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Acing Courses and Law School Exams: Metacognition is the Key! Saundra Yancy McGuire, Ph.D. Assistant Vice Chancellor Professor, Department of Chemistry.

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Presentation on theme: "Acing Courses and Law School Exams: Metacognition is the Key! Saundra Yancy McGuire, Ph.D. Assistant Vice Chancellor Professor, Department of Chemistry."— Presentation transcript:

1 Acing Courses and Law School Exams: Metacognition is the Key! Saundra Yancy McGuire, Ph.D. Assistant Vice Chancellor Professor, Department of Chemistry Past Director, Center for Academic Success Louisiana State University

2 Suffolk’s Mission Statement Suffolk University Law School… is dedicated to welcoming students from all backgrounds and circumstances and educating them to become highly skilled and ethical lawyers who are well-prepared to serve in their local communities, across the nation, and around the world. …the Law School seeks to develop in its students the skills necessary to serve the profession's changing needs in an increasingly diverse, global and technologically-dependent society. … Suffolk meets that challenge by providing students …excellent training by a diverse and accessible faculty engaged in scholarship and service to their profession and communities. Suffolk's goal is to provide its students with access to an excellent legal education, inspire a commitment to justice, and provide its graduates the opportunity to achieve their career aspirations.

3 The Suffolk Faculty WANT You to Succeed! YOU CAN DO IT!

4 “After taking in all your information, I have applied it all and have received, as you expected, amazing results. No shock there. The system works. FACT! I am very excited for myself. School is more enjoyable and I have more free time. With my original goal as a 4.0 gpa this semester, I am still running to catch it and will not stop.” “I went home after meeting with you and tried out the study tips you explained and, sure enough, I understand twice as much as I did before! I did some concept mapping and it helped so much! I am much more excited to study now.” “This approach has helped me actually remember and learn what I have studied instead of just memorizing it.” Notes from Students

5 What we will cover today Why law school students may be inefficient learners Metacognitive learning strategies that work, and why they work Barriers to using these strategies and how to overcome them Strategies for acing the law school courses and the bar exam

6 The Story of Two Students Travis, a psychology student 47, 52, 82, 86B in course Robert, a chemistry student 42, 100, 100, 100A in course

7 Travis, psychology student 47, 52, 82, 86 Problem: Reading Comprehension Solution: Preview text before reading Develop questions Read one paragraph at a time and paraphrase information

8 Robert, chemistry student 42, 100, 100, 100 Problem: Using examples to do homework problems Solution: Study information before trying homework problem Use example to test skill Do homework problems as if doing a test or quiz (no looking at solution manual or examples!)

9 How’d They Do It? They became expert, strategic learners by using metacognition! They studied to LEARN, not just to make the grade!

10 Reflection Questions What’s the difference, if any, between studying and learning? Which, if either, is more fun? For which task would you work harder? A. Do well on a on a test B. Teach the material to the class

11 To Ace Law School AND the Bar Exam… Stay in learn mode, not study mode Study as if you have to teach the material, not just make an A on the test

12 Use Metacognition to Become an Expert Learner

13 Metacognition The ability to: think about thinking be consciously aware of oneself as a problem solver to monitor and control one’s mental processing to be aware of the type of learning that you are doing know your learning style (www.cas.lsu.edu)

14 Learning Strategies Should be Based on Learning Style

15 Learning Styles Influence how we take in information from the outside world Influence how we process information Influence how we interact with others Influence our motivation for learning different subjects Influence our frustration level with learning tasks

16 Brain Dominance Personality Sensory Preference Learning Style Diagnostics

17 Sensory Preference Visual: prefers pictures, symbols, charts, graphs, concept maps, etc. Aural or auditory: prefers hearing lectures, reading notes out loud, etc. Read/write: prefers flashcards, notes, lists, outlines, etc. Kinesthetic: prefers direct experience, mapping, charting, experiments, visualizing action, etc.

