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‘Re-Imagining the Law’ Graduate Attributes. Presentation to ALTA Conference Legal Education session Cairns July 7 2008.

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‘Re-Imagining the Law’ Graduate Attributes

Presentation to ALTA Conference

Legal Education session

Cairns July 7 2008

Support for this activity has been provided by The Australian Learning and Teaching Council, an initiative of the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. The views expressed in this activity do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian Learning and Teaching Council.

Background Information

“Learning and Teaching in the Discipline of Law: Achieving and Sustaining Excellence in a Changed and Changing Environment”

Council of Australian Law Deans: Discipline Based Initiative in Law

Professor Gary Davis, Flinders University Law School (Dean of Law 2001-2007)

  • Project Director

  • 08 8201 3883

    Dr Susanne Owen, Flinders University Law School

  • Senior Research Fellow

  • Mob: 0412532107

Australian Learning & Teaching Council Grant focus

Diversity in Australian Law programs

  • proliferation of law schools & students

  • professional training vs intellectual discipline

  • “selling” of Law as preparation for non-law careers

    8 Goal areas for grant focus

Australian Learning and Teaching Grant goals for Law

  • Learning Outcomes and Curriculum Developments in Law (2003)report

  • Mapping diversity of student profiles/legal education programs

  • Identifying infrastructure for stakeholder consultation and engagement

  • Law graduate attributes framework

  • Standards for Australian law schools

  • Values of professionalism, ethics and service

  • Baseline data on mental well-being of law students

  • Processes for re-designing the law curriculum and future legal education delivery

Background Context

Diversity of Australian law programs and students

  • Law enrolments: Over 17000 students in 2006

  • 79% internal, others external, multimode

  • 80% full-time (internal/external/ multimode)

  • 66% under 25 years

  • Males: 39% (among over 25s, males 44%)

  • 95% Australian born (incl.1.6% indigenous)

  • 92% graduates in full time employment (Of these, 72% private, 20% govt)

  • Median salary $44000 (NSW $50000)

    CALD website shows range of law programs in Australia, costs, student support. Currently 32 law programs

Methodology for Consultation

  • Regional meetings: Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney, Perth, Melbourne + video/telephone conference link

  • 30 law schools represented by one or more senior representatives

Graduate Attributes

‘..the qualities, skills and understandings a university community expects its students to develop during their time at the institution and consequently, shape the contribution they are able to make to their profession and as a citizen’ (ATN, 2000)

  • Reflects increased focus on integration of university knowledge and practice within authentic contexts

Background to Graduate Attributes

3 major factors in establishment:

  • lifelong learning focus & need for highly skilled & flexible professionals

  • education/employment focus & professionals linked to organisational goals

  • emphasis on outcomes-based education (knowledge, skills, attributes)

    West Review of universities (1998) highlighted broader generic skills: reflective thinking; technical/theory competence; intellectual curiosity; effective communication; research; problem solving & team work; ethical standards

  • Other university-specific graduate attributes include : social justice, global perspective, valuing cultural/intellectual diversity

‘….More than ever before universities are being relied upon as a vehicle for advancement of both the national economy and wider society. They do this through the creation of new knowledge and by preparing graduates with appropriate skills and attributes. It makes sense then for them to maintain a focus on keeping graduate capabilities in line with the needs of the economy and society’ (Employability Skills for the Future report DEST, 2002: 25)

Employability skills are subset of Graduate Attributes

Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry/Business Council of Australia identified 8 employability skills

Employers v. university perspective: employability skills & applying knowledge in work setting v. deep knowledge & ensuring students as work ready

Employability Skills, GraduateAttributes & Curriculum Renewal

Law Curriculum Renewal

ALRC (1999: para 2.21) Managing Justice Report: highlighted need for curriculum beyond content focus towards skills and values:

… ‘what lawyers need to be able to do [rather than] anchored around outmoded notions of what lawyers need to know’

