Meaningful student engagement? Student perceptions of voluntary external activities within their legal education.


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Slides for the presentation by Max Lowenstein (Bournemouth University) at the Learning in Law Annual Conference 2011.

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Meaningful student engagement? Student perceptions of voluntary external activities within their legal education.

  1. 1. “ Meaningful student engagement?: Student perceptions towards voluntary external activities within their legal education.” Max D.P. Lowenstein (Lecturer in Law)
  2. 2. Aims of the research: <ul><li>1.) Literature review on effectively engaging law students and encouraging critical thinking (Nurse, 2010) – focus groups show support for practical teaching and interactive learning environments – application of law in the real world? (Street law, moots and law clinic) </li></ul><ul><li>2.) To qualitatively analyze the perceptions of 15 sentencing law students towards three voluntary engagement activities (Court visit away day, Prison visit away day, Police Seminar visitor from local Domestic Violence unit) in 2009 and 2010. </li></ul><ul><li>3.) To suggest some new research directions which may be followed to enhance voluntary external activities and thereby improve student engagement. This is based on what has been ‘hinted at’ in the indicative data gathered. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Research Methodology: <ul><li>1) Literature Review – student engagement with external activities/workshops </li></ul><ul><li>2) Gathering of student feedback (written/oral) to three voluntary external engagement activities, i.e.) </li></ul><ul><li> A) HMCS Southampton Magistrates Court visit away day </li></ul><ul><li>B) HMPS Winchester Prison (Cat B, C, D,) visit away day </li></ul><ul><li>C) Hampshire Constabulary Domestic Violence Workshop </li></ul><ul><li>3) Sample selection: Cohort of 15 * (19 total) undergraduate </li></ul><ul><li>(year 2) LLB/Criminology Pathway students in 2009 – 2010 on a sentencing law optional unit. </li></ul><ul><li>4) Feedback seminars where written/oral feedback was discussed and gathered. (Change in perceptions before/after focus. More widely, note when comparing perceptions – similarities/differences positives/negatives) </li></ul><ul><li>5) Inclusive feedback loop developed through email contact with external bodies. Student permission sought first with anonymity protected* </li></ul>
  4. 4. Research Methodology: <ul><li>6) The raw data was qualitatively analyzed in three stages: </li></ul><ul><li>(Kvale 1996) </li></ul><ul><li>A) Firstly, common/repeated meanings were identified and </li></ul><ul><li>condensed to reduce the ad verbatim data volume. </li></ul><ul><li>B) Secondly, student perceptions were analysed by ad hoc similar </li></ul><ul><li>meaning generation approach. </li></ul><ul><li>C) Thirdly, the researcher then added his own subjective critical </li></ul><ul><li>analysis. </li></ul><ul><li>7) Suggestion (indicative data) of some new research directions </li></ul><ul><li>which may be followed to enhance voluntary external activities </li></ul><ul><li>and thereby improve student engagement. </li></ul>
  5. 5. A) HMCS Magistrates Court Visit Away Day <ul><li>Common perceptions (before): </li></ul><ul><li>Importance of Magistrates Court? </li></ul><ul><li>11 of 15 perceive Magistrates Court to be less important than Crown Court due to low seriousness crimes </li></ul><ul><li>Expectations of Court room behaviour? </li></ul><ul><li>9 of 15 had never been into any Court before and expected respectful Court room behaviour shown to judiciary. </li></ul><ul><li>Attitude of Magistracy? </li></ul><ul><li>8 of 15 perceive Magistracy to be distant, aloof and uncaring. </li></ul><ul><li>Offender empathy level for victims? </li></ul><ul><li>12 of 15 believe most offenders don’t have empathy for others (their victims). </li></ul>
