#HERDSA2015 – 9 July 2015

I’ve Storified tweets from the final day of the annual conference for the Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia, Melbourne, 9 July 2015:
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Storified Tweets from #altlaw15

altlaw15Being in the submission phase of my PhD candidature, I was sorry to miss the Association of Law Teachers 50th Annual Conference in Cardiff, Wales held during 29-31 March 2015.

I was able to vicariously enjoy the conference via Twitter – you can view a Storified version  of the tweets as a slide show below:

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#APLEC2014 – Impressions from Day Two

Gift to presenters at #APLEC2014
Gift to presenters at #APLEC2014

The second day of the Australasian Professional Legal Education Council conference on 15 November (Auckland)  was a half-day with a keynote followed by two sessions of parallel streams. This was consistent with recent conferences, but I believe a case can be made for two full days given the increasing number of good quality presentations.

Regrettably I missed the first keynote because a fire alarm incident at my hotel.  This was a pity because I was looking forward to the presentation by Leah de Wijze,  a Senior Educational Designer (Open Polytechnic, New Zealand
). Leah has a background in international education, and her leadership role involves responsibility for design and development of materials for open and flexible learning for professions and vocations. What follows is extracted from Leah’s slides – kindly shared with the conference. Leah spoke to ‘Do Distance Students Experience Community? {And does it even matter?’ Leah’s discussion touched on the concepts of gemeinshaft (community – ‘group has priority’) and gessellschat (society – ‘individual has priority’) – I note these concepts are also of interest in sociology of law – e.g.  Tomasic (1983). I am interested to see Leah drew on the Community of Inquiry framework – which models ‘educational experience’ as an intersection between social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence – Garrison & Archer (2007) is a good introduction to the COI framework. I think the COI framework is a useful approach in the flexible, online and distance education contexts and have discussed this elsewhere (Greaves & Lynch 2012). Leah notes there are ‘different audiences with different orientations’ and in that context we should aim for ‘different types of learning communities’ involving ‘different levels of interaction’. As to this last point – I tend to think of this in linguistic terms, where the concept of multiplexity recognises that people might connect or relate to each other in a multitude of ways – for example, they might share physical proximity, philosophical propinquity, or speak in different registers depending on the role they’re playing at a given time or in a given context. I am especially sorry to miss Leah’s discussion of heuristics and theory as ‘help or hindrance’, because I think this dynamic is especially relevant in practical legal training and scholarship of teaching and learning.  I am also intrigued by the penultimate slide in Leah’s presentation, ‘It’s all about T.R.U.S.T – teach; reward; unconditionally support; short bursts of information; and trustworthiness.’ Hopefully Leah will share the presentation more widely via SlideShare or similar.

The first parallel session I attended was a presentation by Katherine Mulcahy and Eleny Tzioumis (leaders in program development at College of Law NSW). Katherine and Eleny spoke to ‘Preparing New Lawyers to Use Knowledge Resources. What is the value of content in the PLT curriculum?‘ – which involved a fascinating review of one institution’s approach to PLT instructional design and content since the 1970s. This necessarily encompassed the evolution of technology used to deliver content, e.g. the use of practice papers as loose sheets in manila folders,  ring binders, text books, CD-Rom materials, online materials, e-Books and paperbacks, etc.  The technological evolution is contextualised by factors such as the dominant teaching and learning paradigm, the complexity and costs associated with certain media, and student satisfaction and practices. It was interesting to hear that student uptake of e-books was not as widespread as anticipated, and that many students continue to prefer the hands-on convenience of print materials, with many referring back to those materials during the early years of post-admission practice. I know that was true for me – I recall retaining my binders of Leo Cussen materials for the first 2-3 years of practice. One of the main themes I took away from Katherine and Eleny’s presentation is how the production, format, and delivery of learning content is a BIG task complicated by so many considerations, and doing it well takes insight, expertise underscored by research.

