Half of all teaching in Australian higher education is provided by sessional staff, so the quality of sessional teaching is critical to student learning, retention and progress. However, national research suggests that support and training for sessional teachers remain inadequate.
In law, this problem is compounded by the need for staff to teach discipline-specific skills and content to students destined for a socially-bounded profession. Sessional law teachers are often full-time practitioners who bring vital experience to their teaching, but who are also time-poor and weakly connected to the tertiary sector. The distinct nature of these sessional staff and the discipline-specific learning outcomes required in law demand discipline-specific sessional staff training.
Smart Casual has responded to this national need by identifying and addressing the professional development requirements of sessional staff in law. In consultation with a national expert panel and sessional teachers around the country, the Smart Casual project has designed, trialled and evaluated a suite of nine professional development modules that will be used across the diversity of Australian law schools. The modules integrate strategic themes of crucial importance to the contemporary law curriculum.
Teaching is demanding and rewarding work, and professional development is part of ensuring that we can all build on our skills, reflect on our experiences and expand our repertoire of teaching strategies. These resources have been created by law teachers, for law teachers.
The suite of Smart Casual professional development modules is freely available here and on the Smart Casual website.
The nine Modules now completed and available cover:
Working with the Smart Casual professional development modules
Australian legal education is diverse, and so are the roles of sessional teachers within it. Sessional teachers’ roles include providing tutoring and feedback, running seminars, giving lectures and subject co-ordination. They teach in large and small class environments, to undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate cohorts.
The Smart Casual resources focus on teaching and providing feedback to students, rather than curriculum design.
University policies relevant to your teaching are institution-specific. Please take the time to locate these policies and become familiar with the institutional framework in which you teach.
As you read, you will need to exercise your judgment about what is appropriate in your teaching team and your specific teaching context, using the facilities available to you (space, furniture, IT and other resources).
You may not know whether you have the autonomy to implement some of the strategies in these modules. If you are uncertain, we encourage you to clarify your role and level of autonomy with your subject coordinator.
Ideas in the modules that you don’t currently have the freedom to implement may inform your understanding of your current context and influence your work in future roles.
This project was funded by a grant from the Australian Government Office for Learning & Teaching. See below for a copy of the Final Project Report.
For further information on the Project and the Modules please visit SmartLawTeacher.org
Navigating the modules
The Smart Casual modules have been devised for online use. Icons and key phrases are hyperlinked to other parts of the module or external resources (where copyright permits) (see the image below). You can read slide-by-slide or jump to the content that interests you.