University of Tasmania
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Enhancing legal pedagogy in undergraduate legal education : teaching ethics, professionalism and critical reflection to law students from the foundation year of law

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posted on 2023-05-27, 11:26 authored by Hiller, SJ
This thesis examines the importance of law students developing an understanding of ethics, professionalism and critical reflection from the beginning of tertiary legal education. The thesis shows why, when and how these areas need to be developed. Findings of the research aim to provide legal educators with a toolbox of pedagogical techniques for teaching law students about ethics, professionalism and critical reflection. It suggests areas for further research. The findings of this research can be used by law faculties to embed Threshold Learning Outcomes (TLOs) relating to the areas of ethics, professionalism and critical reflection into legal curriculums to enhance both and accountability to government, the legal profession and the public. The academic literature demonstrates significant ongoing concerns relating to unethical and unprofessional behaviour within the legal profession, the ethical standards required for legal practice and the positive role upholding ethics and professionalism can have for legal practice and promoting social justice. The thesis argues that ethics and professionalism should be taught pervasively from the foundation year through the legal curriculum. Less traditional pedagogical techniques such as the use of popular culture, group work and courtroom experiences are supported to supplement traditional lectures and tutorials. The thesis examines critical reflection in higher education in order to guide and instruct foundation law students about the importance of critical reflection as a legal skill. A multidisciplinary literary review of reflective journaling is provided, demonstrating that the use of journaling is becoming increasingly popular as an effective pedagogical technique, well suited to legal education. The review also shows that other pedagogical techniques can be supplemented with reflective journaling. The positive impact of using interventionist strategies such as guidance, feedback and instruction in the improvement in the structure and depth of critical reflection are revealed. The thesis suggests there is not a dominant reflective model used in the foundation year of legal education. This research, informed by the academic literature therefore develops a cyclical prompt-based model of critical reflection. The research involves an analysis of foundation students' reflective journal texts, from 2009 and 2011 at the University of Tasmania, using constructivist grounded theory and discourse analysis. The analysis reveals what engages and challenges foundation law students, how they like to improve their legal knowledge and skills, the influence of court experiences and popular culture and students' views of ethics and professionalism. The research informed by the academic literature makes a contribution to the development of legal pedagogy in the areas of ethics, professionalism and critical reflection.


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