Instructional support for novice law students: Reducing search processes and explaining concepts in cases

Authors

  • Fleurie Nievelstein,

    1. Center for Learning Sciences and Technologies, and Netherlands Laboratory for Lifelong Learning, Open University of the Netherlands, Heerlen, The Netherlands
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  • Tamara van Gog,

    Corresponding author
    1. Center for Learning Sciences and Technologies, and Netherlands Laboratory for Lifelong Learning, Open University of the Netherlands, Heerlen, The Netherlands
    2. Institute of Psychology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
    • Institute of Psychology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, P.O. Box 1738, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
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  • Gijs van Dijck,

    1. Faculty of Law, Tilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands
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  • Henny P. A. Boshuizen

    1. Center for Learning Sciences and Technologies, and Netherlands Laboratory for Lifelong Learning, Open University of the Netherlands, Heerlen, The Netherlands
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Abstract

Reasoning about legal cases is a complex skill that imposes a high working memory load, especially for novice students. Not only do novices lack necessary conceptual knowledge, searching through the information sources that are used during reasoning can also be assumed to impose a high additional working memory load that does not contribute to learning. Therefore, this study investigated the effects of supporting novice law students' learning by (a) providing the meaning of important concepts in the case and (b) reducing the search process by providing a condensed (relevant articles only) rather than a complete civil code. Results show that performance on a test case (for which they had to use the complete civil code) was significantly better for participants who had used the condensed civil code during learning. Performance on a conceptual knowledge post-test was significantly enhanced when students had received the concept explanations during learning. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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