Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and Post- Graduate Legal Education Practice in an (Un)certain World

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 38: Learning for Life and Work in a Complex World

July, 2015, 528 pages
Published by
T. Thomas, E. Levin, P. Dawson, K. Fraser & R. Hadgraft

Post-graduate practical legal training (PLT) is a mandatory eligibility requirement for those seeking admission to the Australian legal profession. PLT bridges the academic (law school) and practice stages of lawyers’ legal education. Individuals teaching PLT (PLT practitioners) are recruited from the practising legal profession—few begin with teaching qualifications or experience.

A paucity of scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) in Australian PLT sees little shared knowledge in the field. At the same time, lawyers and legal educators face uncertainty due to changed economic circumstances, internationalisation of legal education and practice, and emergent technologies that subsume legal processes. These changes underscore heightened political and regulatory scrutiny of structures and practices in PLT. The lack of SoTL undermines PLT providers’ and practitioners’ readiness to inform policy, regulation, theory and practices in PLT.

This qualitative research studies the individual and extra-individual dimensions of PLT practitioners’ engagement in SoTL, drawing on Bourdieu’s reflexive sociology and Certeau’s heterological science. The data included documents (e.g. laws, policies, speeches, reports, histories) and semi-structured interviews with thirty-six PLT practitioners. Computer-aided qualitative data analysis was used to organise and analyse data, and to visualise and write up insights.

This paper highlights insights concerning obstacles to PLT practitioners’ engagements with SoTL. It identifies opportunities to improve engagements with SoTL necessary to better inform providers, practitioners, policy-makers and regulators in responding to change and uncertainty.

Keywords: Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Practical Legal Training, Practice Research