Dec. 1, 2021
Third-year student wins Undergraduate Research Award
Under the supervision of Professor Nickie Nikolaou, Ashely explored how instructors in the Faculty of Law use Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs) in courses in the JD program, and how CLOs could be implemented to assist students.
"I have always had an interest in teaching and learning. During my undergraduate degree, I worked at the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning with the Learning Technologies and Design team. That job really inspired me to think critically about teaching and learning. Once I started law school, I began to think about how some of the learning and design tools I knew about could impact law students. I sparked a conversation with Professor Nickie Nikolaou, who shares my interest in legal education, and developed my directed research project.
My aim was to research how instructors in the Faculty of Law use Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs) in courses in the JD program, and how CLOs could be implemented to assist students. CLOs are the learning goals of a course. They are usually listed in course outlines starting with the phrase, “by the end of this course, students should be able to…” CLOs are integral to the course design process, as they help instructors determine what to teach, assign, and assess. However, when designed and implemented carefully, they can also be a useful tool for students.
My research process had three main components. First, I did a review of literature on CLOs in higher education and in law schools. Second, I surveyed and interviewed full-time and sessional instructors in the Faculty of Law about how they design and use CLOs. Finally, I analyzed the CLOs in all the JD course outlines. Taken together, I was able to analyze how CLOs are currently used, and what else might be done to ensure students benefit more from the use of CLOs. My main conclusion was that instructors do a great job of considering their CLOs as they design their courses. Their materials and assessments are selected to align with their learning goals. However, CLOs could be written in a more specific and action-oriented way, and they could be discussed regularly with students, so that students can use them as a learning tool.
Studying course design and teaching in law schools has been a really positive experience for me. After a tough year during the pandemic, it got me to think critically about what we are learning to do in law school. It made me more excited to learn about and apply the law."