University of Dundee final-year law students Ethan Llewellyn and Rebecca Miller reflect on what it was like to deliver Street Law lessons online at Breadalbane Academy in Aberfeldy during the pandemic.
The Law Society of Scotland's Street Law programme is well-known for creating a pathway for young people to interact with the law from the comfort of their classroom.
However, in the wake of Covid-19, Street Law facilitation necessitated a great deal of adaptation. As a result, not only were we in charge of delivering (and introducing) the programme to Breadalbane Academy, but we were also part of a group of trainers testing an online learning approach. Consequently, we had to be much more innovative and flexible with our lesson plans to adjust to online delivery.
Building on pupils' knowledge
With two S3 classes, we covered a wide range of topics over eight weeks. The most successful subjects, in retrospect, were those that aligned with Breadalbane’s modern studies curriculum.
For instance, in week two, we covered how the law does and should interact with fake news, allowing us to build on the pupils' knowledge from earlier on in the academic year.
Additionally, we held lessons on topics that the students will go on to study in upcoming years, such as criminal law and the Equality Act. The benefit of doing this was that the teacher could contribute to the conversation by promoting ideas and motivating quieter students to participate.
Through the wide range of topics, the students learned that they already have the ability to communicate and appreciate abstract principles. Based on our feedback, we know this was key in building their confidence and growing an interest in a future in law.
Our goal was to use interactive teaching mechanisms in combination with the video call platform to make the lessons more engaging and to keep the pupils feeling connected, even though they were away from the classroom. We were able to identify what worked and what did not work for us during our own online university lectures in order to maximise the reach of our Street Law lessons and we discovered that using a combination of digital resources in a single lesson encouraged pupils to remain involved for the whole hour.
Successes and challenges
Looking back, our most successful lessons involved prioritising hands-on tasks and activity lead discussions, PowerPoints, videos, breakout rooms and menti quizzes. The use of quizzes proved particularly effective in getting the pupils to steer the conversation based on their own knowledge, like in our employment rights lesson.
Whilst delivering our Street Law programme, we encountered challenges common to all pyjama-clad virtual classes across Scotland.
There was the inevitable wifi-related buffering, sound delays and, of course, forgetting to unmute when speaking. Delivering lessons without seeing the faces of pupils made assessing class engagement difficult and separate breakout rooms required absolute confidence in each other’s delivery of lessons.
Challenges specific to Street Law included distilling complex laws, legal jurisprudence, and societal issues into bite-size lessons within the pupil’s timetables and responding to unanticipated legal questions.
It soon became clear that, in order to successfully deliver our Street Law program online, adaptability would be as essential as legal knowledge.
We adapted the delivery of lessons between our two weekly classes, utilising smaller groups on a Wednesday to make pupils more comfortable with contributing.
We also adapted when unexpected technical issues occurred; notable examples include where breakout rooms began early, requiring us to deliver each other’s prepared slides; where one breakout room was unable to access the PowerPoint so we had to utilise other electronic devices; where menti unilaterally changed the quiz code between lessons; and where our class had been sent a different meeting link to us, delaying the start of that lesson as we waited in separate rooms.
Despite these issues, the class’s online engagement exceeded our expectations. Not a single week went by where our legal knowledge was not tested by unique and interesting insights from the pupils. Much credit goes to Mr. O’Donnell for facilitating and engaging with every lesson, boosting both class engagement and the quality of the lessons.
Our program also successfully achieved the aims of Street Law, by promoting a career in law, improving legal knowledge and strengthening critical thinking skills.
It was a privilege to deliver lessons that would have interested us in secondary school and to contribute to the development of talented young adults as they grow intellectually and move towards their future careers (possibly even in legal world). We cannot recommend the Street Law program highly enough to both schools or students.
"Street Law has allowed me the opportunity to share legal knowledge with an S3 class at my former secondary school, an endeavour that I have found engaging and rewarding. I look forward delivering Street Law programs again in the future."
"At such a pivotal point in my legal career, this block of teaching has been incredibly gratifying and inspiring, and I am eager to see what is next for me with Street Law."
Until the next program,
Rebecca & Ethan
Ethan Llewellyn is fourth-year Scots law student at the University of Dundee and is looking forward to graduating this summer, albeit virtually, and beginning the DPLP next academic year. Aside from law, Ethan pursues his passion for fencing at a national and international level and works in a pub during the summer.
Rebecca Millar is a fourth-year Dual Law student at the University of Dundee and is set to graduate this summer and progress onto the Diploma programme in September. Rebecca will then undertake a traineeship at Turcan Connell, where she is extremely excited to learn and grow as a solicitor.