Professor Prue Vines has been teaching in the Faculty of Law for 28 years and has been Director of First Year Studies since 1996.
Professor Vines is very interested in supporting students towards independence by creating systems that allow the kind of risky behaviour that best creates learning. To that end, she (with other people all the way) have set up the Law Peer Tutor Program, trained students in the Law Mentoring Program, mentored teachers in her team to work towards the independent learner, sought to challenge students always.
Prue was awarded a very early Vice-Chancellor’s Teaching Award, and has also done quite a lot of research and writing in relation to legal education. She is extremely keen on having experts teaching students from their own expertise – so she is a great believer in the well-rounded academic who does both research and teaching. In her own case she researches in torts (in particular in the effect of apologies on propensity to sue) and in succession (especially the making of culturally appropriate wills for Indigenous people). This allows her to teach from her own ‘centre’, so to speak, including from where she is most enthusiastic. Prue was appointed to the Academy in 2017. Which bit of the past led to that she doesn't know.
Title: Attitudes of First Year Law Students to their Learning and their Effects on Wellbeing (with Professor Alex Steel)
Project Overview: Attitudes of students to their education are an important indicator of how they are likely to respond to particular methods of teaching. They can also be a strong indicator of when they feel empowered and disempowered and how the think about their social and educational connections including friends, teachers, employers and so on. In 2005-7 Tani and Vines conducted a survey of attitudes to education which established that law students were more likely to be doing their degree because other people wanted them to, were more driven by marks than other cohorts, were more likely to see their friends as possibly useful for professional reasons and more likely to see their employers as not interested in their values so much as their marks: ‘Law Students Attitudes to education: a pointer to depression in the legal academy and the profession?’ (2009) 19 (1) Legal Education Review 3-39. The attitudes students demonstrate were analysed in the light of factors which are considered to be connected to depression and anxiety – in particular a sense of autonomy, their level of social connectedness and their level of competitiveness. This project aims to re-survey law students to determine what, if anything, has changed.
Revisiting Student Attitudes to Legal Education
Professor Prue Vines and Professor Alex Steel, UNSW Law
Introduction: In 2009 Tani and Vines (Tani & Vines, 2009) reported on a 2005 survey which examined students’ attitudes to education and compared those across the University by Faculty. In 2014 Steel and Huggins (Steel & Huggins, 2016) reported on a 2012 survey examining law student’s engagement and lifestyle pressures. In 2018 Steel and Vines have re-administered the 2005 survey (and added selected questions from the 2012 survey) and are considering how students’ attitudes to education may have changed and whether it changes throughout a law degree. In a first for legal education, students have been surveyed in the first weeks of their degree allowing an insight into students’ initial beliefs and attitudes to university. A second survey of later year students will provide a counterpoint to the views of beginning students.
Theoretical Background: The knowledge that lawyers are disproportionately affected by depression and anxiety compared with the rest of the community continues to confound legal educators who have difficulty determining what to do about it. This study seeks to determine the extent to which students’ attitudes may affect depression and anxiety by considering their attitudes in terms of whether they demonstrate autonomy and internal motivation or external motivation and lack of social connection. These factors are derived from the extensive psychological literature on factors contributing to depression.
Aims: The aim is to develop an understanding of law students’ attitudes to their legal education as a way of assisting our understanding of how students are likely to respond to particular methods of teaching and whether particular methods of teaching might aggravate or alleviate any tendency to depression or anxiety, and whether student behaviour outside of the classroom may be a factor. The survey will also provide insights into the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators of student behaviour, and the external life factors that affect that motivation.
Progress / Outcomes / Next steps: We have presented the initial results of our survey of first year students at a symposium on wellbeing of lawyers in a changing world. We are still collecting data from later year students and will analyse this data and then present it at a range of education forums and back to the students. The results will then be worked up into a number of peer-reviewed publications. Outcomes will be presented to the Law Faculty and UNSW to assist with enhancing student learning.
Steel, A., & Huggins, A. (2016). Law Student Lifestyle Pressures. In J. Duffy, R. Field, & C. James (Eds.), Promoting Law Student and Lawyer Well-Being in Australia and Beyond. Ashgate.
Tani, M., & Vines, P. (2009). Law Students’ Attitudes to Education: Pointers to Depression in the Legal Academy and the Profession. Legal Education Review, 19, 3–40.
Prue Vines and Patricia Morgan, ‘Contemplative Practice in the Law School: Breaking Barriers to Learning and Resilience’ in R.Field, J. Duffy and C. James Legal Education and Lawyer Well-being: Evidence from Australia and Beyond, (Ashgate, 2016.)
Prue Vines ‘Being a Resilient Law Student’ Blackbird (University of Western Australia Student Law Society, 2016).
Dominic Fitzsimmons, Prue Vines and Julian Laurens, ‘The Authentic Lens: a comparison of using narratives in First Year Core and Final Year elective courses’ in Kathryn Coleman and Adele Flood, Disciplines: Lenses of Learning, (Common Ground Publishing, 2013).
Vines, P, ‘ Working Towards the Resilient Lawyer’ in L Wolff and M Nicolae(eds) the First Year Law Experience: a new beginning (Halstead Press, 2014)
Vines, P, ‘Putting Indigenous issues into the curriculum: succession and equity’ (2012) 4 Ngiya: Talk the Law 46-62. [came out late 2013]
Tani and Vines ‘Law Students attitudes to education: a pointer to depression in the legal academy and the profession?’ (2009) 19(1) Legal Education Review 3-39
Fitzsimmons, Kozlina and Vines, ‘Optimizing the first Year Experience: the Law Peer tutor Program at the University of New South Wales’ (2006) 16 (1 & 2) Legal Education Review 99-124
UNSW level contributions:
External level contributions:
- Convenor Legal Education Research Cluster, UNSW Law Faculty
- External Assessor, Australian Research Council
- External Assessor, Torts, Chinese University of Hong Kong 2010-2013
- External Assessor, Hong Kong Research Grants Council 2014-2015, 2018
- Fellow, Australian Academy of Law
- Life Member, Australasian Law Teachers Association
- Peer Reviewer, ERA Australia, 2015
- Visiting Professor, Law School, Strathclyde University, Glasgow, Scotland 2005-2017
- Australian Civil Liability
- Indigenous Law Bulletin
- Member, Steering Committee, International Network of Law and Apology Researchers
- Torts Law Journal
Mechanics are extremely important, but moving beyond them is also important. There is much to be learned from poetry in thinking about this issue. In this lecture Professor Vines will to develop the area of teaching we are mostly too afraid to think we can pursue – inspiration, the development of wisdom, and when do we know we know things.