#APLEC2014 – Impressions from Day One

This post is a week late because I have been immersed in working with my supervisor comments and review of my thesis chapters, but here goes…

IPLS Faculty Sing a Maori Welcome at #APLEC2014

The Australasian Professional Legal Education Council annual conference was held in Auckland, New Zealand during 14-15 November 2014. Congratulations to the host, the Institute of Professional Legal Studies (IPLS), for a well-organised and well-resourced conference – my experience as a presenter and attendee was enjoyable, and support staff inspired confidence when setting up for the presentation. The Conference Theme was ‘Creating Communities of Learning’.

Day One commenced with a beautifully-sung  welcome in Maori by members of IPLS (a motif that continued at the conference dinner, with several participants standing to sing in different genres).

Associate Professor Shirley Reushle from the Digital Futures Institute at the University of Southern Queensland spoke to the theme of ‘Learning Community: If I Build It, Will They Come?’

Shirley said we’re all struggling with the same issues – looking for answers – what needs to be done to provide successful learning experiences for students? She outlined the concept of learning community, and spoke to concepts of ‘leadership in creating and maintaining a learning community’ and ‘methods for conducting a learning community’.

Shirley observed  the concept of ‘community’ is highly valued by society, that students want hands-on, interactive, social learning activities – dislike passive learning – and a community of learning needs effective leadership to keep community alive. It is 2-way process – community belongs to everyone – it is about leadership and responsibility, not control. Innovation and fund needs to be a part of a community of learning – it is important to remember learners are people. Collaborative work is something special, it needs structure and purpose also flexibility and fluidity – effective leadership and facilitation.

Shirley asked, do communities of learning work? Are they necessary? What purpose might they serve? She observed that communities of learning involve recognition, and demonstrate acceptance, of differences in perspectives, beliefs, values etc. They involve development of interactive and collaborative skills required in discipline contexts.

Regarding the online learning context, Shirley referred to Ohler JR (2010) Digital Community, Digital Citizen, Corwin – Sage: “many educational systems still force learners to have two lives…”, ie, ‘digitally saturated’ in day-to-day life but ‘unplugged’ in the learning environment. Shirley said a virtual community requires specific efforts including peer-to-peer support – visible presence – efforts to communicate – scholarly dialogue – collaborations with peers – shared resources and practices – and build and deepen knowledge and expertise.

Shirley  used Twitter and SMS polling to ask the audience to contribute their ideas about encouraging communities of learning in an online environment – audience members could tweet or text their responses, which were displayed on the screen via  a website. I have heard of, have not seen, this tech before and I liked it a lot – a cool way to encourage interactions with audience.

Overall this was a good introduction to the community of learning concept –  type the phrase into Google Scholar and you will see the concept pervades teaching and learning in many disciplines.

Then it was time for parallel sessions – this presented some especially difficult choices because so many of the presentations I wanted to attend were running concurrently.

First up I attended a session presented by Judy Bourke (College of Law Sydney) and Maxine Evers (University of Technology Sydney)  on ‘Promoting Graduate Competence in Resilience and Well-Being: Strategies for the New Competency’. It is very good to see  inter-institutional collaborations of this kind. The presentation began with background to the topic, including the work of the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation, the resilience@law project, Wellness Network for Law, and the Council of Australian Law Deans (CALD) ‘Promoting Student Well-Being – Good Practice Guidelines for Law Schools‘. There was a discussion of elements of psycho-social factors relevant to employee responses to work, and work conditions, including organisational culture, clear leadership and expectations, good influence and involvement by workers, and balance in work, family, and personal life.  There followed some information about relatively new regulatory changes, including the Law Admissions Consultative Committee (LACC) Uniform Admission Rules Competency Standards rr. 4.6 (‘Resilience and Well-Being’) and 5.16 (‘Self Management). We finished the session by breaking out into groups –  each discussing one of the following:

  1. How to raise graduates’ awareness of importance of personal resilience in legal practice?
  2. What information and resources should we provide to help develop resilience, maintain well-being and identify mental health difficulties e.g. Best Practice Guidelines?
How will information and resources be provided?
  4. Should the new competency be integrated with other competencies and subjects?
  5. How can graduates demonstrate they have achieved the new Self-Management element?

Judy and Maxine plan to collate the answers and return them to us in due course.

