Street Law in Ireland: The effectiveness of a Street Law programme in developing critical thinking skills amongst undergraduate law students
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Increasingly, there has been more expectations for Higher Education Institutions to review their curricula to ensure that critical thinking (CT) and other transferable skills are given a high priority with the intention of increasing graduate employability. Critics have long complained that law students lack the practical skills required to practice law successfully. This study investigated whether Irish undergraduate law students developed CT skills from participating in a Street Law programme; a form of clinical legal education recommended as a pedagogical technique to enhance transferable skills. This Street Law programme is the first to be introduced at undergraduate level in the Republic of Ireland. This study utilised a descriptive exploratory single case study design with a mixed method convergent approach to enhance validity and reliability. The Legal Studies Reasoning Profile (LSRP) test instrument was used as a pre-test and post-test quantitative measure to assess the law students CT skills and dispositions. Additionally, focus group interviews were conducted at the end of the programme to explore the law students’ perceptions regarding the development of their CT skills from participating in the programme. With the acknowledgement that no robust statistical inference could be drawn, the results showed an improvement in law students overall CT skills, with significant improvement in CT dispositions and an improvement in induction and evaluation. Findings from the focus groups partly supported the quantitative aspect of the study as students indicated that they perceived they had developed transferable skills including CT skills due to participation in the Street Law programme. However, the analysis revealed a lack of purposeful discussion on the development of the students CT skills, and students did not detail how the various elements of the programme developed those skills. The study concludes by reviewing the limitations of the research and recommendations for future research are outlined.
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