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6 Northeastern University Law Journal 189 (2013)


The legal community has talked for years about proposed changes to the American Bar Association's (ABA) standards for the accreditation of law schools to include some form of learning outcomes assessment (LOA).' Although it is still unclear if and when comprehensive new standards will take effect and, more importantly, when law schools will be required to fully implement LOA processes, it is never too early to help law students meet their full potential since the essential purpose of LOA is to improve student learning. Moreover, current ABA Standard 203 (Strategic Planning and Assessment) requires law schools to regularly assess their program-level learning objectives. In part, Standard 203 states: "a law school shall demonstrate that it regularly . . . assesses its success in realizing [its] established goals and periodically re-examines and appropriately revises its established goals."

As further described below, LOA processes involve a series of steps at both the course-level and program-level that mirror the language of ABA Standard 203. Significantly, the question that LOA asks is not simply whether students have passed their respective courses, but whether the overall course of instruction enables students to learn the knowledge, skills, and values that are required of the educational institution.

This article begins in Section I with a brief summary of LOA theory and practice, including a discussion of formative and summative assessments and the feedback-loop that is a central feature of LOA. In Section II, the purpose and value of LOA, particularly with respect to law schools, is discussed. Section III then describes some of the practical challenges of implementing LOA processes. Building upon the discussion of the theory, practice, and struggles of LOA, Section IV examines the meaning and purpose of a PLC and how PLC processes can be used to plan for and implement LOA. The article concludes with a summary of the key features of collaborative teams.