Outcome Driven Assessments to Help Teach Advocacy

April 13, 2011

Editor’s Note:  Please welcome today’s special guest blogger Charles Rose.  Charles is the Director for the Center for Excellence in Advocacy, and Professor of Excellence in Trial Advocacy for Stetson Law.  Mr. Rose talks about the idea of outcome driven assessments and how they apply in the teaching of trial advocacy.

There are a lot of different things that you need to consider as you begin to design a program to teach advocacy, but I want to talk today about something that is on the minds of many people on both the practitioner side of the house and in the cutting-edge of the academic world. That topic is outcome driven assessments. You often hear this referred to as competencies. What they’re really talking about is an ability to define with specificity benchmarks that show the students have properly mastered the skill is being taught.

The problem when dealing with assessments and competencies in skills training is that the literature and the training materials previously developed were not created with the idea of identifying specific assessments, the process you use to teach and grade the assessment, and the outcome that must be achieved to display competency.   This deficit should be of particular concern to those of us in the Academy.  The American Bar Association is considering adopting a standard that would require competency driven assessments for skills training in law school.

Fortunately people are beginning to pay attention to this problem. Many professors have used assessments on an individual basis for an extended period of time.  Over the years they’ve developed a checklist of core things that they think a student should be doing in order to display competency.  The problem with this ad hoc approach is that it is not sufficiently systemic to work across an entire semester of organized instruction.   When you look at it from a systemic standpoint what is needed is a text that incorporates as a core value the need to organize around outcome driven performances.  This thought is an organizing concept in the second edition of my text Fundamental Trial Advocacy.

I’ve taken this idea of core competencies further in the second edition of my text.  I structured each chapter to specifically identify the law, the skill, and the art of the particular advocacy task that was being taught. This allowed me to create a text that feeds directly into the assignments that are provided in the Teacher’s Manual. The end result is a text that flows directly into the assignments, with assignments that reflects the core competencies identified in the text.

This approach defines specific outcomes that a student must perform, creating the opportunity for proper assessment. The idea is to create a set of circumstances where the student is told, prior to beginning the training, the standard for success. The materials that are provided teach those same specific standards.   The assignments allow the students to perform the desired outcome to the degree of competency necessary to evaluate competency.

If you are interested take a look at them.  You can find them on the web at www.Roseadvocacy.com. They’re also available on Law School Exchange at exchange.westlaw.com.    I would be happy to hear what you think about this change in skills education.

Charles Rose: Director Center for Excellence in Advocacy

Professor of Excellence in Trial Advocacy at Stetson Law.

Fun Facts About Charles:

1)       What is your favorite TV show?  I enjoy the Defenders, Two and a Half Men, and Glee.  Glee is a family event for us.

2)      What are you reading now?  Right now I am reading Guy Gavriel Kaye’s Fionavar tapestry.

3)      What is your favorite movie of all time?  I have to choose three – Spartacus, Braveheart & Gladiator.