Of course, what do lawyers really need to know about U.C.C. Article 9? Not that they haven’t been taught a great deal in class, but testing forces professors and students alike to give thought to focusing on key issues. It would seem at the least that students must understand the basics of classifying collateral, creating a security interest, perfecting the security interest and sorting out priorities. But then, there are plenty of other good things to learn as well. Should students really know how the “rebuttable presumption” test works for non-complying sales? What should they know about the treatment of inventory that is leased to a lessee where the lessor’s lender has a security interest in the collateral?
Lynn Daggett’s recent article All of the Above: Computerized Exam Scoring of Mulitple Choice Items Helps To: (A) Show How Exam Items Worked Technically, (B) Maximize Exam Fairness, (C) Justly Assign Letter Grades, and (D) Provide Feedback on Student Learning in the recent volume of the Journal of Legal Education makes the pitch for multiple choice generally, but not in the context of commercial law. The most persuasive argument is the ability to have data showing areas where students either mastered the material (or didn’t). Kenney Hegland’s 2006 article On Essay Exams also in the Journal of Legal Education takes the opposite stance. Hegland makes a pretty good case that exams not only evaluate, but also teach. This, of course, is better done with essay format.
The merits of both Daggett’s and Hegland’s arguments are easy to see, but are there reasons to prefer one over the other for commercial law? With the breadth of code provisions, it is tempting to use multiple choice questions in commercial law. In fact, I have used a partial multiple choice format when teaching Sales. But even in this class, I share Hegland’s desire to teach and a general commitment to having students carefully work analysis. The breadth of issues with Secured Transactions would make it easy to weave a single long fact pattern of a transaction in its entirety from the creation of the security interest to default and repossession by a lender. There would certainly be plenty for all students to write about in such a case. But, I find myself drawn to a format that might use the same transaction in a format that breaks it down to shorter 20-30 minute segments. This approach, I believe, would require students that might otherwise skip over difficult code issues to have to take them up because they are set out as separate grading items. There is also a greater potential for using variations on the fact patterns with this format, which is especially helpful for drawing out code nuances. Like Daggett, I like knowing which areas of Article 9 the students had more difficulty with on the examination. But, I am not quite willing to commit to giving the students a pass on explaining their analysis.
For any of you also mulling this over, several other articles that you might want to look at (though not specifically about commercial law) are:
Steven Friedland, A Critical Inquiry into the Traditional Uses of Law School Evaluation, 23 Pace L. Rev. 147, 174-79 (2002);
Linda R. Crane, Grading Law School Examinations: Making a Case for Objective Exams to Cure What Ails “Objectified” Exams, 34 New. Eng. L. Rev. 785 (2000);
Marcella David, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Multiple-Choice Exam: Or, The Schoolroom Lessons from Bush v. Gore, 51 J. Legal Educ. 1 (2001);