I currently teach W150, Introduction to Contemporary Law in Scotland. I’ve been teaching that since the course was first introduced in 2008. It’s an innovative course looking at the legal system and constitutional set-up in Scotland as well as looking at contemporary legal issues which are relevant to everyday life in Scotland. I teach in Glasgow, Scotland, but also do telephone tutorials, including with students who are in prison. I also do a lot of support by email for students.
I like to send weekly email updates to students, just a bit of a chat really, highlighting anything interesting that happened in the legal world that week or that might be relevant to the course. It’s also an opportunity for them to get in touch with me and to see how they’re getting on. I also do quite a lot of discussion by text message and by phone. At the start of each course I check in with students to see if they have any reasonable adjustments. I find that telling them about my own disabilities and the support I get, encourages others to ask for the support they need too.
I do face-to-face tutorials for the course and like to make these as interactive as possible. It’s really boring if I stand and lecture for 3 hours and nobody learns anything, other than how to be very bored. I use case studies, campaign designs, podcasts from parliament, newspaper reviews, quizzes and lots of other activities to make my tutorials interesting and useful. I also use the tutorials to develop study skills which can then be used in any course. The final key part of my tutorials is munchies – you can’t think on an empty stomach so I always have something nice to fuel the thought process!
My background is a bit mixed. I studied law but having worked in a large law firm in Rotterdam realised that so much of being a Solicitor is about pushing paper and that’s not really me. Instead I ended up in the voluntary sector, working my way up to become Director of a national organisation which promotes and protects human rights. I’m now in consultancy where my work is focused around promoting human rights, including equality, but really I do anything which sounds interesting and helps improve society. (This includes auditing, advice, research, evaluation, training, teaching, public speaking, campaigning and a whole host of other things). One of my pieces of consultancy is moderating a course on Moodle – I’m hoping that in the future I’ll get a chance to do this through the OU too as it’s a great virtual learning environment. Aside from the consultancy I’m also an Associate at Edinburgh University in the Centre for Education for Racial Equality in Scotland, I do some teaching and some research there. I also sit as a tribunal member on the Scottish Solicitor’s Discipline Tribunal so I get to see the workings of the Scottish legal system from the inside.
I’d say the key thing I bring to the OU is my passion for the law. I’m a bit geeky like that and I tend to get carried away talking about it. From my work I’ve got lots of examples of how law works in practice and how it can really change people’s lives, I think this helps make it real for my students.
Some of my highs have been when students who after the first assignment said they couldn’t do it, but with support went on to pass the course; students who’ve gone on to undertake the LLB and the moments when you see the penny drop after explaining something in a different way to a student. The lows for me are when I’m reading an assignment and I know the student could’ve done better or where they’ve not read the question properly – then I’m asking myself what else could I have done to support them or to help them prepare better.
I find working for the OU great as it’s very flexible and you get loads of support and opportunities for development.