice?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 5, 2022 at 01:33 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink


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