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LINGUIST List 20.1849

Wed May 13 2009

Diss: Applied Ling/Discourse Analysis: Hafner: 'Designing...'

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        1.    Christoph Hafner, Designing, Implementing and Evaluating an Online Resource for Professional Legal Communication Skills

Message 1: Designing, Implementing and Evaluating an Online Resource for Professional Legal Communication Skills
Date: 13-May-2009
From: Christoph Hafner <c.hafnercityu.edu.hk>
Subject: Designing, Implementing and Evaluating an Online Resource for Professional Legal Communication Skills
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Institution: Macquarie University
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2008

Author: Christoph Hafner

Dissertation Title: Designing, Implementing and Evaluating an Online Resource for Professional Legal Communication Skills

Dissertation URL: http://personal.cityu.edu.hk/~elhafner/research/hafnerphdthesis.html

Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
                            Discourse Analysis

Subject Language(s): Chinese, Mandarin (cmn)
                            English (eng)

Dissertation Director:
Vijay K. Bhatia
Christopher N. Candlin

Dissertation Abstract:

The ability to use language effectively is an essential part of legal
training and has been identified as an area of concern for Hong Kong law
students. In order to become proficient members of the legal discourse
community, law students must develop an understanding of conventional
writing forms, processes and practices as well as patterns of legal
reasoning and problem-solving. However, in general, practitioners of legal
education in Hong Kong tend to see language skills development as falling
outside their area of responsibility. As a consequence, time and resources
allocated to the important task of enhancing English for legal purposes are

In view of these constraints, it was felt that a computer-mediated online
resource integrated with existing law courses would most effectively
provide students with the language support that they needed. A small team
of legal academics and language professionals collaborated in the
development of the resource. The computer tools developed include: a
Microsoft Word add-on, with help files designed to guide students in the
writing process; an online concordancer with links to glossaries of legal
terminology and academic vocabulary, and further links to legal and
language dictionaries; and a genre-based web site with tasks, with content
developed by legal academics and language professionals.

A number of issues arise in the development and implementation of such a
computer-mediated resource for teaching and learning. For example, content
must be designed to address gaps in students' understanding of discourse
community conventions (including form, process and practice as mentioned
above). In addition, technological tools that clearly integrate with the
students' learning process and facilitate that process should be provided.
Further, it is desirable that computer-mediated learning tools provide
students with a mix of both formal and informal learning opportunities,
promote student involvement and control, and provide students with space
for planning and evaluating learning experiences. It is also important that
students learn skills and strategies that will be of use to them once they
move on from the academic environment to the professional world of work.

This thesis evaluates law students' understanding of discourse conventions
in relation to professional legal genres, by comparing student text and
associated interviews with the text of established legal professionals. The
thesis also evaluates student online behaviour, through a combination of
large-scale logging of students' online activity and small-scale user
tests, observation, analysis of learner journals and interviews. Data
collected over a 2 year period are compared in order to ascertain what kind
of learning activities were perceived to be valuable to students and why.
Implications are drawn from this study and suggestions made for changes in
future practice.

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