On reflection, 2013 has been a good year for me, particularly in respect of my PhD research. My research involves practical legal training practitioners’ engagement with scholarship of teaching and learning (“SoTL”). Part of this involves studying PLT practitioners’ motivations and capabilities to engage with SoTL, and PLT providers’ symbolic support for and allocation of resources to SoTL. My theoretical framework and methodology draws on Pierre Bourdieu’s “reflexive sociology” and Michel de Certeau’s cultural study of everyday practices.
Much of the first three months involved attending HDR student learning events and being focused on getting ready for my candidature confirmation colloquium at the end of March. This involved producing a 10,000 word document, including identification of a research problem, literature review, propositions about methodology, research ethics, a thesis outline and a research plan with a data collection and analysis strategies. Listing these items makes it look straightforward, but each item is densely packed with issues and questions and dilemmas needing identification and some coherent response. For example, I started out assuming that we know what “scholarship of teaching and learning” is, but discovered how problematic that term can be. I ended up reviewing about 50 items of literature before identifying some key elements of and approaches to SoTL. Producing the colloquium document and presenting it at the confirmation colloquium was a good experience, and certainly galvanised me into thinking constructively about how I was going to pursue my research. My confirmation colloquium panel was constructive and supportive, and my colloquium document was described as exemplary (I think this is the only time I’ve seen that adjective applied to my written work!).
After confirmation, I was busy with my ethics application. My research plan included data collection via PLT practitioners in semi-structured interviews, which constitutes research involving human participants. It is requirement that a research proposal involving human participants must be reviewed by a human research ethics committee (“HREC”). This involved preparing a lengthy National Ethics Application Form and supporting documents. The supporting documents included a sample interview schedule, sample invitations and plain language statement. The process of preparing the documents forces you to think hard about what it is you want to achieve through the data collection, and the justification for the “why” and “how” in doing this. I started on the ethics application at the end of March and was able to lodge documents with the HREC in April. In the meantime, I was proceeding with m literature review and I was very happy to attend my son’s graduation at Monash University!
In mid-May I received ethics approval (without requisitions!) and began recruiting participants for my research. I identified potential participants from PLT providers’ public websites, which usually (not always) included email contact details. I collected the email contacts and sent out invitations to participate using the pre-approved text. I also posted calls to participate on Twitter and LinkedIn. By the end of May I had over 30 respondents, which exceeded my expectations (I estimate that the number of ongoing PLT practitioners in Australia would not exceed 130 – it is difficult to say with certainty because many providers use sessional practitioners). By June I had 36 participants in total, with a representative mix of full-time and part-time practitioners, a range of seniority, post admission experience, and PLT practitioner experience. In most cases I made appointments to interview participants face-to-face, but some interviews were completed via Skype or telephone. The participants were located in Queensland, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia.
It takes time to arrange interviews because PLT practitioners are very busy people, but there was a lot of goodwill and willingness to make time for me (for which I am very grateful). I was able to get some fieldwork funding from Deakin University to pay for travel to conduct face-to-face interviews in New South Wales. Fortuitously, I was able to arrange interviews in Queensland around the June 2013 International Journal of Clinical Legal Education conference in Brisbane, for which I had some conference funding. I self-funded travel to other locations. On the whole, conducting the interviews was a great experience, with many individuals providing insights about their personal approach to teaching and learning in PLT, and their perceptions of organisational approaches (including PLT providers, the profession and regulators). The interviews took up most of June and July, and I ended up with nearly 40 hours of recordings, which is a substantial amount of data.
Transcription, then Analysis
The whole of August was taken up with personally transcribing the interviews. After some experimentation, I found that I could transcribe the interviews by using speech-to-text software. I would listen to a 30-second segment of the interview, then dictate both sides of the interview (questions and answers). After an initial investment of time in “teaching” the dictation software, I was able to transcribe a 1 hour interview in about 4 hours with few errors. I would then email the transcripts to the participants for checking – they could request amendments or redactions if they wished. Pursuant to the plain language statement, if I did not receive a reply after 14 days, I treated the transcript as verified. Out of the 36 interviews, one participant was dissatisfied with the transcript, so we exchanged questions and answers by email. Five participants requested minor changes or redactions. By September, I was ready to settle down to analysis of the transcripts, which is still ongoing.
