The Role of New Technology in Improving Engagement among Law Students in Higher Education

By Coles, Caroline | Journal of Information, Law and Technology, December 2009 | Go to article overview

The Role of New Technology in Improving Engagement among Law Students in Higher Education


Coles, Caroline, Journal of Information, Law and Technology


Contents

Abstract
1. Introduction
2. Developments in Educational Theory
3. The Student Community
4. Enhancing Learning through Technology
5. Leicester De Montfort Law School Research--The Student Experience
6. Conclusions and Recommendations
7. Unresolved Issues
  7.1 Collaboration
  7.2 Affective Domain
  7.3 E-pedagogy
References

1. Introduction

The issues of engagement and critical thinking of law students in higher education are well recognised by tutors. These issues may not be new ones but the features of the modern student community and the modern tools for learning and teaching provide different aspects to these challenges, and some possible solutions. I propose that the tools of the modern age, if married to educational pedagogy, can create learning and teaching methods that are more effective for the diverse community of higher education law students. This article reviews pedagogic themes, features of the modern student community and recent reports on the use of technology in education. It takes an interpretative approach in summarising research into the perceptions of the students on the use of the wiki and the recorded lecture.

2. Developments in Educational theory

Key writers have described the vital role of engagement and collaboration in higher education (Marton (1984), Biggs (2003), Ramsden (2003)).The theories explore how a student engages with the material in order to learn with the development of critical thought.

They describe the greater depth of learning and engagement achieved by a student who analyses the views of his peers, works with the material in problem solving tasks and thereby constructs his own knowledge through his evaluation of that material.

Marton's initial work (1975), pursued later in conjunction with Saljo, asserts that what is learnt depends upon the student's intentions. An approach to research termed " phenomenology" developed whereby the learning process is studied from the experience of students rather than from external or physical factors. Marton's work inspired the work of Entwistle, with Ramsden, and also the work of Biggs, to develop the theories of surface and deep learning that a student can demonstrate different degrees of learning whether via a surface approach featuring rote learning of mere facts or via a deeper approach that engages with and challenges the material. Biggs' work also discussed the role of collaboration in encouraging deeper learning. Commenting upon the work of Abercrombie (1969), Biggs emphasized how students become more aware of how to learn from collaborating with their peers than from listening to a tutor. Added to this is the debate sparked by Gardner's work on multiple intelligences (1983) positing that learners' have several intelligences, for example linguistic and spatial, that can lead individuals to perform highly in one area, such as factual memory but poorly in others, such as empathising with other people. Such intrapersonal intelligence would have significant importance in vocational legal education. Entwistle's recent work (2009) uses his own strong base in psychology to build on his key earlier works to contend that the value of collaboration comes from the involvement of the short term memory. Here information is received, meaning is interpreted and processing strategies developed, thus leading to a deeper understanding of complex ideas. Entwistle describes how the size of the short term memory is extremely limited. With traditional lectures, the student only gets one chance to store and keep under review any received information.

Developing alongside this was the theory of social constructivism (Vygotsky (1962)) coming from the substantial heritage of Piaget's constructivism (1950) describing the student's role in the creation of knowledge. Constructivism suggests that we learn by examining existing knowledge and understanding, some of which we bring with us unconsciously, and from our own work we change that knowledge as well as ourselves. …

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