Date of this Version

July 1994

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Details

Bentley, Duncan (1994) Using structures to teach legal reasoning Legal Education Review Vol 5 (2) pp 129-152

Copyright © Duncan Bentley & Legal Education Review 1994. All Rights Reserved.
Permission granted. Access Legal Education Review homepage.


[Extract] In 1992, The American Bar Association Task Force Report on legal education and professional development was published. Part of the central mission of the Task Force was to identify the skills and values required by a competent lawyer. Ten skills were identified. The second of these is legal analysis and reasoning

Legal reasoning is usually a fundamental element in the teaching and understanding of law in comllion law countries. In most core substantive law courses this takes place at least in part through a study of cases and the use ofstandard undergraduate problems. These problems are generally fairly straightforward fact patterns designed to raise one or more issues within a specific area of law.

At Bond University specific structures are generally used in teaching legal reasoning. The hypothesis underlying their use is that students using such structures will improve their legal reasoning. The first part of this article describes an experiment to test the use by students of one such structure.

The second part of this article gives the results of the research, which are categorised according to the aims, and a discussion of those results. The aims are categorised as follows:

* whether students used the structure taught

* whether students using the structure, applied it well and if not, why not

* whether students using the structure applied it consistently

* whether students' application of the structure improved

* whether it could be shown that students' marks improved as a result of using the structure.

The third part of this article draws some conclusions as to the weight which should be placed on unstructured anecdotal evidence in assessing success in teaching methods; discusses some difficulties in teaching legal reasoning to undergraduates; and places the results of this experiment in context.



This document has been peer reviewed.


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