Assessment– Are Grade Descriptors the Way Forward?


  • Victoria Murray Northumbria University
  • Tamsin Nelson Northumbria University



The debate on how best to assess clinic, or indeed if it should be assessed at all has raged for decades and shows no sign of abating. The passage of time has been unable to resolve the question of assessment, no doubt due in part to the expansion and diversification of clinical legal education. The scope of clinic and its role in both society and as a teaching method is constantly evolving and assessment methods must develop to reflect the ever changing clinical profile. In an attempt to bring its assessment regime up to date, in 2007/2008 Northumbria University’s Student Law Office modified its assessment regime, replacing outmoded criteria with grade descriptors. This paper focuses on the use of grade descriptors and criterion referenced assessment in clinical legal education, addressing whether clinic should be assessed and which of the two methods is best suited to clinical legal education. The article draws on the experiences of clinicians and students to determine what issues this change in assessment regime has raised for the assessors and the student body. It concludes that it is appropriate to assess clinic by fully grading and suggests grade descriptors are the way forward.