Inspiring Ideas for the Teaching & Learning of Law
BOOK: The Lecturer's Toolkit by Phil Race (2006)
The Lecturer’s Toolkit is the primary resource for all instructors, whatever their experience, who are seeking to improve their teaching skills. Developed around detailed, practical guidance on the core elements of effective teaching , it is packed full of helpful tips on key topics including:
BOOK EXCERPT: DESIGN AND USE LEARNING OUTCOMES (p22)
1. Work out exactly what you want students to be able to do by the end of each learning element, chapter, module, etc. …it is often worth thinking about your exact intentions, and working out how these connect together for different parts of students’ learning.
2. Don’t use the word ‘students’ in your outcomes. It is much better to use the word ‘you’ to convey that the responsibility for outcomes is on the student.
3. Work imaginatively with existing learning outcomes. You may be able to enhance existing outcomes so that they are more useful to students in your courses.
4. Match your wording to that of your students. Learning outcomes expressed in course documentation may be off-putting and jargonistic, and may not match the intellectual or language skills of your students. Translating outcomes to plain English will be more helpful to your students.
5. Your intended learning outcome should serve as a map to your teaching strategies. Students and others will refer to the outcomes to see if and how the course or program is relevant to their needs or intentions.
6. Remember that many students will have achieved at least some of your intended outcomes already. Give credit to students for existing experience and confirm that it is useful for knowledgeable students to share from their experience.
7. Be ready for the question ‘WHY’? It is only natural for students to want to know why a particular outcome is being addressed. Be prepared to illustrate the importance for students.
8. Be ready for the reaction ‘SO WHAT?’. When students, colleagues, or external reviewers still can’t see the point of a learning outcome, they are likely to need further explanation before they will take it seriously.
9. Work out your answers to ‘WHAT’S IN THIS FOR ME?’. When students recognize the short-term and long-term benefits, they are much more likely to achieve it.
10. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver. It is tempting to design learning outcomes for [all related content]. However, the real test is whether or not your teaching enables students to achieve every outcome. ..[be realistic on what your students will be able to accomplish within the given timeline of the course].
11. Don’t use words such as ‘UNDERSTAND’ or ‘KNOW’. Think about what you can have students DO to demonstrate their learning – both to you the instructor and to themselves as self-regulated learners.
12. Don’t start at the beginning. It is often much harder to write the outcomes associated with the beginning of a course. Establish where the students will be at the end of the course FIRST. Then identify those things that have to happen in order to get students to the end-point.
13. Think ahead to ASSESSMENT. A well-designed set of learning outcomes should automatically become the framework for the design of assessed tasks. It is worth asking yourself, ‘How can I measure this?’ for each drafted learning outcome.
14. Keep your sentences short. This will assist your students in getting the gist of the outcome.
15. Consider illustrating your outcomes with ‘for example….” descriptions. Such added detail can be invaluable to students.
16. Test-run your learning outcome statements. Ask a sample student group ‘what do you think this really means?’.
17. Aim to provide students with the whole picture. Students need to be guided in ways that allow them to feel confident in their ability to succeed one step at a time.
18. Don’t get hung up too much on performance, standards, and conditions. For example, don’t feel that such phrases as ‘under exam conditions’ need to be included in every learning outcome. While such clarifications may be extremely valuable elsewhere, don’t dilute the primary purpose for students – which is learning.
19. Don’t be trivial! One of the main objections to the use of outcomes is that there can be far too many of them.
20. Don’t try to teach something if you can’t think of any intended learning outcome associated with it. This may seem obvious, but it can be surprising how often a teaching agenda can be streamlined and focused by checking the content against the stated outcomes.
21. Don’t confuse learning outcomes and assessment criteria. Assessment criteria are best ready by students after they have started to learn the topic, rather than at the beginning of the course.
22. Don’t write any learning outcomes that can’t (or won’t) be assessed. If it’s important enough to proposed as an outcome, it should be worthy of being measured in some way.
23. Don’t design assessment tasks or questions that are not related to your outcomes. It is critical that you spend class time on those items you’ve identified in your outcomes and deemed important.
24. Don’t state learning outcomes at the beginning and then fail to reference them frequently. It is important to come back to them regularly. Turn them into checklists for students – for example, ‘check now that you are able to…’.
EXEMPLARY LEARNING OUTCOMES
Judith Younger, University of Minnesota School of Law, identified the following learning outcomes as essential to the practice of law (1990):
"If law schools were, as they say they are, successfully training lawyers for practice of the profession, their graduates would emerge with the ability to do eight things:
1. Put problems in their appropriate places on the substantive legal map; in other words, spot the issues, characterize or affix the right legal labels to facts;
2. Plumb the law library to its greatest depth and come up with buried treasure;
3. Write grammatically, clearly, and with style;
4. Speak grammatically, clearly, and with style;
5. Find, outside the library, the facts they decide they need to know. This includes the ability to listen;
6. Use good judgment;
7. Find their way around courts, clerks, legislatures, and governmental agencies; and
8. Approach any problem with enough social awareness to perceive what nonlegal factors bear on its solution.
FROM: Judith T. Younger, Legal Education: An Illusion, 75 MINN. L. REv. 1037, 1039 (1990)
Don't be put off by the title! This quick down-to-earth video effectively demonstrates the considerations needed for effectively writing your course learning outcomes.
This article examines some of the realities and misconceptions surrounding the use of student learning outcomes. It identifies the likely consequences of institutionalizing an outcomes model, acknowledges the pitfalls, and attempts to allay fears that are based more on antagonism to change than on likely risks.
American Bar Association