Enhancing experiences for both students and supervisors
The Effective Law Student Supervision Project is focused on enhancing the experiences of law students and supervisors involved in placement programs.The focus of the project was on the programs where students experience professional life in a law-related workplace. The term, ‘placement program’, is used to include clinical placements where students are supervised by someone engaged by the law school as well as externship arrangements where students are supervised by someone from their host organisation.
The ELSS Project is part of a National Teaching Fellowship awarded to Professor Jeff Giddings by the Federal Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT). The support of the OLT is gratefully acknowledged.
The key components of the project have been:
- Surveys of supervisors and students involved in placement programs;
- Multidisciplinary workshops on experiential learning and reciprocal professional development;
- Development of the Effective Law Student Supervision website;
- Workshops for supervisors and students;
- Contributions to international conferences;
- Publications - a journal article and two book chapters with more to follow.
The following people have provided important assistance to Professor Jeff Giddings for his National Teaching Fellowship:
- Professors Peter Joy, David McQuoid-Mason and Mary Anne Noone for acting as referees for his fellowship application.
- April Chrzanowski for her work on the quantitative data from the student and supervisor surveys
- Dr Lyn Aitken for her work on the qualitative data from the student and supervisor surveys
- Eddie Ngaluafe for his creativity in designing this website
- Karen van Haeringen for her work on preparing my National Teaching Fellowship application
- Chris Grimmer for her work on the management of my National Teaching Fellowship
- Professor Stephen Billett for his advice and encouragement
- Professor Sally Kift for her encouragement
- Zoe Rathus for her support and friendship
In organising and running the workshops, the project benefited from the involvement of:
- Margaret Castles (Adelaide)
- Anna Cody (UNSW)
- Anna Copeland (Murdoch)
- Ross Hyams (Monash)
- Colin James (Newcastle)
- Shaun McCarthy (Newcastle)
- Jennifer Nielsen (SCU)
- Mary Anne Noone (La Trobe)
- Zoe Rathus (Griffith)
- Simon Rice (ANU)
- Mandy Shircore (JCU)
Project Reference Group
- Professor Stephen Billett (Griffith),
- Judith Dickson (Leo Cussen Centre for Law)
- Frances Gibson (UNSW),
- Professor Neil Gold (Windsor),
- Richard Grimes (York),
- Jonny Hall (Northumbria),
- Professor Richard Johnstone (QUT),
- Professor Peter Joy (Washington University in St Louis),
- Professor Catherine Klein (Catholic University of America),
- Professor David McQuoid-Mason (University of KwaZulu Natal) and
- Professor Leah Wortham (Catholic University of America)
Professor Adrian Evans (Monash University) has been a valuable source of advice and encouragement as the project evaluator.
Surveys of Students and Supervisors
The Effective Law Student Supervision Project provided the opportunity to go beyond the anecdotal accounts of student supervision to better understand the experiences of students and supervisors. National surveys were used to gather information about understandings of supervision, experiences of supervision and effective practices. The response was greater than expected, both in terms of the number of respondents and the insights gained from supervisors and students.
In April 2014, I contacted Australian law school staff involved in placement programs and asked them to forward survey details to students and supervisors who were currently or had recently taken part in a supervision relationship as part of a placement program. I also asked the Australian Law Students’ Association (ALSA) to distribute this email to Australian law students.
The response was been greater than expected with 343 students and 105 supervisors completing the surveys. I am continuing to work on analysing the survey data with the assistance of April Chrzanowksi and Dr Lyn Aitken.
Learning From Other Disciplines
Professor Giddings facilitated two multi-disciplinary clinical supervision workshops at Griffith University. These workshops were conducted at Griffith University’s Nathan and Gold Coast Campuses in early-May and brought together colleagues from across the university as well as law colleagues from James Cook, Southern Cross and the University of New South Wales.
The workshops revealed diverse arrangements for experiential learning across disciplines. The key dimensions appear to relate to program size, structure and accreditation arrangements. Some, like nursing, involve collaboration across universities whereas others are more characterised by competition for placement sites. Arrangements are also changing in the face of new expectations of students, professions and universities. Insights from these workshops are informing the development of resources for the project website.
Reciprocal Professional Development
Legal communities, both educators and practitioners, need to work collaboratively to identify ways to promote participation in experiential learning programs. I am interested to articulate opportunities that enable both students and their practice supervisors to benefit from the collaborative nature of practice-based learning. The sorts of benefits I’m thinking of include:
- satisfaction from contributing to developing future professionals and public recognition of such efforts;
- supervisor access to university resources;
- greater awareness of socio-legal research, case law and legislative developments; and
- building leadership capacities related to the supervision of other work colleagues.
Workshops for Supervisors and Students
A series of workshops for supervisors were facilitated by Jeff Giddings in a range of Australian cities between June and October 2013.
The supervisor workshops have been well received. Part-time supervisors have been particularly interested in receiving practical advice on supervision processes, particularly around providing feedback to students and assessment arrangements. Full-time supervisors and academics have also been interested in participating in broader exploration of issues.
The supervisor workshops were very well received. Interestingly, they involved quite distinct audiences – supervisors for whom working with students is their main focus and others who contribute to placement program on a part-time basis. Part-time supervisors are most interested in receiving practical advice on the supervision processes, particularly around providing feedback to students and assessment arrangements. Full-time supervisors and academics tend to be more interested in participating more actively in the exploration of issues.
Jeff Giddings presented a seminar hosted by Lipman Karas, Lawyers in Adelaide. Supreme Court of South Australia Chief Justice Chris Kourakis attended and actively contributed to a discussion of supervision issues in legal education and legal practice. Chief Justice Kourakis advised the audience that the issues raised would be further considered by relevant Supreme Court Committees.
Jeff Giddings also presented workshops for students designed to assist in preparing them for the supervision process. I have now run these workshops at La Trobe, Griffith, Murdoch and Southern Cross University. While these workshops did not form part of the OLT fellowship proposal, research for the project revealed the need to improve how students are prepared for their placement experiences.
Supervision workshops have also been run at several international conferences.
In July 2013, Judith Dickson (Leo Cussen Centre for Law) and Jeff Giddings presented a workshop involving Reference Group members and clinical legal educators as part of the 2013 International Journal of Clinical Legal Education Conference in Brisbane, hosted by Griffith Law School. Participants engaged in highly constructive discussions related to the fellowship project.
In December 2013, Jeff Giddings presented a Master Class on Clinic Design at the Training of Trainers Workshop at the Global Alliance for Justice Education, Delhi, India. The Master Class was presented to 160 participants from 60 countries and emphasised the importance of effective supervision in enabling students to benefit from practice-based experiences.
In July 2014, Jeff Giddings presented a workshop on effective supervision at the 2014 International Journal of Clinical Legal Education Conference in Olomouc, Czech Republic.
In November 2014, made a presentation on Making Supervision Work for You to a class of 100 Street Law students at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
One article has been published, one book chapter is in press and a further chapter has been finalised for consideration as part of a book on clinical legal education in Australia. A further chapter has been commissioned for a book on social justice and legal education.
The Effective Law Student Supervision Project will continue to generate publications in relation to student supervision.
Professor Jeff Giddings
Griffith Law School, Nathan, Queensland 4111
Phone: +61 07 3735 6479
Fax: +61 7 3735 5599
Supported by the Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching