3 SeeforexampleJenniferWashburn,University,Inc.:TheCorporateCorruption of Higher Education (Basic Books, 2006); Sheila Slaughter & Gary Rhoades, Academic Capitalism and the New Economy: Markets, State, and Higher Education (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009); Derek Bok, Universities in the Marketplace: The Commercialization of Higher Education (Princeton UniversityPress,2004);andMichaelBailey&DesFreedman(eds),The Assault on Universities:AManifesto for Resistance (Pluto Press, 2011).
5 MargaretThornton, ‘The Law School, the Market and the New Knowledge
Economy’(2008) 17 Legal Education Review 1, 17.
tothedetrimentofunderstandingandquestioningtheprincipleson which legal principles rest.
Thornton attributes this phenomenon, predominately, to three pedagogical practices associated with the dramatic expansion in student numbers in law schools and in the perception of tertiary educationasacommodity.6Thefirstpracticeistheuseoflarge-group teaching, moving away from flexible, small-group learning; the second is the increase in flexible delivery, including online courses andintensive teaching; andthethirdisamoveawayfromresearch assignments and participation-based assessment towards the almost exclusive use of examination-style assessment, which is naturally suitedtoassessmentofdoctrinalknowledgeandapplication.Assuch, studentsareachievingsurfacelevellearningoutcomes,7 associated with knowledge, comprehension and application, without moving intoanalysis,evaluationandcriticalthinking.8 Thismethodis analogoustowhatPauloFreiretermed‘bankingeducation’wherea teacher‘issuescommuniquésandmakesdepositswhichthestudents patiently receive, memorize, and repeat.’9
Whilewedidnotfeelthateveryaspectof Thornton’scritique was applicable to our school (Thornton herself recognises the great divergences that exist across institutions), we were motivated to strengthen critical thinking across our curriculum. Colleagues werealsointerestedincreatingasupportivelearningcommunity tostrengthenourownpedagogicalexpertise.Tofacilitatethiswe supplementedourexistingreadingwithtextsfromleadingeducators oncriticalthinkingsuchasStephenBrookfield.10 Wealsoreceived Faculty funding to visit the law schools at the University of New SouthWalesandthe AustralianNationalUniversity,bothofwhich hadrecentlyundertakensignificantcurriculumreform.Wespenttime speaking to staff and students about how critical thinking had been incorporating into the curriculum design. Our motivation was to get beyondcritiqueandexplorewhatpositiveinitiativeswecouldcreate as a community of educators committed to student development.
Students Question TheirAssumptions (Jossey-Bass, 2011). recent university reforms. Rather, if we work collaboratively with colleagues, we can play a role in shaping our curriculum and the kinds of interactions we have with students.
Withthisinmind,PartIoutlinesourdefinitionofcriticalthinking in the legal context, developing a definition that incorporates both internal and external critique. Part II provides a brief account of the historyoflegaleducationin Australia,tracingtheextenttowhich regulatoryandinstitutionalpressureshavesupportedordiscouraged theteachingofcriticalthoughtinlegaleducation. Whilethese pressureshavepredominantlyrequiredlegaleducatorstofocusupon the teaching ofdoctrine and professional skills, wefind that there remainsaconsistentconcernthatlawstudentsdevelopacapacity for independent thought and that law school goes beyond the mere transmissionofknowledge.InPartIIIwereflectonthecoreelements oflegal education, noting a common focus in the literature on independent thinking, intellectual breadth and social responsibility ascoretoalegaleducation. Todeveloptheseattributes,weargue that law students need to be exposed to theory as well as doctrine, and to internal and external critiques of the law. Finally, in Part IV weoutlinethejourneywehavebegunattheAdelaideLawSchool to implement critical pedagogy in our courses. Ouranalysis will focusonelectiveandcompulsorycourses.Wehopethatthemethods we describe will inspire other educators to experiment using the flexibility we have as legal educators inAustralia. I CRITICALTHINKING Inthecourseofexploringtheteachingof‘criticalthinking’ in legal education, we have found that there is no consistent definition oftheconcept. Atitsmostbasic,criticalthinkingis‘theartof analysingandevaluatingthinkingwiththeviewtoimprovingit.’11
Thisprocessrequiresthe‘thinker’ tofirstrecognisethattheyhold assumptionsthatinfluencethewaytheythinkandengagewith theworld. AccordingtoBrookfield,theseassumptionsareoftwo kinds:theassumptionsheldbyscholarsregardingthewaylegitimate knowledgeiscreatedandtheassumptionsandperhapsbiasesthatthe thinkerindividuallyholds.Onceidentifiedandbroughttothesurface these assumptions are evaluated against a range of different criteria such as practicality, ethics, bias and logic. If the assumption cannot withstandscrutinyitshouldberejectedand‘thinkers’encouragedto re-evaluatetheirpositions.Inthissense,criticalthinkingcanalsobe described as ‘the habit of making sure our assumptions are accurate and that our actions have the results we want them to have.’12