Sydney Law School to phase out award-winning PASS program

Sydney Law School will discontinue the popular Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) program for Law from Semester 2 onwards. Details about his replacement are still being decided.

PASS facilitators announced the decision to their students this week.

A University spokesperson said the program was cut to align with the Law School’s “strategic goal” and to demonstrate “the School’s commitment to ensuring that our law students who need the most support receive the best possible assistance to meet their particular needs.”

The Law School has confirmed that it does not currently know what the program’s replacement will look like, but Simon Bronitt, Dean of Sydney Law School, described it as a “joint design project” between students and staff.

‘PASS helps students understand their law courses much better’

PASS offers free weekly sessions for select business and law units led by high-achieving student facilitators. The program is highly interactive, with students working together to answer exam-style problem questions, and is normally full at the start of each semester.

This semester, PASS was available for five core junior law courses (Torts, Contracts, Criminal Law, Public International Law, and Torts and Contracts II).

USyd’s PASS program is “the most awarded program in the Australasia region,” including an international award from the International Center for Supplemental Instruction at the University of Missouri.

Many law students throughout its 11-year history credit the program with greatly improving their grades and helping them with their transition to university studies.

A PASS facilitator at law, who wished to remain anonymous, described his experience attending PASS as a student and later as a facilitator as “hugely beneficial in providing a supportive group learning environment for students in a discipline that is often felt too competitive and stressful. .

“On so many occasions, students have told us how much they learned in PASS and how invaluable they found the structured opportunity to try new problem questions and review content with their friends,” they said.

A sophomore who was “shocked and upset” to learn of the show’s cancellation said Here: “PASS helps students understand their law courses much better.

“You learn to understand how students take different perspectives on a problem and understand that there is no ‘right’ answer, but still provide evidence and case reasoning.”

Uncertainty about his replacement

When asked about replacing the program, a University spokesperson said the Law School wants to “invest in developing and expanding its own discipline-specific academic skills development program for law students,” which covers both content of the course such as legal skills. This seems to refer to the fact that the program is externally coordinated by the Business School.

According to Bronitt, PASS costs Sydney Law School $45,000 per semester, part of which helps employ 10 student facilitators. The spokesman said “cost savings were not a consideration in the decision.”

Here understands that during a staff-student consultative forum on Wednesday, Bronitt justified the decision by stating that PASS is not reaping the anticipated benefits based on the data, although Here you have not seen the data to support this claim. Associate Dean for Student Life Roger Magnusson also argued that PASS caters to a “middle class” of students who earn average or high grades, while his replacement would focus on struggling students.

Sydney University Law Society (SULS) Vice President (Education), Irene Ma, said she was against compulsory classes for low-achieving students, preferring a PASS-like participatory approach. Some students have also privately expressed concern that such a replacement program would “turn out” low-achieving students or create discomfort.

Here understands that the Law School has concerns about PASS’s pedagogical approach. Facilitators are discouraged from providing answers directly to students, and Bronitt describes it as an “outdated model” better suited for business units.

SULS President Ben Hines said PASS has helped “help students with the nuances of certain topics and provide new factual scenarios for question- and problem-based learning.”

“Having programs that help with law student learning is critical, and ensuring that these programs are better suited to the needs and experiences of students should be critical,” he said. Hines also plans to advocate for students to be employed in the new program.

“SULS is strongly committed to ensuring that these guarantees we have received from the School of Law are upheld, and that any such decision by the School is enacted and designed in a way that benefits, rather than harms, students. .

“We encourage any student who wishes to contribute to this co-design project to participate in an upcoming survey that SULS will distribute via email, and we will advocate for these students’ perspectives.”

Finally, the PASS facilitator who spoke with Here expects the replacement program to have the same educational benefits as PASS.

“I think it’s sad to know that students (many of whom I’ve seen come back semester after semester because they love PASS) might have a harder time accessing the support they need because of this decision,” they said.

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