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.



Tis the Season, to Bring On the Bricolage

Improved cairns at Tunnel CreekIn a previous post I drew attention to Matthew Ball’s work with Foucault, and in passing I mentioned ‘bricolage‘. My learned friend, @katgallow at the Curl blog, reckons I have a ‘thing’ for bricolage. Well, yes, it is true, I do. So what is bricolage?

I am referring to bricolage, as a concept described by Claude Lévi-Strauss in The Savage Mind (1968, The Savage Mind, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois). All references to Lévi-Strauss are taken from Chapter One of this text; page numbers have been omitted.

In the context of his ‘structuralist anthropology’, Lévi-Strauss described how interpretative beliefs and practices are remembered, and organised, through folklore and rites. Folklore acts as a kind of memory bank, from which beliefs and practices can be extracted to be experimentally (sometimes playfully) coalesced and reorganised, to produce new cultural objects. A bricoleur may be skilful in the ordinary sense, but is particularly responsive to surprises and changes. In sport, that might involve the way a player innovates a turn from the bounce of a ball, for example. Perhaps lawyers can think of some examples from legal practice?

In the context of ‘artistic creation’, this can involve trying to communicate either with the model, or with the materials, or with the future user, in any particular case (Lévi-Strauss, 1968). Lévi-Strauss provides an example of an indigenous person’s wooden club, used for striking fish. The overall shape of the club is dictated by the way the original tree branch has grown, with some small modifications to improve the club for its purpose. In addition to that, a ‘sea-monster’ is carved into the club as a decoration. The placement of the carving suggests that it is the sea-monster that strikes the fish, not the holder of the club.

This simple example illustrates how bricolage is a dynamic ‘dialogue with the materials and means of execution’, which is constrained, ‘within the immutable framework of a mutual confrontation of structure and accident’ (Lévi-Strauss, 1968). For me, this quote is a rather lovely way of summarising some aspects of developing practices in legal practice, and in teaching in practical legal training.

For Lévi-Strauss, bricolage plays its part in one of ‘two distinct [and ‘equally valid’] modes of scientific thought’, with bricolage operating at a strategic level, ‘adapted to that of perception and the imagination’, in contrast to the mode of the natural scientist, which seeks to objectively detach from the subjective perspective (Lévi-Strauss, 1968).

I am interested how researchers like Kincheloe have drawn on these ideas of Lévi-Strauss, to propose an approach that involves theoretical and methodological bricolage in qualitative research. I believe that this approach could be especially useful in scholarship and research of teaching in practical legal training. In this context bricolage can involve a type of ‘cross-disciplinary move’ that Kincheloe, McLaren and Steinberg argue is ‘a key innovation… in an evolving criticality’, that involves exploring the ‘social, historical, philosophical, cultural, economic, political, and psychological contexts’ (2011, ‘Pedagogy and Qualitative Research – Moving to the Bricolage’, in NK Denzin & YS Lincoln (eds), The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research, 4th edn, Sage Publications Inc, Thousand Oaks, California, p. 168).

As Schön observed in 1995, a new scholarship of professional practice ‘requires a new epistemology’ (‘The New Scholarship Requires a New Epistemology’, Change, vol. 27, no. 6, pp. 26-34).

What instances of bricolage have you experienced, or imagined, in your legal or teaching practice?

Merry Christmas! Bring on the Bricolage!





Dr Matthew Ball on power relations and legal identity in legal education

I have been reading a useful series of articles on the above topic by Dr Matthew Ball. I am interested in how Matthew uses Foucault’s concept of ‘governmentality’, to critically analyse approaches taken in critical legal studies, and legal education pedagogy, regarding law students and power relations. Matthew’s PhD thesis is a detailed and enjoyably readable investigation of the topic.

I am no expert on Foucault, but I tend to resist the treatment of acts of resistance to, or within, panoptic disciplinary ‘microbial practices’, as being subsumed into the system of discipline (yes, I know). I like to contemplate Foucault’s approach in conjunction with Certeau’s idea, that subjects/consumers can divert dominant practices into ‘other forms of operation’, through the ‘subjects” tactics, which inform their practices in ‘everyday life’. (Certeau employs the French term of ‘perruque’ – where workers divert employers’ resources to produce things things for their own consumption, for example). When I read about ‘perruque’ I cannot help thinking about the idea of ‘bricolage’, as advanced by Claude Lévi-Strauss in ‘The Savage Mind’ (1968, University of Chicago Press), in the sense that beliefs and practices of interpretative mastery can be remembered through folklore and rites, and experimentally (playfully) coalesced and reorganised, to produce new objects. I am also interested in comparing Certeau’s and Bourdieu’s approaches to this idea of ‘interpretive mastery’.

From the point of view of investigating how subjects/consumers/agents undertake acts of ‘interpretive mastery’, Jeremy Ahearne (and Certeau) has compared Bourdieu’s ‘objectification of objectification’, with Certeau’s explicit operation of ‘withdrawal and power’: Ahearne, J & de Certeau, M 1995, Michel de Certeau: Interpretation and its other, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California. This seems to me to be partly a struggle about how to manage the situation, where the researchers enter into a power relation, with those occupying positions in the field under study, and the researchers bringing with them their own assumptions and preconceptions. I am exploring these issues, as I develop my own study of Australian PLT teachers’ engagement with scholarship of teaching.

