Assessing experiential learning – us, them and the others
This paper looks at the assessment of experiential learning primarily in the context of the learning and teaching of students using ‘hands-on’, interactive and reflective methods. It will, at various points, also refer to the evaluation of programmes and modules in terms of their impact and where improvements, in pedagogic terms, can be made.
The ‘us’ here are the teachers/tutors who are employed to promote, support and otherwise facilitate the advancement of the students’/learners’ education. The ‘them’ is the student body on a particular course of study. The ‘others’ are those who have a vested interest in the form, content and means of measuring achievement of and in legal education – be they professional regulatory bodies, employers or the wider public.
The term ‘experiential learning’ refers in this setting to an approach to education in which students are exposed to real or realistic legal issues and problems. In this process they are required, in a structured way, that may or may not lead to the award of academic credit, to apply theory to practice and then deconstruct and analyse what took place (or did not as the case may be) and why. In the world of legal education an experiential approach to study is often termed ‘clinical’ and the word ‘clinic’ will appear frequently throughout this paper in referring to the vehicle through which experiential learning may be presented and delivered.
Finally, by way of introduction, the word ‘assessment’ is intended to include the measurement of both the quality and extent of student learning (regardless of whether academic credit is gained) and the perceived value of what is being delivered from a learning and teaching perspective, by the ‘us’, the ‘them’ and the ‘others’.