Threshold learning outcomes and good practice guides for a law degree

By Alex Steel

Many Australian legal educators  would already know of the work that Sally Kift, Mark Israel and Rachael Field did in developing a set of Threshold Learning Outcomes for the LLB in 2010.  But others in Australia and certainly outside Australia probably do not know of these developments.  In case you don’t, there are 6 TLOs that represent the minimum learning outcomes expected of any graduate of an Australian Bachelor of Laws degree.  Similar TLO’s exist for the postgraduate law degree, the JD.  While perhaps not exactly transferable to non-Australian legal education, they should nonetheless be extremely relevant to other common law and some civil law legal education systems.

These TLO’s are important because:

  • they capture both what many see as what the key elements of a law degree should be – a sort of minimum best practice;
  • they are becoming a set of self-regulatory standards for law schools (they have been endorsed by the Council of Australian Law Deans(“CALD”), and are now incorporated in the CALD Standards for Australian Law Schools);
  • increasing numbers of Australian law schools are using them as the basis for their degree learning outcomes.

So, what do they mean, and how do you implement them in a degree?

As a starting point, the Learning and Teaching Academic Standards Statement document that contains the TLO’s also provides some background and notes on how the TLOs might be interpreted.   That draws on overseas standards and provides some further definition of key terms.

Beyond that, a number of Good Practice Guides have been written.  These provide advice on how some of the TLO’s can be achieved through teaching and assessment strategies, and an overview of the academic literature that surrounds them.  

To date the following Good Practice Guides have been written:

Statutory Interpretation (TLO 1 and 3)   C Brown, J McNamara and C Treloar

Law in Broader Contexts (TLO 1(b)) Alex Steel

Ethics (TLO 2) M Evers, L Houston, P Redmond

Thinking Skills (TLO 3) Nick James

Research Skills (TLO 4) Clare Cappa

Communication (TLO 5) Sharon Wesley

Collaboration Skills (TLO 5) Elizabeth Handsley

Self-Management (TLO 6) Judith Marychurch

Reflective Practice (TLO 6(b)) McNamara, Cockburn, Campbell

All are available on the Law AD Network site.  The Good Practice Guides are not definitive, nor comprehensive.  But they are intended to help law teachers think about how to develop their teaching and assessment in ways that encourage attainment of the TLOs.


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