A Critique of the Assessment of Professional Skills
(2007) 17(1&2) Legal Education Review 143
18 Pages Posted: 16 May 2012
Date Written: 2007
Traditional assessment methods (such as essays and exams) aim to test academic achievement in a variety of ways, allowing student performance to be easily ranked. Innovative teaching methods such as those in which professional skills are used to supplement academic learning raise a number of assessment problems, including the problem of creating a valid and practical assessment scheme which truly tests student performance in a range of important skills areas, and also permits levels of student performance to be distinguished.
This paper arises out of the author’s involvement with the teaching of law in an Australian university where a number of skills subjects (particularly related to advocacy and litigation practice) have been incorporated into the academic program. The assessment of these skills has been problematic because the Law School requires academically-based assessment. This requires that appropriate assessment methods be devised, which are consistent with the academic aims of the teaching methodology, and practical within in light of the resources available.
This article intends to investigates this problem by comparing and assessing the assessment of professional skills in an academic environment at two Australian Law Schools which have incorporated substantive skills teaching into their curricula in light of several key assessment criteria. Case examples from the two law schools will are be used; however the issues discussed are not restricted to law and are applicable in other disciplines where skills are assessed.
Keywords: assessment, professional skills, assessment model, tertiary education
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