Expanding Research and Scholarship Activity at the College of Law
Monica Hayes & Adrian Deans
College of Law Australia and New Zealand
My impressions, tersely expressed. Errors and omissions are mine…
Introducing an organisational project at a non-university basedprovider, to promote research and scholarship amongst practitioners. Talking about the reasons for the innovation, the challenges, strategies and progress to date. Reasons involve improvements to the body of scholarship on which the program is based, expanding opportunities for staff and to improve the experience of work, improving the standing of the provider, and because of TESQA course provider accreditation standards (see Standard 1.3 threshold standards). There is extant scholarship out of the provider – practice paper texts, Riley’s Solicitors Manual, seminar papers, APLEC and other conference papers, and practitioners’ personal scholarship.
Challenges for the project – staff profile, nature ofprogram generally, and management expectations. Involves institutional change, requires multiple approaches, not be daunted by failures. Staff profile – focused on teaching and practical skills, some have higher degrees, preponderantly by coursework, teaching hours high with not much time for non-teaching work. Management historically focused on having staff involved in teaching, not research. Institutional change needs recognition of existing strengths, avoid alienation of staff members and resistance.
Strategies – research and scholarship committee established, and part-time co-ordinator appointed. Newsletter circulated and Yammer social media adopted to promote discussions and interactions. Developing a research and scholarship information hub. Major research project being considered.
Developed ‘research interest groups’, including professional responsibility and ethics, resilience initiative for students, encouraging use of social media in learning and teaching, discussion group around reflective practice in teaching and learning. Newsletter useful for awareness raising.
Progress bumpy – interest groups yet to develop research proposals. Uptake of staff development in research and scholarship patchy. Major research project considered as a vehicle for staff development and research experience – aiming to involve a wide range of staff with co-operation across multiple sites. Hope to raise research profile through this experience. There is an increased level of staff interest in research and scholarship, increased attendances at conferences, improved awareness of staff activities and achievements.
Practical applications – Academic Equivalence Policy and COLAA Prize. Many individuals connected to organisation are involved in scholarly activities – aim to unite and resolve these wider organisational activities. Australian Qualifications Framework and TESQA requirements – formal qualifications to teach at post-graduate diploma and masters level.practitioners need to acquire these qualifications. Academic Equivalence Policy responds to regulatory requirements for qualifications – fresh focus on scholarship – encourage creativity. Essay competition invited insights about improving legal practice and – material used to feed into research and scholarship initiatives.
Particular challenges for developing research and scholarship offor non-university providers. Requires cultural change. Interesting dynamics from management perspective. Provider’s unsuccessful application to AUQA for self-accreditation prompted some reflection about need for research and scholarship. But management still resistant because not seen as core business – “we’re not a university”. Management slowly coming around. Some staff also resistant – not seen as relevant to lawyers teaching professional skills. Not just the provider’s problem – issue for APLEC as a whole. Need to develop a focused discipline for research and scholarship.
Calls for pooling of ideas to improve research and scholarship in, and outlets for publication of such research.
Interesting discussions in question time too!