Enabling lifelong learning for law students: In class, out of class, after class
Date of this Version
There is little doubt that, to ensure success both at law school and after law school, students must develop and practice both generic and law-specific study skills and engage in independent learning. Students come to law school from different educational backgrounds and experiences. Although some have well developed study skills before commencing their legal studies, many lack a clear understanding of what is involved in independent learning. Early semester law students in particular lack these basic skills, and some do not have access to the same learning support opportunities as their peers.
Some important questions arise. First, should law schools be involved in assisting students to develop learning and study skills? It is the authors’ opinion that law teachers should in fact share this burden as the development of appropriate learning skills contributes to learning the law, student welfare and vocational skills. Second, which skills should be taught? Although there are a number of self-help study guides available to law students, few of these guides focus on study skills with scientifically proven learning benefits. Third, how should law schools teach study skills to students? It is the authors’ experience that students tend to understand what is required of them 'in-class' but remain confused about what is required of them 'out-of-class'. However, there is often little in-class engagement on the issue. Teachers in early-semester subjects are well placed to fill this gap by assisting students develop out-of-class study skills and independent learning techniques. The authors will share the experience of enabling students to develop out-of-class study skills and independent learning techniques through in-class student engagement, specifically by offering an additional one-hour weekly seminar in a first semester subject. This paper discusses the three questions (above), the approach adopted in the teaching of a first-semester subject by one of the authors, and provides some critique and suggestions moving into the future. By developing ‘out of class’ learning skills through ‘in class’ engagement in not just content but also learning processes, students may be better prepared for their ‘after class’ world where independent learning will be essential to their vocational goals.