Time for lunch, with a short but intellectually provocative session facilitated by Ann Beckingham (Leo Cussen Institute), comparing disclosure requirements for admission in different Australian jurisdictions. Discussion was prefaced by information about The Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Act 2014 (the Application Act) enacted in Victoria and New South Wales, and  implications for what might eventually be a national procedure for admission to the legal profession. Ann outlined disclosure requirements in the Victorian jurisdiction, which involves several Practice Directions and Notices, including Practice Notice No. 2 of 2012 (Disclosure Requirements for Applicants). The Victorian requirements for disclosure are extensive (possibly more so than other jurisdictions) and one question is whether these would be adopted by other jurisdictions under a national admissions scheme. Part of the group discussion in this session focused on the administrative load the Victorian requirements generate for individuals and institutions. Other parts of the group discussion centred on potential impingement on natural justice, and parity and equity of outcomes of the scheme. It is a complex and challenging area to research, and I look forward to seeing research developed in this area.

After lunch, we were back into the parallel sessions – Clinical Associate Professor Terri Mottershead (Bond University) presented on ‘Innovating Legal Education through Law School and Law Firm Collaborations’. Terri spoke to common drivers for change for higher education and the legal industry; the coming of age for practical legal education – challenges and opportunities; beyond learning outcomes to competencies; and the new way forward – outcomes, partnerships and collaborations. I really enjoyed this presentation, which covered a lot of ground in detail, and I cannot do it justice here. In discussing common drivers for change, Terri referred to ’21st century practice’ with change driven by ‘more for less’, ‘liberalisation’, and ‘IT’ – emergent themes include ‘globalisation’, ‘technology and access to knowledge/justice’, ‘liberalisation/democratisation of knowledge’, ‘fees/funding/value’, and ‘integration/collaboration/partnership’.  Of particular interest to me was Terri’s discussion of the coming of age of practical legal education and the rise of pracademics. Readers familiar with my research might recall one of my interests is the integration of evidence-based practices and practice-based evidence toward a synthesis of know-what and know-how – the term pracademics seems to be neat fit with this, although on reading Price (2001), Posner (2009), and Susskind (2013), an underlying sense ‘us’ and ‘them’ between practitioners and academics remains. That said, it was heartening to hear someone of Terri’s standing recognising the relevance of pracademic work in professional legal education.

Then it was time for me to present – I will publish a separate post on my session.

Next, Fabian Horton (College of Law Victoria) presented on ‘Future communities – a paradigm shift in knowledge and teaching’. Fabian argued a dichotomy exists wherein ‘the internet, social media and our hyperconnected world can draw us closer together through virtual spaces. Yet at the same time we are becoming more disassociated through the forces of faux relationships, metrics and big data’.  In this context ‘we must rethink the skills lawyers need to properly serve our various communities’ –  Fabian identified  ’emerging legal disrupts’ including  ‘new law’, ‘legal informatics’ and  ‘commoditisation’ of  law – affecting the roles of future lawyers. He questioned what are ‘possible future skills’ that lawyers, and law teachers, will need. I interpreted Fabian as suggesting that traditional attitudes to law and legal education obstruct the impetus and undertaking to investigate possible ‘future’ skills – but this needs to change if law and legal education is to be part of a ‘future community’ in which technology plays a fundamental part.

Fabian’s presentation was thoughtful, challenged to some extent in speaking to relatively new concepts such legal informatics, which are yet to be widely understood legal education audiences.

The final presentation I attended for Day One was Ann-Maree David (College of Law Queensland) on ‘Supervision: the key to surviving and thriving in legal practice?‘  I am very interested in presentations relevant to supervision of pre-admission graduate lawyers and post-admission entry-level lawyers in practice – I believe it to be a neglected area of research in legal education, although I hasten to add there is much useful literature around supervision in the clinical legal education context. Ann-Maree supplied some excellent insights about the interplay (or lack thereof) between institutional PLT, workplace experience, and supervised practice. She pointed to research showing ‘successful students’ had one or more teachers (e.g. PLT practitioners) who were mentors, and had an internship (e.g. work experience) related to what they were learning in institutional coursework. For me, this highlights the widely-held misconception that 4-5 months of PLT coursework is intended to substitute for what were articled clerkships lasting years. As Anne-Maree pointed out, the work experience component of PLT, plus the period of post-admission supervised practice, should work together as part of the legal education continuum – there seems to be some recognition of this in professional guidelines concerning the statutory period of supervised practice. Ann-Maree also described how work experience and supervised practice could and should supply spaces for reflection and reflexivity to integrate learning, understandings, professional and social relations and connections, and how feedback/feedforward and peer mentoring activities play their part in this. An informative presentation that stimulated much discussion.

