Moira Murray: Student evaluation of the use of SCs at ANU College of Law

by Paul Maharg on 16/08/2017

Moira described how the 2012 pilot project was designed in the ANU College of Law.  I trained the SCs for ANU CoL back then, the pilot was held, and there was consolidated and refresher training, too, of SCs.  Each student of 104 students in the pilot had a recorded interview with a client, and had role-play practice before encountering the SCs.  SCs gave a grade of Competent or Not Yet Competent based on the SC global criteria ratings (these are posted up on the SCI site), and gave feedback on specific assessment criteria.  All not yet competent videos were double-marked; and students could view their own recordings.

Part of the pilot was the introduction of web interviews, using skype.  Moira noted that this is happening more in legal practice.  Both students and clients found it surprisingly useful, and students could see the utility of the web interview for their future legal practice.  She noted that compared to the f2f interviews, there appeared to be fewer not yet competent interviews among students who interviewed their clients on skype.

Moira showed data from the pilot that proved how effective the standardisation process was throughout the pilot.  She assessed performance of clients on each question, too – interesting issues there.  Typical student comment –

Getting to practise on a ‘real person’ makes you feel more like you are a ‘real lawyer’ rather than just roleplaying with other students and with other people watching you.

Students took the SC interviews far more seriously than the student role-plays; and received much more useful personal feedback from SCs than from tutors or students in the prior roleplays.

There were challenges.  There was no further use of SCs at ANU College of Law, which is an indication of how challenging the heuristic is, even after the positive pilot.  The curriculum design challenges included the necessity to standardise performance and marking; writing scenarios that work; the integration of SCs into the curriculum, and finally the roll-out of web conferencing.  Use of SCs does indeed represent a challenge for conventional curricula.  But that is part of the disruptive innovation of the heuristic: it forces change, and change for the better in the curriculum.  Another challenge (especially in 2012) was the unreliability of the internet infrastructure (though as Moira noted, that is improving, as are the apps that can be used in virtual interviewing).  Another challenge was simply that in a professional legal education course (GDLP) where there was already considerable innovation, this became lower priority than other forms of simulation and other innovations.

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