Little research has been conducted on expertise-related differences in conceptual and ontological knowledge in law, even though this type of knowledge is prerequisite for correctly interpreting and reasoning about legal cases, and differences in conceptual and ontological knowledge structures between students and between students and teachers, might lead to miscommunication. This study investigated the extent and organization of conceptual and ontological knowledge of novices, advanced students, and experts in law, using a card-sorting task and a conceptelaboration task. The results showed that novices used more everyday examples and were less accurate in their elaborations of concepts than advanced students and experts, on top of that, the organization of their knowledge did not overlap within their group (i.e., no “shared” ontology). Experts gave more judicial examples based on the lawbook and were more accurate in their elaborations than advanced students, and their knowledge was strongly overlapping within their group (i.e., strong ontology). Incorrect conceptual knowledge seems to impede the correct understanding of cases and the correct application of precise and formal rules in law.
- ontological knowledge
- Legal domain