Conferences and Symposia
In February, I attended Deakin University’s excellent HDR Summer School at their beautiful Waterfront Campus. This was such a well-organised and stimulating event. I was also fortunate to attend the “Teaching-Research Nexus in Law: Opportunities and Challenges” national symposium in Adelaide. This was organised by the Legal Education Review journal, Adelaide Law School, and the Centre for Law Governance and Public Policy, and gave me very useful insights about scholarship of teaching and learning in legal education. Later in the year I participated at Deakin University’s “Warrnambool Collective” 4-day event, which gave me some dedicated time to writing up parts of my thesis, and provided some great presentations about practice research and academic know-how.
Throughout the year I was able to present different aspects of my work:
- June – participated in the PhD candidate masterclass session at the “Sociologies in/of/for Education” symposium organised by The Australian Sociological Association at QUT in Brisbane.
- July – presented, “‘A Mutual Confrontation of Structure and Accident’
A framework for Researching how lawyer-Mentors engage with scholarship of teaching” at the International Journal of Clincal Legal Education Conference at Griffith University in Brisbane. Co-presented with Melissa Castan, “The Matrix As The Gatekeeper: Effective Integration Of Online Technologies In Maximizing Research Impact And Engagement”, a paper (soon to be released as an article) by Melissa, Kate Galloway and me.
- September – presented “‘A Unanimous Tacit Complicity’ – Does Reproduction Serve As Gatekeeping?” at the Australasian Law Teachers Association conference at ANU in Canberra.
- November – presented ““Yes, No, Maybe, Can You Repeat The Question?’ Is Thinking Like A Lawyer Different To Thinking Like A Teacher?” at the Australasian Professional Legal Education Council conference at Flinders University in Adelaide.
- December – presented “Betwixt And Between – Practical Legal Training Practitioners – Scholarship Of (Which) Practice?” at the “Doing Cultural Studies – Interrogating Practice” symposium at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne.
Earlier this year, three articles were published based on work from 2012:
Greaves, Kristoffer and Lynch, Julianne (2012), ‘Is The Lecturer In The Room? A Study Of Student Satisfaction With Online Discussion Within Practical Legal Training’, Legal Education Review, 22 (1&2), 147-75. This article was based on research completed during Master of Professional Education and Training degree, under Juli Lynch’s supervision.
Greaves, Kristoffer (2012), ‘Learning Leadership is in Your Hands: Toward a Scholarship of Teaching in Practical Legal Training’, Journal of the Australasian Law Teachers Association, 5 (1/2), 1-264. This was based on some of my literature review early in my PhD candidature.
Castan, Melissa, Galloway, Kate, and Greaves, Kristoffer (2012), ‘Interconnectedness, Multiplexity and the Global Student: The Role of Blogging and Micro Blogging in Opening Students’ Horizons’, Journal of the Australasian Law Teachers Association, 5 (1/2), 177-88. This collaborative effort was born out of academic discussions between the authors on Twitter. The reaction to this article prompted a further, forthcoming article:
Galloway, Kate, Castan, Melissa, and Greaves, Kristoffer (2013), ‘The Matrix As The Gatekeeper: Effective Integration Of Online Technologies In Maximizing Research Impact And Engagement’, Journal of the Australasian Law Teachers Association, 13 (1).
It has been a very busy year, but mostly because of the support and opportunities put my way by so many people, especially my partner Jo, who patiently endures my ravings and never criticises my paltry income during this candidature. My son, Theo, whose creativity and free spirit is always inspirational. I have a fantastic principal supervisor in Dr Julianne Lynch, supportive and incisive, constructively confronting and critical, and always an eye out for learning and growing opportunities. My associate supervisors, Dr Shaun Rawolle and Dr Michael McShane, who take the time to give feedback and point me to literature that always enriches my understandings. I look up to Kate Galloway and Melissa Castan, they are indefatigable, smart, knowledgeable and witty – I am grateful they take the time to include me in their quest for world domination. I have family and friends, who do not “get” what I do exactly, but give me unconditional love and support anyway. All those “peripheral participants” who follow my blog or other outputs, I know they’re there and taking an interest and that is important to me. Anyone who has ever taken the time to ask me a question or to put an alternative view, you always prompt me to reflect and reconsider. There are also a lot of people working (often anonymously) in administrative roles that “make stuff happen”. So, Thanks! Rock on 2014!