#ALTA2015 Call for Conference Papers

alta2015A reminder that 1 May 2015 is the deadline for submission of abstracts for the Australasian Law Teachers Association annual conference.

You can find a conference flyer and abstract submission form here. The conference theme is “Access to Justice and Legal Education”.

La Trobe University Law School will host the conference at the City Campus, Melbourne from Thursday 16 July to Saturday 18 July 2015.

 

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Re-Imagining Practical Legal Training Practitioners

jalta2014The Journal of the Australasian Law Teachers Association has published my article today: ‘Re-Imagining Practical Legal Training Practitioners – Soldiers for ‘Vocationalism’, or Double Agents?’ (2014) 7(1/2) Journal of the Australasian Law Teachers Association 101.

You can click on the picture above to download the article.

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Storified Tweets from #alta2014 Annual Conference

Missed the 2014 Australasian Law Teachers Association annual conference? Or trying to remember that key point? These storified tweets might take you there…

 

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#alta2014 presentation: PLT Practitioners: Soldiers for Vocationalism, or Double Agents?

alta2014Feel free to view my ALTA 2014 Prezi.

This presentation extends on some previous work around my PhD research.
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 hope to publish an article based on the presentation later this year.

 

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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.

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ALTA Conference 2014

ALTA2014LogoThe Australasian Law Teachers Association Annual Conference 2014, convened by the Faculty of Law, Bond University, will be held at the Bond University campus on the Gold Coast, Australia from Thursday, 10 July to Saturday, 12 July 2014.

Conference Theme:

“Thriving in Turbulent Times: Re-imagining the Roles of Law, Law Schools and Lawyers”

Call for papers:

Deadline for submission of abstracts is 30 April 2014

Deadline for submission of full papers is 30 June 2014

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My PhD Year 2013

On reflection, 2013 has been a good year for me, particularly in respect of my PhD research. Frame 1 Kris IntroMy 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.

Confirmation Colloquium

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!).

Ethics Application

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!

Recruiting Participants

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.

Interviews

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.

Publications

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).

 Thank You!

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!

 

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2014 ALTA Annual Conference dates announced

I am informed that Australasian Law Teachers Association has announced the 2014 ALTA Annual Conference will be held Thursday 10 July – Saturday 12 July at Bond University, Gold Coast.  The conference theme is  “Thriving in Turbulent Times: Re-imagining the Roles of Law, Law Schools and Lawyers”.

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Reflections on ALTA Conference 2013

ALTA2013Overall I enjoyed this year’s ALTA conference at ANU (my third), interacting with familiar faces and making several new acquaintances. Personally, this was my most socially engaging ALTA conference so far.

Day One

First Keynote – Professor Carrie Menkel-Meadow

I developed a serious intellectual crush on Professor Carrie Menkel-Meadow (Georgetown Law, Washington DC) during her keynote address on the first day. Summarising the keynote here would be inadequate and many of her papers are freely available on SSRN, but one of the more recent, ‘Doing Good Instead of Doing Well? What Lawyers Could be Doing in a World of ‘Too Many’ Lawyers’ seems especially indicative, speaking to the idea that ‘lawyers and legal educators need to proactively reframe what is considered to be legal work and legal education for new ways of legal and human problem solving to be studied and learned’.

Sessions

Melissa Castan (Monash Uni) and I co-presented a paper developed with Kate Galloway (James Cook Uni), ‘The Matrix as the Gatekeeper: Effective integration of online technologies in maximising research impact and engagement’. We hope to publish a full paper later, but in essence we spoke to our experience following the publication of our earlier article, ‘Interconnectedness, Multiplexity and the Global Student: The Role of Blogging and Micro Blogging in Opening Students’ Horizons’ The paper was picked up by the Australian Financial Review and enjoyed a substantial increase in abstract views and downloads. The experience caused us to reflect on how social media might be incorporated into considerations of quality, engagement and impact in research. The presentation was generally well received and hopefully we can develop this line of inquiry further.

Dr Noeleen McNamara (University of Southern Queensland) presented ‘Engagement of Distance Law Students Through the Learning Management System: Core and elective courses’. Noeleen reported a detailed statistical study that compared student access to online tutorials (downloadable mp3 files) with their subject grades. Interestingly, several ‘fail’ students had accessed all or most tutorials whereas at least one HD student had accessed none at all. There were some differences between results for LLB and JD students. Following this presentation I personally reflected how valuable a qualitative study of participants’ narratives about how they engaged with the online tutorials might be for informing future use of online tutorials.

Dr Helen Sungaila (James Cook University) presented a paper jointly developed with Peter Boulot, ‘The MOOCS Have Arrived: But where does the real challenge lie?’ This was a very entertaining account of Helen’s experience in grappling with the scripting and design of an online simulation project, and her interactions with those advising her, including a scriptwriter and a virtual reality engineer. For me, this presentation highlighted how interactions between lawyers and non-lawyers in legal education can be puzzling, frustrating but ultimately instructive and generative.

Elen Seymour and Assoc Prof Michael Blissenden (both from University of Western Sydney) jointly presented ‘Gatekeeper of Learning in the Digital Age’, which was an account of their experience in working with an arrange of digital applications to create and deliver online instruction. A key takeaway message for me is that a plethora of cheap or free applications are available, but one needs to think carefully about how to incorporate such applications into instruction so they best serve the purpose of student learning. Conference technology inhibited their ability to provide a ‘live’ demonstration of the applications, but did not diminish their message. I think, however, conference organisers need to incorporate robust presentation technology as resources for presenters, with ICT increasingly a subject in presentations.