So that was my #APLEC2014 Day One – I will post about Day Two shortly.

Price, WT 2001, ‘A Pracademic Research Agenda for Public Infrastructure Models/Results Public Works Practitioners Need to Know’, Public Works Management & Policy, vol. 5, no. 4, pp. 287-96.

Posner, PL 2009, ‘The Pracademic: An Agenda for Re‐Engaging Practitioners and Academics’, Public Budgeting & Finance, vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 12-26.

Susskind, L 2013, ‘Confessions of a Pracademic: Searching for a Virtuous Cycle of Theory Building, Teaching, and Action Research’, Negotiation Journal, vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 225-37.


#aplec2013 Day 1 – First Parallel Session

The Importance of Assessments in Practical Legal Training Programs

Suruj Skarma

University of the South Pacific, Fiji

I could not attend all parallel sessions. I’m blogging about those I could attend.

This session picked up on similar themes expressed in the first keynote. What follows are my impressions, in terse form. Errors and omissions are mine.

Given PLT is focused on preparing graduates with usable professional skills on completion, it is important to examine the assessment design. Awarding marks in PLT assessment might not be appropriate, and give an unreliable picture of the graduates’ learning outcomes. Starting questions, when do you measure, how do you measure, what do you measure? Need good information about what learned-centred approaches are achieving. Need strategies to get feedback from trainees about what they are learning in their own time, to identify what needs to be followed up, as part of a daily conversation. Need to adapt the teaching and learning style to local circumstances, and trainees’ circumstances and attributes. Trainees from a range of professional and practical experiences, so space needed to accommodate trainees with different levels of ability and experience. Some learning accomplished through assessments, can sometimes be the most appropriate way to learn certain concepts or skills. Using a combination of instruments and interactions – sit-in and take home tests, short tests, practice runs, examinations and evaluations. Rankings can be an issue – consider need for continuity of external measure of learning outcomes, need to be weighed against more complex assessments less amenable to quantitative rankings. Assessments essential but difficult, usually the trainer’s responsibility, questions around ranking or pass/fail approaches, consider in-progress assessments, consider whether formal assessment by itself is incomplete assessment. Unavoidable logistical challenges might influence choice of assessment timing and type. Also consider accountability to trainees and to other stakeholders regarding assessment decisions. Consider whether we’re focused on “good grades,” or competent and capable entry-level lawyers. Should trainees who “fail” assessments be required to undertake whole program again, before re-attempting assessment? Might be preferable if you’re aiming for actual competence. Consider holistic assessment of overall performance vs strictly criteria-based approaches. Need to be clear about responses to missed/failed assessments, repeat assessments, moderation processes, and avenues of review.

Lots to say and discuss here – couldn’t quite cover it in the time available.


Human Research Ethics Approval

I am happy to learn today the Deakin University Human Research Ethics Committee have approved my proposed research involving semi-structured interviews with Australian lawyers teaching practical legal training. This research is part of my PhD candidature. More on this in coming weeks.


Well, what is ‘scholarship of teaching’?

Photo on 19-03-13 at 4.32 PM - Version 2My article published in the Journal of the Australasian Law Teachers Association last month included a brief discussion around ‘scholarship of teaching’ (SoT) and how that might apply in practical legal training. I am still thinking about what SoT ‘is’, and as I read around the topic I learn more about how problematic the term can be. I undertook a small literature review this week drawing on around 50 peer-reviewed sources, to learn more about problems of defining SoT, SoT elements, and related issues. This post is directed to the problem of defining SoT, and reviews ‘elements’ shared in the literature.