University Graduate Attributes

Knowledge: Body of knowledge & skills

e.g ‘Operate effectively with and upon a body of knowledge’

Social & intellectual: Oral & written communication, team work/initiative/independence/creativity, critical thinking/problem-solving

e.g. ‘Communicates effectively’

‘Can work both autonomously & collaboratively’

‘Are effective problem solvers’

Attitudes & Values: Ethics, professionalism, lifelong l’ng

e.g. ‘Are committed to ethical action & social responsibility’

‘Lifelong learning’

Other University-specific Graduate Attributes


  • Technical & Research

    Social & Intellectual:

  • Scholarship

  • Professional Practice

    Attitudes & Values:

  • Diversity & social justice

  • Indigenous

  • Internationalism & global citizenship

  • Futures-oriented and change

Genesis of Graduate Attributes in Law Schools

  • Compliance with University processes through refinement and alignment with university level Graduate Attributes

  • Some pioneering development ahead of and influencing university processes

  • One university encouraging disciplines to generate statement of graduate distinctiveness

  • Primarily “top-down”; “bottom-up” used

Leadership of Development& Sustainability


  • PROCESS; person/committee with responsibility & authority to drive – strong, ongoing & consistent

    • Resourced & supported

  • INSTITUTIONAL; high level backing

    • Cooperation, enthusiasm; recognition

    • Manage resistance; ‘spoiler’ role

  • Adaptive leadership (Heifetz, Leadership Without Easy Answers, 1994)

Consensus building

  • Collective responsibility→ corporate view

  • Compliance vs flexibility objectives

    • Refine & adapt content

    • Unpack →learning outcomes: knowledge, skills, attitudes

    • Retreats, sub-groups (e.g. first-year)

    • Negotiate and compromise

  • Use of ‘champions’


  • Access to sources of funds external to law school

    • Signals support, visible commitment →sustainability

  • Used for consultants: process; re-design; teaching methodologies; assessment development; produce instructional material

  • Using non-$ resources e.g. sources of expertise

  • Strong message of sharing: publications, conferences; workshops, ‘mini-festival’

Approaches to Designing Law Graduate Attributes

Link law to university Graduate Attributes

  • e.g. University: ‘Operate effectively with and upon a body of knowledge’

  • Law : ‘Gain a deep understanding of the origins, essential principles and limitations of the common law system of justice including a detailed knowledge of the content of particular legal concepts’

Law Graduate Attributes example: Professionalism

Professionalism: ‘an attitude or stance towards work and activity’ (university broad area)

Associated Law Graduate Attributes:

  • ‘The graduate at… will be a consummate legal professional

  • Skills in lateral thinking and problem-solving which enable the provision of appropriate advice and solutions, not only in litigation but over a range of Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanisms

  • Uphold the highest ethical standards in discharging his or her responsibilities to clients, other professionals, the courts and the public

  • Pursue lifelong learning in a dynamic discipline’

Law Graduate Attributes example: Community Responsiveness

Community Responsiveness: ‘an attitude or stance towards society’ (university broad area):

Associated Law Graduate Attribute

  • ‘Provide high quality service to employers, government, and individual clients

  • Acts as an advocate for the rule of law

  • Accept responsibility to play a constructive role in the maintenance and reform of the legal system

  • Understand, evaluate and critically reflect upon the interaction of law and society’

Law Graduate Attribute example: Scholarship

Scholarship: ‘an attitude or stance towards knowledge and learning’ (university broad area)

Associated Law Graduate Attribute:

  • ‘Capacity to engage in legal research

  • High level ability in analysis, including legal analysis & synthesis

  • Superior verbal and written communication skills

  • Critical thinking and reflective engagement with legal material

  • Pursue lifelong learning in a dynamic discipline’

Components of Law Graduate Attributes Documentation

  • Identification and documentation of law Graduate Attributes

  • Mapping of law Graduate Attributes against topics or development of vertical subjects

