Parallel session 4: Pot luck for students; interactive technology in teaching law

by Paul Maharg on 24/01/2009

Attended Lisa Cherkassky's (U. of Bradford)  session on variation in teaching, and how this affects students.  It's a critical issues, not least in team teaching.  In Scotland, the Diploma in Legal Practice is taught  by tutor-practitioners, and at GGSL we (Karen, Frances Murray, David Sillars and me) always need to compromise between allowing tutors their individual voices, and yet adhere to a coherent programme of study.  Lisa focused on the problem of tutor variation in team teaching where variation can cause particular problems.  She outline feedback she obtained, and her solutions.  

She gave students a questionnaire on the issues arising in her course, which included the following questions – 
  1. Your module is run by two tutors.  Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
  2. Do you feel you are treated differently by the tutors?  If so, does this worry you? 
  3. Do you find that the assessment feedback from the tutors is similar or different? 

Her questions were quite directive, and at least one participant noted this, but nevertheless the feedback she got from the students seemed to be reasonably predictable, given the situation, and Lisa's summary of the problems, in her final slides, pretty comprehensive in outlining problems with such activity.    She ended by asking the participants in the session for feedback on the 10 questions.  Very honest session, with discussion afterwards focusing not just on solutions but the politics of innovative teaching methods (yes, team-teaching can still be innovative for some institutions), and team-teaching in particular.  

Next session was cancelled so next up was Catherine Russell on Asking the Audience: Using Clicker Technology to Teach Law.  Entertaining roundup of the pros and cons (largely pros) of using clickers in technology, linking to peer learning, fostering community, breaking up single channel-comms, providing formative feedback, testing student engagement with set reading, and assessing prior understanding.  Promoting and monitoring attendance, as a rational for using it, is slightly problematic, as Catherine acknowledged.  Don't really hold with the idea about 'Millennial learners' looking for this sort of stuff more than others, which I think is on a par with the suspect notion of 'digital natives', Gen x,y,z etc.   Nevertheless, a helpful & well-organized introductory session for those of us who haven't used clicker technology, giving us practice, theory, and noting the paucity of literature on use of clickers in legal education.  One student in the feedback noted 'helped keep me awake', raising the question as to why the student was falling asleep in the first place…

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