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Let them eat cases! Bridging the gap between school and degree level learning

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Helene Tyrrell, Dr Joshua Jowitt



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Routledge, 2019.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


To students who have failed their first university assignment, it is of little comfort to be told to ‘present analysis’ or to ‘engage with the materials’ for such feedback assumes students already possess an ability to read and absorb the materials. The trouble is that A-levels or equivalents do not require students to be independent learners, or to be able to engage in close, critical, scrutiny of lengthy and complex texts. Faced with reports that students are unable to cope with the volume or complexity of materials, a common temptation is to respond by shaving courses: cutting down reading lists or providing secondary avenues into core materials. While this can be popular with time-pressured students we advocate the opposite approach: re-thinking lectures, seminars, and curricular structure to tackle complex legal texts at the outset. In particular, we advocate the (re)introduction of primary sources to the classroom, guiding early stage law students in their use of the materials. Our evidence draws from three teaching interventions in which we made reading cases the core of the learning project. We begin by reporting on a residential widening participation programme which used Miller v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2017] UKSC 5 as its foundation. The success of this programme led us to integrate the approach into a second widening participation scheme and to the teaching of a core first year module. These experiences have reinforced our initial impressions: the skills gap between high school and the degree does not require us to alter the level of our content. It requires us to redesign courses to help our students bridge the gap.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Tyrrell H, Jowitt J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: The Law Teacher

Year: 2019

Volume: 56

Issue: 2

Pages: 271-289

Online publication date: 05/08/2019

Acceptance date: 20/06/2019

Date deposited: 21/06/2019

ISSN (print): 0306-9400

ISSN (electronic): 1943-0353

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/03069400.2019.1635373


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