  • Identification of specific aspects/skills related to law Graduate Attributes

  • Possible identification of levels of achievement

  • Assessment tasks aligned to graduate attributes

Law curriculum reinvigorated using coherent & systematic approach:

developing law-specific graduate attributes and clear outcomes

general overview mapping within individual topics/areas

providing scaffolded learning opportunities for students

transparency of assessment tasks and criteria related to outcomes

Law Graduate Attributes Curriculum Mapping

Clear goals re

legal knowledge, lawyering skills, professional values & consideration of student needs & backgrounds

Evaluate law program effectiveness using data & re-plan

Scaffold learning opportunities

Strategies to moderate results & ensure validity of assessment

Clear criteria for judging performance

Assessment of knowledge, practical skills, attitudes

Explicit feedback

for law students

Various Processes for Curriculum mapping with Law Graduate Attributes

1. Graduate Attributes mapped against law topics

  • e.g. Ten Graduate Attributes mapped against 18

    compulsory law subjects: UTS (see slide following)

    2. Eight Graduate Attributes, generally vertically integrated across various topics in each year of law degree (Griffith)

  • Legal theory & inter-disciplinarity

  • Group Work

  • Legal Ethics

  • Generic & Legal skills

  • Internationalisation

  • Indigenous Issues

  • Legal knowledge

  • Diversity

UTS Mapping

Graduate Attribute levels

Single level or three levels (generic or specific

to particular GA)

  • Single level: acknowledges flexible pathways especially for part-time/double degree students undertaking law studies

  • 3 levels: introduce, develop, graduate or

    foundation, developing, advancing

Example of generic levels for all law Graduate Attributes

Introduce: students instructed on theoretical framework & application of capability within legal context, given opportunity to practise capability with feedback and then assessment to determine understanding of relevance of capability in legal context and attainment of the capability

Develop: students provided with additional guidance of advanced level of capability in environment linked to real world legal scenario and feedback provided. Students reflect to support improvement and summative assessment then occurs and students have opportunity to practice capability in real world context and feedback provided on attainment of capability

Graduate: students able to demonstrate graduate capability with instruction limited to improvement of capability to an advanced level. Students required to draw on previous experience and feedback throughout course. Assessment occurs to determine student’s demonstrated attainment of capability

Levels of Graduate Attribute example applied to ‘Being a critical thinker’:

At UTS law, we develop this attribute in three stages to give you an appropriate level of independent

thinking, creativity and critical analysis

Basic: comprehend meanings; aware of relationship of source of information/writer motives/timing; use basic skills of compare/contrast

Intermediate: basic plus ranking sources; deeper comparison; comprehend implicit/explicit meaning; track theories & identify assumptions; critical perspective

Advanced: intermediate plus challenge assumptions underlying theory/practice; develop new perspective & critically analyse

Levels of GA example 2: Legal knowledge

Foundation: Procedural

Knowing how and why courts function

Knowing court hierarchies

Knowing court processes and why steps exist

Knowing the historical development of law and its methods

Knowing how legal systems differ

Knowing basic research techniques

Knowing basic writing techniques

Developing: Declarative:

Knowing legal doctrine in core categories of law

Developing a map of legal terrain

Building structured legal knowledge

Advanced: Functioning

Knowing theories of law and justice

Knowing dispute resolution techniques

Knowing advocacy techniques

Some law schools have identified skills linked to particular Graduate Attributes

e.g. GA: ‘Excellent intellectual skills of analysis, synthesis, critical judgement, reflection and evaluation’


Collect and sort facts

Identify and analyse legal issues

Interpret legal texts

Apply the law to real legal problems

Invoke theory and inter-disciplinary knowledge to develop new and creative solutions to legalproblems

Critique law and policy to develop new ideas about the law and law reform

Participate effectively in debates about the law

Skills/specific aspects within Law Graduate Attributes

Development of Assessment Framework

QUT: evidence-based work on assessment of law GA

  • Review & development: gathering information on valid & reliable assessment of social/relational/cultural/generic capabilities

