Dr Verona Ní Drisceoil, Reader in Legal Education at the University of Sussex Law School, explains how she developed a new Case Briefing Assessment for her Year 1 core law module to promote inclusivity and foster transferable skills.
What I did
As an educator, I am motivated by assessment ‘for’ learning and not just ‘of’ learning (See further Sambell et al (2012)). In this respect, I endeavour to provide modes of assessments that offer approaches for all students to grow and feel empowered. In my year 1 core law module, instead of requiring students to write a case note essay, I developed a new assessment that asks students to take on the role of a Trainee Solicitor and prepare a case briefing presentation for their supervising solicitor and other partners of the ‘law firm’. Students pre-record the case briefing presentation and submit for marking. A particularly novel element of the assessment is that students are expected to include an evaluative judgement (see further Boud et al. (2019; Tai (2018)) of their performance. This is pitched as ‘you stay online to discuss the briefing’ with your supervising solicitor. They are, in this respect, also assessed on self-reflection.
To develop this new assessment, I adopted a backward design approach. Backward design requires one to work back from the assessment and ensure students receive ample opportunities to practice and develop the skills required to excel in said assessment. Students have 7 seminars in this module. Working backwards from the assessment, the focus for the seminars is as follows:
Seminar 7: Digital Literacy, exemplars and how to upload the recording.
Seminar 6: OSCOLA Referencing
Seminar 5: Voice Work 2
Seminar 4: Voice Work 1
Seminar 3: The Doctrine of Precedent and Human Rights
Seminar 2: Write a Case Summary
Seminar 1: Introduction to Law
You are a trainee solicitor at the law firm Clyde & Clyde, London. Your supervising solicitor, Valerie Adebisi, asks you to research the Supreme Court case of AM (Zimbabwe) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Respondent)  UKSC 17,  2 WLR 1152 and prepare a legal case briefing presentation of 10 minutes (max) for your supervising solicitor and the Head of the Human Rights Division at the firm.
The client is unable to attend. You have been asked to record the presentation so that it can be added to the client’s file. Once you complete the presentation, you stay online to have a reflective debrief with your supervising solicitor where she asks you to respond to a number of questions.
Why I did it
The primary motivator and guiding rationale for changing the mode of assessment in this core module was, and is, widening participation. I believe that all students should have the opportunity to develop voice work skills. Whilst we, as a law school, offer a range of extracurricular opportunities to support students to develop voice work and advocacy skills, many of our students cannot take part due to a restraint on numbers and other responsibilities they might have, including caring responsibilities or work. For that reason, I sought to embed this key transferable skill, and opportunity, into a core law module so that all students could take part and could develop these skills.
The most challenging aspect of supporting students with this assessment mode is the additional IT element. It is important to ensure that students have the required digital literacy to complete and submit confidently. I now feel that students have all the support they require but it has taken much trial and error and exploration of the best platform to use (e.g. Panopto, Zoom, or alternative) and how to best relay guidance to students.
This year, the final seminar of the module gave students an opportunity to practice recording and uploading a short video. The purpose of this was so that students could test software and become familiar with the submission process on Canvas Online.
Impact and student feedback
Feedback from students has been overwhelming positive and shines through in the evaluative judgement aspect of the module itself. Students speak about enjoying the challenge of a ‘differing approach’, having the opportunity ‘to practice and develop their advocacy’, ‘to apply the law as a trainee solicitor’, to ‘overcome fears’ and to ‘feel proud’. The feedback and reflections that speak to empowerment and growth are particularly rewarding for me as a teacher.
I have no intention to move away from this mode of assessment, but consideration of how to improve will, of course, always continue. Building on this teaching practice and approach, I am co-authoring a book, alongside Dr Jo Wilson and Jeanette Ashton, on ‘How to Design and Embed Authentic Assessment in Law’ (Edward Elgar, 2025).
Top 3 tips
- Work, from the start of design, with your Learning Technologist
- Ensure the module supports the new mode of assessment. Remember the importance of backward design.
- If you are adding a different IT component, ensure your guidance is clear. Remember that students will be using different devices, and they may not have the software they require for the assignment.
Boud, D. et al. (2018) Developing Evaluative Judgement in Higher Education: Assessment for Knowing and Producing Quality Work Abingdon, Oxon; Routledge.
Sambell, K. et al (2012) Assessment for learning in higher education. Abingdon, Oxon; Routledge.
Tai, J. et al (2018) ‘Developing evaluative judgement: Enabling students to make decisions about the quality of work’, Higher education, 76(3), pp. 467–481. doi:10.1007/s10734-017-0220-3.