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    When it comes to learning, mapping turns out to be an effective tool. There is a wide variety of information maps, such as mind maps, argument maps and concept maps. This paper develops a teaching method that puts mapping at the centre of a seminar. It builds upon ideas of cognitivism and constructivism. The proposed didactic method incorporates a new variant of mapping, Basic Building Blocks Map (BBB Map), with a specific style of teaching. It is argued that this teaching method leads to engaged and active student participation. By dividing the subject up into small pieces and searching for answers to questions interactively, the student will learn more effectively. The paper concludes by providing teachers tools to put the method of BBB Mapping into practice.


Renetta Bos
Renetta Bos is a lecturer at the Institute of Jurisprudence, Constitutional and Administrative Law (Utrecht University). She has graduated with a number of qualifications in law and philosophy: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law (Law, Leiden University), Philosophy of Management and Organisation (Philosophy, VU Amsterdam) and Philosophy of Law (Philosophy, Leiden University). In addition, she has studied at the Friedrich-Schiller-Universität, Jena (Germany). In her tutorial teaching, she makes use of her experience gained at the Erasmus University Rotterdam and the Free University of Amsterdam. She thanks Hedwig van Rossum, Bald de Vries, Vera van de Glind, and an anonymous referee from the journal for useful comments on earlier versions of this article.
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Access_open Teaching Socio-Legal Research Methodology: Participant Observation. Special Issue on Active Learning and Teaching in Legal Education

Journal Law and Method, January 2019
Keywords Participant observation, sociolegal research, methodology, teaching
Authors Marc A. Simon Thomas
AbstractAuthor's information

    The basics of how to conduct participant observation are not taught in law schools. This is striking because this methodology has become a common feature of qualitative research and could be very useful in sociolegal research. For those interested in studying ‘law in practice’ instead of ‘law in the books’, qualitative research methods like participant observation are inevitable. However, participant observation is, at best, secondary in the literature on qualitative research in the sociolegal discipline, while there is no guidance on how to conduct this technique whatsoever.Therefore, this article is written with two audiences in mind: It should serve as a useful reference and guide for those who teach qualitative research methods in legal education and who are looking to enhance their knowledge and skills concerning participant observation; it is also meant to serve as a basic primer for the beginning sociolegal researcher who is about to become a participating observer for the first time.


Marc A. Simon Thomas
Utrecht University, School of Law, Institute of Jurisprudence, Constitutional and Administrative Law, Legal Theory; m.a.simonthomas@uu.nl.

    In legal education, criticism is conceived as an academic activity. As lecturers, we expect from students more than just the expression of their opinion; they have to evaluate and criticize a certain practice, building on a sound argumentation and provide suggestions on how to improve this practice. Criticism not only entails a negative judgment but is also constructive since it aims at changing the current state of affairs that it rejects (for some reason or other). In this article, we want to show how we train critical writing in the legal skills course for first-year law students (Juridische vaardigheden) at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. We start with a general characterization of the skill of critical writing on the basis of four questions: 1. Why should we train critical writing? 2. What does criticism mean in a legal context? 3. How to carry out legal criticism? and 4. How to derive recommendations from the criticism raised? Subsequently, we discuss, as an illustration to the last two questions, the Dutch Urgenda case, which gave rise to a lively debate in the Netherlands on the role of the judge. Finally, we show how we have applied our general understanding of critical writing to our legal skills course. We describe the didactic approach followed and our experiences with it.


Bart van Klink
Bart van Klink is Professor of Legal Methodology, Department of Legal Theory and History, Faculty of Law, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Lyana Francot
Lyana Francot is Associate Professor of Legal Theory, Department of Legal Theory and History, Faculty of Law, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

    This article builds upon the work of James Boyd White as well as on Shelley’s ‘A defence of Poetry’ (1840) and reports upon an experiment in which students use poetry as a means to understand philosophical texts. The experiment had a double goal: first, I sought to challenge students in reading a philosophical text differently with an aim to better understand the text. The second goal was to challenge students to think about the text differently, more critically and analyse its relevance for the contemporary world. In the end, using imagination, is the claim, contributes to students finding their own ‘voice’.


Bald de Vries
Dr Bald de Vries is lecturer at the Department of Jurisprudence, Constitutional and Administrative Law of the Faculty of Law (JCAL), Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands, u.devries@uu.nl.

