Law Reports : their use in examining …. what exactly?
Course in question Post-graduate students - MSc / PgD / PgC Mostly on RICS accredited Rural Land Management programmes. i.enon law students studying law.
Starting points 2:1 honours degree or equivalent. But no pre-requisite subject area. Some have relevant first degrees (e.g. Agriculture, Environmental Science, Farm or Countryside Management). Some have subjects of general applicability (e.g. Law, Business). Others come with unrelated backgrounds (e.g. History, Music).
Impact of first degree Patterns unreliable as subjects so spread with relatively small numbers but : • grade more important than subject • work experience has favourable impact • no measurable difference in academic performance based on subject
Module in question Machinery of Government Essentially an introduction to law : constitutionaland administrative together with a (brief) overview of the English legal system, contract and tort.
Teaching Intensive one week block on campus - 9-5 + homework. Directed study. Assignment looking at emerging legislation. Examination.
Previous ALT Conference idea ALT, Cardiff 2011 - paper by Dr Lars Mosesson of Bucks New University on the use of oral examination. Students given four cases to study. At the oral they present on a case of their choice and then pick a card and are questioned on that random choice from among the other three. They can bring A4 page of notes on each case and law report provided in vivaso test is of preparation and understanding, not memory.
Problem Would like to have lifted this idea wholesale but student numbers (up to 30, 20 minimum), particularly with the need for another colleague to assist in moderation, precluded setting up for so many students.
Looking at Lars’s presentation made me review the assessment process. For quite a number of years there had been a traditional, unseen, exam paper, albeit with (I think ) relatively interesting and extending questions.
What do we want to assess? What are the purposes of assessment beyond grading? Does the current / proposed assessment medium achieve its aim?
What do we want to assess? • a base of factual knowledge • the ability to assess problems and marshal thoughts • to apply base knowledge and primary legal sources to answering problems • to understand the practice and difficulties in applying the law to practical problems
Why assess through examination? Much post-graduate assessment done through coursework. Potential issues : • With 100% coursework, without have an unwieldy project students study to assignment with inevitable gaps. • Independent work?
Exams retained to : • ensure students’ own work • enforce engagement with materials Potential issues : • Fact based learning (partially addressed by open book exams) • Not achieving level 7 characteristics with new subjects
Revised exam Five key cases from across syllabus given 2 months ahead. Exam requires questions (not given ahead) to be applied to own choice of three cases from the five. Exam is open book, so any materials can be brought in.
LORD HOFFMANN My Lords, 1. The appellant David Thorner is a Somerset farmer who, for nearly 30 years, did substantial work without pay on the farm of his father’s cousin Peter Thorner. The judge found that from 1990 until his death in 2005 Peter encouraged David to believe that he would inherit the farm and that David acted in reliance upon this assurance. In the event, however, Peter left no will. In these proceedings, David claims that by reason of the assurance and reliance, Peter’s estate is estopped from denying that he has acquired the beneficial interest in the farm. The judge found the case proved but the Court of Appeal reversed him.
The Cases • Caparo v Dickman HL professional negligence • Charles Terence Estates v Cornwall Council  CA ultra vires in both public and private law • Penny v Penny (1868) Ch compulsory purchase • Stannard(t/a Wyvern Tyres) v Gore  CA Rylandsv Fletcher, negligence • Thorner v Major  HL land law, proprietary estoppel
The Questions Using the subject area of your chosen case, consider : • how the law in this area has developed from the 19th century to date • the impact of the chosen case on that development, and • the operation of judicial precedent - with cases drawing on both common law and legislative frameworks.
Preparation Revision class and online materials : • Case names and access details given • Reminder of how cases work • what judges draw on to come to decision • interaction with legislation … etc. • Review / discussion of main points
Results Module marks similar have tried traditional exam, pre- seen questions, closed and open book - results spectrum similar but …
Engagement with materials • enforced reading of full law reports • preparation for working life - non-law (and law?!) students do not always fully engage with primary legal sources but they need to be comfortable with them for professional life.
Student feedback Would not have read full law report if not enforced to. Gained different understanding than from reading textbook summaries. Tied in well with DVD on Supreme Court judges.
Association of Law Teachers’ Annual Conference Nottingham Trent University March 2013 Carrie de Silva Harper Adams University 01952 915304 firstname.lastname@example.org