#aplec2013 7th Parallel Session

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 based PLT provider, to promote research and scholarship amongst PLT 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 PLT program is based, expanding opportunities for staff and to improve the experience of  PLT work, improving the standing of the PLT provider, and because of TESQA course provider accreditation standards (see Standard 1.3 threshold standards). There is extant scholarship out of the PLT provider – practice paper texts, Riley’s Solicitors Manual, seminar papers, APLEC and other conference papers, and PLT practitioners’ personal scholarship.

Challenges for the project – staff profile, nature of PLT program generally, and management expectations. Involves institutional change, requires multiple approaches, not be daunted by failures. Staff profile – focused on teaching PLT 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. PLT 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 PLT – material used to feed into research and scholarship initiatives.

Particular challenges for developing research and scholarship of PLT for non-university PLT 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 PLT focused discipline for research and scholarship.

Calls for pooling of ideas to improve research and scholarship in PLT, and outlets for publication of such research.

Interesting discussions in question time too!



#aplec2013 Day 1 – 6th Parallel Session

Transitioning from PLT to the Workplace

Jenny Richards

Flinders University Law School

Sharing own reflections on own transition from practice to teaching and mentoring in PLT. Recognising transitional nature of final year of law degree, transition pedagogy, promoting well-being amongst law graduates, awareness of burnout and stress in first year lawyers. Being explicit about own teaching and instructional design in discussions with students, toward preparing transition to practice. Comparing similarities and differences between LLB threshold learning outcomes and PLT competency standards. ‘First Year Lawyer Friendly’ program at Flinders University law school – provides insights when thinking about approaches to transition from final year to practice. Thinking about realities, diversities, engagement with practical skills, careful design, other elements integral to skills and well-being. Drawing on profession for ‘realities’ that can be incorporated into learning. Recalling that senior lawyers have ethical obligation to assist junior lawyers’ learning. Using experienced practitioners to lend credence to ‘war stories’ that illustrate reasons for learning certain things – improve motivation and engagement. Transition from academia to practice a powerful learning space for both students and teacher/mentors.

Engaging presentation, reminding us that transitional space can be a rich interactive experience.


#aplec2013 Day 1 – 5th Parallel Session

Bringing Up the Rear: Lessons from Coaching Psychology in PLT for the Bottom 80%

Colin James

University of Newcastle

My own impressions, tersely expressed. Errors and omissions are mine.

Colin asks how we focus efforts on our best students, and who is left behind? In every class the bottom 80% is the majority. How can we draw on coaching psychology to target the majority of students to improve learning outcomes? Thinking about applying psychology to a non-clinical population. Boom in coaching research publications in the last 1-2 decades. Can legal ed and PLT get in on this knowledge? Coaching zone is in the ask and how? domain, rather then the why? and tell domain. So it has limitations in the teaching domain but can inform new ways of, or improvements to, doing PLT teaching. It’s all about goals – but not all goals are equal – avoidance goals, conditional goals, non-concordant goals. Non-concordant goals are goals not consistent with own values. Need strategies to choose concordant goals. It’s also about well-being – goal striving important in mental health – to move into a flourishing space. Cites Anthony Grant’s “Road-map of Change”. Identify issues – set a goal – develop action plan – act – evaluation cycle to see action works or to make improvements – keep going until goal achieved. Do we actually do this? Solution-focused coginitive-behavioural model – calls for positive attentional focus – shown to work for goal attainment, psychological well-being. Personal coaching for students “increases cognitive hardiness and hope”. Results in better study skills, emotional intelligence, improved communication skills. Varieties of goal-setting models –  S.M.A.R.T. model, GROW model, TTM transtheoretical model. Exploring student extrinsic and intrinsic motivations to learn. Good teaching motivates students to learn, to become self-reflective life-long learners. Being a motivated teacher the first and most important thing in coaching approach to teaching and learning. Help students practice meta-cognitive skills (thinking about how to learn). Cites Daniel Pink’s RSA animate drive – YouTube video available – autonomy+mastery+purpose. Purpose involves intention and power. Cites pyramid of peak performance skills. From PLT point of view it comes down to practice – deliberate practice in learning, focus on interactions, process, core values. Quotes Geoff Colvin: “talent is over-rated” – deliberate practice counts for a lot. Provide feedback on efforts rather than outcomes, needs repetition, hard work. Describes ‘5-minute coaching’ – identifying the goal (what would you like to happen?), action planning (what needs to happen?), motivation to act (when first thing happens, then what happens?). Important for coach and coachee to write stuff down. Co-coaching with colleagues – helps to develop coaching skills and awareness. Self-coaching – reflecting on own work – writing it down. Coaching and mentoring needs to be learned – good way to become an excellent practitioners.

Really enjoyed this session.


#aplec2013 Day 1 – 3rd Parallel Session

South Sea Bubble: Will Law Enrolments Peak in Australia?

Gary Tamsitt

Australian National University

My impressions, tersely expressed. Errors and omissions are mine…

Started with talking about available evidence of law student numbers, including LLB and JDs. What sort of effects might we have if numbers decline. Background of legal education crisis in USA, trends in UK before moving to Australian context and likely future developments there.

Referred to recent literature from the USA – Morgan, Tamanaha, Harper, and Henderson’s ‘Blueprint for Change’. Decline in entry level lawyer jobs and effects of law school rankings on employment in USA. Chart – 1985-2011 decline of entry-level jobs. 2012 chart showing employment outcomes by ‘tiers’ of law schools. Decline less pronounced in top-tier schools, lower tier schools employment outcomes  – 41.5% not employed in legal profession. Notes USA is different professional culture and trajectory to Australia, but potential lessons here. Debates about tuition fees (expensive), gaming system to improve law school rankings, law schools shedding staff, enrolments down 25% on previous year, numbers sitting LSAT in USA are down 45%. Suggestion that law school rankings in Australia will become more and more important.