Problem of defining SoT

‘Despite ‘blockbuster’ conferences … and new journals (such as the International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning)’, says Boshier (2009), ‘most university faculty members or academic staff do not know what [SoT] means’. There’s no ‘complete consensus’ on the meaning of SoT, asserts McKinney (2006), and ‘social construction of a shared meaning’ for SoT ‘is fraught with difficulties’. In 2001, Kreber said ‘there is still confusion regarding the meaning of “scholarship of teaching,” with different people espousing different definitions’; however, in 2002 Kreber shifted a little, ‘once downplayed as an amorphous and elusive term devoid of any clear meaning, the scholarship of teaching has gained much clearer contours over the past few years’. In Australia more recently, Devlin (2012) observed ‘numerous attempts to pin down the notion of the scholarship of teaching’ and linked this to ‘[one] of the challenges of defining the scholarship of teaching is that ‘the grandfather’ of the concept, Ernest Boyer, did not really define it per se‘.

Which brings us to the oft-cited Boyer (1997), and Glassick et al (1997). Boyer located SoT within four manifestations of scholarship: ‘the scholarship of discovery’, ‘the scholarship of integration’, ‘the scholarship of application’, and ‘the scholarship of teaching’, each of which overlap. As Glassick (2000) would later observe, these concepts emerged out of Boyer’s earlier research with Rice in 1989, involving 5000 faculty at a range of higher education institutions, however debates around ‘measurement’ of quality of scholarship of teaching highlighted some ambiguity around what SoT ‘is’. Out of subsequent research around this issue, Glassick (2000) reports 6 ‘themes’ emerge: ‘clear goals’, ‘adequate’ preparation’, ‘appropriate methods’, ‘significant results’, ‘effective presentation’ and ‘reflective critique’.

After Glassick (2000), Trigwell et al (2000) sought to devise ‘a multi-dimensional model’ that describes scholarship of teaching. The model can be visualised as a table with four column headings, ‘informed dimension’, ‘reflection dimension’, ‘communication dimension’ and ‘conception dimension’. Under these headings are descriptors of ‘qualitative variations’ of how individuals engage with a dimension of SoT. For example, under ‘communication dimension’ the variation ranges from an individual doing nothing to publishing in a international scholarly journal. I will not reproduce the table here, but I commend Trigwell’s article to you.

Investigating ‘elements’ of Scholarship of Teaching

I wanted to learn more about how those articles described elements of scholarship of teaching, and the prevalence of those elements across the articles. I imported about 50 articles into NVivo computer-aided qualitative data analysis software You can look at a tree map of the main elements here.

In brief, ‘sharing’ scholarly work (usually by publication) for ‘external scrutiny’, was the most prevalent element described for scholarship of teaching. Having clear ‘aims’ or goals for research came next, followed by ‘self reflection’ and ‘knowledge’ (usually through familiarity with literature and research regarding teaching and learning). ‘Critical inquiry’ (includes critical engagement) came next, then ‘discovery’ (for example, searching for novel insights or solutions to problems), followed by appropriate ‘preparation’ and ‘methods’. Other less prevalent (but still important, I think) terms were: interdisciplinarity, systematic (or methodical) approach, analysis, application (applying scholarship to practice), comparisons, intellectual engagement, integration of knowledge and practices, practical approaches, and the ability to synthesise these things.

Sharing or publishing scholarship for external scrutiny or peer review (and to share the benefit of new knowledge) was generally accepted as integral to scholarship of teaching. However, some writers observed that sharing need not be confined to peer-reviewed journals, and other scholarly outputs are possible. I am interested in this aspect and will research it further.

Other Issues

Several other issues (teacher engagement with scholarship of teaching, for example) percolated through the literature and I will write more about these in the future.

If you want to share your thoughts about SoT in PLT, please feel free to comment or email me.


Boshier, R 2009, ‘Why is the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning such a hard sell?’, Higher Education Research & Development, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 1-15.

Boyer, EL 1997, Scholarship reconsidered – Priorities of the professoriate, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Princeton, New Jersey.

Devlin, M 2012, ‘The scholarship of teaching in Australian higher education: a national imperative’, in Keynote address at the Vice-Chancellors Colloquium, The University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia, May 30, 2007.

Kreber, C 2001, ‘Conceptualizing the Scholarship of Teaching and Identifying Unresolved Issues: The Framework for This Volume’, New Directions for Teaching & Learning, no. 86, p. 1.

Kreber, C 2002, ‘Controversy and Consensus on the Scholarship of Teaching’, Studies in Higher Education, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 151-67.

