Developing a law student profile – a longitudinal study
Those involved in the teaching and learning of law students will be interested in this ongoing longitudinal study of law students enrolled at the Universities of Auckland, Canterbury and Waikato. It is intended that, over the course of the study, a complete law student profile will be developed which will detail the expectations, views and experiences of students during each year of their studies and in their first years in the workforce.
The fourth phase of the project is currently underway. The reports from the first three phases are available below.
The aim of this fourth phase is two-fold. A key aim is to collect information on students’ experiences and intended future careers in the fourth year of their legal studies. A further aim is to explore whether four identified trends in students’ responses from the first three phases continue and to explore possible reasons for them.
Design / Methodology
The fourth phase of the project will involve the administration of a fifth online survey to the study cohort at the end of the third term in 2017. Longitudinal questions relating to career expectations and plans will be repeated, as will questions on students’ learning and teaching experiences and feelings of psychological well-being. A particular focus of the 2017 survey will be on collecting the views of completing students who are moving into the workforce in 2018.
The likely outcome of the completed longitudinal study is that developers of student profiles will have available to them a set of data that reflects the wishes and desires of law students, law graduates and law graduate employers (whether law firms, government departments, business or community organisations). To the extent that student profiles developed using the data generated by this project are then used to inform curriculum design and teaching experience, the teaching and learning experience in law degrees is likely to be enhanced.
Findings to date
A key benefit of the longitudinal nature of this study is the ability to identify trends in student responses and to further investigate these in subsequent phases. Examples of key trends emerging from the completed phases of the project are:
- Many students did not feel prepared by their high school experience for studying law at university.
- Many students chose to study law for altruistic and idealistic reasons and this is, to a large degree, reflected in their intended career destinations and paths.
- Many students report high class attendance rates, but also report quite different learning and teaching experiences in large and small courses.
- Many students report spending less time on self-study than the universities at which they are enrolled would expect.
- Particular groups of students have experiences that are more positive (male students) or more negative (female students, Pasifika students) than the norm.
Many students report low levels of likely psychological wellbeing.
Initiatives based on previous phases of the study
Project findings to date have formed and/or informed the basis for a number of initiatives at the School of Law, University of Canterbury, including:
- A focus on improving students’ transition to law school and from first year to second year.
- The review of both degree and course learning outcomes to reflect a wider range of academic and self-management skills.
- Academic staff development in the areas of student engagement, wellbeing and assessment.
- Adoption and implementation of a student wellbeing plan.
- An additional tutorial programme for Pasifika students, introduced at the beginning of 2016
Project findings have also informed initiatives at the other participating law schools and at a national level. For example, there has been an alternation in the reporting requirements set by the Council of Legal Education for all New Zealand law schools.
- Professor Ursula Cheer
- Associate Professor Lynne Taylor
- Ms Natalie Baird
- Dr Erik Brogt
- Associate Professor John Caldwell
- Dr Debra Wilson
- Dr Shea Esterling
Phase 1 Ako Aotearoa $17,600(excl. GST)
University of Canterbury $18,910 (excl. GST)
Phase 2 Ako Aotearoa $10,000 (excl. GST)
University of Canterbury $18,023 (excl GST)
Phase 3 Ako Aotearoa $11,550 (excl. GST)
University of Canterbury $22,509 (excl GST)
Phase 4 Ako Aotearoa $11,800 (excl. GST)
University of Canterbury $21,398 (excl. GST)
Phase 4 Project commenced: Mid 2017
Expected project completion: Mid 2018
Reports from Phases 1, 2 & 3
Phase 1 Phase 2 Phase 3
Outputs from Phases 1, 2 and 3 of the study
- Taylor, L., Brogt, E., Cheer, U., Baird, N., Caldwell, J. and Wilson, D. (2016). “Engagement and ethnicity in first year New Zealand law programmes”. (2017) 36 Higher Education Research & Development 1047 – 1060 http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.canterbury.ac.nz/10.1080/07294360.2016.1263935.
- Taylor, L., Cheer, U., Baird, N., Caldwell, J. and Wilson, D. (2016). The making of lawyers: Expectations and experiences of second year New Zealand law students. Wellington: Ako Aotearoa: National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence. https://akoaotearoa.ac.nz/law-student-profile
- Taylor, L., Cheer, U., Baird, N., Caldwell, J. and Wilson, D. (2016). Student engagement in New Zealand law schools. Wellington, New Zealand: Australasian Law Teachers Association Conference 2016 (ALTA), 8 July 2016.
- Baird, N. & Taylor, L. (2016). The making of lawyers: Expectations and experiences of New Zealand law students. Presentation at Ako Aotearoa Southern Hub Projects Colloquium IV, Christchurch. (14 November).
- Taylor, L. and Cheer, U. (2015). Informing the development of a law student profile: Phases one and two. Presentation at Ako Aotearoa Southern Hub Projects Colloquium III, Christchurch. (16 November)
- Taylor, L., Cheer, U., Baird, N., Caldwell, J. and Wilson, D. (2015). “The Making of Lawyers: Expectations Experiences of First Year New Zealand Law Students”. Waikato Law Review 23: 112-150.
- Taylor, L., Cheer, U., Baird, N., Caldwell, J. and Wilson, D. (2015). The Making of Lawyers: Developing a Law Student Profile. Presentation at Australasian Law Teachers Association Conference 2015 (ALTA), Melbourne, 16-18 July.
- Taylor, L., Cheer, U., Baird, N., Caldwell, J. and Wilson, D. (2015). The making of lawyers: Expectations and experiences of first year New Zealand law students. Wellington, Ako Aotearoa: National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence. https://akoaotearoa.ac.nz/ako-hub/ako-aotearoa-southern-hub/resources/pages/making-lawyers-expectations-and-experiences-first-year-new-zealand-law-student
- Taylor, L., Cheer, U., Baird, N., Caldwell, J. and Wilson D. (2015). “Law Teaching on Trial: The expectations and experiences of first year Canterbury law students”. Canterbury Law Review, 21: 82-111.
- Taylor, L. and Baird N. (2015). The making of lawyers: Expectations and experiences of first year New Zealand law students. Presentation at the University of Canterbury Teaching Week. (June)
- Taylor L. and Baird N. (2014) Informing the Development of a Student Profile for LLB Degrees taught at New Zealand Universities. Presentation at Ako Aotearoa Southern Hub Projects Colloquium II, Christchurch. (21 November)
|This report from this project is published under the Creative Commons 3.0 New Zealand Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike Licence (BY-NC-SA). Under this licence you are free to copy, distribute, display and perform the work as well as to remix, tweak, and build upon this work noncommercially, as long as you credit the author/s and license your new creations under the identical terms.|