Can We Assess What We Purport to Teach In Clinical Law Courses?


  • Roy Stuckey University of South Carolina



"Assessment - evaluation: A judgment about something based on an understanding of the situation.""Assess: to judge . . . the . . . quality . . . of something."Many claims are made about the educational value of clinical education in law schools. Unfortunately, the first generation of clinical law teachers did not clearly articulate our educational goals nor did we fully explore how to assess the effectiveness of our instruction. Subsequent generations of clinical teachers adopted the practices of their predecessors and mentors. Consequently, many issues related to assessments of clinical students remain unexplored, and current practices tend to be neither valid nor reliable. While clinical teachers in the United Kingdom have made more progress than those in the United States, all clinical teachers need to work together to improve our understanding of assessments and to develop improved methods for finding out whether our students are learning what we purport to teach.This article explains the importance and nature of assessments, illustrates some of the issues presented by current practices, and proposes some new directions to consider. It concludes that much work remains to be done to clarify the goals of clinical legal education and to develop valid and reliable assessment tools.