18 Strategies, NOT intelligence or ability, will determine your success in law school and beyond!

19 Counting Vowels in 45 seconds How accurate are you? Count all the vowels in the words on the next slide.

20 Dollar Bill Dice Tricycle Four-leaf Clover Hand Six-Pack Seven-Up Octopus Cat Lives Bowling Pins Football Team Dozen Eggs Unlucky Friday Valentine’s Day Quarter Hour

21 How many words or phrases do you remember?

22 Let’s look at the words again… What are they arranged according to?

23 23 Dollar Bill Dice Tricycle Four-leaf Clover Hand Six-Pack Seven-Up Octopus Cat Lives Bowling Pins Football Team Dozen Eggs Unlucky Friday Valentine’s Day Quarter Hour What are the words arranged according to?

24 NOW, how many words or phrases do you remember?

25 What were two major differences between the 1 st and 2 nd attempts?

26 1. We knew what the task was 2. We knew how the information was organized

27 Turning Yourself into an Efficient, Expert Learner Focus on learning and on teaching the information Do “think aloud” exercises Constantly ask yourself “why” and “what if” questions Always test your understanding by verbalizing or writing about concepts; practice retrieval of information Move your activities higher on the Bloom’s taxonomy scale by comparing and contrasting, thinking of analogies, thinking of new pathways, etc.

28 Evaluation Synthesis Analysis Application Comprehension Knowledge Making decisions and supporting views; requires understanding of values. Combining information to form a unique product; requires creativity and originality. Using information to solve problems; transferring abstract or theoretical ideas to practical situations. Identifying connections and relationships and how they apply. Restating in your own words; paraphrasing, summarizing, translating. Memorizing verbatim information. Being able to remember, but not necessarily fully understanding the material. Bloom’s Taxonomy Louisiana State University  Center for Academic Success  B-31 Coates Hall   Identifying components; determining arrangement, logic, and semantics. Graduate School Undergraduate High School This pyramid depicts the different levels of thinking we use when learning. Notice how each level builds on the foundation that precedes it. It is required that we learn the lower levels before we can effectively use the skills above.

29 At what level of Bloom’s did you have to operate to make A’s or B’s in college? 1.Knowledge 2.Comprehension 3.Application 4.Analysis 5.Synthesis 6.Evaluation

30 At what level of Bloom’s do you think you’ll have to operate to make A’s in law school? 1.Knowledge 2.Comprehension 3.Application 4.Analysis 5.Synthesis 6.Evaluation

31 How do you move yourself higher on Bloom’s Taxonomy? Use the Study Cycle!

32 4 Reflect The Study Cycle 1 Set a Goal(1-2 min) Decide what you want to accomplish in your study session 2 Study with Focus(30-50 min) Interact with material- organize, concept map, summarize, process, re-read, fill-in notes, reflect, etc. 3 Reward Yourself(10-15 min) Take a break– call a friend, play a short game, get a snack 4 Review(5 min) Go over what you just studied *Intense Study Sessions Attend Review Study Attend class – GO TO CLASS! Answer and ask questions and take meaningful notes. Preview before class – Skim the chapter, note headings and boldface words, review summaries and chapter objectives, and come up with questions you’d like the lecture to answer for you. Review after class – As soon after class as possible, read notes, fill in gaps and note any questions. Assess your Learning – Periodically perform reality checks Am I using study methods that are effective? Do I understand the material enough to teach it to others? Preview C enter for A cademic S uccess B-31 Coates Hall ▪ ▪www.cas.lsu.edu Assess Study – Repetition is the key. Ask questions such as ‘why’, ‘how’, and ‘what if’. Intense Study Sessions* short study sessions per day Weekend Review – Read notes and material from the week to make connections

33 Concept Mapping  A visual manipulative approach to learning  Excellent tool for content/concept analysis  Organize and manipulate concepts, ideas, theories and other material in a visual format.  Can be used for learning, teaching, organizing, problem- solving, decision-making and brainstorming.  Offers simplicity and clarity to complex, multifaceted material.

