The first-semester student: The legal-problem-solving apprentice

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Fletcher-Johnson, K. (2015). The first-semester student: The legal-problem-solving apprentice. Presented at the One day symposium on Teaching Legal Analysis and Writing Skills. 10th December, 2015. Melbourne.

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Students are asked to answer hypothetical legal problems very early in their studies. They are typically introduced to legal-problem-solving processes (eg IRAC, FILAC, MIRAT and CLEO) very early in their first- semester subjects. An ability to answer hypothetical legal problems is critical to the student’s success at law school. In my role as a teacher in a firstsemester subject (Principles of Contractual Liability), I observe that some students remain confused about the process that they adopt to answer hypothetical legal problems well into their first semester. Further, many students fail to understand that the process they adopt can be applied with varying levels of sophistication. I am part way through developing a legal-problem-solving “apprenticeship” program. The program treats the student as a legalproblem-solving apprentice. The legal-problem-solving apprentice is a “cognitive apprentice” (Collins, Brown, and Newman, 1989). The legal-problem solving apprentice will be provided with: (1) instruction; (2) demonstration; (3) student and teacher examples; (4) self-guided practice; (5) teacher-guided practice; (6) opportunities to revise and reflect; and (7) individualised online feedback.

I shall present a high-level explanation of the program. Moving forward, I intend to develop the program into an online program. I am interested in exploring (in a brainstorming session) how to best preserve the benefits of a cognitive apprenticeship (such as cognitive transparency) in an online learning and teaching environment

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