Exploring the difficult dialogues technique as a tool for value-added law teaching and learning

Authors L van Niekerk

ISSN: 1996-2193
Affiliations: Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of the Free State
Source: Stellenbosch Law Review, Volume 30 Issue 1, 2019, p. 138 – 151


The increasingly rapid pace of change at universities requires lecturers to adapt their teaching techniques to remain attuned to their students. One of the major challenges faced by lecturers in the field of law is to facilitate learning on contentious issues. In this regard, lecturers at the University of the Free State ("UFS"), for example, are challenged to engage their students in discussions on ground-breaking and/or complex issues, which could be controversial and sensitive issues in the classroom. The objective of these discussions is to highlight the relevant legal principles and concepts, but also to teach students how to put their views across in a civil, democratic fashion, thereby sharpening students’ judicial proficiency, critical thinking as well as argumentation skills in their respective law modules. To assist lecturers to achieve this objective in class, this article examines the Difficult Dialogues technique as a tool in contemporary law teaching. The potential benefits of the technique in meeting the critical outcomes stipulated by the LLB Qualification Standard are established. This is then followed by a practical illustration of how discussion on contentious issues may be integrated with a law module to facilitate value-added teaching and learning. It is concluded that the Difficult Dialogues technique can indeed be used to good effect to not only cover the relevant learning content and meet critical LLB outcomes, but also to teach LLB graduates the skill of democratic discussion on complex issues.