After lunch I attended a presentation by Dr Leonie Kelleher and Mr Hubert Algie (both of Kellehers Australia) ‘The Gatekeepers of the Law: Revisiting the roles of academics, students and the profession’, in which each presented a case study. Hubert’s case study involved engaging the profession to help young lawyers learn and improve advocacy skills. Leonie’s case study involved students engaging with a remote aboriginal community, mediated by an aboriginal elder. Both case studies provide examples of taking learning outside of the classroom and interacting with (what I call) ‘actuals’ to generate insights that promote and enrich student learning.

Dr Chris Trevitt (Australia National University) presented a paper jointly developed with Lynn Du Moulin (ANU), ‘Gatekeepers Meet Stakeholder Interests: Managing the tensions arising from the changing nature of professional dialogues in legal education’. The paper explored the gatekeeping role legal educators experience through dialogues with various stakeholders, involving attributes of power, legitimacy and urgency. Stakeholders identified include teachers, learners, learning institution, professional regulators, the profession and its clients, and the wider higher education milieu. They examined student assessment and teacher evaluation as ‘two particular settings where tensions and opportunities for dialogue arise.’ I am very interested in this work and I see intersections with my own research concerning PLT practitioners’ engagement with scholarship of teaching.

The final plenary on Day 1 was entitled ‘Law Teachers as Gatekeepers—How effectively are legal educators teaching students about the role of lawyers and the nature of legal practice’. The panel included Prof Kim Economides, Tim Bugg, Jemima Roe, and Bradley Chenoweth. One comment that stood out for me and elicited questions from the floor seemed to indicate innovations in legal education might be inhibited by conservative regulators. This is an important topic I hope to follow up in my own research.

Day Two

Unfortunately, I missed the first keynote on Day 2 – Professor Frank Brennan SJ AO, (Australian Catholic University and ANU). His topic was ‘Law Teachers as Gatekeepers of Law, Public Morality and Human Rights: equipping our students for moral argument in a pluralistic legal environment. I understand that specific mention was made of land rights, native title, and the law concerning asylum seekers.

First presentation I attended on Day 2 was Michael McShane’s ‘Should Law School Focus on the Discipline or the Profession of Law?’. Michael explored intersections with between learner theory (e.g. Vygotsky), themes in the Carnegie Report (‘Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law’), documents produced by the ALTC and the threshold learning outcomes. One of the ideas that resonated with me was the connection between notions of ‘metacognition’ (how learners manage their own learning) and the ‘market’. There wasn’t time for Michael to fully develop this in the presentation. My understanding is that metacognition might be appropriated as part of an industrialised approach in which the learner ‘bears the cost’ through learner-centred approaches. This reminded me of Foucault’s concept of governmentality and self-government as a way of shifting the management burdens in power relations. Interesting area.

Oyiela Litaba (Monash) presented ‘(Ab)using the Court System: Helping our students to get it right’ and described a learning task involving role play. Students were ‘cast’ for roles in a civil litigation fact situation involving ethical dilemmas, including a junior solicitor charged with carriage of a commercial litigation matter apparently lacking merit. Oyiela described the difficulty of resolving a dilemma in which a junior lawyer is directed to do something they perceive as breaching professional ethics. Very interesting discussion about how to manage this in a teaching situation.

Katherine Curnow (University of Queensland) presented ‘Putting Civil Procedure into Action: Investigating the effects of implementing an experiential learning tutorial program’. This was an interesting report on an innovation involving face-to-face experiential learning components with some online components.

Dr Brendan Gogarty (University of Tasmania) presented ‘Practicing the Study of Public Law. A skills based teaching and learning model for undergraduate law students’. Brendan’s model was evolved after considerable experimentation and combines online and face-to-face experiential components that include interactions with members of the profession and fact situations drawn from live High Court matters. A great example of how to incorporate public online materials from the High Court into learning content. It is also clear that Brendan is carefully evaluating each stage of development and each component of this model. Ambitious and demanding and worth watching over time.

Assoc Prof Gary Tamsitt (ANU) examined and compared data from the USA and Australia  in his presentation, ‘South Sea Bubble: Will law enrolments peak in Australia?’ At present law school enrolments are rising in Australia (falling in the USA), but it appears that graduate positions are diminishing in Australia. Several aspects complicate comparisons (career trajectories for law graduates in the USA might differ from those in Australia), and it is difficult to get good national data concerning graduate employment in Australia. Interesting empirical study that I will follow for my own research.

In his presentation, ‘‘If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them’: Appropriating vocationalism in the law school’, Prof Nick James (Bond University) spoke about the rise of vocationalism in law schools and the need to preserve academic spaces that are not focused on producing practising lawyers. Nick suggested that one strategy is for academics to ‘appropriate’ the notion of ‘professionalism’ by showing ways in which insights produced by the academy are integral to a holistic notion of professionalism.

Final keynote – Professor Paul Maharg, ANU
Paul spoke to his theme of ‘Space, absence, silence: learning and the regulation of legal education’. Drawing on concepts from the arts, reader-response theory, relational perspective, knowledge objects, affective socio-linguistics, Paul demonstrated how concepts of space and absence can inform approaches to teaching and learning, and regulation of legal education too. He suggests that ‘shared space is an approach that can improve regulation and  the quality of legal education. This could involve ‘participative regulation’ where the regulator acts as a quality enhancer rather than a quality assurer, focusing on ‘culture shifts towards innovation, imagination, change for a democratic society’.

I thought that was a pretty good note on which to end the conference.

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