Learning to feel like a lawyer: law teachers, sessional teaching and emotional labour in legal education

This week, a new publication from members of the Smart Casual team has been published in the Griffith Law Review.  A limited number of free downloads of the paper are available here. 

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Contemporary higher education, including legal education, incorporates complexities that were not identified even a decade ago. Law programs first moved from traditional content-focussed programs toward incorporating critique and legal skills. Many are now working toward recognising inclusion and student wellbeing as integral to law graduates’ professional identities and skillsets. Yet the professional dispositions law teachers require to teach in these environments are ostensibly at odds with traditional lawyering identities founded upon an ideal of rationality that actively disengaged from affect.

This article draws on our teaching experience and data drawn from the Smart Casual project, which designed self-directed professional development modules for sessional law teachers, to identify the limits of a traditional teaching skillset in the contemporary Australian tertiary law teaching context. We argue that contemporary legal education demands considerable emotional labour and we present sample contexts which highlight the challenges law teachers face in doing what is expected of them. The article makes explicit the emotional labour that has often been implicit or unrecognised in the role of legal academics in general, and in particular, in the role of sessional legal academics.

 

 

Fostering ‘Quiet Inclusion’

Recognition of increased diversity within Australian legal education means law teachers have to respond to a broader variety of student needs, both at a macro level in admissions and curriculum planning and at a micro level through learning and teaching. Australian law schools have spent the last decade addressing the macro level rather than exploring the needs of the micro at which so much teaching takes place.
In creating professional development resources for sessional law staff in Australia, we have found a wide variety of approaches to proactively creating inclusive and welcoming law classes. Many have been contributed by sessional teachers who have agreed to be video recorded speaking about their high quality teaching for the Smart Casual modules.
From this work has emerged a paper which draws on Goffman’s ideas about how people engage in a ‘quiet sorting’ of others according to various attributes to outline strategies for creating and maintaining learning spaces that welcome and engage with diversity.

Having been presented earlier in the year, this paper is now available in Research and Development in Higher Education: The Shape of Higher Education Vol. 39  as Mark Israel, Natalie Skead, Anne Hewitt, Mary Heath, Kate Galloway, Alex Steel, Fostering ‘Quiet Inclusion’: Interaction and Diversity in the Australian Law Classroom. Presentation to Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia Conference, Fremantle, Australia, 5 July 2016.  It can also be found here.

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