Getting Up to Speed: Understanding the Connection between Learning Outcomes and Assessments in a Doctrinal Course

Document Type

Law Review Article

Publication Date



educational psychology and metacognition, teaching methods


Many professors are bristling over the recent changes to the American Bar Association (ABA) Standards and Higher Learning Commission (HLC) Criteria, requiring law schools to have learning outcomes and assessments. While such criteria have existed outside the law school environment for many years, the concepts are new to most law professors. This article explains what a learning outcome is and how to create one. It then explores the flip side to outcomes, assessments. It provides a variety of ways for creating and incorporating assessments into a doctrinal course. More than just providing a basic introduction to outcomes and assessment, the paper explains how the shift to learning outcomes and assessments is good for legal education. With the shift, content knowledge and skill development based on that knowledge becomes the constant and the time it takes to cover material becomes the variable. Both professors and students can be assured learning, and the right learning, is happening. Moreover, through the professor’s focus on a demonstration of knowledge, students will leave law school with a vast skill set designed to allow them to do something with the knowledge they have acquired.