A Law student’s perspective of Learning and Teaching

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I was recently given the opportunity to arrange a student panel for a Law learning and teaching day and thought it would be helpful to share  some of the recommendations made by these students as well as tips on how to make student panels work.

Panels are a great opportunity to look at a subject from several viewpoints, and air diverse opinions. Given that previous Law Learning and Teaching days hadn’t included the students’ perspective, this panel was particularly significant. Here are my five tips on making a student panel a success:

  1. I spoke to the tutors who provided their student tutees names and contact details.
  2. I allowed and dedicated time to making contact with each student and talked them through the process.
  3. I was open to last minute adjustments: It just so happened that in the last week of the upcoming conference, one of the students got in touch with me and for personal reasons she wasn’t able to attend the conference on campus. And so with her approval, we decided to include the student’s presence using Skype.
  4. Prior to the conference, we offered the opportunity for staff to come up with questions they might wish to ask. I also came up with several learning and teaching related questions as I thought it best to have more not less questions!
  5. I invited a law academic to act as chair and booked IT facilities to record the session.

The student Panel was made up of LLB, GDL, BPTC, and LLM students. A summary of the points raised was noted from Professor Susan Blake (Associate Dean of Education) as below.

Tutorials/Seminars:

  • BPTC students think they are good, but it depends on the group dynamic
  • GDL students value them, but there is too much to prepare and indications of what to prioritise would help. Tutorials should be 2 hours.
  • LLB students said tutorials are OK, but attendance and student contributions were key issues and marks should be given for this. One hour is too short and topics may not all be covered. Tutorials should be more inter-active with presentations, debates and group work.
  • LLM students said seminars were good and encouraged discussion (though some international students took a while to adjust to the approach). There should be clear policy and practice on attendance expectations, and expectations on advance reading and preparation. The range of student backgrounds and goals should be appreciated.

Lectures

  • BPTC students said views are mixed on the value of lectures. All lectures should use Lecture Capture, but the BPP approach of just putting lectures online is not necessarily good.
  • LLB students said that lectures were very important, though lecturer style could make a difference to the value of a lecture. Quizzes were useful to check understanding. All lectures should use Lecture Capture so they were available for revision purposes. Each student should have a different tutor for lectures and for tutorials.

Feedback

Students said there should be a coherent approach between formative and summative assessment tasks (so the same types of task are used for both). Feedback is most helpful if it identifies the key problem with the work, and how to improve. It should give the student an indication of how well he/she would do in formal assessment. Tutor availability to discuss feedback is valued. Scores on feedback and assessment may be low because of when questionnaires are given to students.

  • LLB students said those who do not do formative feedback do not get feedback and may struggle – a stronger requirement to do formative work could assist them.
  • BPTC students said feedback on advocacy was good, especially when given during a performance so the student could try again. Shorter briefs help students to focus on skills
  • LLM students said feedback was very good, but not all students did formative work. Generic feedback is not helpful – getting personal feedback as soon as possible is best. Feedback is best if it challenges the student, and motivates her/him to do more work.

Sense of community

  • All students said they would value more practitioner talks and a public lecture series. Careers events could be better promoted. Students interested in particular areas of practice should have focussed events (raised by BPTC students, but others agreed)
  • All students wanted more cross course (and for the LLB cross-year) social events.
  • BPTC and GDL students said they would prefer seminar groups to be shaken up, so they did not work with the same students through a whole term/year
  • GDL students said there were problems in building a sense of community as students tended to identify with their UG university. They get information about pupillage events, but can be too busy to attend.

Use of education technology

  • Most students thought use of Moodle was OK. Things like powerpoint slides should be put up as a norm, with sufficient resources to provide extra support for students. This should include eg past papers. Lecture notes should be put up in advance wherever possible.
  • Innovative use of technology is valued in lectures, such as group work on documents on the BPTC. Prezzi is more attractive than plain powerpoint. Quizzes, videos and poll everywhere are important for keeping attention and engagement.
  • Innovation is useful on Moodle, such as quizzes, or timed questions where a sample answer comes up for comparison when time runs out.
  • The reliability of technology is important, for example in recording student performances.
  • Most students thought Lecture capture is important (especially BPTC and LLB). Students cannot concentrate 100% and some points are complex so it is really helpful to be able to replay. It is also valuable for revision.

The one thing to change if I were Dean for the day:

  • Make PC based assessment available for opinion writing and drafting
  • Mix up seminar groups so students meet more people and get a wider experience
  • Go out and talk directly to students more (LLB suggestion)
  • Restructure the BPTC so that opinion writing and conference skills run right through, focussing on conferences early on. This would mirror practice better
  • On the GDL, make formative coursework match assessment methods.
  • Raise more money to get reliable IT
  • Show teaching staff more appreciation (!)

Whilst the summary of the feedback is more from a law perspective, most of the suggestions could be applied to other disciplines. If there are other disciplines that have any additional tips or recommendations, please do respond to this post.

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