The SQE is the Solicitors Qualifying Exam in England and Wales.  It’s an example of a common entrance examination, something a number of legal education regulators are interested in, or already practising.  I was discussing it last night in downtown Toronto, at Osgoode Professional Development, in the context of legal education generally, asking nine questions of the SQE and giving some possible answers.  It’s a fascinating topic because it gets to the heart of so many educational issues, not just in professional legal education, and not just in legal education, and I’ll explore some of them here.

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Reflection beyond ePortfolios

by Paul Maharg on 24/08/2017

This has been a crazily busy eight-day visit to Australia but so productive.  It was marked by days of intense activities and meetings and more, making connections in ANU and UNE, giving an all day workshop on simulated clients (liveblogged in a series of posts on this blog), and a seminar on the SRA’s plans for the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE – post & slides to come), keynoting the ANU ePortfolio launch (post here, slides at the tab), and another on Disintermediation at an unconference at UNE (post here and slides in the usual place at the tab above).  And forming plans, building legal educational initiatives, with PEARL and other networks, and also talking to potential authors in Australasia for the Emerging Legal Education book series edited by Beth Mertz, Meera Deo and me.

The ePortfolio launch stayed with me.  Launches etc tend to be rather self-congratulory affairs, with little in the way of challenging thinking, so in my presentation I decided to be more challenging.  The participants were up for it, comprising as they did CHELT staff, ed tech developers, as well as SMEs and experts in disciplinary education, and from beyond ANU too.  Such good, sparky conversations; and still the ideas from them and earlier thoughts about reflection, what it is and how to embed it in learning, teaching and assessment are rattling round my head.  And I’ll be disappointed if Michele Leering, from Queen’s U, Ontario, who knows much of what there is to know about reflective practice, doesn’t come on board this post to tell me I’ve got it all wrong…  So below the fold there are two general points, and a longer excursus on reflection and formation, then three possible ways out of the dilemmas reflection pose for us: disciplinary-based reflection, formation, and a context for a profound fusion of reflection and formation.

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Disintermediation and continuity

by Paul Maharg on 20/08/2017

Last year Michele Pistone and Michael Horn published an excellent piece on law schools and disruption that’s full of interesting thinking about law school futures.  It was published in the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, and follows in the mainstream of Christensen’s thinking on disruption.  I agree with almost all of it.  I’m also aware of the arguments against disruption.  Take for instance Jill Lepore’s highly readable critique of Christensen back in 2014, in The New Yorker, which was answered by Christensen (paywall) and summarised in several blogs eg here.  I’m interested in her conclusion:

Disruptive innovation is a theory about why businesses fail. It’s not more than that. It doesn’t explain change. It’s not a law of nature. It’s an artifact of history, an idea, forged in time; it’s the manufacture of a moment of upsetting and edgy uncertainty. Transfixed by change, it’s blind to continuity. It makes a very poor prophet.

It seems to me that Lepore is thinking about the early Christensen, rather than the subsequent developments of his theory, which do explain some change well and can predict change in some markets.  While I think that Pistone & Horn are right about changes happening in many law schools, what I find fascinating is how disruption laminates with continuity.  No matter how innovative a curriculum is, it’s always going to be a fusion of change and continuity.  If their work is to be effective, innovators have to understand the many layers of historical innovation still existing in the way law schools operate, the ways we create and organise the educational resources of the discipline, use educational spaces, and array information and knowledge for our students.  And not only innovators.  As we pointed out in LETR, we need educated regulators who understand disruption and continuity, and who make democratic, educated judgments with innovators around the perplexing dilemmas of what to change and how.[1]

It was for that reason that in a recent article I chose to discuss examples of disintermediation not from recent digital innovation, but from the incunabula of the print industry over half a millennium ago.  I explored two aspects of the lamination of change and continuity in universities.  First, it’s undeniable that print technologies disintermediated not just manuscript cultures of learning, but the structures of scholarship based upon them.[2]  And yet the institutions that depended upon them, namely universities, adapted, survived and thrived.  Second, disintermediation of knowledge has been essential to the nature of knowledge itself, its creation, development, transmission and dissemination; and those processes are transformed by the digital revolution we are all living through.  To quote Jill Lepore, disintermediation of knowledge creation and transmission is an artefact of history and is so because it’s a set of historical processes.  Disintermediation helps to explain both change and continuity not just in institutions such as universities but, at a deeper level, in knowledge-creation and knowledge-dissemination.  I’d suggest that for law schools, one of the critical dilemmas is how to change deep practices of knowledge creation and dissemination within legal education – not just the forms of knowledge, but how we produce such knowledge and embody it in rhetorical forms.  If we want to see radical change in legal education, we’ll also need to think about radical change in our processes of knowledge creation, transmission and dissemination.