Asks, is this a temporary blip, or a structural change? Cites Susskind and Kritzer – fundamental changes to the way legal services are delivered and decline in traditional ‘bespoke’ lawyering – outsourcing legal processes, ‘back office’ work to other countries. Chart showing boom in ‘other legal services’ compared to relatively flat trajectory of traditional legal services (law offices).

Responses in USA – ‘law school too long!’ – suggestion that law course could be compressed into shorter course, to reduce costs. Liberalise standards for accreditation, greater scope of innovation, emphasis on “work-ready” lawyers.

UK – no evidence of decline in enrolments, but concern about shortage of trainee places. LETR – concerns about student diversity, fee increases. Moves to free up marketing legal services, alternative pathways to qualify to do legal work.

Australia – increase in number of law schools and law students. No clear evidence of decline in legal services market. Some evidence of decline in employment in large firms, and entry positions. Chart – Australian law school enrolments – slight dip in international student enrolments. Uneven data for law firm employment. Numbers of new solicitors in NSW (< 12 months employment) seems to have substantially declined.

Law students as proportion of population – USA 0.45%; UK 1.08%; Australia 1.43%. Combined degree structures attract many students not intending to practice law. JD enrolments more practice focused? Career destinations data out of date.

Expecting stratification amongst law schools – rankings – effect on employment outcomes – increased competition between students – innovative degree structures – JDs becoming more differentiated. Finances – teaching loads that allow time for research? Low commonwealth supported places funding for LLB compared to JD and LLM?




#aplec2013 – Day 1 – Second Parallel Session

Benchmarks for APLEC PLT Programs: A Glimpse of the Holy Grail

Adrian Deans, College of Law,

Adam May, Leo Cussen Institute

Graham Jobling, Law Society of South Australia

What follows are my impressions – errors and omissions are mine – expressed in terse form.

Requirement for higher education (HE) to benchmark at state-level and national level. APLEC Benchmarks Working Group (ABWG) drafting benchmarks for PLT. Modelled on ACODE approach, enables self-assessment for PLT providers. Permits coordination between providers and other institutions. Can share information but not required.

Process for developing benchmarks – looked at TEQSA Risk Framework then teased those out to develop benchmarks. Process required several cycles of discussion and review. Some PLT competencies challenging to benchmark but needs to be done with consideration of learning outcomes, competency standards, assessment, learning methods etc. Completed Benchmarks 1 & 2, learning and teaching, and achievement of learning outcomes. Near complete, benchmarks 3 & 4, course design and course approval. More to come – research, admission criteria, graduate outcomes. Is PLT a research domain? [I have things to say about this]

Self-assessment to benchmarks not the most important part, what is important is the process of negotiation of how you arrive at assessment of benchmarks – a ‘narrative’ that needs to be described and discussed. Benchmark indicators might superficially appear to ‘numbers’ but importantly promotes discussion about how that assessment is made.

Went online to manage the process – useful but don’t recommend it stay there because need wide-ranging discussions with stakeholders about all aspects. Eg need to consult with “external stakeholders” such as regulators and the profession, but how to assess inputs from external stakeholders (eg clients of legal profession?).

Easy to assess things you’re already doing well, but difficulties when assessing items where disagreement about how well you’re doing. Expectation that organisations would undergo a benchmarking process at least annually.

Management might be interested in how benchmarking process ‘affects the bottom line’. The bottom line is that you if you don’t benchmark, your organisation might be dis-accredited. But other motivations to benchmark – quest for improvements and organisational self-knowledge. Identifying opportunities for improvement and then planning how improvements will be achieved. Helps to account to external bodies (including TEQSA) – clear identification of issues, planning for improvements, and demonstrable improvements. Precondition for awarding own organisation a higher assessment is 100% agreement of members in assessment group. Enlivens discussion about criteria – eg how systematic is the planning for improvements.

In PLT, need to navigate national competency standards, Australian Qualifications Framework, perspectives on sound educational practice, legal practice expertise, currency in law and legal practice, student outcomes, student feedback, and external stakeholder inputs. Taking this on is real progress in the PLT domain. Tangible benefits once individuals and providers involve themselves in the benchmarking process.

Work done here might be extended to other domains. Call for PLT practitioners and providers to get involved in benchmarking discussions and processes. Benchmarking driven by compliance, but real benefits from this kind of planning.

Interesting discussion – still a somewhat opaque area for many in PLT.



#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.


#aplec2013 Day 1 – First Keynote

Programmatic Assessment for Learning

Lambert Schuwirth

Professor of Medical Education, Flinders Innovations in Clinical Education, School of Medicine, Flinders University

Lambert spoke about assessment as an integrated part of learning (‘assessment for learning’), as opposed to ‘assessment of learning’ in the conventional sense. Adopting an evidenced-based approach, he argues ‘programmatic learning’ improves learning and understanding, to achieve higher levels of expertise. Adopting programmatic learning requires cultural change, and a reconsideration of what is assessment. He describes his experience in this process within the medical education domain as yielding exciting insights.

Starting with the question, what is a good [doctor/lawyer]? Problem of subjective perspectives of essential attributes. How to measure them? Conventional approach is to assess ‘competent’ / ‘not competent’. Quantitative methods used for assessment. But this is simplistic given complexities of actual practice. Competency-based assessment tended to treat domains of knowledge as distinct; failure to recognise integrated understandings. Problem with tacit underlying assumptions for assessment, susceptible to bias. Undermines ‘reliability’ of testing. Problem where assessors agree, but not clearly distinguishing between performances, or giving account of decision. Goes to ability to ‘reproduce’ assessments, validity.

Interesting and informative presentation.