Retrieval practice protects against stress

Stress, especially high stress testing like the LSAT, law school exams, and the bar exam, impairs our memory and decreases our performance. Some law students with text anxiety “blank out” during exams due to acute stress and cannot remember anything they learned. What if you could make your memory and all of the material that you learned immune to stress?

Learning by using retrieval practice and self-testing makes your memory more “stress resistant” than if you learn by rereading or memorization. Retrieval practice – recalling information from memory without any cues and taking practice tests – is a learning super tool, much more effective than restudying or rereading. Researchers have already proven that retrieval practice is better for learning than rereading because it builds knowledge and calibrates learning by helping learners understand what they do and do not know.

Now, researchers have now proven that retrieval practice also protects what we have learned against acute stress.

“[U]sing a highly effective learning strategy to strengthen memory at encoding inoculated memory against the deleterious effects of the delayed stress response.”

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Law Student Study Habits Survey

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First Year students at Seattle University School of Law are invited to participate in a voluntary survey to identify which law study habits are linked to better learning outcomes and academic success in law school.

Professor Jennifer Cooper, in collaboration with Dr. Regan A.R. Gurung (University of Wisconsin-Green Bay), has developed a brief survey about law student study behaviors. Your participation is confidential and voluntary and takes 5 minutes.

Take the Law Student Study Habits Survey 

What did we do last class? Integrating retrieval practice to make connections

The first five minutes of every class offers a unique opportunity to connect with our students, but is often squandered on taking attendance, announcements, or setting up our slideshow, etc. Instead, use the first five minutes of class to connect with your students and to connect your students to the course material. Many good educators begin each class with a capsule review, quickly summarizing what happened in the last session. But, asking your students to retrieve what they remember from the last class offers much more value and increases student learning.

The exercise is simple and quick. Have students tell you what they learned in the last class session, without looking at their notes, books, or laptops. Write their comments on the board, editing for clarity and correcting if necessary. This simple act of retrieval practice – recalling information from their memory without any cues – helps your students connect prior learning to new learning, make connections with the course material, and learn the material more deeply.

Learn more about this technique and other retrieval based teaching techniques here.

First-year legal writing mistakes & how to avoid them

Student LawyerIn undergrad, you were a term paper pro. You could crank out thought-provoking three- to five-page term papers replete with resplendent prose and droll, pithy observations, impressing your professors by transforming minutiae into master­pieces. You razzle-dazzled them with all your word bling.

In law school, no one is impressed by your word bling. Less is more, especially when it gets right down to business. Legal writers are rewarded for conciseness, precision, sophisticated analysis, and ef­fective communication.

Hot tips for new (and not so new) legal writers in my recent article, First-year legal writing mistakes & how to avoid them, in the January 2016 edition of the ABA Student Lawyer. New legal writers often carry college writing tactics with them to law school like inflating ideas, using fancy words (word bling!), and “more is more.” This idea inflation conflates with students wanting to “sound like a lawyer,” cranking out papers loaded with legalese and quotations.

My article suggests a few easy fixes: cut to the chase, use your words, and lead your reader. Read all about it here.

Illusions of Competence: Obstacles to Learning & Which Learning Strategies Really Work

Illusions of competence are obstacles to learning. Yet, learners are unaware of the existence of such illusions or their own susceptibility to them. Such is the nature of illusions, right?

Learners unwittingly develop illusions of competence by an over relying on ineffective, passive learning strategies such as rereading, rote memorization, and cramming study. These illusions of competence made students believe that they have learned because the information seems familiar; therefore, it is perceived to be well learned. Research from cognitive science tells a much different story. Illusions of competence make learning “feel” successful, but actually impede learning.

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