All courses and clinics must use "formative assessment" methods to provide meaningful feedback to students and to measure and improve student learning.
Formative assessment methods are activities before the end of the course or clinic that provide feedback to improve student learning. Examples include: writing exercises; ungraded or graded quizzes; mid-terms; in-class exercises; and the like. Formative assessment does not include ordinary classroom discourse, final papers, or final exams. After the semester concludes, the Law School will be asking all instructors to report on the formative assessment used in their courses/clinics. (Your plans for Formative Assessment do not need to be listed on the syllabus).
The pertinent ABA Standard on Formative Assessment appears at the bottom of this webpage.
The Law Faculty unanimously voted on April 1, 2016, to adopt the Initial Implementation Plan for Law School Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes. The Implementation Plan stated in part:
"Instructors use both 'formative' and 'summative' assessment tools to determine whether or not students are learning what they are expected to learn. Formative tools provide feedback that allows students to improve their learning outcomes during the course or program. Summative tools assess whether or not students have achieved the identified learning outcomes at the end of the course or program. ABA Standard  requires the use of both formative and summative assessment tools to improve student learning and provide meaningful feedback to students, but the ABA does not specify form, method, or frequency of the tools that must be used...."
The Law School's implementation of formative assessment in its courses proceeded thus:
In the 2016-2017 academic year, voluntary use of formative assessment was specifically encouraged, while in the 2017-2018 academic year, the Law School’s implementation plan required that all JD-required courses to have formative assessment. These were:
- all required 1L courses (i.e., Contracts; Criminal Law; Civil Procedure I; Property; Torts; Legal Research & Writng I and II);
- all Professional Responsibilities courses;
- all courses meeting the Legal Process graduation requirement (in 2017-2018, these were: Administrative Law; Comparative Law; International Law; International Business Transactions; Wisconsin Constitution & Government; Law of Democracy; Federal Law & Indian Tribes; Legislation/ Statutory Interpretation; International Trade; Public Law & Private Power).
In the 2018-2019 academic year, the implementation plan called for, in addition to all JD-required courses as above, all Diploma Privilege-required courses to have formative assessment. Diploma Privilege-required courses are:
- Criminal Procedure;
- Trusts & Estates;
- Civil Procedure II (and Federal Jurisdiction; Conflict of Laws);
- Constitutional Law I;
- Constitutional Law II (and any course/seminar meeting the Con Law II requirement).
Beginning with the 2019-2020 academic year, the plan mandated that all Law School courses and clinics have some form of formative assessment.
ABA Standard 314. Assessment of Student Learning
A law school shall utilize both formative and summative assessment methods in its curriculum to measure and improve student learning and provide meaningful feedback to students.
Formative assessment methods are measurements at different points during a particular course or at different points over the span of a student’s education that provide meaningful feedback to improve student learning. Summative assessment methods are measurements at the culmination of a particular course or at the culmination of any part of a student’s legal education that measure the degree of student learning.
A law school need not apply multiple assessment methods in any particular course. Assessment methods are likely to be different from school to school. Law schools are not required by Standard 314 to use any particular assessment method.