How to develop and run effective placement programs
These resources are designed to assist people who are responsible for programs where students learn through working with a supervisor. In putting these materials together, close attention has been paid to insights from law students and their supervisors about what factors help to make placements as rewarding as possible. Fortunately, there is a range of valuable materials that you can access to assist in developing and then refining the arrangements for a placement program.
These materials relate to:
- designing a placement program;
- preparing students for working with their supervisor;
- preparing supervisors for their involvement in a placement program;
- other sources of useful information.
- Designing an Experiential Learning Program (PDF 117k)
- The Best Practice Clinical Legal Education Guide (PDF 804k)
- Making the Most of Supervision - For Students (PDF 104k)
- Supervisor Handbook - California Western School of Law (231k)
- Field Placement Handbook - Albany Law School (1.8mb)
- Clinical Externship Program - Fordham University (405k)
- Supervisor Guide - James Cook University (1.5mb)
- Student Placement Guide - James Cook University (802k)
- Clinical Supervision Manual - Monash University Faculty of Law (176k)
Principles to Inform Law School Structures in Support of Placement Supervision
Based on the Australian Best Practices Guide the supervision needs of students vary according to:
- the objectives of the clinic and clients’ needs; and
- the experience and level of training the students already possess.
- Supervision arrangements should be designed to assist students to link theory and practice and work collaboratively with supervisors on addressing clients’ needs. The arrangements also enable students to encounter a range of work (both areas of law and legal tasks) during their clinic experience.
- Supervision is structured, with ground rules and clear learning objectives. As a system, it ensures students’ right to supervision and feedback, together with support and respect for both supervisees and supervisors.
- Supervisors meet with each student on a regular basis as well as having the capacity to respond to unpredictable events.
- Development of a strong supervision relationship relies on supervisors as role models.
These student-focused principles are designed to provide a platform to assist law schools to appreciate the importance of effective supervision. They also emphasise the value of law schools engaging with both supervisors and students to make clinical experiences as constructive as possible.
Designing a Clinic or Placement Program
Programs that enable students to learn by doing and reflecting on their experiences have great potential to enhance legal education. The people and factors that need to be taken into account include variables such as:
- The students – numbers, previous study,
- The supervisors – their expertise and other responsibilities
- Clients or service users
- Services to be provided
- Classroom component
- Resources available
- The site or sites involved
- The law school
Best Practices for Effective Supervision
Law schools clearly have an important role to play to foster effective supervision in experiential learning programs:
- They need to ensure that supervisors have the legal, teaching and people skills required for working with clients and students
- Arrangements also need to be made to ensure that the interests of clients are advanced while supporting student learning.
- Tailored preparation should be provided for supervisors and students.
- Structures are needed to enable supervisors to be accessible to students to provide advice and feedback to students.
- Ensuring that assessment is framed to ensure validity, reliability and fairness.
- Evaluating the placement program. Such programs should be reviewed internally on a regular basis. Arrangements for periodic external review are also likely to enhance the materials and processes used by the program.
Preparing Students for Working Under Supervision
The work for this project has revealed that greater attention should be paid to effectively preparing students for their placement experience. This relates particularly to encouraging students to think closely about how they can make the most of supervision and their placement experience. Processes that can be helpful include:
- Developing material to guide students in preparing for their placement as well providing a point of reference during their placement.
- An induction process that assists each student to understand the processes and arrangements for their placement site.
- A classroom component that complements their placement experience. Students are more likely to make the most of their experiences if they are provided with opportunities to consider and discuss the issues raised by their placement. This classroom component can usefully start with a presentation focused on making the most of supervision. You can access slides for this type of presentation here.
For more detail see the Student Resources webpage.
Preparing Supervisors for Working With Students
The work for this project has demonstrated that supervisors can usefully be supported to enhance their understanding of practices they can use to support student learning through their placement experience. Supervisors can be assisted through the provision of material related to:
- Purposes of supervision
- Effective supervision practices
- Giving feedback
- Debriefing with students
- Resources to call on for further guidance
Learning Contracts – Placement Plans
Students who responded to the Effective Law Student Supervision survey were generally very positive about the value of developing a placement plan. 75% of those who had developed such a plan said that they had found the process to be useful for structuring their learning activities. This strongly suggests that this structuring process is valuable to students.
Helping Students to Set Goals
It can be useful to encourage students to set goals for their placement. What do they want from their placement? What are they seeking from their involvement and from you as their supervisor?
It may help to have students ask the following preliminary questions:
- How clear are you about what you would like to learn?
- Can you identify what experiences you want to have?
- What skills do you want to develop and refine?
- What research do you want to conduct?
- What knowledge do you want to use?
- What laws and policies do you want to better understand?
Reviewing a Placement Plan
Using a placement plan can usefully be a 2-step process. It helps for students to think through these preliminary questions about what they hope to learn from their placement. Depending on the length of the placement, it can be useful for the supervisor to review the placement plan with each student a few weeks into their placement once they have a clearer sense of their placement site.
Manuals for Supervisors and Students
Students and supervisors who responded to the Effective Law Student Supervision survey expressed positive views in relation to having access to a manual or some other written document that set out matters related to their placement supervision arrangements. While every placement program will have particular things it should address in such a manual, it may be useful to have examples that can be used in developing tailored resources.
You can access a range of manuals for supervisors and students here. They provide valuable examples of how the process of informing and supporting program participants can be approached. You can also access further valuable resources at LexternWeb.
Developing Training Programs
Supervisors and students are likely to benefit from training programs that address the particular nature of learning through supervision. Often, the challenge is to effectively engage with busy supervisors who have a range of practice commitments limiting their ability to participate in training. One of the issues addressed by this project has been to look for ways to make it easier for supervisors to engage in placement program activities that will enhance student learning.
Where possible, it can also help to invite someone from another law school to present such a workshop.
The people involved in clinical legal education and experiential learning more generally are usually very generous in sharing insights and resources. They tend to ask only that you acknowledge their work if you are making use of their resources.
- The Lextern website: http://lexternweb.law.edu/
- Office for Learning and Teaching: http://olt.gov.au/
- Clinical Legal Education Association: http://cleaweb.org/
CLEAs Best Practices in Legal Education is an excellent resource (PDF 1.4mb).
- The Global Alliance for Justice Education: http://www.gaje.org/resources-and-links/
The GAJE site provides links to a wide range of resources.
- The International Journal of Clinical Legal Education: http://www.northumbriajournals.co.uk/index.php/ijcle
The IJCLE site provides access to all issues of the journal going back to 2000.
- Kingsford Legal Centre: http://www.klc.unsw.edu.au/
This site provides access to the Guide to Clinical Legal Education in Australia.
- The Higher Education Academy: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/
The British Higher Education Academy site contains extensive resources relating to issues in higher education.
- Promoting Justice Through Clinical Legal Education - Download this book for free
My thanks to the individuals and organisations that agreed to making their resources available.
Supported by the Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching