Does the Oxford tutorial system help to stimulate critical thinking and foster a critical dialogue around feedback among Law students?

Conference paper


Balan, A. 2017. Does the Oxford tutorial system help to stimulate critical thinking and foster a critical dialogue around feedback among Law students? Association of Law Teachers Conference. School of Law, University of Portsmouth 10 - 11 Apr 2017
AuthorsBalan, A.
TypeConference paper
Abstract

At undergraduate level the tutorial system at the University of Oxford has several features that serve to make it almost unique in UK Higher Education. Undergraduates are taught in tutorial groups, typically made up of one to three students, on a weekly basis. Work is usually prepared in advance of these sessions by students and the tutorial is then used as an opportunity for students to receive direct feedback on their work, as well as a platform for further work and tutor-led discussion. The central issue to be explored in this paper, which reports the findings of tutorial observations and interviews involving Oxford University Law students, is the effectiveness of this system of teaching. Supporters of the Oxford tutorial system regard it as more academically challenging and rigorous than other methods of teaching. Nicol (2010) has suggested that the system, through small group discussion of feedback, offers students an opportunity to develop the ability to regulate their own learning by fostering a critical dialogue around feedback. Golding (2011) has suggested that the system offers students an opportunity to develop their critical thinking skills by interpreting, criticising and applying their knowledge rather than simply memorising and recalling information. Mirfield (2008), however, considers the system open to potential inconsistency and misuse by tutors. The key findings of this study give more weight to the the arguments of supporters of this system of teaching, while also recognising some of the merits of the arguments of its detractors.
To focus and limit the scope of this paper, it is the Oxford tutorial system that will be examined, although it is acknowledged that this system has several features in common with similar types of teaching at other higher education institutions, in particular the Universities of Cambridge and Buckingham in the UK, as well as with institutions outside the UK, such as certain liberal arts colleges in the USA. The scope of this paper is also limited to consideration of tutorial teaching in the context of an undergraduate qualifying Law degree, which is the academic stage of training for students intending to practice as solicitors or barristers in England and Wales. It will be demonstrated that there are a number of discipline-specific issues and concerns which make consideration of the tutorial system for undergraduates intending to practice as legal professionals particularly relevant and enlightening, especially in light of recent recommendations in relation to assessment and feedback for Law students made by the regulatory bodies for the legal profession. For example, improving feedback and stimulating critical thinking skills for Law students have been identified as two key areas of concern in legal education and training in UK higher education.

KeywordsAssessment and Feedback; Legal Education; Critical thinking; Oxford tutorial
Year2017
ConferenceAssociation of Law Teachers Conference
File
Publication dates
Print10 Apr 2017
Publication process dates
Deposited18 Jan 2018
Accepted18 Jan 2017
Accepted18 Jan 2017
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https://repository.uel.ac.uk/item/84w48

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