Embedding Critical Reflection in Legal Education
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The literature of higher education widely notes the importance of reflection and reflective practice as a critical aspect of professional practice. This enables learners to act and think professionally by combining theory and practice. As such, many teaching and learning strategies and activities to enhance reflection have been incorporated into professional degrees. Notwithstanding the support for reflective practice, critical reflection remains a contested concept with a lack of consensus as to its definition and best practice. The frameworks chosen by higher institutions may be influenced by course context, ideology and expectations around the course/unit learning outcomes. This paper commences with a discussion of reflection and critical reflection. By examining different notions of reflection, the paper will discuss why the concept of critical reflection is important for practitioners in the 21st Century. It is advanced that critical reflection can encourage learners to better understand professional practice by linking discipline knowledge and theories to professional practice and wider insights. Whilst reflective practice is a desirable capability for law graduates, legal education in Australia largely fails to incorporate and assess critical reflective skills, as it is directed at producing a technically skilled and ideologically compliant legal workforce. The authors advance that adherence to a solely doctrinal approach to legal education is no longer justified in the 21st Century, which is characterised by profound change and uncertainty that impacts on the legal profession and society at large. Law schools have a positive role to play in the education of their students through instilling doctrinal knowledge, professional practice skills and critical thinking skills, which foster an understanding and analysis from multiple perspectives, to ensure that law graduates are able to holistically understand the reasons for changes within their profession and effectively adapt to change through informed choices. The final part of the paper outlines how critical reflection can be implemented in legal education.
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