  • Trial implementation & improvements developed collaboratively in four graduate capabilities

  • Evaluate and refine models in context

    Key aspects:

  • Focus on alignment & targeted capability

  • Feedback practice facilitating student capacity & reflective practice

  • Assessment methods being valid and reliable

  • Provision of PD to support T&L improvements

  • Use range of evaluation: student/staff survey, focus groups, reflective records, teamwork evaluation, expert review

Principles in Designing Assessment Tasks

  • AUTC report: figure 10.3 : Level of agreement with LLB-specific items overall results

QUT assessment constructed on sound theoretical basis

including authentic assessment of all graduate capabilities e.g. social/relational/cultural/generic (esp. oral, teamwork, indigenous, ethics), with criteria rating of poor/fair/good for individual assessment items (15) and for the overall assessment strategy (4)

  • Develop overall assessment strategy to allow students to demonstrate learning in different ways, encourage range of learning, create systematic & comprehensive assessment package

  • Individual assessment items: authentic, valid, reliable, fair, unambiguous & supportive of student learning, & being constructive and leading to deep learning, also providing timely feedback to students

  • Assessment helping teachers teach by providing timely formative feedback to teachers, management student assessment workload for staff and students, ethical assessment, provision of EO

Assessment Checklist (QUT)

Criteria (for individual assessment items): Poor (1)Fair (2)Good (3)Unknown (0)

  • 1 Is the assessment valid?

  • 2 Is the assessment reliable?

  • 3 Is the assessment fair?

  • 4 Is the assessment unambiguous in its intention?

  • 5 Is the assessment authentic?

  • 6-10 Does the assessment help students to learn by:

  • Being constructive

  • Relating well to different learning styles

  • Relating well to different cognitive styles

  • Obliging deep learning strategies

  • Providing timely formative feedback to students

  • Does the assessment help teachers to teach by:

  • 11 Providing timely formative feedback to teachers

  • 12 Is the assessment workload manageable by students?

  • 13 Is the assessment workload manageable by staff?

  • 14 Does the assessment provide equal opportunity?

  • 15 Is the assessment ethical?

  • Total Score (maximum = 45)

  • 16-18 Criteria for whole assessment strategy:

  • allow students to demonstrate their learning in different ways

  • encourage students to learn in different ways

  • cohere together to make a systematic and complete assessment

  • 19 Is the whole assessment strategy up and down-scalable?

  • Total Score (maximum = 57)

  • or further information see D Nulty & S Kift, "Assuring the Quality of Assessment: A Case Study", ATN Evaluations and Assessment Conference 2003, University of South Australia, 24-25/11/03. Retrieved June 24, 2008 from

  • QUT Aspects of Assessment related to Teamwork

    • Types of assessment – formative or summative; peer/self/teacher assessed; external assessment; individual or group marks; objectivity and subjectivity of assessment criteria;

    • Assessment locations – in and outside classroom, virtually;

    • Nature of teams – optional or compulsory; virtual; self selected; tutor allocated; or random;

    • Learning about teamwork - lectures; tutorials; web resources; proximal learning.

    Assessment Task Example linked to Graduate Attributes: Teamwork

    • 1. Teamwork in the classroom task within practical skills unit ‘Drafting’. End of each teamwork session, students assess selves in relation to team using Teamwork Evaluation sheet and indicators (e.g equality of contribution, ability to listen to others; discussion without domination; ability to question within team, respect for other points of view; focus on task; ability to reach consensus; appropriate allocation of roles). This contributes to academic staff member assessment

    • 2. Teamwork outside classroom task developed in 3 Law units (class size 200-750, incl. some external students). In Law, Society & Justice, Oral presentation in team & students completing formatively assessed Teamwork Reflection sheet. In Corporate law, group assignment used. Teamwork portfolio documents teamwork processes & self and peer evaluation of teamwork sheet is part of summative assessment. In Advanced Research & Legal Reasoning, group research tasks incl. memorandum of advice, client letter, client newsletter. Students complete Reflective Record of Teamwork

