Hi, I’m Olivia, and I am a 2nd-Year LLB Law student at the University of York! I have thoroughly enjoyed my studies here so far and wanted to talk about my experience of Problem-Based Learning. I’ll discuss what PBL involves, and how it is preparing me for a career in law.
Personally, I feel as though I’m thriving in using this technique, despite my worries about it as such a different style of learning. I was recognised by the Law School for my approach to PBL and was awarded a certificate for this. So if I can adapt, so can you!
What is Problem-Based Learning?
PBL (Problem-Based Learning) is a practical approach to learning and understanding the law. I chose to study law at York rather than other institutions because of this style of learning.
The traditional way of reading law is: lecture – seminar – read a lot of books in the library, which isn’t as engaging as York’s way of learning. Here at York, the practical approach is fun and enjoyable through breaking down a problem in our ‘law firms’, which makes learning the law more engaging.
Our seminar groups are referred to as ‘law firms’, where you can work together in your small group of around 10-12 other students. I have made most of my friends at university through my law firm.
In my first year, my firm and I regularly had a drink and played pub quizzes together in the Glasshouse (an on-campus bar you should definitely try out)! We also would study together in the Ron Cooke Hub, which made studying a lot more fun as we could share ideas and help each other if needed.
You get a new law firm every academic year. I have made friends in both my first-year and second-year law firms, which I’m sure you will too!
The process of Problem-Based Learning
- You will be given a scenario on particular areas of law: Obligations, EU, Property, Criminal or Public.
- Then you will begin breaking down the problem, firstly identifying any unclear terms.
- Next, identify key parties in the scenario.
- Then write down their key interests; why are they relevant?
- Create a list of the key facts of the scenario; we usually bullet point the list.
- Make a small summary of the problem, normally about two sentences.
- Name the problem. My favourite part of the process; we usually try to think of a name that relates to a song!
- Then brainstorm by identifying the key things to research and putting it on a mind map.
- Then use the mind map to create learning outcomes, which you have a week to research. During the research, there are lectures later in the week to get you started on things like key cases, legislation and literature, such as key articles for the normative question.
How is PBL helping to prepare me for my career?
As this is a practical way of learning, it helps you develop key skills relevant to becoming a solicitor or barrister. For example, my goal is to become a solicitor, which involves key skills such as leadership, communication and teamwork.
Leadership: We appoint each other each week to be either a chair, who facilitates the conversation and makes sure everyone is involved in the process; or a scribe, who types feedback to a shared Google document.
Communication: The assessment for PBL includes marks based on contributions. This means the more you share your ideas and ask questions, the higher your contribution mark will be.
Teamwork: each member of the law firm is a vital part of the process, as each person will have their own strengths that will allow the group to flourish in the problem breakdown and the feedback.