Wednesday, December 1, 2021
David I. C. Thomson (Denver; Google Scholar) & Stephen Daniels (American Bar Foundation; Google Scholar), If You Build It, They Will Come: What Students Say About Experiential Learning, 13 Fla. A & M U. L. Rev. 203 (2018):
Our purpose here is to explore one of the “natural experiments” cited by the Task Force: the Experiential Advantage (EA) program at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law (Denver Law). EA was developed as a part of a greater general focus on experiential learning and is built upon the three “Carnegie Apprenticeships” – “the intellectual or cognitive,” “the forms of expert practice,” and “identity and purpose.” It was implemented at Denver Law starting with students entering in August 2013. To explore this natural experiment, we took a particular route and did so for what we see as good reason. It is often the case with such curricular experiments that the views of students are missing. But of course, it makes little sense to neglect them because such changes are supposedly made for the students’ benefit. So, it seems more than appropriate to ask them – from their perspective – if a change worked, or improved matters, as it was designed to do. This article is a first report on the findings of an extensive case study — a three-year, survey-based, study of Denver Law students concerning the EA Program “natural experiment.” The findings should be of considerable interest to the legal community, given that there is general support for experiential learning across most law schools, but a study of this kind — one exploring student views on curricular innovation — has never been conducted before.
This Article is divided into four sections. The first provides a general context for Denver Law’s efforts. The second outlines the study itself, and is followed by section three, which analyzes the reasons first-year students chose Denver Law and their interest in EA and experiential learning. The fourth section changes focus and turns to Denver Law students nearing the end of their legal education – 3 and 4Ls. These students, nearing the end of their legal education, were asked a series of “look back” questions asking them about their law school experience, including the EA program and experiential learning.