Concept Mapping Lave & Wenger’s ‘Legitimate Peripheral Participation’

I recently revisited Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger’s canonical work, Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation (1991, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). I am glad I did, because I had forgotten how Lave and Wenger’s theory of “legitimate peripheral participation” might intersect with the sociological dimensions of my research regarding PLT practitioners’ engagement with scholarship of teaching and learning.

For now, I might let the “exhibit speak for itself”. Click on the image for an enlarged view of the concept map. Click here, for a dynamic Prezi version.

Lave and Wenger Legitimate Peripheral Participation


Research in Australian PLT – Has Much Changed?

Here’s John Nelson,* writing in 1988:
nelson 1988Has much changed since those comments?

It is not always easy to know what current research is undertaken in PLT, because little is published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, and few practitioners in the field share their work by other means, e.g. social media. There was briefly a dedicated journal for Australian PLT and clinical education, The Journal of Professional Legal Education, which ceased publication in 1998.

There are few articles focused on PLT, particularly scholarship of teaching and learning in PLT, in Australian legal education journals such as the Legal Education Review, and the Journal of the Australasian Law Teachers Association. Of those that are published, few are cited elsewhere, save where the research is the result of collaborations with non-law disciplines, e.g. behavioural sciences.

I’ve nearly completed a bibliometric analysis of 10 journal articles published in scholarly journals since 2006, regarding PLT and relating to scholarship of teaching and learning concepts. My preliminary observations:

The ten articles do not have citation counts on Web of Science, or Scopus, so I was unable to able to do automated citation analysis there. Two articles have citation counts on Google Scholar.

The group of ten articles cited 186 sources:
Articles – 133
Books – 29
Conf Papers – 13
Research Papers – 6
Reports – 5

Google Scholar listed 166 of the sources, with citation counts ranging from nil to 8982 (median = 15) (June 2014). Sources with high citation counts were usually in behavioural sciences.

SCimago SJR ranked journals for 43 citations (June 2014). Of these four were published in The Law Teacher, the only SJR ranked journal cited in the articles that specifically focused on legal education. Five were cross-disciplinary law journals (e.g. involving sciences, psychiatry, behavioural sciences, and politics), and six were law journals. The remaining journals focused on education (15, including cross-disciplinary journals involving technology), psychology (7), and other disciplines including psychiatry, medicine, and management.

JCR ranked journals for 32 citations (June 2014). Of these three were published in the Journal of Legal Education, the only JCR ranked journal cited specifically focused on legal education. Five were cross-disciplinary law journals, and four were law journals. The most numerous disciplines were education (7), and psychology (7). The remainder were comprised of other disciplines including psychiatry, medicine, and management.

Personally, I do not accord any particular magic to citation counts.  I am interested in how we can use bibliometric analysis to empower individual PLT practitioners to operate strategically inside and outside conventional metrics, to make cases, to garner institutional support and allocation of resources to SoTL work. I am also interested in the “Kardashian index” phenomenon, where a social media profile can acquire certain cultural and symbolic capitals, which might help practitioners to garner support and resources for research.

As I have said elsewhere, I think SoTL in PLT is important for many reasons. We need to work on building institutional support and resources for SoTL work. We can also empower PLT practitioners to undertake such work.

* John W Nelson, New directions for practical legal training in the nineties : an evaluation of the curriculum of the College of Law’s P.L.T. Course and its relevance to students’ work experiences in practice / a research project conducted on behalf of the College of Law by John W. Nelson, assisted by Pamela E. Stewart (1988).


“Reading” journal articles, texts, cases…

Those of us who mentor, teach, write, and research in legal professional education and training tend to read a lot. It may seem strange that I should post about “how” I “read” certain materials for study and research purposes.

The impetus for this post came from discussions I had with academics, teachers, and students, about how I take notes, and how I approach literature reviews. For example, one academic noticed I had over 2,000 journal articles in my Endnote library. Then she referred to my comment that technology does not substitute for one’s own intellectual and critical engagement with the texts. “How”, she asked, “did you manage to read all those articles?”

Well, I did read them. And I didn’t. At times I want to get through a lot of literature quickly, but effectively. This is what I do:

Before I start reading, I make a concept map of main headings (I’ve used Scapple for these examples). Headings can be extracted from a book’s table of contents, and most articles have headings;* if not, create your own:

reading1 Here, for example, I’m looking at Eric D Ragan et al, ‘Unregulated use of laptops over time in large lecture classes’ (2014) 78 Computers & Education 78.
DOI: 10.1016/j.compedu.2014.05.002.

