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Mackinnon 3

Mackinnon 3

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1
Mackinnon, „
Problem Based Learning and New Zealand Legal Education
‟ [2006] 3
Web JCLI 
 http://webjcli.ncl.ac.uk/2006/issue3/mackinnon3.html
Problem Based Learning and New Zealand Legal Education
Jacquelin Mackinnon
Senior Lecturer, School of LawUniversity of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. jjm2@waikato.ac.nzCopyright © Jacquelin Mackinnon 2006First published in Web Journal of Current Legal Issues
Summary
The literature (and e-literature) on Problem Based Learning in Law suggests that this approachhas been adopted with enthusiasm by some lecturers in the United Kingdom, Europe and HongKong. This article will explore the adoption of PBL approaches through the literature in order todraw some conclusions about the nature of PBL approaches in law and their relationship withinstitutional approaches to legal education. Problem Based Learning approaches are not visiblein New Zealand. The article discusses the
reasons for PBL‟s invisibility and PBL‟s
appropriateness in the New Zealand legal education context now and in the future of legal work.Part of the New Zealand context is the participation of the indigenous people in legal educationand consideration is given
to whether PBL can benefit Māori
law students.It is suggested that PBL approaches to learning law promote:
 
Contextualisation
 
Interdisciplinarity
 
Integration of prior personal and/or professional knowledge
 
Collaboration
 
Enquiry skills
 
Reflection and transition
 
Self directed learning and self assessment
 
Praxis.Problem Based Learning requires and fosters reflexive participants, who are sufficientlyconceptually literate to read and critique key aspects of the social order and to understand their
 
2own,
and others‟ status and role in it. Reflexivity contributes to humanist as well as legal
solutions to complex human problems. PBL approaches are consistent with legal education in anincreasingly global employment market.
Contents
Introduction
Problem Based Learning (PBL) approaches support the achievement of university legaleducation goals. These goals are articulated by the various stakeholders in university legal
education. It would appear that there is a gulf between the rhetoric of university “goal
-
setting”
and the reality of teaching and learning law in New Zealand that could be narrowed by theadoption of PBL. Law schools are not unto
uched by “massification” issues in higher education
and a growing number of law lecturers are serious consumers of and contributors to highereducation literature, yet PBL approaches to teaching and learning do not appear to be used inNew Zealand law schools. There are serious barriers to implementing PBL approaches in NewZealand and some of those barriers may also exist in the United Kingdom, Australia and HongKong. This article sets out the benefits of PBL in the context of the increased number of heterogeneous students, and the rapidly changing world of legal work. PBL approaches areconsistent with the idea (and ideal) of a liberal and humanistic legal education. In the NewZealand context, it is suggested that PBL can be an appropriate part of a bicultural approach to
legal education. A bicultural approach to legal education requires an understanding of Māori
principles and values, of beliefs about knowledge and the sharing of knowledge, and of ways of 
 
3learning. Problem Based Learning characteristics appear to be consistent with
Māori pedagogies,
although this area requires further research. Approaches to teaching and learning, however,which encourage critical examination of ourselves as law teachers and curriculum designers, andour discipline, are unlikely to find favour with university managers focussed outwards on
servicing consumers and responding to “market demand”.
 This article is in two parts. The first looks at characteristics of PBL and their relevance to theeducation of legal knowledge wor
kers. In the second part, a “stakeholder” analysis is used to
identify barriers to PBL adoption in New Zealand. A stakeholder analysis reflects universityeducation discourse in New Zealand. Also, it is appropriate to use a stakeholder analysis becauseof the clear evidence of past stakeholder influence on conceptions of teaching and learning law,and the development of undergraduate legal education in New Zealand. Such a methodologyproperly takes into account when considering change the interests of any current group orindividual who can affect, or is affected by the achievement of changes to legal education (or anyfuture group or individual whom one can predict will affect or will be affected by suchachievement) and who has rights that can be violated or ought to be respected. (Evan andFreeman 1988,
inter alia
p100).
Characteristics of Problem Based Learning
The following characteristics are used to compare PBL with problem solving approaches toteaching and learning law:
 
With PBL, the
o
 
problem is the first step in learning
o
 
 problem is constructed by learners presented with “real
-
life” tasks
 
o
 
learners identify learning needs and methods of knowledge acquisition, helped by
“capable peers”
 
o
 
new learning is then applied back to the problem and integrated into existingknowledge and skills as an iterative process
o
 
learner is central to the approach. (Boud and Feletti (Eds), 1991
et al
.)
 
With problem solving, the
o
 
problem follows topic/discipline information
o
 
problem is already constructed within topic/discipline boundaries
o
 
solutions reflect the topic boundaries and are based on taught materials
o
 
skills needed to solve problems may or may not have been taught
o
 
problem solving approach is teacher centred.A distinction is thus made between the use of problem solving in teaching and Problem BasedLearning. Law schools have traditionally used problem solving for teaching and assessment.Problem solving in this context involves the application of knowledge already gained tohypothetical fact situations that give rise to legal issues. This is ordinarily done at the end of aconceptual unit or at the end of a course and assesses knowledge either formally (inexaminations) or informally (within a tutorial group, for example). The lecturer assigns thereading required for the problem and the problem is distributed contemporaneously with thereadings or at the end of the conceptual unit, or the problem appears in the final examination.The focus is on information provided by the teacher and evaluation of the solution proposed by

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