An innovative resource for specifically developed for sessional law teachers (but able to support permanent staff as well!) is now online.
The first five modules of the Smart Casual suite of online modules to support sessional colleagues with law specific teaching strategies are now available at https://smartlawteacher.org/modules. They are:
- Reading Law
- Critical Thinking
- Legal Problem Solving
- Student Engagement
They are supported by an introductory module that highlights four themes that run through the modules and are key to legal education: diversity, internationalisation, digital literacy and gender.
A further four modules will be available in the coming months:
- Communication and Collaboration
- Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility
- Indigenous Peoples and the Law
The modules are written in Articulate Storyline with links to video clips and are designed to allow viewers to either work through the slides sequentially or skip to areas of interest. Modules take around an hour to work through, but can be skimmed for relevant content much more quickly.
The modules are designed to have a peer-to-peer approach, recognising the experience that sessional colleagues bring to their teaching. They feature a range of short videos from sessional staff themselves discussing the issues in the modules. The use of reflective questions throughout the modules means the modules can also be used a conversation starters for peer discussions.
Smart Casual involves a collaboration of academics from five Australian law schools producing a suite of professional development modules for sessional teachers of law. Half of all teaching in Australian higher education is provided by sessional staff (and possibly more in law schools), so the quality of sessional teaching is critical to student learning, retention and progress. However, national research suggests that support and training for sessional teachers remains inadequate.
In law, this problem is compounded by the need for staff to teach discipline-specific skills and content to students destined for a socially-bounded profession. Yet sessional law teachers are often time-poor full-time practitioners weakly connected to the tertiary sector. The distinct nature of these sessional staff and the discipline-specific learning outcomes required in law demand discipline-specific sessional staff training.
The project was funded by grants from the Australian Government’s Office of Learning and Teaching. The project team is:
- Mary Heath, Associate Professor, Flinders University (Project Leader);
- Kate Galloway, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, Bond University.
- Anne Hewitt, Associate Professor, Adelaide Law School, University of Adelaide;
- Mark Israel, Adjunct Professor of Law and Criminology, Flinders University; Visiting Academic, School of Social Sciences, University of Western Australia;
- Natalie Skead, Associate Professor, University of Western Australia;
- Alex Steel, Professor, University of New South Wales