JALTA article: Learning Leadership Is In Your Hands

Please toLearningLeadershipPic see my article exploring scholarship of teaching in PLT is published online in JALTA today. It is a big topic and inevitably I omitted some issues within the constraints of the article. I hope, however, that the article will be useful in discussing issues around research epistemologies and methodologies, and related issues such as performativity aspects of workplace research.

Share

PleagleTrainer 2012 YouTube Videos in Review

Last year I began experimenting with YouTube videos as a way of presenting aspects of my conference papers, or just bits of my reading and research as part of the review of literature for my PhD candidature. I thought it might be useful to recap them here.

It would be fair to say that none of the videos went gangnambusters (or viral), but this was not one of my aspirations. It was interesting to see which videos attracted views, given the subject matter is a fairly nichey niche. For me the videos are a bit of note-taking, journal-keeping, doodling exercise.

At the time of writing, the most viewed video was Using Prezi to make Mind Maps (115 views). It seems the idea of using a dynamic presentation tool such as Prezi to create and display mind maps or concept maps (or other graphic organisers) was attractive. I occasionally launch my public Prezis here.

Next most viewed was Elements of Critical Legal Studies and Law & Society Movements Part I (114 views). Unfortunately, Part II attracted only half as many views (108). Perhaps Part I was too long – as I worked on videos I have aimed to make them shorter and not to exceed 3 minutes where possible.

My Mind Maps – Qualitative Analysis Strategies really was a private note-taking exercise, but I decided to share it. It attracted about 73 views, and I was contacted privately by researchers in the UK and USA, who seemed to like it.

I decided to represent some of the exploratory background research I was doing regarding PLT teachers’ engagement with scholarship of teaching. Australian PLT Teachers’ Formal Teaching Qualifications attracted about 52 views, which is miniscule by YouTube standards, but surprisingly high to me given there are only about 145 publicly listed PLT teachers in Australia. The partner presentation, Australian PLT Teachers’ Scholarship of Teaching Publications only attracted 30 views. I am not sure what conclusion you might draw from this, but over the last year my experience leads me to speculate that people are tangling with what ‘scholarship of teaching’ in PLT might actually be. A 2-part presentation scholarship of teaching in PLT was the least viewed over the group (see below).

The most ‘theoretical’ of my presentations, Bourdieu, PLT + Me Part I and Part II, attracted 36 and 27 views, respectively. This work represented a fairly early struggle in my coming to grips with Bourdieu’s conceptions of field, habitus, categories of capital, and the juridical field. With the benefit of further subsequent study of the literature I may well re-do these videos in the future.

Part 1 of a video version of my ALTA conference paper presentation concerning scholarship of teaching in PLT attracted 33 views, whereas Part II attracted 26 views.

There are so many aspects to producing these videos, running time, graphics, camera work, voice over, background music, editing, subject matter and the symbolic representation of the topic. It would take much more space to pull the above works apart and analyse them. I have decided that I really like working with the YouTube setup as a medium and I will spend more time on it. Also, it is worth bearing in mind that many of these videos were produced on a Macbook Pro in a hotel room in some remote locations – and as a 53 year old that grew up in the world of snail mail and carbon paper, I marvel at what we can do with information and communications tech now.

 

Share

Are Lawyers using Computer-Aided Qualitative Data Analysis Software (CAQDAS)?

I have attended two introductory and three advanced training sessions on using NVivo, which is a computer-aided qualitative data analysis software. I plan on using this tool as part of my research into practical legal training teacher engagement with scholarship of teaching.

I have started using the software to undertake literature reviews and I have found it to be a very powerful tool, particularly when comparing critical writings around a specific topic, such as a sociological theory.

In brief, the software allows you to code parts of text (documents) and media (pictures, video, audio) and to classify the sources and coding for certain attributes. The data can then be explored, analysed, charted, and modeled to draw out and represent insights concerning convergences, conflicts, gaps and blind spots, around a concept.

My experience with this software has made me wish that I had access to it when undertaking legal research (analysing primary and secondary legal materials) and also in legal practice (analysing evidence such as affidavit material, exhibits, witness statements, and transcripts).

I would be very interested to know if there are any lawyers already using CAQDAS for this purpose. I certainly would encourage lawyers to consider learning about these tools if they have not done so already. Have you experience with CAQDAS in legal research or legal practice? If so, please let me know via the comments.