Kreber, C 2005, ‘Charting a critical course on the scholarship of university teaching movement’, Studies in Higher Education, vol. 30, no. 4, pp. 389-405.

Glassick, CE, Huber, MT & Maeroff, GI 1997, Scholarship Assessed: Evaluation of the Professoriate. Special Report, Jossey Bass Inc., San Francisco.

Glassick, CE 2000, ‘Boyer’s expanded definitions of scholarship, the standards for assessing scholarship, and the elusiveness of the scholarship of teaching’, Academic medicine : Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, vol. 75, no. 9, pp. 877-957.

McKinney, K 2006, ‘Attitudinal and structural factors contributing to challenges in the work of the scholarship of teaching and learning’, New Directions for Institutional Research, vol. 2006, no. 129, pp. 37-50.

Trigwell, K, Martin, E, Benjamin, J & Prosser, M 2000, ‘Scholarship of teaching: a model’, Higher Education Research and Development, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 155-68.



20130309-132334.jpgI am enjoying time out during my annual pilgrimage to the Port Fairy Folk Festival. Apart from listening to a fascinating range of music, one of the things I love about this experience is watching musicians jam together. Jamming can comprise collaborative music-making by talented individuals, sometimes meeting for the first time in real life. I am wondering about lawyers who teach practical legal training, and what they might produce if the teachers did a bit of jamming too. That could happen in the instructional design phase, or workshopping with students around a specific competency such as problem-solving. What do you think? Are we too stitched up for that kind of improvisation?


Is the Lecturer in the Room?

LER_Article2012 The Legal Education Review has published an article I co-authored with Dr Julianne Lynch last year.* The article reports on a practitioner-initiated study of student satisfaction with online discussions in practical legal training. I undertook the study under Dr Lynch’s supervision as part of my master degree in professional education and training in 2011. An abstract is available here. Undertaking the study (and obtaining ethics approval) was a significant learning experience for me. Research that focuses on teaching and learning is quite a different experience from the doctrinal research that lawyers often do. The challenge of recruiting participants for this study highlighted for me some of the difficulties in undertaking this type of practitioner research. Writing the journal article was also an important learning experience, and I am much indebted to Dr Lynch’s supervision together with the editorial committee at the Legal Education Review, and the two anonymous reviewers. I have resolved to work harder at improving my academic writing! I hope the article would be a useful springboard for anyone contemplating similar research involving online discussions in legal education or practical legal training

*Kristoffer Greaves and Julianne Lynch, ‘Is The Lecturer In The Room? A Study Of Student Satisfaction With Online Discussion Within Practical Legal Training’ (2012) 22(1&2) Legal Education Review 147.


Law Institute of Victoria – Inaugural Law Graduates of the Future Forum

The Law Institute of Victoria’s ‘Future Focus’ committee, has conducted research under the heading of ‘The Law Graduates of the Future’. This has involved a survey of law graduates and employers during 2011 and 2012. Being unable to attend the inaugural forum in Melbourne, I am looking forward to seeing the material that was presented there and hearing/reading reactions to the presentation and discussion. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you did attend and would like to comment. I noticed that  the LIV’s President Blog, mentioned some interesting issues, including an ‘expectation gap’

between what universities and practical legal training providers are producing and what law firms believe they need from graduate employees

and that graduates tended to rate their skills more highly than their employees.
I have not seen the survey questions or a summary of the responses. I think it is important to look closely at those before commenting on the above finding.
I also notice that the LIV President’s Blog states:

I hope that this will be an opportunity for all of those involved or that have an interest in the legal profession to work together to ensure we are creating “work ready” lawyers that are well placed to address the challenges that lie ahead for the legal profession.

I am interested to learn more about what “work ready” means in the context of the Future Focus committee’s work. I observe that the national practical legal training competency standards for entry-level lawyers (NCS) uses different language, and a comparison of the language used during the 2006 Legal Education Review (the Campbell Report), the NCS, and that used by the Future Focus committee might be interesting.


APLEC 2012 Day 2 – 10 November

I missed the first plenary session, unfortunately, because I was setting up my poster presentation based around my survey of PLT teacher qualifications and teaching scholarship outputs.

