On Projects

May 7, 2011

It was while reading an article for my Corp project that it suddenly struck me what I dislike so much about projects.

We are made to write too much.

I genuinely find some of the things being said about the law to be profoundly interesting, but I doubt if I know enough, or have enough that is significant to contribute by writing. There are others who echo this sentiment, so it is unlikely to be just a personal whim.

This overemphasis on writing leads to losses at many levels. The overemphasis on writing any drivel to pass the course leaves you with little incentive to actually write on a topic where you feel you have something to contribute. The legal fraternity to that extent is lucky to have a  strong tradition of written scholarship that is unlikely to die out anytime soon (even if the site of scholarship may be arguably changing) and if students wish to write something worthwhile there are enough avenues to do so. Let’s not forget that at the undergraduate level, we’re all here to learn the law, and meaningful contribution cannot come from projects you work on over a course of two weeks. The time we spent producing projects of dubious to mediocre quality would be better spent genuinely learning the subject by reading in greater depth. This leads to the more difficult question of how to evaluate students in courses, how to check if we’re actually learning – sole reliance on exams?

It might be too much to risk everything on one or two three-hour papers, so clearly exams alone cannot be the barometer. A return to the middle-school style homework with targeted questions would work much better. An assignment a week, or even once a fortnight, is hardly too much to be asking from the student.

Doing away with vivas is a slightly more difficult argument to sustain. I do think that in whatever miniscule way, they teach you how to answer specific questions and present your argument coherently to a teacher who has probably not read beyond your introduction and conclusion.

Aside from being redundant, projects may actually harm students by reinforcing beliefs that mediocre, copy-paste work is acceptable enough to signify, at least on paper, that you’ve learnt a subject well.