On Thursday 12 February 2015, the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law, UNSW and the Public Law and Policy Research Unit, University of Adelaide, hosted the ‘Public Law in the Classroom’ workshop. This was the first in what will become an annual event on public law teaching research and practice. Seventy-five public law teachers attended the event from over thirty law schools across Australia. The event also attracted participants from New Zealand, the UK, USA, India and Pakistan.
The workshop program was designed to maximise discussion between participants across three sessions. The first session was curriculum-focussed. Professor Graeme Orr (UQ) spoke on the challenges of ‘Content, Context and Coherence’ in teaching public law. Dr Sarah Murray (UWA) looked at teaching ‘Breadth and Depth’ in public law content. The presentations kicked off a rich discussion of how to articulate what public law is, and the themes that tie it together.
After lunch, the second session moved onto tools and techniques, and Melissa Castan (Monash) introduced us to ‘The Role of Social Media in Opening our Horizons’. The discussion turned to experiences, rewards and challenges of using twitter, blogs and other online tools with students both in and outside the classroom.
The next session was a poster session. Thirteen posters were presented on topics ranging from flipping classrooms to using role play, digital flashcards, student peer-review and feminist legal judgments in public law teaching. (Links to some of the posters can be found here). Participants spent an hour discussing the posters over a well-deserved cup of tea.
The final session at this year’s event looked at the role of tertiary public law teachers and students in engaging secondary legal studies students. We heard from Professor Melissa Hart from the University of Colorado, who has been responsible for introducing the ‘Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project’ into Colorado’s disadvantaged schools. Through the project, she supervises law students to teach constitutional law into secondary schools. The session also included presentations from Keith Thomas (Legal Studies Association, NSW) and Dr Nicola McGarrity-White (UNSW) on the opportunities from greater tertiary and secondary student/teacher engagement in Australia.
Throughout the day, participants discussed and debated public law teaching curriculum and pedagogical techniques in person and online using the #publawteach hashtag. This Twitter conversation has now been captured on Storify, one of the tools discussed in the second session.
We have been delighted to have already received positive feedback on the workshop, and are looking forward to hosting the next event in 2016. In the meantime, many of the posters from the workshop are available below as PDFs, and we hope that the conversations that started will continue, in person, and online through the #publawteach hashtag.
Associate Professor Gabrielle Appleby
Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law, UNSW Law
Associate Professor Sean Brennan
Director, Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law, UNSW Law
Associate Professor Alexander Reilly,
Director, Public Law and Policy Research Unit, University of Adelaide