Creating Paradigm Shifts in Teaching and Assessing Law

The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong


Increasing calls on universities to show greater accountability and development of student skills have made universities rethink educational practices, including adopting outcomes-based and authentic learning approaches. While some disciplines find it less difficult to adopt change in their teaching-learning-assessing methodologies, disciplines having longer-established teaching-practice traditions, such as case-based teaching in law, find changing methods challenging and requiring substantially more persuasive lobbying. Changeover in paradigms then needs to overcome both student and staff resistance. Students need to transit from secondary education practices specially in learning and assessment, and teachers from stubbornly-held, long teaching traditions. We showcase questionnaire-survey and interview data from University of Hong Kong students in a tort law course with radically changed teaching and assessment methods, to show that paradigm shifts in learning and assessment became agreeable, even to first year students following large classes (n >100), when teaching and assessment changes occurred in a clearly enunciated, prior-announced, transparent ways and with real-time feedback, that showcased to students the professional long-term skill benefits of changed practices.

We also showcase learning and assessment changes that were radical from both student and law teaching viewpoints. For students at entry level, this was their first learning and assessment experiences in the use of self-discovered authentic incidents to independently apply and build analytical legal-reasoning and writing skills at higher cognitive levels on the taxonomies of SOLO and Perry's intellectual development (at relational and relativist levels, respectively). For law teaching, the methods deviated radically from traditional case-based didactic teaching and unseen summative assessment.

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