I commend to you the following articles by Dr Ball:

Ball, MJ 2012, ‘Power in legal education: a (new) critical and analytical approach’, QUT Law and Justice Journal, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 157-77.

Ball, M 2012, ‘Becoming a ‘Bastion Against Tyranny’: Australian Legal Education and the Government of the Self’, Law and Critique, vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 1-20, retrieved 10 April 2012, DOI 10.1007/s10978-012-9101-1, <>.

Ball, M 2011, ‘Governing Depression in Australian Legal Education: Power, Psychology and Advanced Liberal Government’, Legal Education Review, vol. 21, pp. 277-301.

Ball, M 2011, ‘Self-Government and the Fashioning of Resilient Personae: Legal Education, Criminal Justice, and the Government of Mental Health’, Current Issues in Criminal Justice, vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 97-111.

Ball, M 2010, ‘Legal Education and the ‘Idealistic Student’: Using Foucault to Unpack the Critical Legal Narrative’, Monash University Law Review, vol. 36, no. 2, pp. 80-107.

Ball, MJ 2008, ‘A ‘deleterious’ effect?: Australian legal education and the production of the legal identity’, PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Ball, M 2007, ‘The Construction of the Legal Identity: Governmentality in Australian Legal Education’, Queensland University of Technology Law & Justice Journal, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 444-63.


Law Institute of Victoria – Inaugural Law Graduates of the Future Forum

The Law Institute of Victoria’s ‘Future Focus’ committee, has conducted research under the heading of ‘The Law Graduates of the Future’. This has involved a survey of law graduates and employers during 2011 and 2012. Being unable to attend the inaugural forum in Melbourne, I am looking forward to seeing the material that was presented there and hearing/reading reactions to the presentation and discussion. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you did attend and would like to comment. I noticed that  the LIV’s President Blog, mentioned some interesting issues, including an ‘expectation gap’

between what universities and practical legal training providers are producing and what law firms believe they need from graduate employees

and that graduates tended to rate their skills more highly than their employees.
I have not seen the survey questions or a summary of the responses. I think it is important to look closely at those before commenting on the above finding.
I also notice that the LIV President’s Blog states:

I hope that this will be an opportunity for all of those involved or that have an interest in the legal profession to work together to ensure we are creating “work ready” lawyers that are well placed to address the challenges that lie ahead for the legal profession.

I am interested to learn more about what “work ready” means in the context of the Future Focus committee’s work. I observe that the national practical legal training competency standards for entry-level lawyers (NCS) uses different language, and a comparison of the language used during the 2006 Legal Education Review (the Campbell Report), the NCS, and that used by the Future Focus committee might be interesting.


APLEC 2012 Day 2 – 10 November

I missed the first plenary session, unfortunately, because I was setting up my poster presentation based around my survey of PLT teacher qualifications and teaching scholarship outputs.

The first parallel session I attended was Tony Cibiras’s, ‘What does the Australian Quality Framework mean for Practical Legal Education?’. Tony provided an introduction to the AQF and the implications that has for the existing graduate diploma of legal practice offerings, particularly in relation to equivalent full-time student load weightings. But the discussion really became interesting around the issue of non-formal recognised prior learning. That is, where applicants could claim advanced standing on the basis of professional work experience, rather than academic qualifications. The discussion highlighted the fact that this would be an administrative challenge for PLT providers, given the infinite possible varieties of claims that would need to be evaluated. Also, it would be interesting to see how the regulators approach accreditation of PLT courses that propose to include RPL as part of the course design. It was recognised that the VET sector has already met the challenge of RPL, and that we might learn a lot from that experience. Also, the portfolio approach to course design might represent a way of resolving differences between full-course students and those who successfully claim RPL for part of their PLT.

The second session I attended was presented by Moira Murray and Margie Rowe, ‘Teaching and learning in teams in a Professional Practice course’. The presenters made some introductory comments and then opened up the session to a discussion format, and this was very successful. In essence, students were working in teams in virtual firms, charged with producing items of work; I think this was along the lines of John Harvey and Paul Maharg’s simulated practical learning environment (SIMPLE) design. Lecturers also worked in teams to manage the activities and to interact with the students and the virtual law firms. Issues about unsatisfactory participation and ‘dysfunctional’ firms, were discussed. The presenters noted that while these problems did not often occur, when they did arise they needed prompt action by the lecturer. This is consistent with my own observations in my online discussion research that it is important to have a lecturer’s (available, non-intrusive) teaching presence in the virtual environment. It was good to hear about the experience of using virtual firms and the benefits of collaboration in both the student and teaching domains.

