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CLeaR Fellows 2015 – Alison Cleland

Applied academic teaching and learning: How and why you should introduce real world teaching

Alison ClelandAlison was a children’s lawyer in Scotland, before coming to Aotearoa in 2007. Her teaching reflects her passion to teach law in an accessible way that will inspire students to provide excellent advice and representation for clients. Alison and her co-teacher in Youth Justice, Khylee Quince, have researched the impact of their team teaching on their students and use innovative assessment techniques to help students understand the legal processes that young people must navigate. Alison is Chair of the Faculty of Law’s teaching and learning committee and arranged a teaching retreat for the Faculty in 2012.

Law can be an intimidating and alienating discipline. That is at least partly because of the elitism and mythology that has surrounded its teaching and practice over the years. To allow students to engage with the subject, to really enjoy it and to achieve success in their legal studies, law should be taught as a body of knowledge and skills that can empower and support real clients with real legal problems. The undergraduate LLB programme should also explicitly show students which skills they are learning, in what subjects, so that they can appreciate their application in practice.

in her Fellowship year, Alison plans to introduce students to family law clients’ (fictional) files. Over the course of the semester, students will interview clients, give them oral and written advice, prepare court submissions and write legal opinions. The fictional files will contain statements about housing, financial issues, violence and child care issues. Teaching will cover skills to engage with clients, as well as knowledge of family law.

Alison also plans to have students use a reflective log as they progress through the family law course. One of the skills that will help students to progress and succeed is the ability to reflect on how they tackle issues, how they respond to clients’ issues and concerns and how they prepare for assessments.

She would like to present graduate attributes for Law to the faculty and to introduce a law students’ portfolio that will follow them through their degree. This will build into a record of the types of written and oral legal work that they have accomplished, giving them confidence and understanding of how their learning relates to practice.