For the second parallel session I attended Morton Herschderfer (College of Law South Australia) and Shelley Dunstone’s (Legal Circles) presentation on ‘Collaborative Teaching (2 teachers in the classroom)‘. This was a thoughtful and well-research presentation involving historical context, recent developments, and case studies about collaborative- or team-teaching. The historical context and recent developments section was well-researched (I took copious notes!) with several useful citations and quotations – I really hope they advance this work to publication so it can be shared with the PLT and legal education community. Unfortunately this meant there was not as much time spent on the case studies – based on Morton and Shelley’s experiences of being teamed to teach together without previous experience of doing so. There was some great anecdotal material and two or three short role plays in which they described different approaches to planning and performing face-to-face PLT work, and the use of post-teaching events to debrief and reflect on their processes. The main take-home message for me was Morton’s description of Shelley constructively confronting his autonomous and loosely structured style, and pushing him to give an account of his assumptions and practices. Morton credits this process with improving his teaching work. I think that in legal education so many of us prefer to work independently but there are real advantages in taking time to collaborate with others. Good presentation and work that deserves to be advanced further.

That completed the sessions for this year’s APLEC annual conference – and there were many I wish I could have attended but for the ‘tyranny’ of the parallel session!

Finally Lewis Patrick, current chair of APLEC wrapped up the proceedings. I agree with Lewis that the standard of presentations is constantly improving and lengthening the conference to two full days is warranted. Lewis also indicated that APLEC will be commissioning research about a number of issues of concern in the near future. Lewis also announced my agreement to consult to APLEC  about establishing a research repository as part of a refreshed APLEC website – subject to details yet to be worked out. I left this conference buoyed by the presenters’ energy and insights – to quote Terri Mottershead – it seems this could be the ‘coming of age’ for PLT.

 


 

D. Randy Garrison and Walter Archer, ‘A Theory of Community of Inquiry’ in Michael G Moore (ed), Handbook of Distance Education (2nd ed, 2007) 77.
Kristoffer Greaves and Julianne Lynch, ‘Is The Lecturer In The Room? A Study Of Student Satisfaction With Online Discussion Within Practical Legal Training’ (2012) 22(1&2) Legal Education Review 147.
Roman Tomasic, ‘Social Organisation Amongst Australian Lawyers’ (1983) 19(3) Journal of Sociology 447.

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#APLEC2014 – Impressions from Day One

This post is a week late because I have been immersed in working with my supervisor comments and review of my thesis chapters, but here goes…

APLEC2014_Sung_Welcome
IPLS Faculty Sing a Maori Welcome at #APLEC2014

The Australasian Professional Legal Education Council annual conference was held in Auckland, New Zealand during 14-15 November 2014. Congratulations to the host, the Institute of Professional Legal Studies (IPLS), for a well-organised and well-resourced conference – my experience as a presenter and attendee was enjoyable, and support staff inspired confidence when setting up for the presentation. The Conference Theme was ‘Creating Communities of Learning’.

Day One commenced with a beautifully-sung  welcome in Maori by members of IPLS (a motif that continued at the conference dinner, with several participants standing to sing in different genres).

Associate Professor Shirley Reushle from the Digital Futures Institute at the University of Southern Queensland spoke to the theme of ‘Learning Community: If I Build It, Will They Come?’

Shirley said we’re all struggling with the same issues – looking for answers – what needs to be done to provide successful learning experiences for students? She outlined the concept of learning community, and spoke to concepts of ‘leadership in creating and maintaining a learning community’ and ‘methods for conducting a learning community’.

Shirley observed  the concept of ‘community’ is highly valued by society, that students want hands-on, interactive, social learning activities – dislike passive learning – and a community of learning needs effective leadership to keep community alive. It is 2-way process – community belongs to everyone – it is about leadership and responsibility, not control. Innovation and fund needs to be a part of a community of learning – it is important to remember learners are people. Collaborative work is something special, it needs structure and purpose also flexibility and fluidity – effective leadership and facilitation.

Shirley asked, do communities of learning work? Are they necessary? What purpose might they serve? She observed that communities of learning involve recognition, and demonstrate acceptance, of differences in perspectives, beliefs, values etc. They involve development of interactive and collaborative skills required in discipline contexts.

