DescriptionAs a part of the final phase of the Smart Casual project http://smartlawteacher.org the Smart Casual team is hosting a roundtable at Bond University on issues related to sessional staff in Queensland and Northern Territory law schools.
As you know, law schools around Australia employ very large numbers of sessional staff.
These staff have from a range of backgrounds and experience. Both they and their employing law schools have a range of expectations about their role, and often different employment situations. Students also have a range of expectations about the expertise and availability of sessional teachers. Additionally, certainly within the Brisbane and South East regions (and perhaps even northern NSW), sessional staff may have taught at more than one law school – and may be doing so concurrently. On the other hand, regional law schools in Queensland and the Northern Territory face their own challenges in finding appropriately qualified sessional staff. Fluctuating student numbers can mean a need to employ sessional staff days before teaching starts, or in the first week of teaching. Further complicating matters, the ability of law schools to hire permanent staff to avoid such issues is significantly restricted by Faculty and University hiring policies and budgets.
From a law school’s point of view this creates a systemic tension between the need to find additional experienced teaching staff at a moment’s notice – but with no guarantee of employment past the semester; and the need to hire and rely on an ongoing, and experienced core of de-facto permanent sessional staff around which a teaching program can be built.
From a regulatory point of view, TEQSA Standards now require all teaching staff to have “skills in contemporary teaching, learning and assessment principles relevant to the discipline, their role, modes of delivery and the needs of particular student cohorts.” A partial exemption exists for practitioners teaching a specialised component of the degree if they “have their teaching guided and overseen by staff who meet the standard.” (Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2015 3.2 (3(b), (d)).
This is likely to mean that most sessional staff (particularly those teaching in the compulsory, non-specialist courses) will need professional development in teaching methods.
This roundtable provides an opportunity for Queensland, Northern NSW, and Northern Territory law schools to discuss both issues related to advertising and hiring sessional staff and the induction and ongoing professional development of sessional staff.
Following a successful program involving NSW and ACT law schools, the draft programme for the Queensland/NT roundtable comprises two sessions:
10:00 – 12:00 Session 1: Professional Development of Sessional Staff
This session will focus on best practice methods to provide professional development of sessional staff. Topics:
• Roundtable discussion of university requirements for professional development and TEQSA standards
• Update on current law school approaches to professional development for law schools
• Presentation of Smart Casual modules and possible use of the modules in law schools
• Exploration of ways of demonstrating ‘accreditation’
1:00 – 3:00 Session 2: Engaging Sessional Staff
This will be an open discussion about issues currently facing law schools in finding and engaging sessional staff, and whether any problems/inefficiencies can be minimised through communication between law schools. Topics could include:
• Are the issues law schools face similar or different
• Does the profession play a role in engaging or supporting sessional law teachers
• Is there interest in developing pro forma applications
• Is there a method for sharing/recording ‘accreditation’ of sessional staff for TEQSA purposes
• Are there ethical/legal methods for recommending sessional staff to other law schools
|Period||5 May 2017|
|Degree of Recognition||Regional|