I “skim” the article for sub-headings, topic sentences,  key quotes, and add these to the concept map:

reading2Ten minutes’ work gives me a single page “snapshot” of the text. I can save this figure to the record for this article in my Endnote library. I know that not everybody likes concept maps – it is possible to use the same approach in tabular or organisation chart format – use what works for you. The kinaesthesia, or “doing”, of the visualisation pays off for recall and synthesis of information.

In Scapple, I can export the text in the concept map to a “research notes” or “keywords” field in the Endnote record. This effectively “tags” the record with searchable keywords, making it possible to cross-reference articles with similar keywords. I use the Endnote “smart groups” tool to search for keywords and collate mini-libraries of references. This makes it easier to export them for more detailed analysis later, using tools like NVivo. In so doing, I make the “reading” pay off later, becoming a durable resource for study and research.

Producing the concept map helps me to recall the salient features of an article. I’ve used a similar approach when studying cases, legislation, text books, guides, manuals. etc.

The “skimming” technique takes a little practice. It gets easier as your knowledge of a topic improves. Rather than read the text line-by-line at first instance, train your eye to recognise key words and topic sentences. In essence, a good topic sentence expresses the controlling idea in a paragraph.** I find this is a much faster approach than reading a text line-by-line from beginning to end.

For later detailed analysis, you can read more closely. I find this easier when I’ve used the techniques described above. It is easier to apprehend and understand concepts on successive passes. If memory is your goal (“learning, association, retention, and reproduction”),*** creative repetition through skimming, mapping, “chunking”, organisation, and application, will assist you.

* A lot of research articles use the IMRAD structure (“introduction”, “methods”, “result”, “analysis”, “discussion/conclusion”), so you might make a template for these, ready to go.
** See: Randall L Popken, ‘A study of topic sentence use in academic writing’ (1987) 4(2) Written Communication 209.
*** Hermann Ebbinghaus, ‘1964’ (1885)  Memory: A contribution to experimental psychology. Also see: Fernand Gobet et al, ‘Chunking mechanisms in human learning’ (2001) 5(6) Trends in cognitive sciences 236; Eugène J. F. M. Custers and Olle T. J. ten Cate, ‘Very long-term retention of basic science knowledge in doctors after graduation’ (2011) 45(4) Medical Education 422.


What I’m talking about at #ALTA2014 next week

alta2014Next week, at #ALTA2014, I will talk about how PLT is “enclosed” by discursive operations that constrain scholarly activities of PLT practitioners around their teaching and learning work. I suspect this constraint impedes theory and practice about “practice”, in legal professional education and training.

I question ways in which social structures are inscribed into legal education practices, and conversely, whether practices can modify those structures. I argue PLT practitioners are not simply soldiers for a “vocationalist” strategy. Instead, I re-imagine PLT practitioners as “double agents” or “resistance fighters”, lamplighters in a still emergent professional trajectory. It is a trajectory catalysed by the 1970s introduction of institutional PLT; just a baby really, in the context of English common law.

In Bourdieu’s terms it is possible, by revisiting past struggles in Australian legal education, to conceptualise institutional PLT as the product of judicial, professional, and academic struggles to produce a vocationalised, non-academic, and critique-free sub-field within the juridical field. Those struggles succeeded, to some extent, in the extra-individual dimension of structures, regulation, and institutions, to collectively inculcate preferred dispositions within individuals about legal education and professional identity.

That account, however, ignores the potential for agency and alterity – the ways in which individuals might appropriate, in Certeau’s terms, the resources of the legal field to explore new professional trajectories. For some, these trajectories involve struggles to enrich, and add texture to, legal education. Drawing on interviews with PLT practitioners, I identify multi-vocal and multi-perspectival themes, including notions of social justice, equality, professional ethics, personal improvement, and indeed, interest in scholarship of teaching and learning.

It is in this sense I re-imagine PLT practitioners as “double agents”, operating betwixt and between dominant domains in law. In my view, PLT practitioners can participate in conceptualising and developing emergent approaches in legal education, and to theorise “practice” as lawyers and educators. Scholarship of teaching and learning has its part to play in this. It provides a means, as lawyers and as educators, to discover information, to reflect, critique, communicate, and conceptualise, insights about “practice” and practices.


I’m going to #issotl14 |Quebec City | October 22-25

issotl 2014 acceptanceI am excited to learn that my abstract is accepted for the International Society of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Annual Conference in Quebec City, Canada, later this year.

For me, this is an excellent opportunity to constructively confront my research with leading international scholars in the scholarship of teaching and learning (“SoTL”) field. I personally believe that we can raise the status of SoTL in legal education, and particularly practical legal training, by undertaking interdisciplinary work, so that we can learn from, and test our ideas with, scholars in other fields.

I’m very fortunate to have already presented at the British Sociological Association annual conference and the Association of Law Teachers annual conference (both in Leeds, England) earlier this year. That means I’ve already used up my institutional higher degree by research international conference allowance. If you have any tips about alternative sources, such as bursaries or scholarships, please let me know!