The first parallel session I attended was Tony Cibiras’s, ‘What does the Australian Quality Framework mean for Practical Legal Education?’. Tony provided an introduction to the AQF and the implications that has for the existing graduate diploma of legal practice offerings, particularly in relation to equivalent full-time student load weightings. But the discussion really became interesting around the issue of non-formal recognised prior learning. That is, where applicants could claim advanced standing on the basis of professional work experience, rather than academic qualifications. The discussion highlighted the fact that this would be an administrative challenge for PLT providers, given the infinite possible varieties of claims that would need to be evaluated. Also, it would be interesting to see how the regulators approach accreditation of PLT courses that propose to include RPL as part of the course design. It was recognised that the VET sector has already met the challenge of RPL, and that we might learn a lot from that experience. Also, the portfolio approach to course design might represent a way of resolving differences between full-course students and those who successfully claim RPL for part of their PLT.

The second session I attended was presented by Moira Murray and Margie Rowe, ‘Teaching and learning in teams in a Professional Practice course’. The presenters made some introductory comments and then opened up the session to a discussion format, and this was very successful. In essence, students were working in teams in virtual firms, charged with producing items of work; I think this was along the lines of John Harvey and Paul Maharg’s simulated practical learning environment (SIMPLE) design. Lecturers also worked in teams to manage the activities and to interact with the students and the virtual law firms. Issues about unsatisfactory participation and ‘dysfunctional’ firms, were discussed. The presenters noted that while these problems did not often occur, when they did arise they needed prompt action by the lecturer. This is consistent with my own observations in my online discussion research that it is important to have a lecturer’s (available, non-intrusive) teaching presence in the virtual environment. It was good to hear about the experience of using virtual firms and the benefits of collaboration in both the student and teaching domains.

After morning tea we attended a plenary panel session, chaired by His Excellency, The Honorable Peter Underwood, AC, Governor of Tasmania, with The Honorable Justice Alan Blow, OAM, Magistrate Peter Dixon, and Professor Peter Lyons. The subject was, ‘Advocacy Training’. It was interesting to hear different perspectives about what was important in advocacy training (although I was surprised that communication skills did not get much of a run). The ability to empathise was mentioned more than once. I was a bit dismayed that when the topic of whether advocacy could be taught by ‘online learning’ was discussed, there appeared to be a widely-shared misconception that advocacy was being taught by wholly online courses, rather than through blended program designs, that involve online instruction, together with face-to-face coaching, feedback, and assessment. The senior observers in the room seemed a bit surprised when I explained that ‘online learning’ is a bit of a misnomer in relation to the programs actually supplied in Australia, and that most, if not all, programs are blended programs.  It seems we have a long way to go before most of the profession understand how blended program designs actually work.

Associate Professor Allan Chay provided the closing remarks, and rightly observed, I think, that this was one of the best conferences ever in terms of the number of attendees, and the variety and quality of presentations. In my view, the outlook for scholarship of teaching in PLT is looking good – something I did not really believe 12 months ago!

These conferences are incredibly valuable learning experience and I encourage PLT teachers to get involved with them. I think the University of Tasmania Law School and the Centre for Legal Studies provided an excellent conference, and the organisers (including Naomi Bryant and her team) should be congratulated.



APLEC 2012 Day 1 – 9 November

At the end of Day 1 of this year’s conference I am feeling that, for me, this is the most exciting I have attended in relation to my interest, the scholarship of teaching in practical legal training.

Professor Peter Lyons invigorated the commencement of proceedings with an enlightened, and funny, key note address entitled, ‘Keeping it Simple: Kids, Romans and Barristers. Some observations on professional legal training in the northern hemisphere.’ Punctuated by some very amusing illustrative anecdotes about good teaching (including some instructive stories against himself), Peter made the important point that PLT teachers are in an excellent position to develop and improve teaching practices in PLT, and that in an increasingly competitive environment, a failure to do so may cause PLT stakeholders to question the value of what is being supplied, and see PLT subsumed into in-house programs. If you have an opportunity to see Peter’s work or to hear him speak, I recommend that you make time to do so.

