Effective Learning and Teaching in Law
Roger Burridge, Karen Hinett,
Abdul Paliwala and Tracy Varnava (eds)
Kogan Page, London, 2002, 204 pages
ISBN: 07494 3568 2
Lorna E Gillies
Lecturer in Law,
University of Leicester
As one of a collection of publications under the auspices of the Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, this recently published book demonstrates the development of teaching and learning techniques for all those involved in teaching law at university level. The book is a collection of nine chapters contributed by leading experts in the field of teaching and learning in legal education. As a facilitator previously to one of the projects in this book and now as a lecturer in law, I naturally have a real enthusiasm for this book which led to this review.
2. Synopsis of the Text
The book provides a comprehensive assessment of current and developing teaching and learning theories and practises. The Chapter by Varanva and Burridge sets the tone of the text by reminding readers of the crucial role of the law teacher in serving students and consequently society. The emphasis in this Chapter, and indeed the book itself, is that of the 'professional law teacher' who is responsible for continuously adapting and modifying teaching and learning practices to enable students to satisfy the learning outcomes of their subject topic, module or course whilst at the same time acknowledging student diversity. Indeed the book is grounded in the 'development and recognition of the law teacher as professional educator.'
A variety of teaching and learning theories and techniques are explored in this book, providing the reader with both insight into the contributors' expertise and experiences and opportunities for personal reflection and evaluation of one's own teaching and learning practises. In each of the Chapters the authors make explicit reference to the development of appropriate learning environments, closely associated with issues of student diversity. For example, Roger Burridge's Chapter on 'Learning law and legal expertise' considers different learning theories and advocates the use of experiential learning together in tandem with a reflective teaching practice.
3. The Increasing Significance of Student Diversity in Legal Education
Student diversity is considered in a wide range of contexts throughout this book from Duncan's Chapter on teaching and assessment of professional responsibility issues, William's Chapter on the necessity to integrate human rights issues throughout legal education to the issues explored by Byles and Soenendorp surrounding law teaching for non-law students. Diversity is also considered by Hinett and Bone in their Chapter on assessment and developing judgment in legal education. These authors illustrate how ICT can assist assessment procedures, both existing and new. Significantly, the role of the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) is considered and the authors point out how the use of such technology assists both the assessment itself (whether problem-based or experiential) and the administration that goes with it. Macfarlane also considers the significant shift in the way that lawyers resolve disputes. The author suggests that it is necessary to integrate teaching methods (for example group work) for different conflict resolution procedures (such as ADR) into legal education.
4. ICT and Legal Education
The remaining two Chapters by Maharg and Paliwala and Paliwala describe and evaluate student's increasing use of electronic resources as a means to both negotiate and ultimately resolve disputes. The innovative 'Personal Injury Project' at the Glasgow Graduate School of Law is explored by Maharg and Paliwala. This project sought to develop the learning experience of the student in team-work as 'virtual firms', requiring them to carry out legal research analyse the facts provided to them; discussion (both off-line and on-line to facilitators, the expert practitioner and the course director if required), and negotiation on-line to achieve a settlement to the dispute allocated to them. When necessary the students made appropriate requests or comments to those facilitating the project including the expert practitioner via a discussion board. Experience of such a project at an early stage in the students' legal education and career demonstrates how much ICT can assist the negotiation of a dispute. The role of the law teacher in this process is also crucial and illustrates how a law teacher must also remain capable of adapting teaching techniques to the particular teaching method selected.
This book is therefore a staple for everyone concerned with teaching and learning practices for law. It will be of particular interest to those who acknowledge that the way in which law is taught continues (and should continue) to evolve. In this respect, those eager to develop VLE's to facilitate the learning outcomes of a module or course would do well to draw on the experience of the contributors. This book is therefore a signpost for the future of legal education and its professionals as opposed to being a map.
This is a Book Review published on 6 December 2003.
Citation: Gillies L E, 'Effective Learning and Teaching in Law, Roger Burridge, Karen Hinett,
Abdul Paliwala and Tracy Varnava (eds)', Book Review, The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT) 2002 (3) <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/02-3/gillies.html>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/2002_3/gillies/>.