  6. 6. A) HMCS Magistrates Court Visit Away Day <ul><li>Common perceptions (before): </li></ul><ul><li>Magistrates Court case volume, complexity? </li></ul><ul><li>All 15 believe high volume of cases, but little complexity in case facts, sentencing in Magistrates Court likely to be easy. </li></ul><ul><li>Lawyer interactions? </li></ul><ul><li>9 of 15 perceive the atmosphere is likely to be tense between lawyers in and out of Court. </li></ul><ul><li>Career options in HMCS, CPS or Solicitor Firms </li></ul><ul><li>10 of 15 not clear on how to make career connections in HMCS, CPS or Solicitors Firms. </li></ul>
  7. 7. A) HMCS Magistrates Court Visit Away Day <ul><li>Common perceptions (after) all 15: </li></ul><ul><li>Realisation that high volume low seriousness crimes dealt with by Magistrates Court very important, i.e.) escalation to more serious crimes. </li></ul><ul><li>All 15 would like to return to see more cases especially in Crown Court. (liked watching variable Court room behaviour and judicial reaction to it – anger/crying/indifference/cockyness) </li></ul><ul><li>Judges sympathetic and supportive (drug/alcohol induced crime) </li></ul><ul><li>Felt most offenders are victims and live quite chaotic/difficult lives. </li></ul><ul><li>High volume confirmed and complexity noted. (all case facts differ making sentencing a challenge) </li></ul><ul><li>Atmosphere is relaxed between lawyers in Court and outside of Court (familiarity) </li></ul><ul><li>Clear idea of the value of networking and meeting HMCS staff, CPS and Solicitors Firms face to face to gain more experience. </li></ul>
  8. 8. B) HMPS Prison Visit Away Day <ul><li>Common perceptions (before): </li></ul><ul><li>How are prisoners treated? </li></ul><ul><li>10 of 15 believe prisoners live in luxury and too much money is spent on them. </li></ul><ul><li>Do prisons reform offenders? </li></ul><ul><li>11 of 15 believe rehabilitation in prison doesn’t work, it is a short term fix. (negative media norm) </li></ul><ul><li>Prison atmosphere? </li></ul><ul><li>All 15 perceive prison to be a scary and intimidating place. </li></ul><ul><li>Do prisoners care about others? </li></ul><ul><li>14 of 15 believe prisoners lack any empathy or respect for other people. </li></ul><ul><li>Career in HMPS a good option? </li></ul><ul><li>All 15 unsure of whether a career in HMPS would be worthwhile. </li></ul>
  9. 9. B) HMPS Prison Visit Away Day <ul><li>Common perceptions (after) all 15: </li></ul><ul><li>After seeing old and new wings – rooms in new wing larger, clean and offender pride in what is provided. Initial surprise that the prisoners have access to pool tables, tv in room, table tennis, but understand this is part of offender rewards system for good behaviour. </li></ul><ul><li>Good provision of drug/alcohol and educational facilities. Saw brick work session/gardening/theatre/gym as productive pursuits increasing prisoner confidence and morale. </li></ul><ul><li>Initial apprehension went away during tour of prison. Cat B atmosphere is improved by new wing. Prison grounds are a bit isolated from outside world. (security). Cat D ‘travel lodge’ feeling of freedom, relaxed prisoners upon release. Want to see Cat A. </li></ul><ul><li>Empathy for prisoners with drug/alcohol and psychological/family problems. </li></ul><ul><li>HMPS career is rewarding due to variety of prisoners and the complexity of their management and rehabilitation long term. (Human Rights and Prisoner treatment interest) </li></ul>
  10. 10. C) Hampshire Constabulary Domestic Violence Workshop <ul><li>Common perceptions (before): </li></ul><ul><li>Domestic violence impact and importance? </li></ul><ul><li>10 of 15 see domestic violence as relatively minor seriousness and uncommon. </li></ul><ul><li>Domestic violence victims? </li></ul><ul><li>Victim acquiescence to repeated violence seen by 9 of 15 as ‘their own fault’. </li></ul><ul><li>Support for domestic violence victims? </li></ul><ul><li>9 of 15 perceive the support for domestic violence victims to be relatively limited. </li></ul><ul><li>Career in Hampshire Constabulary a good option? </li></ul><ul><li>10 of 15 were unsure of whether a career in the police would be worthwhile. </li></ul>
