Legal training experiment: Talk less, act more (I)

Providing effective, efficient and motivating legal training and teaching remains a challenge. Based on its field observations and instructional and legal expertise, TrainWell recently developed a framework to dramatically increase the quality of legal teaching and training.

This framework includes, in addition to reshaped in-class-sessions, a variety of innovative learning technologies like e-learning applications based on practice-proven instructional design principles. The framework involves a change in roles. Lecturers talk less and support more and trainees, instead of listening to lecturers, have to work hard (while receiving necessary support) on a variety of challenging learning activities.  First work-related results indicate that the experiment was received well by trainees and their managers. Trainees were better able to transfer their new expertise to their job environment.


The problems

In conventional legal teaching the “lecture” is still the teaching tool of choice. Or to put it in a cartoon: The PowerPoint-armed expert stands in front of the class slinging a barrage of voiced-over slides towards the passively listening trainees to explain the topic at hand. Such information artillery can be staggering. More important, course time is usually lacking for trainees to process let alone work with the information. The same applies to consolidating the expertise. There is never enough time.

In post-training interviews trainees confirm this shortcoming and they indicate that little gets learned from such courses. Most new information is already forgotten on the way home. Once back on the job trainee’s managers report that the ex-trainees fail to successfully face the problems for which they were sent on a training. Result is a strongly negative return on investment and substantial wasted financial and human resources.


The causes

The causes for such waste are manifold. Two important culprits: (1) Trainer’s talk much because they feel so much needs to be said in order for learning to be happening. Experience shows, however, the opposite to be true. The less the lecturer lectures and the more trainee’s are active, the more trainees learn. (2) There is no time to practice new knowledge and consolidate news expertise which results in information being irretrievable on the job.


The challenges

TrainWell picked three challenges to ensure better results back at work: Currently (1) too much material needs to be covered in class, (2) learners are too cognitively passive and (3) new learning is not sufficiently practiced and consolidated.


The solution

TrainWell developed and tested a prototype for a new approach involving social web-based learning allowing for more active learning. To address the lack of time, learning is spread out in time. Two phases were added to the conventional in-class experience. A preparatory and priming phase before class and a consolidating post-class phase were made available; both operate online. During the in-class phase class participants became highly involve in performing learning activities related to the legal expertise to be gained.

In the next blog I will further detail the framework.

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