What is disciplinary literacy?
Being “smart” has always been the dream of any student. It is a psychological condition amongst students that results to success amongst many and yet causes frustrations to other students in the same magnitude. However, what does being “smart” in any discipline entail? Does it entail the knowledge of many facts? Does it entail getting to understand the fundamental ideas about a discipline? Or, does it entail a student being able to comprehend questions that relate to the particular discipline? Additionally, does it entail a student being able to formulate knowledge that encompasses the above questions? A student might also ask themselves, what it entails to write or read successfully in a discipline that he has chosen. These questions have helped tutors and teachers as well as other educators to structure important questions regarding teaching and learning in their respective discipline. The concept of disciplinary literacy is a whole rounded ideology that requires the input of teachers and the absorption by students. Therefore a student has got to understand what is expected of them as far as the ideology is concerned.
This paper therefore is going to look at the requirements that are needed for the successful integration of a student in to the field of legal studies. It will look into the requirements that are needed for acquiring a law degree to what a student should use (in terms of textbooks) in order to get the necessary information and knowledge about the technicalities that surround the legal studies field. It will also look into the available opportunities that do exist to a student who has successfully amassed the required information and how it is going to help him succeed in the legal field.
I choose Legal studies because that is may major. I believe that for any Law student to excel they must know what is required of them through out the study period. Additionally, it always helps to have background information on a particular study in order to anticipate future information and also appreciate the work a person is doing. Legal studies do engage the meanings, practices, values and the institutions of law and legality. It looks at how the law is shaped and how it also shapes the cultural forces as well as the economic and political forces. A Legal Studies major therefore is important as it helps a student to encourage crucial understanding of and be inquisitive about historical dynamics, theoretical frameworks as well as law’s embeddedness in culture. The major helps a student tackle the fundamental questions related to policies within society alongside the framework of important issues in the theories of justice and jurisprudence. The issues being dealt with under these fields would include the liberty, autonomy and privacy of an individual, equality in society and the politics of a society, the opportunities that exist within a society and how resources are distributed within a society, human dignity preservation in a society, a society’s moral commitment, representation and democratic participation and a state’s relationship with its citizens.
As can be appreciated, a degree in Legal Studies is not a walk over; a lot of ground has to be covered (Shana &Henry, 2008). A student has to prepare themselves mentally to tackle all the issues presented in the curriculum. Attending of lectures at the specified time is the first step to success in this discipline (Robert, 2004). A student has to ensure that they attend all the lectures because they represent the raw data that is needed to comprehend secondary data that a student will encounter in the library and other electronic sources (Geisler, 2004). A student then has to make sure that they have the proper class notes that he/she is going to use to refer to when they are reading the course books that are provided in the reading list (Gary, 2001). Proper concentration should be encouraged in areas where student feels that they are weak in order to make the student relate to the interrelated topics within the curriculum. Additionally a student should ensure that they have adequate study period and that they are able to study and at the same time engage in physical activities which help in the stimulation of the brain. A student should also have enough time to approach the lecturer or the professor in case there is a point that they need clarified or in case there is a point that they never understood in class and also has not been well elaborated in the other sources that are provided for in the reading list. The constant interaction with the professors creates a stronger student teacher relationship and improves the confidence that a student has towards the discipline and also helps in raising the self esteem of the student (Helene & Marshal, 2002). A student apart from having good lectures and good study habits should ensure that they have the proper reading materials that pertain to the discipline. This way a student is ensured of proper and correct flow of information from the professor and from the materials alike. A Legal Studies student is also required to have a critical and analytical mind that can be able to look at issues from different points of view. After all this are ensured the remaining part is sitting for exams at the end of the course and consequently getting a degree in the discipline after excelling in the examinations (Richardson & Jeremy, 1999).