  11. 11. C) Hampshire Constabulary Domestic Violence Workshop <ul><li>Common perceptions (after) all 15: </li></ul><ul><li>Disturbing injury pictures in slides shocked students. Statistics showed domestic violence is common and minor serious domestic violence incidents (many unreported) can escalate into homicide. </li></ul><ul><li>Anonymous victim video showed victims feel ‘trapped’ by perpetrators, low self esteem, psychological harm emphasised. </li></ul><ul><li>Police support for domestic violence is strong with dedicated investigators and helpful support provided by Charities. (Refuge/Womens Aid/Broken Rainbow UK LGBT) </li></ul><ul><li>Police career is diverse and provides a sense of satisfaction in protecting the public from harm. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Feedback process <ul><li>1) Whilst student perceptions of the external activities were not formally assessed valuable reflective learning too place. (Moon, 2001) </li></ul><ul><li>2) The self reflection process and feedback seminars boosted student confidence and knowledge. (Hodgson & Bermingham, 2004) </li></ul><ul><li>3) Challenging student misperceptions about the criminal justice system can enhance learning on a sentencing law optional unit, i.e.) practical application of sentencing aims to real life. </li></ul><ul><li>4) Students learnt valuable networking skills and felt better informed about potential career path options in the future. </li></ul><ul><li>5) Students valued reflective learning through direct observation. Feedback seminars explored shared perceptions before and after events and could be applied to learning in order to maximise future performance. UCKLE online resources (2010, June) </li></ul>
  13. 13. New research directions to improve student engagement <ul><li>1) Qualitative analysis of perceptions is indicative only, but perceptions matter. (More research needed on informed engagement through reflective learning) </li></ul><ul><li>2) Widening the sample cohort? Cross UK university comparison of perceptions towards a similar voluntary external activities (Research team reqd) </li></ul><ul><li>3) Follow up after graduation? Alumni research questions on voluntary external activities and improvements that can be made. </li></ul><ul><li>4) Comparing across jurisdictions on voluntary external activities. Can observation learning be linked to cultural exchanges? (summer schools, conferences, work placements) *See further reading </li></ul>
  14. 14. <ul><li>THANK YOU FOR LISTENING! </li></ul><ul><li>QUESTIONS AND YOUR VIEWS. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Summarised Discussion Points – <ul><li>What is meaningful engagement, variance between individual perceptions about what this actually means? </li></ul><ul><li>Voluntary engagement compared to Mandatory engagement? </li></ul><ul><li>Why do student perceptions matter? If not, why not? (Small sample and focus is only indicative.) </li></ul><ul><li>What is the best way to structure Criminal Justice modules to achieve maximum engagement? </li></ul><ul><li>Student engagement, expectations in future? (tuition fee increase) </li></ul>
  16. 16. References <ul><li>Nurse A. (University of Lincoln), Developing critical thinking: student perspectives, available online at: </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Kvale, S. (1996). InterViews - An Introduction to Qualitative Research Interviewing (First ed.). London: Sage Publications Ltd. </li></ul><ul><li>Moon, J. (2001) Reflection in Higher Education Learning, LTSN Generic Centre, PDP Working Paper 4 supports the value of reflective learning through her discussion of the Kolbis (1984) learning styles model. </li></ul><ul><li>Hodgson, J. and Bermingham, V. (2004 – Oct) Feedback on assessment: can a better student experience of feedback be achieved by working smarter rather than working harder? Funded by UKCLE, available online at: </li></ul><ul><li>UCKLE online resources (2010, June) Integrating reflective practice into the curriculum, available online at: </li></ul>
  17. 17. Further Reading <ul><li>Trowler, P. & Trowler V. (2010) Research and evidence base for student engagement, Lancaster University, Higher Education Academy Website, available online at: </li></ul>