Regarding the online learning context, Shirley referred to Ohler JR (2010) Digital Community, Digital Citizen, Corwin – Sage: “many educational systems still force learners to have two lives…”, ie, ‘digitally saturated’ in day-to-day life but ‘unplugged’ in the learning environment. Shirley said a virtual community requires specific efforts including peer-to-peer support – visible presence – efforts to communicate – scholarly dialogue – collaborations with peers – shared resources and practices – and build and deepen knowledge and expertise.

Shirley  used Twitter and SMS polling to ask the audience to contribute their ideas about encouraging communities of learning in an online environment – audience members could tweet or text their responses, which were displayed on the screen via  a website. I have heard of, have not seen, this tech before and I liked it a lot – a cool way to encourage interactions with audience.

Overall this was a good introduction to the community of learning concept –  type the phrase into Google Scholar and you will see the concept pervades teaching and learning in many disciplines.

Then it was time for parallel sessions – this presented some especially difficult choices because so many of the presentations I wanted to attend were running concurrently.

First up I attended a session presented by Judy Bourke (College of Law Sydney) and Maxine Evers (University of Technology Sydney)  on ‘Promoting Graduate Competence in Resilience and Well-Being: Strategies for the New Competency’. It is very good to see  inter-institutional collaborations of this kind. The presentation began with background to the topic, including the work of the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation, the resilience@law project, Wellness Network for Law, and the Council of Australian Law Deans (CALD) ‘Promoting Student Well-Being – Good Practice Guidelines for Law Schools‘. There was a discussion of elements of psycho-social factors relevant to employee responses to work, and work conditions, including organisational culture, clear leadership and expectations, good influence and involvement by workers, and balance in work, family, and personal life.  There followed some information about relatively new regulatory changes, including the Law Admissions Consultative Committee (LACC) Uniform Admission Rules Competency Standards rr. 4.6 (‘Resilience and Well-Being’) and 5.16 (‘Self Management). We finished the session by breaking out into groups –  each discussing one of the following:

  1. How to raise graduates’ awareness of importance of personal resilience in legal practice?
  2. What information and resources should we provide to help develop resilience, maintain well-being and identify mental health difficulties e.g. Best Practice Guidelines?
  3. 
How will information and resources be provided?
  4. Should the new competency be integrated with other competencies and subjects?
  5. How can graduates demonstrate they have achieved the new Self-Management element?

Judy and Maxine plan to collate the answers and return them to us in due course.

Time for lunch, with a short but intellectually provocative session facilitated by Ann Beckingham (Leo Cussen Institute), comparing disclosure requirements for admission in different Australian jurisdictions. Discussion was prefaced by information about The Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Act 2014 (the Application Act) enacted in Victoria and New South Wales, and  implications for what might eventually be a national procedure for admission to the legal profession. Ann outlined disclosure requirements in the Victorian jurisdiction, which involves several Practice Directions and Notices, including Practice Notice No. 2 of 2012 (Disclosure Requirements for Applicants). The Victorian requirements for disclosure are extensive (possibly more so than other jurisdictions) and one question is whether these would be adopted by other jurisdictions under a national admissions scheme. Part of the group discussion in this session focused on the administrative load the Victorian requirements generate for individuals and institutions. Other parts of the group discussion centred on potential impingement on natural justice, and parity and equity of outcomes of the scheme. It is a complex and challenging area to research, and I look forward to seeing research developed in this area.

After lunch, we were back into the parallel sessions – Clinical Associate Professor Terri Mottershead (Bond University) presented on ‘Innovating Legal Education through Law School and Law Firm Collaborations’. Terri spoke to common drivers for change for higher education and the legal industry; the coming of age for practical legal education – challenges and opportunities; beyond learning outcomes to competencies; and the new way forward – outcomes, partnerships and collaborations. I really enjoyed this presentation, which covered a lot of ground in detail, and I cannot do it justice here. In discussing common drivers for change, Terri referred to ’21st century practice’ with change driven by ‘more for less’, ‘liberalisation’, and ‘IT’ – emergent themes include ‘globalisation’, ‘technology and access to knowledge/justice’, ‘liberalisation/democratisation of knowledge’, ‘fees/funding/value’, and ‘integration/collaboration/partnership’.  Of particular interest to me was Terri’s discussion of the coming of age of practical legal education and the rise of pracademics. Readers familiar with my research might recall one of my interests is the integration of evidence-based practices and practice-based evidence toward a synthesis of know-what and know-how – the term pracademics seems to be neat fit with this, although on reading Price (2001), Posner (2009), and Susskind (2013), an underlying sense ‘us’ and ‘them’ between practitioners and academics remains. That said, it was heartening to hear someone of Terri’s standing recognising the relevance of pracademic work in professional legal education.

