Evidence Based Experiential Learning?

Over on the Legal Whiteboard, Bill Henderson has an interesting post noting that despite the current call for more experiential education, we lack evidence to answer two key questions:

“(1) Among experiential teaching methods, which ones are the most effective at accelerating professional development? And (2) among these options, how much does each cost to operate? Quality and cost must be assessed simultaneously.”

Henderson is the principal researcher on Northeastern Law’s Outcomes Assessment Project (OAP) that is attempting to answer the question “Does Northeastern’s legal education model accelerate the development of law graduates who are ready to practice and to serve clients?” As Henderson notes, selection effectsmake these challenging questions to answer given Northeastern’s distinctive characteristics, including a progressive, public interest tradition, and a student body with high numbers of women and LGBT students decades before the rest of legal education.

If the OAP project shows that Northeastern’s legal education model does accelerate the development of its graduates, here’s an interesting follow-up question: Will that result be due to the co-op model specifically, or simply to the greater integration of exposure to practice into their students’ education than is typical. In other words, would a different version of a “marble cake” curriculum model have the same benefits?

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2 Responses

  1. Professor Maranville asks some really good questions about what Professor Henderson’s analysis will really show. I have often hypothesized that a significantly more intensive learning difference occurs in an inhouse educationally-focused clinic versus a well-designed field placement versus a paid or unpaid loosely organized internship. Has anyone ever studied the differences form an outcomes perspective?

  2. I’d be interested in a study looking at the differences in student learning outcomes in the various forms of experiential learning: clinic, field placement or a loosely organized internship. We are running a number of different experiments to see if focused, short-term mini-internships yield better learning outcomes than in-class project-based learning. We will be reporting our findings on our blog and engaging in conversations such as these. Great post, will continue to come back for more.

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