After morning tea we attended a plenary panel session, chaired by His Excellency, The Honorable Peter Underwood, AC, Governor of Tasmania, with The Honorable Justice Alan Blow, OAM, Magistrate Peter Dixon, and Professor Peter Lyons. The subject was, ‘Advocacy Training’. It was interesting to hear different perspectives about what was important in advocacy training (although I was surprised that communication skills did not get much of a run). The ability to empathise was mentioned more than once. I was a bit dismayed that when the topic of whether advocacy could be taught by ‘online learning’ was discussed, there appeared to be a widely-shared misconception that advocacy was being taught by wholly online courses, rather than through blended program designs, that involve online instruction, together with face-to-face coaching, feedback, and assessment. The senior observers in the room seemed a bit surprised when I explained that ‘online learning’ is a bit of a misnomer in relation to the programs actually supplied in Australia, and that most, if not all, programs are blended programs.  It seems we have a long way to go before most of the profession understand how blended program designs actually work.

Associate Professor Allan Chay provided the closing remarks, and rightly observed, I think, that this was one of the best conferences ever in terms of the number of attendees, and the variety and quality of presentations. In my view, the outlook for scholarship of teaching in PLT is looking good – something I did not really believe 12 months ago!

These conferences are incredibly valuable learning experience and I encourage PLT teachers to get involved with them. I think the University of Tasmania Law School and the Centre for Legal Studies provided an excellent conference, and the organisers (including Naomi Bryant and her team) should be congratulated.



Presentation in November – APLEC 2012 – Hobart

‘Skills’ in LLB Threshold Learning Outcomes and Competency Standards for Entry-Level Lawyers – a Comparison using CAQDAS

I am presenting a brief paper at the Australasian Professional Legal Education Council conference hosted by the University of Tasmania Law School from  8 November 2012.  The abstract follows:

This study analysed the Threshold Learning Outcomes (“TLOs) specified in the Bachelor of Laws Learning and Teaching Academic Standards Statement December 2010, and the Competency Standards for Entry-Level Lawyers for Practical Legal Training, as updated by the Australasian Professional Legal Education Council and Law Admissions Consultative Committee in February 2002 (“Competency Standards”). Qualitative analysis was undertaken using the NVivo computer assisted qualitative data analysis software (“CAQDAS”), to investigate how skills were categorised and defined in each of the documents. The data were then analysed to compare the respective categorisation and definition of skills, and to identify potential complements, overlaps, conflicts, gaps, or blind spots, between the TLOs and the Competency Standards. The findings, and the methodology adopted, might provide insights for future instructional design, content, and delivery of Practical Legal Training programs, and for future reviews of the TLOs and Competency Standards.


Elements of Critical Legal Studies and the Law & Society Movement

As part of my PhD research I am interested to reflect on the epistemologies of the critical legal studies (“CLS”) and law & society movements (“LSM”) in locating where my own project might be situated in the context of law research.  Here are two videos, Part One and Part Two that are my ‘concept maps’ of the elements of these two ‘critical’ movements.


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.


The Colloquium Document

PhD Workspace
A focused workspace?

As part of my PhD candidature I must complete a 10,000 word colloquium document and present at a colloquium within the first 12 months of candidature. From my perspective it is partly a ‘gate-keeping’ procedure to ensure candidates are progressing and focusing their project, and that the research is on balance likely to make a ‘substantial original contribution to knowledge’.

My colloquium presentation is unlikely to take place until February 2013, but I thought I would start drafting the document now, given that I have already undertaken a lot of reading about the subject matter (a scholarship of teaching in practical legal training), and toward developing a theoretical framework for the project (at this stage I am drawing on Bourdieu’s theoretical tools, and de Certeau’s concept of practices in everyday life and ‘le perruque’). I have decided on undertaking a qualitative methodology, combining policy research (looking at the law and policy underlying practical legal training) and narrative inquiry (learning from PLT teachers’ narratives about how they moved into practical legal training and what they have to say about scholarship of teaching). I have also been reading up on grounded theory approaches to research and the Glaser/Strauss debate about ’emergence’ and ‘forcing’ of theory from the data. I have undertaken some training with the NVivo computer assisted qualitative data analysis software (CAQDAS), with some more advanced training timetabled later in August 2012. I have to say that I have found NVivo very interesting to work with, and I will write a separate post about this soon.

I have found that working on my colloquium document this week has been a very useful exercise. The process has helped me to get a sense of ‘where am I up to’ since starting the candidature on 31 March 2012, and it has highlighted several strengths and weaknesses in my work and reflection undertaken so far. ‘Strengths’, in reminding me just how much reading and reflection and note-taking I have already done, and how this has contributed to my knowledge. ‘Weaknesses’, in identifying gaps and blind spots in my theorising, and also in the ‘logistics’ of my research.

I am now thinking that I should have started drafting this colloquium document much earlier and used it in conjunction with a reflective approach of memo-writing, so that the document provides a focused ‘space’ for my work. That said, I am pleased that I have started it now, 4-5 months into the candidature, rather than later. I guess that some might say there is a danger of feeling ‘locked-in’ to what is in the colloquium document, but I think that if I remind myself that it is a dynamic document in every aspect, then that should not be a problem.

So, if you are a PhD candidate, what is your approach to the colloquium document? Do you think that starting on it early as part of a reflective approach is a good idea?