    This article introduces the concepts of play and playfulness within the context of legal-philosophical education. I argue that integrating play and playfulness in legal education engages students and prepares them for dealing with the perpetual uncertainty of late modernity that they will face as future legal professionals. This article therefore aims to outline the first contours of a useful concept of play and playfulness in legal education. Drawing on the work of leading play-theorists Huizinga, Caillois, Lieberman and Csikszentmihalyi, play within legal education can be described as a (1) partly voluntary activity that (2) enables achievement of learning goals, (3) is consciously separate from everyday life by rules and/or make believe, (4) has its own boundaries in time and space, (5) entails possibility, tension and uncertainty and (6) promotes the formation of social grouping. Playfulness is a lighthearted state of mind associated with curiosity, creativity, spontaneity and humor. Being playful also entails being able to cope with uncertainty. The integration of these concepts of play and playfulness in courses on jurisprudence will be illustrated by the detailed description of three play and playful activities integrated in the course ‘Introduction to Legal Philosophy’ at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.


Hedwig van Rossum
Mr. H.E van Rossum, LL.M., is a lecturer-researcher in the Department of Legal Theory at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and has been teaching the freshman course ‘Introduction to Legal Philosophy’ since 2011.

    Jurisprudence is a domain related to terms such as rules, morality, principles, equality, justice, etc. Legal scholars have to teach the meaning of these terms. However, these are not terms, one can comprehend by just reading their standard definition. These are terms one must digest and learn to use. My argument is that literature or the law and literature movement can be used as a tool in order to explain and discuss these terms. For instance, beyond simply explaining or teaching legal positivism and natural law, Antigone helps students reflect upon the distinction between them. To cite another example, reading Nana can help students think about sex-workers in a way they would never think before. Moreover, the literature can be a useful means in teaching critical movements in law, such as critical legal studies, feminist legal theory and critical race theory. Finally, the terms I stated at the beginning are not only terms of jurisprudence, they are terms we should use properly in order to construct a healthy legal environment. Therefore, to get students comprehend these terms is a crucially important aim. I argue that literature can be a tool in order to achieve this aim.


E. Irem Aki
Dr. E.I. Aki was a research assistant at Ankara University Faculty of Law until 2017; iremaki@gmail.com.

    The purpose of this article is to investigate whether the notion of an interest should be taken more seriously than the notion of a right. It will be argued that it should; and not only because it can be just as amenable to the institutional taxonomical structure often said to be at the basis of rights thinking in law but also because the notion of an interest has a more epistemologically convincing explanatory power with respect to reasoning in law and its relation to social facts. The article equally aims to highlight some of the important existing work on the notion of an interest in law.


Geoffrey Samuel
Professor of Law, Kent Law School, The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, U.K. This article is a much re-orientated, and updated, adaption of a paper published a decade ago: Samuel 2004, at 263. The author would like to thank the anonymous referees for their very helpful criticisms and observations on an earlier version of the manuscript.

    This article examines the main assumptions and theoretical underpinnings of case study method in legal studies. It considers the importance of research design, including the crucial roles of the academic literature review, the research question and the use of rival theories to develop hypotheses and the practice of identifying the observable implications of those hypotheses. It considers the selection of data sources and modes of analysis to allow for valid analytical inferences to be drawn in respect of them. In doing so it considers, in brief, the importance of case study selection and variations such as single or multi case approaches. Finally it provides thoughts about the strengths and weaknesses associated with undertaking socio-legal and comparative legal research via a case study method, addressing frequent stumbling blocks encountered by legal researchers, as well as ways to militate them. It is written with those new to the method in mind.


Lisa Webley

mr.dr. Maria Geertruida IJzermans

    In this article the Think-Aloud Method, a method used in problem solving research in Psychology, is used in legal research to gather data on how novices, expert beginners and experts read, structure and analyse legal decisions. In the Dutch legal system decisions by judges are a major source of law. So it is important that law students learn to read, structure and analyse legal decisions. However, reading and understanding a decision does not go without saying, it has to be learned. The data we gather using the Think-Aloud Method are used to improve instruction to support the effective and efficient learning of comprehending legal decisions. We describe the Think-Aloud Method, our experimental design and our approach for analysing the protocols.


Dr. Antoinette Muntjewerff
Dr. A. Muntjewerff is Assistant Professor of Legal Theory at the Faculty of Law at the University of Amsterdam. She has a Masters in Social Science, a Masters in Law, and a PhD in Computer Science & Law; she studied Computer Science (more specifically Artificial Intelligence).
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