Share

Discovery survey of Australian PLT Teachers’ Publications on Scholarship of Teaching

I searched databases and journals to get a sense of what proportion of Australian PLT teachers have published work on scholarship of teaching. I compared this data to data regarding proportion of PLT teachers holding formal teaching qualifications.

I do not believe this data is wholly descriptive of Australian PLT teachers’ engagement with scholarship of teaching. It might represent one or two pieces of a larger puzzle.

Share

Taking into account ‘affect’ in Practical Legal Training

This post is an edited version of a comment that I posted to the Practical Legal Training Educators Australia discussion group.

I recently finished re-reading Julian Webb’s chapter, ‘The Body in (E)motion: Thinking through Embodiment in Legal Education’ in Paul Maharg and Caroline Maughan (eds), Affect and Legal Education – Emotion in Learning and Teaching the Law, Emerging Legal Learning (Ashgate, 2011) 211.

I think Julian Webb makes a compelling argument (at p 227) that, ‘By enabling our students to get social in the classroom, to come together in a more structured and reflective way, group learning can actively support their social and moral development, and – maybe, just maybe – enhance their ability to become ‘better’ social actors…’

This chapter follows nicely from Graham Ferris and Rebecca Huxley-Binns’ chapter, ‘What Students Care About and Why We Should Care’ in the same book. They rightly argue at p 195, ‘…that those delivering education should explicitly and deliberately consider the purposes of learners, meaning the things they do or might value, or care about, or strive for. Whilst the choice of purpose is that of the learner, we can use our experience and knowledge of teaching law in higher education to facilitate purpose, choice or value adoption or rejection.’

It seems to me that these positions are applicable to the practical legal training environment, not just the academy. That said, some might be understandably concerned about leaning too far toward what students care about and losing sight of the integrity of the training and the PLT accreditation. This is the ‘springboard’ for my following comments.

Taking the skills workshop situation as an example, we can design the instruction and plan certain learning objectives for this experiential learning experience.
There may be ‘global’ objectives embodied by ‘global’ statements in the Competency Standards for Entry-Level Lawyers; ‘instructional’ objectives the students’ performance goals, the conditions for that performance, and the the criterion for satisfactory performance. We can frame specific educational objectives as a subject-verb-object sentence: ‘[During the role-play interview] the student will be able to obtain all instructions necessary [to commence work on the client’s problem and to provide preliminary advice in plain language]’. We could specify what ‘plain language’ means in this context (e.g. we could decide to exclude ‘txt-speech’, and explain why – notions of professionalism, regularity, respect, integrity, etc.) Here, I’ve drawn on Mager, R.F., Preparing Instructional Objectives. 1997, Atlanta, Georgia, USA: CEP Press.

It is also possible to explicitly plan the learning across different levels of processing (e.g. retrieval, comprehension, analysis, knowledge utilisation, meta-cognition, and the self-system/affective level) across different domains of learning (information, mental procedures, psychomotor procedures). Here, I’ve drawn on Marzano, R.J. and J.S. Kendall, eds. The New Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. 2nd ed. 2007, Corwin Press: Thousand Oaks, California. I have previously blogged about this taxonomy.

Taking the above into account when planning the workshop, we can decide to adopt certain evidence-based teaching methods, such as advanced organisers, graphic organisers, whole-class interactive or co-operative learning approaches, and use a range of media to do this. I am drawing on Petty, Geoff, Evidence-based Teaching – A Practical Approach (Nelson Thornes, 2nd ed, 2009) here. Of course, it is important that the material and methods we use are ‘authentic’ and relevant to the learning objectives.

When we actually ‘perform’ or ‘deliver’ the workshop, ‘stuff’ comes up during discussions or arising out of the practice role-play interviews. It may be the student asks a question about how to handle a certain situation, or a student recalls an analogous situation from their volunteer legal work or graduate placement. We might respond by opening the question up to discussion, or share an illustrative ‘war story’ anecdote from our own practice to give an example of how we solved a problem. These are usually good opportunities to employ, and model, ‘reflection-in-action’, and ‘reflection-on-action’ approaches to teaching, learning and professional practice. I am thinking about the work of Chris Argyris and Donald Schön, but in particular Schön’s book., Educating the reflective practitioner, Jossey-Bass higher education series. (Jossey-Bass, 1st pbk. print. ed, 1990). Peter Senge is also good to read about this – Senge, Peter M., The Fifth Discipline – The Art & Practice of the Learning Organisation (Doubleday Business, 2nd ed, 2006).