34 Create a Chapter/Research Paper Map Chapter/Title of Paper Primary Headings Subheadings Secondary Subheadings

35 Compare and Contrast Concept #1Concept #2 How are they similar? How are they different?

36 Persuasive Writing or Critical Analysis Thesis Details Viewpoint Details Conclusion Reasons, Facts, Examples

37 Time Management is Life Management

38 Tools for organizing your life: Fixed Schedules “Semester-at-a-Peek” “Week-at-a-Peek” Planners To Do Lists Today This Week Sticky Notes

39 The Semester Schedule

40 The “Week at a Peek” Schedule

41 Weekly Master To Do List  Week of Monday ____________________________ to Sunday ____________________________ Class: Other: Class: Download this form in the Time Management Online workshop at

42 Tips to remember... Use daylight hours wisely! 1 day light hour = about 1 1/2 evening hours.

43 Learning tips from recent law school graduates 1 Use the reading strategy – it works! 2Get an upper-class student to show you how s/he learned the material 3Concentrate on the big picture, knowing how the details fit into it 4DON’T GET BEHIND! 5Use the resources – don’t be ashamed! 6The BEST resource is on the next slide!

44 The goal of the Academic Support Program (ASP) is for students to make the most out of their abilities. To accomplish this goal, the faculty conduct weekly classes on such diverse topics as: Legal Analysis and Writing; Course Outlining; and Time Management. In addition, the faculty will conduct seminars on a variety of topics, such as Legal Writing for Law School Exams and Preparing for Oral Presentations, during the course of the academic year. The program is staffed by three full-time members of the faculty: Professor Herbert N. Ramy (director); Professor Janet Fisher; and Professor Elizabeth Stillman. All three have a great deal of experience in legal education and specialize in assisting students who are struggling in law school. If you are struggling to master any aspect of your legal education, the professors in the Academic Support Program can help. Students are encouraged to contact any ASP Professor to set up an appointment. SUFFOLK ACADEMIC SUPPORT PROGRAM

45 Tips for Acing Law School Exams* 1 Work Early, Work Often 2 Learn to Issue-Spot 3 Outline, Outline, Outline 4 Go Solo (or small, focused study group) 5 Study Your Profs (read their writing) 6 Chill Out Before the Test (You’re ready!) 7 Slow down (Analyze the entire test first) 8 Kill the post mortems *www.lawcrossing.com/article/36/Acing-Law-School-Exams-Grade-A- Advice/#

46 Tips for Acing the Bar Exam 1 Use the Learning Strategies We’ve Discussed and Ace Suffolk University Law School! 2Use The Ultimate Bar Exam Preparation Guide at content/uploads/The%20Ultimate%2 0Bar%20Exam%20Preparation%20 Resource%20Guide.pdf 3Visit 4Be confident - Suffolk has prepared you!

47 ABC’s of Excellence Adopt the right ATTITUDE Begin appropriate BEHAVIOR Consistently make a COMMITMENT

48 Attitude “It’s your attitude, not your aptitude, that determines your altitude.” Zig Ziglar

49 Behavior It’s the difference between knowing and doing that determines success. Anonymous Don’t let other folks hijack your future!

50 Commitment It’s not over ‘til it’s over, and YOU determine when it’s over! Change strategies when necessary, but never give up your goals. If you can dream it, you can achieve it!

51 So, What Can You Do, Starting Now to Ensure that You’ll THRIVE in Law School? Spend more time studying (try for 2 hours/week for every hour in class) Aim for higher learning levels and 100% mastery Use the Academic Support Program, office hours, and study groups productively Use the Study Cycle Use Metacognition to Study Smarter!!!

52  What was most useful was identifying my learning style and the importance of using my learning style to learn, not memorize  My level of confidence has increased because I am taking advantage of the opportunities here and understand what type of learner I am  What caused me to change was knowing what methods I had to incorporate to do well  Confidence definitely increased after implementing the strategies because workload became more manageable  I learned a lot from Dr. McGuire because before her class I didn’t know how to utilize her methods. Students at a southeastern Law School 2011 Law Student Feedback about Metacognitive Strategies

53 Challenge to Suffolk University Law School Students Metacognition Discussion – January 30, 2013 Average Year End GPA: 3.5 % Passing bar exam: 94.4%!

54 Writing Exercise What behavior will you commit to for at least the next four weeks?

55 If you don’t start it in within the next 24 – 48 hours... … you probably never will.

56 Final Note Please visit our website at We have on-line workshops and information that will teach you additional effective study strategies. I wish you a fantastically successful future in the legal profession! Dr. Saundra McGuire


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