Thurgood Marshall School of Law has a longstanding institutional commitment to innovation in legal education. TMSL continues this commitment through its 2014-2019 Strategic Plan, which provides a framework for an effective, competency-based, outcomes oriented program of legal education. Its goals are to measurably improve student learning and to equip students for success in a modern legal profession. To this end, TMSL has both engaged a faculty of highly competent legal educators and instituted programs that provide a sequential, integrated approach to student learning. These programs are offered through the Office of Academic Support, which works directly with students and faculty to further develop students’ critical thinking skills, the TMSL Center for Legal Pedagogy, and the Office of Assessment.
TMSL is especially proud of its Center for Legal Pedagogy, which was established in 1999 as a resource for faculty on best educational practices. For more than a decade, the Center has collaborated with faculty to sponsor workshops featuring national experts on teaching and learning, and to provide teaching recommendations on exam construction, learning styles, and other pedagogical topics. The cognitive sciences—such as educational and cognitive psychology, neuroscience, epistemology, and linguistics—inform the Center’s work. The ultimate aim of the Center is pragmatic: to promote new and better ways to help students learn the law.
TMSL is also one of a few law schools in the country with an office solely dedicated to assessment. The Office of Assessment, staffed by a full-time Executive Director and a psychometrician, has since its 2010 establishment collected data from measured outcomes to evaluate student performance. In partnership with the TMSL faculty, the Center for Legal Pedagogy, and the Office for Academic Support, the Office of Assessment has conducted assessments of student performance on a range of lawyering skills, including writing, client interviewing, core legal knowledge, and critical thinking.
TMSL recognizes that students develop important lawyering competencies in many different ways, not just from their classroom experiences. Experiential learning is essential. The pillars of experiential learning at TMSL are its strong clinical legal studies program, which consists of five clinics and the Earl Carl Institute for Legal and Social Policy. The mission of the ECI is to help solve, through scholarship and advocacy, the legal and social problems facing the urban community. The work of the Institute is consistent with the school's institutional goal: to develop lawyers who are excellent practitioners and who will provide legal services to underserved populations.