These interactions have social as well as educational qualities; both of which involve the students emotionally to some extent.

Running through all of this, from planning to delivery, are considerations concerning the affective domain / self-system level of processing learning. What students want and feel is relevant to emotionally driven judgements about whether the learning task is important and relevant to their learning goals and their ability to complete the learning task: motivation to learn = value x expectancy. This can be especially important with adult learners who can resist what they perceive as ‘supplementary’ learning (Atherton, James, ‘Resistance to Learning: A Discussion Based on Participants in In-Service Professional Training Programme’ (1999) 51(1) Journal of Vocational Education and Training: The Vocational Aspect of Education 77).

Some tend to focus on these aspects in relation to initial engagement, but I think they’re equally important to student satisfaction with the learning and could possibly affect their feelings about continuing professional education. In other words, what we do during the interactions is relevant to the immediate educational objective, but also could affect young lawyers’ commitment to life-long learning, and either impinge or enhance their satisfaction with their professional development, and their chosen profession. I think these factors are also relevant in training entry-level lawyers to pursue thinking about ethics and professional responsibility.

So, I agree that it is important to be clear about what are our teaching and learning goals in facilitating our students construction of themselves as lawyers; I think it is important that we are able to justify our instructional decision-making; it seems to me that both of those propositions involve developing our understanding of the affective domain of learning in practical legal training so we can continually improve the way we train lawyers.

Share

‘Transactional Learning Environment’ and ‘Developing Professional Character’, in Affect and Legal Education

Karen Barton and Fiona Westwood’s chapter, ‘Developing Professional Character – Trust, Values and Learning’ in Paul Maharg and Caroline Maughan (eds), Affect and Legal Education – Emotion in Learning and Teaching the Law, Emerging Legal Learning (Ashgate, 2011) 235, is a very good read.

This is a copy of my post to the LinkedIn discussion group, Practical Legal Training Educators Australia.

The chapter has helpful introductory parts about the ‘repositioning of professionalism and the role of legal education’ (p 237), and ‘mastering the craft of lawyering’ using the ‘head, hand and heart’ metaphor (p 238). The authors identify 4 categories of student ‘firms’ that emerge in the transactional legal education environment, in a learning/trust matrix, where each firm has a mix ‘high’ or ‘low’ levels of trust and learning (p 242). The objective, of course, is to develop high trust/high learning student firms (p 244). The authors describe some of the strategies taken as part of an early intervention approach to identify student firms that seem to be tending toward low trust and/or low learning types. These include training of practice management tutors, and techniques to encourage reflective practices amongst the students including reflection on own individual and group work styles and common values (pp 244-8).

Selfishly perhaps, I wanted to know a bit more detail about actual student-student interactions and tutor-student interactions given the importance of ‘forming a team’ (p 246) and that ‘shared values were an integral part’ of the activity (p 247). At p 247, the authors note that ‘…our students did not choose their fellow team members … it was important that they learned to feel secure with each other … this feeling of security was facilitated by their initial discussions.’ It would be good to see more information in the article about those initial discussions, the medium through which they were conducted, and the strategies and methods used to facilitate them, given the importance of those discussions to setting up the activity, as reflected in the student quotes, particularly one on p 251, ‘My concern for the success of the firm began from its inception…’.

Share

Practical Legal Training Educators Australia

I have set up a new group on LinkedIn: Practical Legal Training Australia.

I hope that this will be a useful place for discussions about research and practice for educators involved in Practical Legal Training.

Share

How to “do” Feedback in PLT – an evidence-based approach

Thinking about your teaching in 2012?  Consider reflecting on your approach to providing feedback to your students from an evidence-based perspective.

Share

Are barristers more immune than solicitors?

My friends on Twitter had a discussion regarding the nomenclature used to describe lawyers. I wrote about this in another article (see previous post). This started a parallel discussion about the difference between a “barrister” and a “solicitor”.

So, what kind of barrister work might lead to a negligence claim? I thought it would be useful to look at this from a professional indemnity insurer’s point of view.

Share