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Learning Enhancement and Development

Session 1E - Paper 1

Wild card modules: researching collaboration with legal service providers to promote deep integrated learning

Professor Nigel Duncan – City, University of London, The City Law School

This is a report of work in progress on a research project exploring the experience of Bar students at City Law School (CLS) who undertake work with real clients as one of their BPTC Options. CLS pioneered this type of module within the UK and it has become an established part of our provision. It is a highly authentic learning experience with an equally authentic approach to assessment (Burton, 2011, 25. It represents an approach to developing professional identity (Sullivan et al, 2007, ch 4). We collaborate with the Free Representation Unit and the National Centre for Domestic Violence and this collaboration is informed by the proposals of Stuckey et al, 2007, pp 198-205. Some 15% of our students participate each year. Students are assessed on an analytical report of their work on the case(s) they undertake and a reflective report on their own learning. This year we are undertaking research into students’ experience of their training and supervision by CLS and our collaborating organisations, exploring also students’ aspirations and apprehensions. This was done by a survey at the time of their being accepted onto the clinical option (autumn 2015), followed by focus group discussions facilitated by members of the University’s Learning Enhancement and Development Dept. Survey design was informed by a pilot survey conducted at the end of the previous academic year with that year’s cohort of students.

The plan is to use findings from this process initially to inform our supervision of students during this academic year and to inform our collaborators in their design of their training programmes for future years. We will then conduct a follow-up survey at the beginning of June, when students submit the completed reports on their work with clients and, in the light of those findings, follow-up focus groups.

I plan to stimulate discussion and questions around two topics:

  1. How providers of higher legal education and of legal services might best collaborate to optimise student learning and to ensure a high quality of client representation;
  2. How learning in a real environment may help to develop deeper learning through a reflective approach to experience.

It is hoped that discussion will draw on the experience of others at City who work with external agencies, including those formal arrangements with NHS providers, and will inform both their work and stimulate others to consider such collaborations in order to enrich their own students’ learning


K. Burton, 2011, “A Framework for determining the authenticity of assessment tasks: applied to an example in law”, Journal of Learning Design Vol 4, No 2, 20-28.

William Sullivan, Anne Colby, Judith Wegner, Lloyd Bond & Lee Shulman, 2007, Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, San Francisco, Jossey-Bass.

Roy Stuckey and others, 2007, Best Practices for Legal Education, A Vision and a Road Map, Clinical Legal Education Association, http://cleaweb.org/best-practices.

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