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Survey Highlights Learning Differences At Law Schools

"The gender findings were interesting and kind of disturbing."

Women in law school are less likely to ask questions in class or engage in discussions with professors, a new study found.

The 2010 Law School Survey of Student Engagementwas conducted by researchers at Indiana University at Bloomington’s Center for Postsecondary Research and is based on feedback from nearly 25,000 students at 77 law schools in the United States and Canada.

Lindsay Watkins, project manager, was alarmed by those results.

Fear of Embarrassment Cited

“The gender findings were interesting and kind of disturbing,” Watkins said.   “We hope this is an area that folks will find intriguing and want to follow up on.”

Nearly half of American law students are women.

The survey also showed that female law students are also more likely to say they work hard out of a fear of failure or the desire to avoid being embarrassed in front of their peers.

No Explanation Found

The survey did not address the reasons women seemed more reluctant to speak out, but the authors hope the findings might stimulate further research.

The amount of time students spend in educationally meaningful activities and how well they feel their schools are preparing them to handle ethical dilemmas were factors the survey sought to measure.

Students reported feel faculty members can play an important role  in their professional development.  But less than one third of third-year law students—either men or women—reported they had worked closely with their professors or frequently discussed class readings or career plans with them.

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