During the parallel streams, I was spoilt for choice, but settled first on Claire Humble and Ann Beckingham’s ‘National Disclosure Guidelines? What state are you in?’. This was a very useful session for those involved in PLT completion and assisting PLT graduates with the admission process. It appears that efforts to unify the disclosure requirements for admission into a national approach have not succeeded, with a number of states electing to go their own way. The session then focused on the Victorian approach to disclosure requirements, particularly in relation to admission candidates’ who may have mental health issues. Many participants in the workshopped segment of this session were surprised by just how onerous the disclosure requirements in Victoria can be, and the presenters showed use some interesting statistical data to illustrate the rate of disclosures in each jurisdiction and compared these to the rate of disclosures deemed to be “serious” matters (for example, in Victoria the disclosure rate was about 95%, but the rate of serious matters was very low). Given the considerable effort candidates must expend to produce the disclosure documents (including affidavit material), one wonders if the requirements are worthwhile.  A very important topic and one worth following.

Next was my own presentation on ‘Skills in LLB Threshold Learning Outcomes and Competency Standards for Entry-Level Lawyers – a Comparison using CAQDAS’. This was surprisingly well-attended, and I was very pleased with the question session afterwards. I hope to produce a paper based on this topic, and will upload a copy of the presentation visuals when I return to Victoria next week.

After lunch I attend Kathryn Kearley’s presentation, ‘Use of Reflective Practice for Practical Legal Training teachers – A picture paints one thousand words or do thousands of words paint the picture?’.  This is an area of professional practice that is close to my own heart (I am interested in Donald Schon’s version of action research, which involves the reflective practitioner approach). Kathryn provided some very useful background, and strategies for PLT teachers taking up a reflective practice approach to their own teaching practice. Kathryn seems to have a larger project on the boil here, and I look forward to seeing its development.

Next, was a very interesting session by Dr Chris Trevitt, ‘Upping the ante: how assessment can suggest limitations of the ‘train the trainer’ model, as well as possible alternatives’. Chris adopted a conversational approach to this presentation, encourage a discussion with participants about some of the theoretical and practical issues to designing instruction and assessing professional skills. It seems he was leading up to a discussion about the use of portfolios in teaching and assessment, however we ran out of time before we could really get our teeth into this part of the topic. I am very interested in Chris’s approach and will be following it with interest.

The last session before the afternoon break, by Daniel Matas and Dr Colin James, ‘Bankruptcy Court Practical Training in PLT’, posed the very real problem of teaching students how to attend to the detail in legal documents and processes. Bankruptcy Notices provide an excellent case study for this issue, given the requirement for strict compliance regarding the form of notice and the readiness of courts to set aside these notices as defective if the requirements are not strictly followed. Daniel described how, despite explaining the need for exactitude, students made quite common mistakes when they were asked to draft these notices as part of their coursework. He asked the participants what approaches could be taken to teach the need for attention to detail. One suggestion that appeared to garner the room’s support, is taking a face-to-face approach to a drafting session, with peer assessment activities to improve student understanding of the drafting skills.

During the afternoon break I enjoyed a catchup with Michael Appleby who, with Judy Bourke, has worked so hard at researching, designing and implementing the College of Law Australia and New Zealand’s lawyers’ mental health and well-being program of workshops. Judy and Michael have presented on the topic around Australian and more recently in the United Kingdom, where their work has attracted a lot of interest.

I only caught the last 10 minutes of Elizabeth Keough’s, ‘Making it real in a virtual world: teaching the affective dimension of legal practice through authentic client interaction’. From what I did hear, this sounds like a very interesting project that involves working with a scriptwriter and actors to create as authentic a client interaction as possible for PLT interview instruction and assessment.

Next I caught Adam May’s energetic presentation, ‘Designing the Horror File: Improving the learning of Risk Management in PLT’. Adam drew our attention to the neglected subject of Risk Management, and showed us how this is a space in which so many lawyers’ skills converge, particularly ‘communication’ (or perhaps, ‘miscommunication’). The horror file is based on reality, with an aggregation of real life practice dilemmas, a cautionary tale, and some really challenging problems for students to identify and describe.

The last session that I attended to day was one not to be missed. Jacqui Lynagh’s ‘Incorporating the Development of Dispositions into PLT Course Design’ was clearly, concisely and creatively presented, and also theoretically and practically rigorous, with great tools for instructional designers and teachers to analyse and design curriculum with a view to developing appropriate dispositions in young lawyers undertaking PLT. This was excellent work and I recommend that those interested in curriculum design take notice of Jacqui’s project.

So, at end of Day 1 I feel inspired and optimistic about future developments in PLT, particularly in relation to scholarship and research in teaching PLT.