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Strathmore Law School Students Learn Through Art; The Sweet Sixteen Competition

Let me share with you a real story —my own story of how I ended up using visual tools with a view to evaluating law students’ understanding of legal concepts. I have 20 years of experience, I have been teaching since 1995 —and for the last four years I have taught at Strathmore Law School (SLS). The reason I clarify this is not for you to think that I am old; or for you to think that I look younger than I really must be. The reason is that it was about time I came up with a smart idea from my many years of teaching experience. A few years ago I came up with such an idea: using drawings in order to assess my students’ understanding of some crucial institutions of the law.


So one day in 2013, I told the pioneer class of SLS: “For next week you will have to draw the concept of the regulatory state”. The objective of this exercise was for them to show me that concept. I had the impression that having them draw would; firstly, give them a suitable tool for explaining the concept of the regulatory state and secondly, help them to better understand and remember that concept. Both things, I must say, proved to be true. Indeed, one student even said on reflection that what he had learnt through drawings was by far what he had remembered the most.


As an incentive for the students, I told them that I would award prizes for the best drawings, which came to be known as “the sweet sixteen”. I also explained to them that by “drawings” I didn’t mean just drawings: they could use any visual device and they would be assessed based on creativity and the limited use of words.


It goes without saying that I had to start thinking about good prizes. Several colleagues and friends gave me suitable books that ended up in the hands of the winners. I also got them limited subscriptions to journals and law reviews. I finally found a culminating prize for the best “drawing” of the whole year. I wrote to my colleagues who run the International Youth Leadership Conference and they generously agreed to offer a scholarship each year for one of my students to attend the extraordinary event that takes place in Prague every winter. Four students from SLS —Faith Silamoi (winner 2013 competition), Christina Gichuru and Wangechi Githaiga (winners 2014 contest) and Angela Mutsoso (winner 2015) — will participate in the conference next January.


All in all it has been a great experience. I have the joyful role of contributing inadvertently to developing the hidden talents of my students, plus the notable responsibility of awarding prizes without knowing much about art myself. The contests are also an opportunity for the singers, rappers, and dancers at SLS to perform in honor of the winners of the different stages of the “Sweet 16 Contest”, as witnessed by the video that accompanies this story, which was possible thanks to the invaluable contribution of Uzi Productions.


Santiago Legarre

Visiting Professor, SLS


Watch video of 2015 competition below;