UMKC School of Law

Barbara Glesner Fines

Twenty Questions to Identify Learning Outcomes

Crossroads Conference  - September 2008

In the process of identifying learning outcomes for our family law curriculum, my colleagues (Professors Mary Kay Kisthardt, June Carbone, Mary Kay O’Mally, Mary Weir, and Peter Raith) have had many conversations about our aspirations for our students’ learning.  As in the best of any other conversations, the greatest insights often came from the questions we asked of one another.  Here are twenty questions, drawn from those conversations, you can ask one another to help identify learning outcomes as a the critical first step in the assessment cycle.


To identify expectations about learning outcomes:

1.          Why do students take your course?

2.          What courses require your course as a pre-requisite?  Why?

3.          How, if at all, is the subject matter of your course tested on the bar exam?

4.          What expectations do the bench and bar have for students who have taken your course?

5.          If you don’t know the answer to these questions, why not?


To identify “subject matter” objectives:

6.          If your course were cut to three hours, what would you teach in that three hours?

7.          What do you think students will most remember from your course in three years?

8.          What subject matter do you most consistently test?  What percentage of the test is devoted to this subject?

9.          What thematic idea does your course share with other courses in the curriculum?

10.         What major subjects from the subject matter field do you omit from your course coverage?  Why?


To identify “skills” objectives:

11.         What fundamental information and communication skills do students exercise in your course (i.e., reading, researching, listening / oral and written communication)?

12.         What analytical skills do students have an opportunity to practice in your course that they are unlikely to have practiced in other courses?

13.         What skill do students bring to your course that students have an opportunity to master through repeated opportunities for practice and feedback?

14.         What role(s) do lawyers play in the field of practice connected with your course? How does your course introduce students to that role?

15.         What skills do students practice in your course that will allow them to continue to improve their skills? (e.g., self evaluation, reflective, collaboration, receiving feedback, seeking out assistance)


To identify values and attitudes objectives:

16.         What major misunderstanding, mistaken assumption, prejudice, or bad habit (of thought or practice) do students bring to your course that you would like them to “unlearn”?

17. Who are the clients your students encounter in this course?  What do they learn about those clients and their world?

18. Who are the lawyers and other professionals your students encounter in this course?  What attitudes do students learn about being a lawyer and collaboration (within and across professional lines) from their study of these professionals?

19. What is the primary professionalism value you model in your teaching of this course?

20. What central dilemma faced by attorneys practicing in your subject area do your students have an opportunity to face and resolve in this course?




Glesner Fines