Day 2, Plenary roundtable, UNSW legal research conference

by Paul Maharg on 05/12/2017

Sally Kift first, talking on regulatory pressures.  She summarised the pressures.  She mentioned working with the profession to bring them with us, and the importance of ethical judgment as well as strategy, creativity, empathy, reasoning, social intelligence.  Sally argued that we need to be more active on the issue.  She argued as I did for digital capabilities being developed.  Sally outlined dangerous (my word) directions of LACC – is it setting the scene for an Australian SQE? She also outlined the Productivity Commission Report, and its very discouraging (my word) approach to student numbers.  Student voice, she emphasised, was essential, and we need to enhance it.

Kate Galloway (Bond) next, on ‘Publishing legal education research – challenges, rationales, futures’.  Research metrics dominate to the exclusion of legal ed research.  Research needs validated; we need to be more interdisciplinary; we need to educate the regulators.  As academics we need a progressive approach to legal education, and research to analyse the outcomes.  Beyond that, should we be training lawyers, or teaching graduates to solve legal problems?

Prue Vines (UNSW) next, on the importance of validity and how we think about it.  Why is this important?  Because it marks our research as being authoritative, if our research is valid.  With validity comes reliability.  Sufficient evidence is required to support our claims.  Two groups need to believe us.  First, we need to explain to the profession why we want to do what we do, and maybe not what it wants us to do.  Second, we need to explain to our university what we do and why, and we need to stand up for that.  Longitudinal research is valuable as evidence for both audiences.

Finally, Sarah O’Shea (Wollongong).  Her field is educational equity, and she focused on the first generation students, her research, and she told us about that.  She works within narrative, biographical frameworks, getting students to tell their stories.  She advised thinking about theoretical frames for legal educational research.  She experiments with unusual output formats and dissemination outlets – eg her First-in-Family website, videotape, tweeting, LinkedIn, blog, YouTube, etc.  Funding? Global Challenges Research Fund and similar.  Creative intersections include first in family student identity work in professional degrees, how students form diver backgrounds translate disciplinary language and terminology used in specific fields of study.

Great slides, great overviews of the issues from all speakers. Final thoughts later…

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