Retreat! Writing and Reflection by the Surf Coast

Warrnambool This week I am spending four days in retreat at Deakin University’s Warrnambool City Centre with 20 other PhD candidates and academics, led by Professor Trevor Gale. The group, known as “The Warrnambool Collective”, meets at least annually to focus on writing and research around “practice”. Most, not all, who attend are affiliated with Arts and Education. Each day begins at 9.00 a.m. with a “shut up and write” session that runs until we break for lunch at 1.00 p.m. After lunch there are streamed and plenary sessions, presentations, and discussions until 5.00 p.m. I am very fortunate to be included in this event (prompted by my thesis supervisor, Dr Julianne Lynch), and this year is my second visit to the retreat.

As a full-time PhD candidate, I’ve spent much of the last two years researching and writing alone. Indeed, over the last 15 years I’ve engaged in study of some sort, and I’ve become accustomed to the solitary nature of the work, with brief intense interactions at conferences or seminars. One of the things striking for me about the retreat is how the solidarity of quiet collective writing, the awareness of minds and bodies around you engaged in constructing and reflecting on texts, comforts, succours and encourages me. I am reminded that I am not alone, that I’m part of a larger quest. By itself, this activity is a powerful product of the retreat.

The afternoon sessions include presentations by PhD candidates about their work (at different stages of candidature), provide multi-perspectival insights about how individuals grapple with, and resolve, theoretical and methodological issues. The senior academics are supportive and constructively critical, with a focus on problem-solving and knowledge-sharing. Chaired discussions on topics as simple as “how do you keep up with the literature?”, “how do we conceptualise “practice””, lift the lid on privately-held innovative practices and ideas that are sometimes startling in their simplicity, but substantially effective. The chance mention of a theorist, an article, a concept can catalyse fresh insights, fresh directions.

It is, as Trevor remarked on Day 1, an enormous privilege to have time, funding and personnel allocated to the retreat. And it pays off, with a review of the previous year’s event noting manifold conference papers, journal articles or book chapters commenced, advanced or completed during the retreat. As far as I am aware few, if any, retreats like this exists for those engaged in practical legal training or professional legal education in Australia.* I think this is a great pity. We need reflective and creative spaces within the field, not just “professional development” activities.

Sincere thanks to Deakin University and all involved for making this event possible.

* If you’re involved with such an event, invite me!



Bibliometrics, #legaled and PLT

This is a quick aside regarding some research I’m doing at the moment. I am analysing 10 articles concerning PLT and scholarship of teaching and learning (“SoTL”), using bibliometrics. This includes looking at the citation counts for the articles, and for the items cited in the articles, together with the bibliometric tools supplied by Google Scholar, Web of Knowledge (Journal Citation Report), and Scopus (SCImago).

It would not be news to law school academics that legal education journals, and many law journals, do not rank highly in these bibliometric tools, if at all. The citation counts for articles engaging with SoTL in PLT are nearly non-existent (although it takes time for services like Google Scholar to pick these up). I’m interested in promoting SoTL in PLT, so I’m thinking about strategies to achieve this.

It seems that conventional bibliometric tools are not a lot of help when measuring impact, quality and engagement for these articles. I’m hoping my institution will connect to an altmetrics database so I can explore alternative tools. Because the articles are not appearing in the conventional databases, I’ve had to manually search for citations, journal rankings, etc – very tedious, but generative.

I find it interesting how publishing in or citing articles from interdisciplinary publications can improve citation counts for an articles. Those articles that tap into areas like psychology, ICT, or management/organisational studies appear more likely to be cited and shared.

I’m also interested how “mediatizing” scholarship and research through social media, SlideShare, YouTube, Prezi, etc can expedite dissemination – more on this later.


Cheryl Reynolds’ simple explanation of Bourdieu’s field theory

Those familiar with my work likely know that I like a good visualisation. This is one reason why I like Cheryl Reynolds’ 2 minute explainer re Bourdieu’s field theory. I draw on Bourdieu’s sociological tools for my thesis. Do have a look at Cheryl’s YouTube video, it is nicely done.


Paper plug: ‘Gatecrashing the Research Paradigm…’

MonashNice to see Monash University Library directing law students to our co-authored article ‘Gatecrashing the Research Paradigm: Effective Integration of Online Technologies in Maximising Research Impact and Engagement in Legal Education’*

* Kate Galloway, Kristoffer Greaves and Melissa Castan, ‘Gatecrashing The Research Paradigm: Effective Integration Of Online Technologies In Maximising Research Impact And Engagement In Legal Education’ (2013) 6 (1/2) Journal of the Australasian Law Teachers Association 83.