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James Cook Univeristy Law Review (JCULR)
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Mackinnon, Jacquelin --- "Editor's Introduction" [2006] JCULawRw 1; (2006) 13 James Cook University Law Review 6


I am grateful to the editorial committee of the James Cook University Law Review for inviting me to be guest editor of this special issue on legal education. The articles in this issue inspire confidence in the future of legal education in a complex world. There is a growing literature on the changes and challenges confronting those of us working in higher education, including the particular changes and challenges facing legal academics. Many of the issues raised are common to both Australia and New Zealand. They include the impact on academic work of the introduction of the Research Quality Framework in Australia and the Performance-Based Research Fund in New Zealand; growth in student numbers and the increasing diversity of the student body; growth in the number of law schools; technological change; the introduction of student fees and the rise of ‘student as consumer’; as well as resourcing constraints. Increased interest in legal pedagogy in both countries is mirrored by increased institutional/student expectations of academics as teachers and a growth in qualifications in tertiary teaching. We have moved from ‘teaching the law’ to teaching law-in-context and facilitating the acquisition of cognitive, communications, and relational skills. In this complex environment it is tempting to view the changes as detrimental and the challenges as insurmountable barriers to the achievement of higher education goals. All of the authors whose articles are published in this issue have recognised the complexity of their working environment, but have taken up the challenges and accommodated change through innovation.

Peter Black has harnessed technological change to innovate in the area of content delivery. He investigates the use of the blog (or web log) in legal education and carefully evaluates the benefits and difficulties of incorporating new communications technologies into a mix of teaching and learning strategies. The data from student surveys on the information technology literacy levels of first year law students and on the use of a blog by a group of Masters students are particularly interesting. Rowena Cantley-Smith addresses innovation in assessment and argues for oral assessment as an integral part of undergraduate law study. She argues that formal teaching and assessment of oral communications skills is an important part of equipping students for a range of legal knowledge work and that such skills promote a deep approach to learning law. Again, student survey responses are an important part of the article. John Tarrant looks at the changed pattern of student engagement with the study of law and suggests there is scope for innovative responses by individual teachers to support quality learning outcomes. Lisa Westcott and Mandy Shircore discuss an innovative curriculum design project that addressed the learning needs of a diverse first year student intake. Evaluation of the project has involved both student questionnaires and staff reflective diaries.

All of the articles demonstrate a commitment to quality learning and teaching, and identify that knowing about our students is critical to making sound judgements about curriculum design, delivery and assessment. All of the authors have communicated their enthusiasm for teaching.

Thanks are due to the members of the editorial committee who worked on this issue and to the referees who volunteered their time and made constructive comments on articles submitted. All of the articles published in the James Cook University Law Review have passed through a double blind refereeing process.

Jacquelin Mackinnon

University of Waikato School of Law


New Zealand.

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