Two thirds of undergrads think tutors should stop picking on students for answers when teaching ‘hard subjects’ like rape

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By Katie King on

Exclusive research: But lawyers disagree

Sixty-eight percent of undergraduate law students think tutors and lecturers should rely on voluntary contributions instead of picking on students for answers in classes on rape and other hard topics.

Legal Cheek’s exclusive survey asked hundreds of law students and lawyers whether they think the ‘cold calling’ phenomena — or the ‘Socratic method’ to give it its formal name — is the right teaching style to adopt when tackling sensitive topics.

Survey results (undergraduate law students)

With more than two thirds answering in the negative, a high number of undergraduates also provided us with comments to explain their vote.

While there were comments applauding the teaching style for allowing students to be more active and engaged, another said: “Tutors may end up picking on a student who has been raped or abused. Students should not be forced to relive a traumatic memory.” Other commenters said: “It is unfair to put [students] on the spot”; and “Hard topics can be distressing enough without wondering if your name will be called.”

The latest comments from across Legal Cheek

However what did come through in the comments is many surveyees were just not big fans of the Socratic style of teaching, regardless of what tutorial or lecture it’s being adopted in. Picking on students generally can make them feel anxious and disconnected; one respondent continued:

“The Socratic method works wonders, but I feel that running the risk of a ‘poor choice’ could run in opposition to an environment of inclusive learning under these circumstances.”

Distaste for the teaching style persists beyond undergraduate degree level.

Sixty-five percent of postgraduate students and non-law students also answered ‘No’ when asked: ‘Should law tutors and lecturers cold call students — pick on them for answers when they don’t have their hands raised — when teaching hard subjects?’

However, the results flip when you discount students altogether and instead filter the results by lawyers (defined as paralegals, academics, solicitors, barristers and ‘Other’). Fifty-two percent of these think tutors and lecturers should cold call students in these circumstances, commenters saying this method keeps students on their toes and gives teachers an idea of how well the subject is being understood by their pupils.

Survey results (lawyers)

Overall, 39% of the 600 survey respondents think cold calling should be adopted in rape law classes, meaning 61% do not.

This follows Legal Cheek research published last week again on the best way to teach hard subjects, but this on the value of trigger warnings. This has shown that 48% of undergraduate law students want their tutors and lecturers to use trigger warnings when teaching hard subjects, while 52% do not.

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