For supervisors and professional development coordinators

Specialist sessional teachers need specialist professional development

The Smart Casual project provides free, specialist professional development for sessional teachers in law.

Sessional teachers form a crucial and growing part of the workforce of law schools both in Australia and internationally. However, this large body of teaching staff has much less dependable access to professional development than permanently employed, full-time staff, even if they have little teaching experience or training. Frequently, sessional teachers bring their expertise and contacts as practitioners and/or researchers to the role. However, these additional commitments can make it difficult to attend on-campus professional development. In addition, law teachers need skills that the generic teaching support offered in many universities does not address. A national project has created resources that are designed to meet these needs.

Smart Casual has created time-efficient, research-informed online professional development for Australian sessional teachers in law. The Smart Casual online professional development modules are designed by law teachers, for law teachers. Each module has been peer reviewed, trialled by sessional law teachers and modified to respond to their feedback. The modules are free and readily accessible on this website.

Smart Casual has been enthusiastically received by Law Deans and academics in Australia and internationally. It has been endorsed by the Committee of Australian Law Deans (CALD). The modules are hosted by the Legal Education Associate Deans network (LEAD). Support for Smart Casual has been provided by the Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT).

How you can use the modules

You can use these modules in a range of ways to benefit your school

The Smart Casual modules may support your school’s capacity to meet the Higher Educations Standards Framework requirements; in particular 3.2.3.b, which requires schools to ensure that all teaching staff possess  ‘skills in contemporary teaching, learning and assessment principles relevant to the discipline, their role, modes of delivery and the needs of particular student cohorts’.

They may assist you in ensuring that your school or unit meets best practice guidelines for supporting sessional staff such as those created by the BLASST (Benchmarking Leadership and Advancement of Standards for Sessional Teaching) Project. In addition to sessional teachers, the modules may be of benefit to tutors supporting Indigenous law students, and some modules (Engagement, in particular) may be of benefit to PASS peer tutors.

The modules can be used as stand-alone professional development resources or can form the basis of a program that integrates:

  • mentoring for sessional teachers
  • peer support for sessional staff (such as regular gatherings and an online interactive forum)
  • peer review of teaching for professional development
  • compliance with best practice guidelines to pay staff for their professional development time
  • accreditation and preferential hiring for sessional staff who have completed a program of professional development, critical reflection and mentoring.

Resources

A sample email that you can adapt to send to the person who is responsible for professional development for teaching staff in your school/unit can be downloaded here (PDF file).

A sample email that can be sent to new sessional teachers can be downloaded here (PDF file).

An A4 flyer that you can post on noticeboards can be downloaded here (PDF file).

We’d be happy to talk to you. You can reach our team by contacting Associate Professor Mary Heath at mary.heath@flinders.edu.au

The Smart Casual team will be running interactive workshops between September 2016 and July 2017 to allow staff responsible for ensuring the ongoing professional development of sessional teaching colleagues to plan ways to use the Smart Casual resources to achieve the goals of their schools/units in their specific contexts. We are happy to be invited to act as consultants if we can help support the work of sessional staff in law schools. We would welcome your support and participation. To find out about upcoming workshops, please contact Mary Heath.

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