Materials Chosen for the Course
In the pursuit of excellence in Legal Studies student as earlier on discussed, a student needs to have the proper reading materials (in this case books) so that they may acquire the correct information. Law dictionaries are most important in Legal Studies. The Oxford Law Dictionary coupled with the Black’s Law dictionary comes in handy. Both dictionaries define the terminologies that are used in Legal Studies and therefore providing an insight to otherwise difficult technical terms. Electronically, a student may use the Deans Law Dictionary which offers mush more information especially since it offers much detailed description and examples than the limited hard copied dictionaries. Realistic Socio-Legal Theory (Brian, 1997), is also an important book as it combines methodological foundation and philosophical pragmatism; it then formulates an outline for a better understanding to social-legal theory. The book is very important because it presents a very sturdy scope on interdisciplinary approaches. The book has over the years proved to be very important to legal theorists and scholars alike and has also appealed to students. Revolution and the Making of the Contemporary Legal Profession (Michael, 2006), is also another reading material that would be of importance to the course. Although relatively new, the book is important as it gives a comparative study of the civil society. The book also explains historical differences in the institutions and rules of the three major legal professions. The book is important because it explains the legal profession development.
Career opportunities presented by the Course
Legal Studies opens many doors to various careers. It allows a person to practice as a paralegal who helps lawyers in preparations of trials, hearings, corporate conferences. A person can also work as probation officers who work with programs related to correction or law enforcement. A person could also become a social worker who can help in resolution of family conflicts and also assist in developing policies that are useful to organizations and also useful in the management of self help groups. Furthermore, a person may choose to be a lawyer and hence end up representing clients in court cases and also other legal related matters. Apart from the above mentioned which are mainly centred around the legal profession, a person may choose to pursue a business oriented career as well as considering furthering their education to master’s or doctoral degree in the same field or other related fields. To say but the least, a degree in Legal Studies is an eye opener to may other fields.
The important aspect behind Disciplinary Literacy is the idea that thinking and knowledge must work in tandem. Therefore students have to mature in the two principles concurrently. Students, who therefore embrace diagonal means of learning, do employ content-specific habits of thought to develop their comprehension of the theoretical substance of the discipline. This therefore warrantees tutors to teach on the same level (diagonal level). As Tharp and Gallimore (1991) put it, a promising teaching model (diagonal) stems from proper research on learning as supported by performance. Cognitive skills are also important in this endeavour (Collins, Brown & Newman, 1989) as well as justifiable marginal contribution (Lave &Wenger,
Brian, Z.T. (1997). Realistic Socio-Legal Theory: Pragmatism and a Social Theory of Law. Clarendon Press
Collins, A., Brown, J. S., & Newman, S. E. (1989). Cognitive apprenticeship: Teaching the crafts of reading, writing, and mathematics. In L. B. Resnick (Ed.), Knowing, learning, and instruction: Essays in honor of Robert Glaser (pp. 453-494). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Geisler, C. (1994). Academic literacy and the nature of expertise: Reading, writing, and knowing in academic philosophy. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Gary A. M. (2001). How to Succeed in Law School.
Helene, S.S. & Marshall, S.S. (2002). Law school without fear: Strategies for success. Foundation Press. ISBN 9781587781872
Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Michael, B. (2006). Revolution and the Making of the Contemporary Legal Profession: England, France, and the United States. Oxford Socio-Legal Studies.
Richard, M.F. & Jermy, R.P. (1999). Getting to Maybe: How to Excel on Law School Exams. Carolina Academic Press. ISBN 9780890897607
Robert, H.M. (2004). Law School Confidential: A Complete Guide to the Law School Experience: by Students, for Students. St. Martin’s Griffin. ISBN 9780312318819
Shana, C.N., Henry, S.N. (2008). Acing Your First Year of Law School: The Ten Steps to Success You Won’t Learn in Class. Wm. S. Hein Publishing. ISBN 9780837714103
Tharp, R. G., & Gallimore, R. (1988). Rousing minds to life: Teaching, learning, and schooling in social context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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