Academic Learning in Law

Academic Learning in Law

Theoretical Positions, Teaching Experiments and Learning Experiences

Edited by Bart van Klink and Ubaldus de Vries

This timely book calls for a critical re-evaluation of university legal education, with the particular aim of strengthening its academic nature. It emphasizes lecturers’ responsibility to challenge the assumptions students have about law, and the importance of putting law in a theoretical and social context that allows for critical reflection and sceptical detachment. In addition, the book reports upon teaching experiences and innovations, offering tools for teachers to strengthen the academic nature of legal education.

Chapter 14: Law & lounge: an experiment on student self-organization and critique as skeptical reflexivity

Ubaldus de Vries

Subjects: law - academic, legal philosophy, legal theory, research methods in law, research methods, research methods in law


This contribution reports upon an ongoing experiment that aims at contributing to the academic development of law students at Utrecht University. It does so from the perspective of legal and social theory. The experiment contains a type of learning in which students reflect critically upon ready legal knowledge, based on the study and discussion of fundamental and primary texts that provide a theoretical framework for this knowledge. This type of learning is characterized by self-organization in the sense that students are responsible themselves as to how the class meetings are conducted and the insights gained. In section 2, I report upon the experiment and describe how the experiment has been developed in three phases. I first explain the assumptions that led to developing the experiment and describe the set-up of the experiment in its initial appearance. I then summarize the conclusions drawn from my own observations. Subsequently, I report upon the follow-up of the experiment in its second and third guises, and summarize the findings that came out of the student evaluations. In section 3, the experiment is placed against the background of the meaning of academic development. In essence, I understand legal academic learning as learning to know the law, having the skills to work with the law and, fundamentally here, the ability to reflect critically upon the law and its use (why is the law the way it is and could or should it be different?).

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