Using Standardized Clients in a Classroom Course

As part of the joint project with the UNM medical school that I described in earlier blogs, we used standardized clients in my Family Law course the same way standardized patients were used at the Medical School, as a potential tool of assessment. I am now thinking about using them again next year in my Family Law class and now with one semester experience under my belt, I am thinking about the potential of using them more effectively as part of the training. I saw that student interest and engagement in the topic was definitely improved because of their need to prepare for and conduct an initial interview with an actor. And, the actors filled out their evaluation of the student’s performance, so the students received feedback. I am wondering whether it might be more effective for the actors to discuss the interview with the student out of role. That is, the actor would go over the evaluation sheet and give an honest appraisal about the student’s strengths and weaknesses in the interview and also answer the student’s questions. I think such a direct communication would help the students develop more self awareness and also be a very effective formative tool to help students improve their skills. Of course, this would require that the actors be trained in effective interview techniques. I found that it was simply not practical for me to go over them with the students one by one. Too many students, not enough time! Another thought is to have the student’s go over the interviews with each other.—perhaps in pairs. Of course, this would be after training too! As I prepare to use standardized clients again this fall, I welcome your ideas about this. It would also be great to hear from others who are using standardized clients. If you don’t want to blog about this, please email me lopez@law.unm.edu with your ideas and suggestions. Thanks!

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2 Responses

  1. Antoinette,

    It’s really good to hear that you’ve been having such positive results with your students and Standardized Clients in your classes. We’ve been using SCs here at Glasgow Graduate School of Law (Scotland, UK) for both training/feedback with our students and found similar results. But we’ve also gone one stage further and use our SCs in assessment too.

    In a joint project with Georgia State University we conducted research that showed that assessment by SCs was sufficiently valid and reliable to be used for high stakes assessment, and based on that reserach we have now been using SCs for the past two years as the sole means of assessing our students’ interviewing/counselling skills.

    Like you, we have certainly seen a general improvement in students’ engagement and performance using this method.

    If you are interested in more detail about our work, and the results of the research project, you might be interested in reading our artcle: Barton K, Maharg P, Cunningham C, Jones G, (2006) Valuing what clients think: standardized clients and the assessment of clinical competence, The Clinical Law Review, Volume 13 Number1 (1-65).

  2. Wow! Thank you so much for commenting! Your work will be really helpful as we build on this pilot project. I look forward to learning more about your work!

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