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Problematising Assessment in Clinical Legal Education

Date 4th June 2015 | 10am-4.30pm
Faculty of Business and Law, Northumbria University


Cath Sylvester, Dr Elaine Hall, Carol Boothby, University of Northumbria

This is an interactive seminar and discussion forum centred on a one day conference (see booking form below) exploring the theme of how experiential learning in law is assessed. The international move towards an increasingly outcomes based approach to legal education and training has raised the profile and encouraged the development of a wide range of experiential learning practices in legal education. The extent to which these practices evidence the multiple and complex competencies they lay claim to is now attracting scrutiny. The challenge of how to assess and what to assess in work integrated learning, problem and enquiry based learning, clinical legal education and simulated leaning is emerging as an important and developing issue. The subject is particularly relevant to providers of legal education and training in England and Wales following the SRA’s announcement that it will be consulting on assessment in relation to the threshold outcomes in 2015.

The seminar is themed around an examination of the nature and processes for assessing experiential learning in law. Invited presenters will give working papers that address the following key questions:

  • Why has experiential learning (and clinic in particular) historically been a voluntary element in legal education?
  • What are the implications of making CLE and experiential learning assessed options?
  • Where CLE is assessed, what is the nature and (implied) purpose of that assessment?
  • Can the reflective and experiential elements of CLE be codified into assessment rubrics that provide guidance to students without reducing their depth and complexity?
  • How is the clinical training and assessment of students linked to the wider discourse of what a lawyer is and can do?



Discussant: Professor Cees van der Vleuten, Maastricht University

Professor Cees van der Vleuten ( Maastricht University).
Professor Van der Vleuten is an expert in the evaluation and assessment of medical education. In 2010 he received the Dutch royal decoration for the societal impact of his work and 2012 the Karolina Prize for Research in Medical Education. He has written numerous articles and books on the subject area including Assessing professional competence: from methods to programmes Van der Vleuten and Lambert Schuwirth Medical Education 2005, 39 309-317 and A model for programmatic assessment fit for purpose, CPM Van der Vleuten, LWT Schuwirth, EW Driessen, J Dijstra, D Tigelaar, LK J Baartman and J Van Tartwijk Medical teacher 2012 ;34:205-214. 

In 2009 he was appointed as an adviser to the GMC UK on assessment in undergraduate medical education and was influential in creating the current Postgraduate Medical Education and Training Board Guidelines.

Beryl Blaustone, (City University of New York)

Professor Blaustone is a Clinical Professor at City University New York and visiting Professor at Northumbria University. She is recognised as a leading authority and a published author in the areas of dispute resolution theory, professional role theory and professional skills theory.

Jose Garcia Anon (University of Valencia)
Professor Anon is Director of the International Human Rights Clinic in the Legal Clinic for Social Justice, Valencia University. His research interests include innovation in methods in teaching and learning in law. He contributed to the GAJE/ ICJLE conference in 2011 and the 5th Spanish Legal Conference on Legal Education in 2013.

Richard Grimes ( York University)
Richard is a former Director of Pro Bono Services at the College of Law and is currently Director of Clinical Programmes, York University. He has written widely on clinic and problem based learning. Most recently he has written with Caroline Strevens and Edward Phillips, Legal Education, Simulation in Theory and Practice part of the Ashgate Series on Emerging Legal Education.

Judith McNamara (Queensland University)
Professor McNamara is currently Head of Law at QUT. She has published extensively in legal education and her key areas of interest in the scholarship of teaching are final year experience, reflective practice and work integrated learning. She has a number of publications relating to assessment of work based learning including The challenge of assessing professional competence in work integrated learning, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, (2013), 38:2,183-197.

Cath Sylvester ( Northumbria University)
Cath is a former Director of the Student Law Office at Northumbria University and currently and responsibility for curriculum design for undergraduate programmes. Her research interests are in clinical legal education and experiential learning, curriculum design and assessment. She has regularly contributed to the IJCLE conferences and contributed to the 2014 ALT conference with a paper titled Measuring Competence in Legal Education: A view from the Bridge.

Taking Part - Before the Seminar

We have been influenced in our thinking about assessment by Professor Cees van der Vleuten and we have been fortunate to involve him as our discussant. All authors of working papers will be asked to consider his paper Assessing Professional Competence: from methods to programmes which deals with both the technical aspects of assessment practice (the reliability, validity and impact of assessment tools) and with the place of assessment in the design of instructional programmes. A discussion forum and infographics prompting reflection will accompany this paper.

The presenters will upload drafts of their papers to the website before the event to enable seminar participants to begin the discussion and to formulate questions for the day. You will receive an alert inviting you to have a first look at the papers then, to discuss the ideas and contribute some questions for the discussion during the seminar event itself.

Presenters draft papers

Taking Part - In the Seminar

Places at the seminar are limited to 60.  

Taking Part - After the seminar

Edited transcripts of the debates from the seminar will be placed on the website during the summer vacation and the website will remain open for discussions and comments. Meanwhile, final versions of the working papers will be submitted to the special issue of the International Journal of Clinical Legal Education. (The IJCLE is an online platinum model open access peer reviewed journal).  The seminar papers as a whole will be peer-reviewed by members of the Editorial Board and we hope to bring the special issue out between the regular spring and summer editions in 2016.





Booking form

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