Briefly, from the Teaching-Research Nexus Symposium

Teaching-Research Nexus SymposiumI attended the Teaching-Research Nexus Symposium at the National Wine Centre in Adelaide on 15 February 2013. The Adelaide Law School, the Centre for Law Governance and Public Policy, and the Legal Education Review presented the event. Thank you to the Legal Education Review for kindly providing me a place at the event as an attendee. (I am a teetotaller – regrettably I cannot report on the wine).

Leon Wolff, from Bond University presented the keynote address, ‘Let’s talk about Lex – narrative methodology and the reinterpretation of the researching-teaching nexus in legal education’. The topic was a pleasant surprise for me, because I am interested in narrative inquiry methodology and, as Leon pointed out, narrative is ubiquitous in law. Narrative appears through case reports, ‘war stories’, recitals, chronologies, exchange of correspondence, and witness statements, to name some examples. I commend Leon’s article, ‘Law as Lore'[1], as an introduction to narrative inquiry in legal research and legal education. (I recommend Ruthellen Josselson’s work for an in-depth introduction to narrative inquiry*)

Following the keynote, there were three presentations. Firstly, Patricia Easteal (University of Canberra), followed by Irene Baghoomians (Sydney University), then Marina Nehme (University of Western Sydney). Each of these presentations relate to articles published in a special edition of the 2012 Legal Education Review Volume 22 Issue 2  pp. 237-338.

Patricia shared insights from a case study of research-led education (“RLE”) at the University of Canberra. RLE enables the development of law student research skills and provides a context for teachers to reflect on their own research interests and scholarship of teaching. ‘Intersections’ identified in the case study include; i) research about teaching, ii) teachers teaching about their research, and iii) students doing the research. Organisational and individual commitment and support for RLE would be important for it to succeed [2].

Irene provided a fascinating account of an elective international law course involving a 3-week trip in Nepal. Sydney Law School and Kathmandu Law School are partners in the experiential learning arrangement. The residency in Nepal involves site visits, lectures, and assessments. Irene’s presentation focused on the logistical and procedural hurdles involved in the innovation. I envy the students who participated – I would have loved to have an experience like this course when I was an undergraduate law student (wouldn’t you?). The article is practical and informative; a valuable resource for anyone considering a similar approach [3].

Marina presented an energetic overview of the challenge facing teachers obliged or desiring to undertake research [4]. Marina asks ‘Is there a nexus between teaching and research?’, and then reviews studies that claim a negative nexus, nil nexus, or a positive nexus between teaching and research. Marina proposes the nexus between teaching and research is complex and depends on the discipline involved, whether certain strategies are deliberately adopted, and other factors. Marina also observes variability in definitions of research and teaching and characterisation of the nexus between teaching and research. Marina identifies strategies for a positive nexus including embedding research in curriculum and cultural change that values scholarship of teaching. I am particularly interested in the latter strategy as part of my own research into how PLT teachers engage with scholarship of teaching. I commend Marina’s article to you.

There was a choice of three parallel sessions after lunch: research methodologies, using teaching excellence to secure promotion, and a collaborative workshop. I was torn between the methodologies and collaborative sessions. I opted for methodologies and a friend chose the collaborative session – I am hoping my friend will guest blog about the collaborative session soon.

Professor Tina Aspland from University of Adelaide facilitated the methodology session. Tina introduced the subject by first discussing epistemologies and ontologies. She presented a sliding scale of positivist/objectivist and subjectivist paradigms, with constructivist methodologies such as grounded theory and mixed methods toward the centre of the scale. This excited some discussion in the group with some members tending to identify with positions at one end of the scale or another. I was interested to observe in albeit brief but animated discussions an apparent cognitive dissonance between vocal participants. Such was the interest, I believe Tina was unable to introduce a number of other planned discussion points. I was encouraged, however, to see qualitative methodologies being discussed in this forum. It was clear a number of participants were acquainted with a range of methodologies, which is promising for future research.

Unfortunately, I was obliged to miss the last sessions to make my flight back to Melbourne. The concluding sessions were presented by Molly Townes O’Brien from the Australian National University  (‘The Learning Journey – please take me with you’), and James Arvanitakis from University of Western Sydney (‘Do researchers dream of student-free universities?’). If a participant from those sessions would like to guest blog here, I would be happy if you would contact me.

I am pleased to see an event like this and look forward to more like it. The inclusion of qualitative methodologies at this symposium, such as narrative inquiry, prompt me to wonder how articles involving these methodologies might be received and reviewed by Australian legal education journals. For example, if a journal’s style guide proscribes the use of personal pronouns in articles submitted for review, what impact might this have on writing involving narrative inquiry or analytic auto-ethnography?**

[1] Leon Wolff, ‘Law as Lore’ (2012) 1 Journal of Civil & Legal Sciences e108.
[2] Sarah Ailwood et al, ‘Connecting Research And Teaching: A Case Study From The School Of Law, University Of Canberra’ (2012) 22(1/2) Legal Education Review 317.
[3] Ben Saul and Irene Baghoomians, ‘An Experiential International Law Field School In The Sky: Learning Human Rights And Development In The Himalayas’ (2012) 22(1/2) Legal Education Review 273.
[4] Marina Nehme, ‘The Nexus Between Teaching And Research: Easier Said Than Done’ (2012) 22(1/2) Legal Education Review 241.
*Ruthellen Josselson, ‘Narrative Research – Constructing, Deconstructing and Reconstructing Story’ in Frederick Wertz and Kathy Charmaz (eds), Five Ways of Doing Qualitative Analysis : Phenomenological Psychology, Grounded Theory, Discourse Analysis, Narrative Research, and Intuitive (2011) 224.
**Helen Sword studied a large number of academic journals and their style guidelines – she found very few proscribe use of personal pronouns: Sword, H 2012, Stylish Academic Writing, Harvard University Press, Cambridge & London.