8.3 – Improving and Learning from Mistakes


Improving and Learning from Mistakes

Analyze your mistakes, consider feedback, and learn from them.

You've gotten your grades, you've looked at where you stand in the class, you understand that these are curved grades. Let's say, maybe there are some areas where you didn't do quite as well as you wanted to, or you just see some room for improvement. What can you do with that? I think it's useful to try to figure out what went right and what went wrong for you. You might want to think about, let's say you get a really good grade in one class and a much worse grade in another class. It could be that it was just luck of the draw. If you take a hundred classes, it would kind of even out over time, but it could be that there were real differences, maybe in how you studied.

If you realize, "Gosh, I did outline, but then I ran out of time to outline that other class and so I just didn't feel as prepared." That's something to learn from, that's something to think about, and maybe see if you can replicate what worked for you in the other class. Try to think hard about, "What were things that I did differently?" Then think about, "What were things about this class that were different? Are there things that this professor did in class one that helped me learn the material that didn't happen in class two? Is there some way where I could have taught myself the material better, in a situation where maybe I wasn't getting taught as clearly?" or something like that.

Think about those kinds of questions. Then you also are going to want to maybe think about your exam performance itself. Not just the class differences, not just the differences in how you studied, but maybe you just did something on the exam in one class or in the other exam that could have been better. Professors are going to vary in the amount of feedback they give or the opportunities for feedback. Some professors will put together a memo that puts out what the ideal answer would have said, or they'll publish the best answer, or maybe they'll give you comments, or maybe they'll give you a markup, or maybe they'll meet with you to talk about it.

If you feel like there was real room for improvement, I think it's okay to take advantage of those opportunities. If you got an A and wanted an A+, I think it's probably not a good use of your time to go ask your professor, "How could I have got an A+ in this class?" If you felt like you really knew the material and something just clearly went wrong, I don't think there's anything wrong with trying to figure out, "What can I learn from this process?" See what's available to you. Maybe you have friends who did well in different classes than you did, you can talk to them about what worked well for them. Just try to figure it out, and try to figure out, "The thing that really went wrong was I just missed three really big issues."

Figure out what works for you.

Come up with a game plan that's going to help you be in a better position to not have that happen the next time. What exactly it's going to look like, it's going to be different for every person. It's going to depend on what works for you. It's going to depend on your study habits. It depends on your learning style, but I do think you should try to use these opportunities to figure out, "What could I have done a little bit differently?" Then just internalize that. Also, recognize that even if you're very good at law school exams, even if you're a really top performer, you're going to have some bad days. There's going to be some exams that are just not written in a way that suits you and what you studied.

There's going to be a certain degree of randomness class to class. Now, I generally don't believe law school grades are random. I think some law students tell themselves that because they take a bunch of exams and they can't really explain the difference in performance. Having graded a lot of exams and seeing really good exams, it's definitely not random at the extreme end. If you can try to figure out what you could have done to really make your exam stand out a little bit more, I think that will help you. Hopefully, this class is giving you the skills you need and giving you the knowledge you need to figure out how to write an exam like that in the first place.

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