1.6 – A Results-Focused Approach


Results-Focused Approach

I want to talk about the kind of approach I'm going to encourage you to take in this course. It's what I call a results-oriented or results-focused approach to academic success in law school. The idea here is, I want you to be really laser focused on the goal that you're trying to accomplish. What is your goal? Well, in an ordinary podium or doctrinal class, your goal is to get a good grade, and your grade is going to be determined by your performance on a timed exam at the end of the semester. What that means is that everything you do from the first day of class, all the way through the entire semester, is really oriented around figuring out how you can perform your best on that exam at the very end of the semester.

Once you realize this, it can actually be liberating because you recognize that some things that might seem really, really important in the day-to-day maybe aren't quite as significant. Think about your performance in the second week of class. You get cold called by your professor. The professor calls on you and asks you to explain some point about the law, or about a case you read. You could give the most brilliant answer anyone has ever heard, and that would be great, and you should feel proud of yourself for doing that. But giving the most brilliant answer doesn't necessarily mean you're going to get a good grade on your exam at the end of the semester.

Likewise, you could give a confused answer, because maybe you don't really perfectly understand the law well enough at that point. You're still working through it. It turns out that that actually doesn't mean you're not going to get a really good grade on the exam at the end of the semester. What matters is how well you understand things at the very end of the semester. In some courses, class participation may be graded to some extent, and so you have to take that into consideration.

Understanding Evaluation

Figuring out the needs of exam

The idea here is you need to really figure out, "How am I being evaluated? What is my goal and how do I get to a place where I'm going to really accomplish that goal at the end of the road?" Likewise, that means that you need to really focus on the kinds of studying that are likely to pass cost-benefit analysis. I've talked a little bit about how just brute force studying is not really what we're trying to do here. We're trying to figure out how to do the kinds of studying that's smart, that actually helps you get to a place where you can perform at your best on an exam at the end of the semester.

Just spending all your time rereading everything multiple times, memorizing everything really, really carefully, could be helpful, but not necessarily, because you need to really figure out, "How exactly am I going to be evaluated? What is this exam going to look like, and how can I develop the skills, the knowledge, and the understanding that will allow me to perform my best on an exam at the end of the semester?"

No Shortcuts

I also want to make one other point clear, though, that taking a results-focused approach doesn't mean there's easy shortcuts. With certain kinds of tests, you can really teach to the test, and really just not focus on the material itself, but really focus on how to get good at the test in particular. With law school, I don't think you can really do that, in the sense that the tests are designed to really figure out who understands the law, and how deeply they understand the law. There's not going to be a shortcut that gets you to the point of performing really well on an exam that doesn't involve actually understanding the material, doing the reading, learning the law in some serious way.

Understanding Pedagogy of Professor

What professor thinks of as important is important

This exam also suggests that you need to keep in mind some specific things about your goal, and in particular, your exam that you're going to complete at the end of the semester is going to be graded by a particular person. It's going to be graded by your professor. What that means is, for any particular class, you're not just learning the criminal law, or the law of contracts, you're learning the criminal law or the contract law as it is taught by your particular professor. That suggests you need to pay particularly close attention to the particular details of the law that your professor thinks are really important.

In the following classes, we're going to talk about how we can study in a really focused and intelligent way and in a way that's designed to put you in the best position to provide peak performance at the end of the semester when you're evaluated on an exam, and to give you the kinds of results in terms of academic success that you're looking for.

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