Assessment of Student Learning and Learning Outcomes


Connecting Learning to Lawyering

An excellent legal education challenges students to push beyond the confines of the curriculum and develop the skills necessary to become successful attorneys.  Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law recognizes the need to educate students holistically, fostering a strong basis of knowledge in the law, a command of skills such as writing and advocacy, a passion for serving clients, and a portfolio of metacognitive skills (including leadership, determination, self-awareness, and relationship building). With these goals in mind, the Law School has implemented learning outcomes, performance criteria, and an assessment plan geared towards developing exceptional lawyers.

The information contained on this page showcases our comprehensive, student-focused learning goals and assessment plan.


Why Learning Outcomes?

All law schools are required by the ABA to implement learning outcomes. Not all, however, are created equal. Our faculty understand that it is not only about what is taught, but also about what students learn, and that it is important to continuously seek ways to improve upon that student learning.

Students should have an understanding of what they will be able to learn throughout their law school experience. Our learning outcomes provide this framework for students. Each class offers different opportunities for learning and skill development, providing students with the ability to map out their academic careers in a way that builds skills and values, while deepening their knowledge of substantive law.

In brief, each learning outcome is important in the formation of well-rounded attorneys. When students graduate, they will show competency in all areas, including (1) integrity and professionalism, (2) knowledge of the law, (3) research skills, (4) analysis and counseling, (5) communication, (6) ethics and metacognitive skills, and (7 & 8) an understanding of the business behind the profession.

In the Spring of 2015, the Law School began the process of revising and expanding the assessment program it had in place. The idea was not only to meet the newly-issued ABA requirements, but to also go beyond the call of these requirements to better serve our students. This effort was holistic and it included extensive consultation with employers to determine what skills were the most valuable. By March of 2016, the faculty had adopted a comprehensive set of eight learning outcomes and 34 performance criteria.

Once the learning outcomes and performance criteria were identified, the faculty worked to connect the courses being taught to the newly crafted learning outcomes. These efforts can be seen in our Curriculum Map, linked below. The work has since shifted to creating a sustainable assessment plan that focuses on student achievement of the stated learning outcomes, as well as ongoing evaluation of the outcomes themselves.

+ Learning Outcomes


Learning Outcomes & Associated Performance Criteria

 

See how our course offerings map to these learning outcomes in our Curriculum Map (Basic)

  1. Graduates will demonstrate knowledge of a lawyer’s professional and ethical responsibilities and will understand the role of a lawyer in promoting justice.
  2. Graduates will be able to recognize the most common ethical and professional liability dilemmas and will know methods for resolving them with the highest professional standards.
  3. Graduates will understand the importance of integrity, honesty, diligence, civility, accountability, and commitment to excellence in interactions with other lawyers, governing bodies, clients, and the public.
  4. Graduates will be given an opportunity to appreciate and understand the importance of giving back to the community through involvement, volunteerism, and pro bono service.
  1. Graduates will possess competency in explaining and applying the fundamental principles of the foundation courses in the first year curriculum (Civil Procedure, Contracts, Criminal Law, Property, Torts, and Constitutional Law I).
  2. Graduates will possess competency in explaining and applying the fundamental principles of the required upper level doctrinal courses (Constitutional Law II and Legal Profession).
  3. Graduates will possess the ability to learn the substantive and procedural law necessary to pass a bar examination.
  1. Graduates will be able to devise legal research plans that reflect an understanding of sources of law, weight of authority, and the process of legal research.
  2. Graduates will be able to identify and select appropriate legal information and sources by weighing efficiency, content, currency, and financial constraints.
  3. Graduates will be able to execute effective searches that identify and validate relevant authority.
  4. Graduates will be able to obtain facts from a broad array of sources.
  1. Graduates will be able to identify the issues/legal theories raised by different factual contexts.
  2. Graduates will be able to critically read and identify the rule or rules in legal authority relevant to the client’s presented problem. 
  3. Graduates will be able to provide advice and make strategic decisions based on analysis of applicable law, legally relevant facts, and any policy implications.
  4. Graduates will understand the role of facts in any legal transaction or dispute and use legally relevant facts to support presented legal issues.
  5. Graduates will recognize the importance of relevant non-legal considerations when advising clients regarding available outcomes and avenues, such as moral, emotional, economic, social, and political considerations. 
  1. Graduates will be able to write a variety of analytical and persuasive documents that are clear and concise and that use proper grammar, punctuation, tone, and, if necessary, legal citation.
  2. Graduates will be able to write analytical and persuasive documents that are well reasoned and organized.
  3. Graduates will be able to write other legal documents that clearly address and accomplish the client’s goals.
  4. Graduates will be able to write a well organized, in depth research paper that proposes and defends a solution to an important legal problem or that presents a sensible way of considering an important legal question.
  5. Graduates will be able to speak in a clear, organized, and professional manner that is appropriate for the audience.
  6. Graduates will be able to demonstrate active listening. 
  1. Graduates will be able to engage in reflective learning and to assess and reassess their professional goals in light of their skills and personal competencies.
  2. Graduates will be independently able to organize, plan, and manage legal projects.
  3. Graduates will be able to work as part of a professional team, demonstrating leadership, collaboration, and conflict-resolution skills.
  4. Graduates will be able to organize and manage their time and their work effectively to meet professional deadlines.
  5. Graduates will possess competency to communicate and build professional relationships, especially across cultural differences. 
  1. Graduates will demonstrate a basic understanding of how to use financial statements to assess the financial position of an organization.
  2. Graduates will possess competency in understanding, assessing, and applying the concepts contained in a financial valuation report.
  3. Graduates will demonstrate competency in negotiating  a business deal on behalf of a client.
  1. Graduates will possess competency in professional networking.
  2. Graduates will possess basic fluency in business concepts and terminology used in the operation of diverse legal practices, including law firms, legal departments, and legal service organizations.
  3. Graduates will demonstrate an understanding of business and financial considerations that affect (i) a client’s selection of a legal service provider and (ii) a legal service provider’s business and delivery model.
  4. Graduates will recognize that new laws and technologies, as well as persistent problems and unmet needs, present opportunities for lawyers in the public, private, and non-profit sectors to harness their training and experience to forge new structures, organizations, products, services, and solutions.

