January 19, 2012

"Every time an NYU Law prof reuses an old exam (to the outrage of students), I have to write an entirely new post..."

"even though the underlying issues of laziness and disregard for student concerns are the same. But if I were employed by NYU, I wouldn’t even have to go through the motions, I could just take the most recent post I wrote decrying the NYU Law faculty doing this, change the dates, and go back to watching the Australian Open on television. Does anybody know if NYU is hiring?"

Blogging is hard work, lawproffing not so much... according to Elie Mystal, who is a blogger and not a law professor. I'm both, though I'm not an NYU professor. I am an NYU Law grad, though, so I have a selfish interest in defending the school. But I won't. I've never reused an exam, by the way. Not in 25+ years of lawproffing. I've never even taken an old exam question and reworked it into a new question.

What's my opinion on the question whether blogging and lawproffing are hard work? The individual has an immense amount of control — of course, I love that — and you can make both enterprises extremely difficult or fairly easy. The range is different though. The easiest approach to law professing is significantly harder than the easiest approach to blogging. There's no upper limit on how hard both can be. The correlation between hard word and quality work, however — as always — is a mystery.


David said...

I'm sure you don't run out of good questions, but aren't some questions so important, and some hypotheticals so well constructed, that it would be a good idea to reuse them?

Put differently, no one is at the top of their game all the time. Why not reuse a question that was particularly well done?

(I am assuming that students can not review 25 years of former questions and that the question is old enough that it's unlikely to have been reviewed. Even if it has, so what? They still have to get it right.)

KJE said...

To be fair, Elie Mystal does take the easiest approach to law blogging; blast law schools, the economics of law practice, or race.

Frequently, he performs the hat trick in the same blog post.

Scott M said...

Not in 25+ years of lawproffing. I've never even taken an old exam question and reworked it into a new question.

That's working harder, not smarter, isn't it?

SenatorMark4 said...

This is so common in the University and it has encouraged a certain kind of student. When I was in school, students from foreign lands representing a collective (Chinese), had saved exams going back many, many years. I'm sure their masters demanded it. All the native students, for the most part, received exams they had never seen before. The Chinese smiled at every "new" question.

traditionalguy said...

This "first we kill the lawyers" jealousy mantra over and over is much like giving the same exam over and over.

Both work better in the digital age where every activity is condensed to a rule with no discussion by humans allowed to have input into a pre-programmed narrow reality.

But so long as humans are our legal system, we will need human law professors and lawyer students treated as humans.

Scott M said...

When I was in school, students from foreign lands representing a collective (Chinese), had saved exams going back many, many years. I'm sure their masters demanded it.

Most fraternities (both social and otherwise) that I was involved with had a position known as the scholarship chair. Ostensibly, the position was supposed to oversee the average GPA of the men in the chapter and come down on poor performers. In reality, most of their efforts were involved with maintaining the chapter's test file. Whatever the legitimacy of the practice, the position actually required a lot of dedication and work.

EDH said...

"I just checked with the guys at the Jewish house and they said that every one of our answers on the Con Law exam was wrong!"

ricpic said...

But a shoemaker's work is always hard because a shoemaker has to make a shoe that is three things in one: aesthetically pleasing , functional and comfortable. The work of all makers is always harder than the work of chatterers.

SunnyJ said...

Well this an interesting question? Obvously the taxonomy for law exams is on the upper end of synthesizing, analyzing, constructing, differentiating and all those most fun higher level cognitive processes...thus, allowing great creativity with the very very large body of knowledge and precedent avaiable for exam questions.

There is a major exam fraud scandal at play in this country, though many professions are keeping this to themselves. The general public hears about the SAT or ACT scandal, multiple exams by one test taker etc. However, in many national professional exams the fraud is collection of exam questions by students of academic programs, organized and managed by those schools program staff. The drive to demonstrate their programs elite status as well as their academic careers as measured against exam performance drives the fraud. Some national exams have closed to "sharing" cultures like India and the Phillapeans as test sites because students are obligated to remember questions when they take the exam and share them...not by law...by culture. They are all in it together...unlike the American philosophy of competition and individual responsibility.

Competency measurement is a multi layer process in teaching and learning. The exam question crisis is just one, though major in the law education/profession, measurement.

Congrats to AA for enjoying each presentation of the material and the individuals response in her classes and allowing it to inform her test question construction. That way she is challenging the students that are sitting in front of her...not last years or 5 years ago or ever.

Beldar said...

I applaud your practice regarding exam questions, Professor Althouse, and wish it were universal.

On the list of important problems confronting western civilization, re-using law school exam questions isn't very high, but the aggregate of such small decisions determine whether a life is lived on a principled basis. Good for you on this one.

Jose_K said...

Why you can reuse an exam? I used the same twice for the same student and he failed twice.
And iuse the same exam every year.I say each year I will ask this. They fail anyway.
Of course it is different for engeenering. We were able memorize hundred of solved problems and gave the correct answer to the professors that used those solved problems in exams.
Of course, you can memorize the correct answer in math but not in law. And engeenering students are smart