Then it was time for me to present – I will publish a separate post on my session.

Next, Fabian Horton (College of Law Victoria) presented on ‘Future communities – a paradigm shift in knowledge and teaching’. Fabian argued a dichotomy exists wherein ‘the internet, social media and our hyperconnected world can draw us closer together through virtual spaces. Yet at the same time we are becoming more disassociated through the forces of faux relationships, metrics and big data’.  In this context ‘we must rethink the skills lawyers need to properly serve our various communities’ –  Fabian identified  ’emerging legal disrupts’ including  ‘new law’, ‘legal informatics’ and  ‘commoditisation’ of  law – affecting the roles of future lawyers. He questioned what are ‘possible future skills’ that lawyers, and law teachers, will need. I interpreted Fabian as suggesting that traditional attitudes to law and legal education obstruct the impetus and undertaking to investigate possible ‘future’ skills – but this needs to change if law and legal education is to be part of a ‘future community’ in which technology plays a fundamental part.

Fabian’s presentation was thoughtful, challenged to some extent in speaking to relatively new concepts such legal informatics, which are yet to be widely understood legal education audiences.

The final presentation I attended for Day One was Ann-Maree David (College of Law Queensland) on ‘Supervision: the key to surviving and thriving in legal practice?‘  I am very interested in presentations relevant to supervision of pre-admission graduate lawyers and post-admission entry-level lawyers in practice – I believe it to be a neglected area of research in legal education, although I hasten to add there is much useful literature around supervision in the clinical legal education context. Ann-Maree supplied some excellent insights about the interplay (or lack thereof) between institutional PLT, workplace experience, and supervised practice. She pointed to research showing ‘successful students’ had one or more teachers (e.g. PLT practitioners) who were mentors, and had an internship (e.g. work experience) related to what they were learning in institutional coursework. For me, this highlights the widely-held misconception that 4-5 months of PLT coursework is intended to substitute for what were articled clerkships lasting years. As Anne-Maree pointed out, the work experience component of PLT, plus the period of post-admission supervised practice, should work together as part of the legal education continuum – there seems to be some recognition of this in professional guidelines concerning the statutory period of supervised practice. Ann-Maree also described how work experience and supervised practice could and should supply spaces for reflection and reflexivity to integrate learning, understandings, professional and social relations and connections, and how feedback/feedforward and peer mentoring activities play their part in this. An informative presentation that stimulated much discussion.

So that was my #APLEC2014 Day One – I will post about Day Two shortly.


Price, WT 2001, ‘A Pracademic Research Agenda for Public Infrastructure Models/Results Public Works Practitioners Need to Know’, Public Works Management & Policy, vol. 5, no. 4, pp. 287-96.

Posner, PL 2009, ‘The Pracademic: An Agenda for Re‐Engaging Practitioners and Academics’, Public Budgeting & Finance, vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 12-26.

Susskind, L 2013, ‘Confessions of a Pracademic: Searching for a Virtuous Cycle of Theory Building, Teaching, and Action Research’, Negotiation Journal, vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 225-37.

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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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APLEC 2014 | Auckland | November 13-15

noir_auckland_sunsetThis year the Annual Conference for the Australasian Professional Legal Education Council will be hosted by the Institute of Professional Legal Studies, at the Auckland University of Technology Law School Campus in Auckland, New Zealand.

The conference theme is: “Creating Communities of Learning”. You can download a copy of the Conference Brochure.

Key dates:

1 July Registrations and Call for papers
3 October
Deadline for call for papers
10 October
Notification of acceptance
17 October – Early Bird registration closes
3 November
– Registration closes
13 November – Conference Registration and Welcome
14-15 November – Conference

It looks interesting, and the conference theme is one I would like to see explored by PLT practitioners, in interdisciplinary and inter-institutional ways.

I hope to see you there.

 

 

 

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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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