Timeline Coming Soon

The assessment plan is an iterative process that will continue to ensure the effectiveness of out learning outcomes and our students' learning. Each overarching learning outcome is the focus of a separate process that includes three steps:

  1. Planning: developing tools, assessments, and evaluations techniques to assess each learning outcome.
  2. Data collection and analysis: implementation of the plan, providing data and feedback on the effectiveness of the law school in achieving each of the learning outcomes.
  3. Future action and further planning: modification of the plan based on feedback and data from earlier efforts.

+ Curriculum Maps

Curriculum Map (Basic - PDF)

Curriculum Map (Comprehensive - PDF)

Curriculum Map (Full - Excel)

Note: The Excel spreadsheet has two tabs for the basic and comprehensive maps

Our curriculum maps show how each course connects to each of our learning outcomes and performance criteria. The following table shows the criteria used to demonstrate the level of learning reflected in the curriculum maps:

Criteria Abbreviation Definition
Instruction I (I I) 15% of total instructional time on the knowledge, skill, or value identified in this criterion. Enables learners to develop Foundational ability.
Instruction II (I II) 15% of total instructional time on the knowledge, skill, or value identified in this criterion. Enables learners to develop Proficient ability.
Instruction III (I III) 15% of total instructional time on the knowledge, skill, or value identified in this criterion. Enables learners to develop Advanced ability.
Assessment I  (A I) No instruction time, but assessment of the ability. When assessed, students should demonstrate the ability to: recall, organize, summarize, and explain the subject matter.
Assessment II  (A II) No instruction time, but assessment of the ability. When assessed, students should demonstrate the ability to: analyze problems in new situations, solve problems, make inferences, distinguish situations, identify relevant information, and find evidence to support arguments.
Assessment III  (A III) No instruction time, but assessment of the ability. When assessed, students should demonstrate the ability to: produce original work, develop a plan, or work creatively beyond the confines of the class material.
Instruction AND Assessment I  (IA I) 15% of total instructional time on the knowledge, skill, or value identified in this criterion. Enables learners to develop Foundational ability. When assessed, students should demonstrate the ability to: recall, organize, summarize, and explain the subject matter.
Instruction AND Assessment II  (IA II) 15% of total instructional time on the knowledge, skill, or value identified in this criterion. Enables learners to develop Proficient ability. When assessed, students should demonstrate the ability to: analyze problems in new situations, solve problems, make inferences, distinguish situations, identify relevant information, and find evidence to support arguments.
Instruction AND Assessment III  (IA III) 15% of total instructional time on the knowledge, skill, or value identified in this criterion. Enables learners  to develop Advanced ability. When assessed, students should demonstrate the ability to: produce original work, develop a plan, or work creatively beyond the confines of the class material.
None   Learning outcome or competency not addressed in the course.