An innovative approach to the teaching of ethics in modern law practice has earned UNSW Law lecturer Dr Justine Rogers a place among the finalists for Academic of the Year in this year’s Australian Law Awards.
Dr Rogers has been recognised for her work redesigning the compulsory applied ethics course Lawyers, Ethics & Justice, which was launched in 2014.
The course boasts integrated learning activities and the innovative use of technology.
“The starting point was law graduates entering increasingly pressurised, complex workplaces where they work in teams and need to engage in ethical action from day one,” Dr Rogers says. “As distinct from simply learning the professional rules or criticising lawyers’ conduct, which are important, students need to develop the capacity to identify and analyse moral issues, and to implement ethical decisions and strategies.”
Dr Rogers set about designing course content and delivery to support group-based, ethical deliberation, or ethics that involves conversation and interaction. “I see this as pivotal to an effective and satisfying professional life in the law,” she says.
Technology played an integral part in the course redesign, providing authentic, scenario-based content and activities for students to actively learn.
In 2015, Dr Rogers was awarded a UNSW Law Learning and Teaching grant to produce nine videos, which were used for the first time last semester. One video depicts a lawyer-client interaction and helps develop students’ understanding of the relationships between professional competence, emotional and cultural intelligence, and ethical, client skills, Dr Rogers says. The other eight depict lawyers facing ethical dilemmas, based on scenarios sent to Dr Rogers by practitioners. Some of this sequence draws on Mary Gentile’s “Giving Voice to Values” program.
Dr Rogers says blended learning is an essential element of the course because the objective is to get students engaged, learning actively and discussing the ideas in class. “The online component, centred on Moodle, ‘blends’ with the in-class work,” she says. “The goal is to do the learning and concepts online so that time in class it is mostly for group deliberation, role play and reflecting on their learning.”
Dean of Law Professor George Williams says Dr Rogers is a leader in pioneering new teaching techniques not only at UNSW but nationally and internationally. “She has radically changed the classroom experience, putting student needs at the forefront of her teaching,” he says.
Winners of the Australian Law Awards, which are run by Lawyers Weekly, will be revealed at a gala dinner on 2 September at Sydney’s Four Points by Sheraton.