 

  1. [1]It’s never just a single dilemma, which suggests division, forking of issues.  The closer we view innovation the more complex it becomes.  Even setting out to write about the dilemma of technology innovation is a dilemma.  Ever since I started writing about technology and legal education I knew I was on the edge of scholarly respectability.  Writing about legal education was bad enough — in the early RAEs of the 1990s legal education was scarcely recognised as a scholarly field for legitimate research.  By RAE2008 legal education was accepted, but we had to lobby hard via BILETA to get recognition for the status of scholarship in technology-enhanced learning within legal education.

    It still happens.  A recent anonymous reviewer of my work noted that in an article on disintermediation the application to legal education of a concept derived from ‘commerce’ to legal education was forced.  Perhaps I was forcing the issue in the way I wrote about it, but it would be hard to deny that technology and commerce exerts pressure and direction upon education in HE, including legal education, and that that pressure has actually always been there.

  2. [2]This is also true of change and continuity within the ongoing print revolution.  As I’ve pointed out before, the innovation of the Langdellian case-book would have been impossible without the industrial processes that could produce large numbers of large texts, and which were introduced into the print industry in the later nineteenth century.

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‘Curriculum is technology’: Affordances of ePortfolios.

August 19, 2017

This is the title of a plenary I gave in ANU on Friday at the launch of the university’s ePortfolio.  Slides at the tab above and on Slideshare.  I was also on the panel discussion, and later videotaped in interview for the website.  Sections of the talk: Research design and reflective journalling: a case study […]

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Simulated Client workshop: Plenary wrap-up

August 16, 2017

Final session…  I posed the last question set out in our programme: where to from here?  One participant answered it in an interestingly oblique way.  What about the model of the encounter, he said – is it all about an expert telling the student what he or she did wrong?  Surely there must be a […]

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Vivien Holmes, Pamela Taylor-Barnett: The power of narrative – immersive video/audio work with students

August 16, 2017

Vivien and Pamela presented on the work they’re doing on using video clips to enhance the approaches taken by Mary Gentile in her educational design work and in her fine book, Giving Voice to Values.  The video excerpts, produced in ANU College of Law, are well-acted, short piece-to-camera, direct and powerful. Students watch them, then […]

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Moira Murray: Student evaluation of the use of SCs at ANU College of Law

August 16, 2017

Moira described how the 2012 pilot project was designed in the ANU College of Law.  I trained the SCs for ANU CoL back then, the pilot was held, and there was consolidated and refresher training, too, of SCs.  Each student of 104 students in the pilot had a recorded interview with a client, and had […]

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Julienne Jen: Research into SCs – The Hong Kong University experience

August 16, 2017

Julienne was presenting on behalf of her and her colleagues, Wilson Chow and Michael Ng.  The context of the use of SCs was the Postgrad Certificate in Laws (PCLL) at HKU Faculty of Law, which is skills-based, with students training to be trainee solicitors or pupil barristers in Hong Kong, and which is monitored closely […]

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Lucy Evans: the experience of using SCs at Flinders Law School

August 16, 2017

Before Lucy’s session I gave a brief history of the SCI initiative in my slides ‘The Simulated Client Initiative: A portrait of the outsider as teacher’, and they’re up on the SCI site. Back to Flinders…  Lucy described how the SC innovation was carried out at Flinders – based, as Lucy pointed out, on the […]

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Simulated Client workshop, Canberra, 16.8.17 – Keynote, Debra Nestel

August 16, 2017

I’m back at ANU, Canberra, giving a series of workshops and seminars over three days, which I’ll liveblog or try to summarise in this and subsequent posts – part of my duties as an Honorary Prof at the ANU College of Law (I’m now with Osgoode Hall Law School). First up is an all-day workshop […]

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