    • 3. Teamwork in Corporate Law in virtual environment, assessment includes Teamwork Portfolio documenting teamwork processes & self and peer evaluation of teamwork. Support with group formation, opportunities for virtual teams to meet face to face; private online discussion forum provided for each external team

    Assessment Task Example linked to Graduate Attribute: Ethical Knowledge & Values

    • Cognitive aspects of ethical knowledge in Professional Responsibility

    • Established criteria: comprehension of resources, description of main points, identification of issues, cohesion and cogency of argument, overall construction, conclusions & professional judgment

    • Ethical values or Attitudes difficult to assess. Use tutorials: demonstrates an ethical approach during tutorial participation: support for other students in their participation, enthusiasm and commitment to beliefs, respect for opinions of others, attentiveness when others speaking.

    • 1st yr students Law Society & Justice, encourages ethical stance early in course. Ethical Orientation Inventory devised & beginning and end of course evaluations undertaken to see if changes in ethical perspective

    Ethics Graduate Attribute: Law Assessment Task

    Construct a hypothetical scenario that presents a professional dilemma requiring students to work through the problem:

    • Central issue?

    • Nature of the problem, 'ethical', 'moral' or something else?

    • Values, norms or standards to consider?

    • Competing considerations and their weight or priority?

    • Nature of decision-making process in reaching a decision?

    • Effective methods for assessing Ethical Skills

      Students are given a number of options with regards to completing the assignment: written/oral and individual work/group of 3.

      Criteria for assessment:

    • Demonstrating a comprehensive understanding of nature and extent of lawyer's dilemma;

    • Providing thorough analysis of the available choices and effects of those choices;

    • Providing a clear indication of nature and source of values, norms or standards applying in resolution of the dilemma;

    • Providing a clear justification for the conclusion that the students' reach; and

    • Overall coherence, structure and succinctness, effective language use and expression.


    • “Academic freedom” challenge

    • Centralised control essential & overriding

    • Mandatory compliance model: “technical leadership” (Heifetz)

    • Emphasis on holistic nature of outcomes-driven curriculum, teaching, assessment

    • “Adaptive leadership” → new pathway & cultural change; “disloyalty” to past

    • Need to avoid “resistance traps

    Dealing with resistance & avoiding dilution

    Listening to expressions of reservation → better informed

    “Going to the balcony” – dance floor metaphor → objectivity & perspective

    Ultimate objective of adaptive leadership – throw work back upon the collective

    The “buy in” problemThe “buy in” Problem

    Authority, supervision, management

    Emphasis upon corporate view

    Mechanisms that increase collective responsibility

    Develop shared understandings

    Present as evolutionary development

    Build upon “good things”

    Buy-in Suggestions from Consultation Rounds

    Utilise “bottom-up” mechanisms

    Neutral workload effects

    Give reasons to engage

    Ongoing discussion, consultation, engagement

    Attention to sessional teaching staff

    Buy-in Suggestions (cont)


    First-year acculturation

    Assessment reflecting learning outcomes

    Criterion-referenced assessment

    Employment relevance

    Working with peers and peer work examples

    Early evaluation

    Buy-in and Students

    Framework Discussion Questions

    • Does this framework provide support in developing

      Law Graduate Attributes?

    • How useful is it to include examples of assessment tasks or levels of graduate attributes and other details as part of the framework?

    • Are the processes outlined in the framework in regard to leadership, consensus building, resources etc. useful?

    • What other inclusions in the framework would be helpful for your university in progressing a curriculum for T& L within the Graduate attributes context?

    • What format should the final product be to be useful?

    • How do we make Graduate Attributes project accessible to relevant people?

    Graduate Attributes Process Discussion Group Focus

    Share ideas about your journey and developmental processes for curriculum renewal focused

    around Graduate Attributes

    Assessment Discussion Group Questions

    What are the issues regarding assessment and Graduate Attributes for your university and what successful strategies have you used?

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