Assessment: evaluating skills at stages one and two
The key focus of assessment at stage one in Introduction to Obligations is for students to demonstrate the ability to write a critical case note of 1000 words by the beginning of week seven, drawing on the theories and concepts to which they have been introduced. For example, students in the 2011-2012 cohort were asked to write a case note on Donachie v CC of Greater Manchester , a case involving a claim by an on-duty police officer against his employers for mental injury. Students were encouraged to critique the case, drawing upon their new-found knowledge of this area of law and to unpack any policy considerations, such as the difficulties faced by claimants for this relatively new form of harm - especially against a public authority - that may have had a bearing on the outcome of the case. By way of assessing case reading and writing skills, students must demonstrate knowledge of the law, including the procedural history of the case, identification of the ratio(nes), judicial interpretation (including any dissenting judgment), an understanding of its socio-economic and contextual underpinnings and a clear engagement with any policy factors that may have influenced the court, supported by academic commentary and/or empirical research.
At the end of the module, students are also tested on their problem-solving skills by way of a 2000-word complex problem question consisting of the areas of tort and contract studied throughout the course. Confirmation that students have the ability to problem-solve is essential if they are to enter stage two equipped with the necessary skills to proceed to, and to succeed in, the Law of Obligations module, as well as other modules and the exams. The format of assessment is comprised of: 30 per cent for the case note, 60 per cent for the problem question and 10 per cent for seminar participation, based on individual students' verbal contribution to class discussion and debates and a short piece of weekly written-work designed to complement the seminar topic studied each week. It is worth noting that as the Introduction to Obligations module is assessed by 100 per cent coursework (and hence no exam), the assignments set are robust in nature to ensure that students are academically challenged in a meaningful and practical manner.
Problem solving is tested further in stage two in the form of a 1500-word problem question at the end of both the contract and tort sections of the Law of Obligations course, but to an even more advanced level than expected in stage one. Indeed, students are encouraged to draw upon the written and verbal feedback received on their problem-solving assessment in Introduction to Obligations to demonstrate improved technique in this latter stage of their legal training. Each problem question attracts 10 per cent each of the overall grade, the special study making up a further 10 per cent, with the exam accounting for 70 per cent. As previously discussed, the special study is designed to assess students' legal reading, writing and research skills and their ability to unpick and elucidate upon the broader contextual socio-legal themes that underpin their research, backed up by relevant legal, social, political or philosophical theories, academic critique and/or empirical evidence.