In the partly socially distanced world of 2021 and like many other teaching practitioners across the globe, Drs Sabrina Germain and Adrienne Yong from the City Law School took the opportunity to reflect on how they were going to approach a module they were co-teaching, the socio-legal module on Law, Rights, and Context. The result was the decision to develop a different way of teaching as well as a much more inclusive approach that embraced the diversity of the student body at City. This resulted in the development of the City Law School’s Law and Society Podcast.
The podcast was not conceived as a substitute for online lectures, nor simply a response to the online provision necessitated by the pandemic. Its main aim was to foster greater dialogue by including underrepresented voices, which was something that they felt did not happen in the more traditional lecture format. In this post, Sabrina and Adrienne reflect on their experience of creating the podcast, including what was it about the format they liked and what the challenges and successes of this project were.
You can listen to the podcast directly below, before the interview with Adrienne and Sabrina (with answers written by them and lightly edited by Dom).
- What have been your own podcast inspirations or other favourite podcasts?
- Why did you use podcasts instead of lectures or recorded videos?
- How do you think these podcasts supported your students in terms of equality, diversity and inclusion?
- What are the benefits of using podcasts in terms of accessibility?
- What did having guest speakers bring to the series?
- How did students respond to the conversational style of the medium and between you as academics or professional women?
- Why did you choose to make these podcast resources more widely available than as with usual university resources?
- How challenging was it from a technical point of view to create and share these podcasts?
- What support might you have needn’t for doing this, if you didn’t have the same degree of confidence shown here?
- What would you advise other colleagues interested in podcasting, based on your experience?
- What was student feedback like overall?
- Would you do this again? What would you change for a later series?
- Want to find out more?
- Inspired by this blog to create your own podcast?
What have been your own podcast inspirations or other favourite podcasts?
We are big fans of a range of podcasts! It is a great medium for getting information out there. Adrienne listens to a lot of news, comedy and true crime podcasts, including Newscast from the BBC, Off Menu with Ed Gamble & James Acaster and RedHanded. More similar and inspirational to us were The Guilty Feminist, and various podcasts from Brene Brown and one in French called Kiffe ta Race.
Why did you use podcasts instead of lectures or recorded videos?
The context of the pandemic was a starting point. After all the Law School modules were switched during 2020/21 to online recorded lectures and tutorials rather than seminar discussion groups without formal lectures (how our module Law, Rights & Context had been delivered previously), we were keen to explore alternative methods to teach our Law, Rights and Context module, incorporating the recorded element we had to do during the height of the pandemic. As recordings reminded us of podcasting, this was where the idea came from.
Since the essence of the module is rather unique and addresses themes that are not themes traditionally addressed in law school classrooms, we therefore thought that an atypical module should also embrace an original mode of delivery.
How do you think these podcasts supported your students in terms of equality, diversity and inclusion?
One of the reasons behind using podcasts is to incorporate more inclusivity in our approach and more flexibility for our students too. We should clarify that the podcast was not conceived as a substitute for online lectures. It was not just a response to the online provision necessitated by the pandemic. It aimed to bring more people to the table because we strongly believe that this alternative teaching method can foster greater dialogue. For us the podcast was a new way of including underrepresented voices, which the traditional lecture format does not encourage in the same way.
We could see students engage differently, understanding that the module was about dialogue, underrepresented voices and that we welcomed their opinion. It was not about have a cookie cutter response to a technical legal question. It was about critical thinking, dealing with important theories and issues they could relate. Our topics ranged from Critical Race Theory illustrated with a case study on the Stop and Search Law, to Critical Feminist Theory with case studies on the Pink Tax, women in Brexit and being a ‘Yellow woman’ during the pandemic. We really wanted to enter into an open ‘on-air’ conversation on why law and context matter.
What are the benefits of using podcasts in terms of accessibility?
The podcast format is inclusive in many aspects, one of which is certainly accessibility. We are very aware of our students’ needs and knowing that most of our cohort commutes from outside the Greater London area to come to class. We also know that they have many competing interests on their time as often they have part time employment and caring responsibilities. That’s why we wanted a teaching support they could engage with at any time during the day and anywhere. Listening to the podcast on public transport or cooking a meal was how we thought about this teaching tool – we listen to them then too! For our students in need of learning support we thought that audio and available full transcript would be beneficial as a permanent record available to them at any time too.
What did having guest speakers bring to the series?
Guest speakers were an essential part of the podcast experience. This was about bringing in expert and diverse voices. The podcast format was extremely helpful as it could do everything remotely and online. That gave us the opportunity to access people from around the world and this meant having rich and non-traditional perspectives on a wide range of topics. We are both sociolegal scholars, so it was important to us to reach out to people outside of our discipline to engage in conversation. The diversity in this project is not just about including voices from underrepresented groups, it is also about not thinking in silos and inviting in to the discussions people from outside the law.
How did students respond to the conversational style of the medium and between you as academics or professional women?
We were happily surprised by the students’ level of engagement with the podcast. They really enjoyed the conversational tone. They saw the podcast as a way of starting the discussion and we continued our exchange during the tutorial sessions adopting a similar informal tone to critically analyse law and the context in which the law is design and evolves. The podcast really helped engage students in the conversation as our equals.
Why did you choose to make these podcast resources more widely available than as with usual university resources?
We are so grateful to have had the financial support of the Law School to kick start our production which also made it easier to make the episodes widely available. The eight episodes we’ve produced were a great learning support for our Law, Rights and Context students but we thought they could be useful for other law students outside of our module and even outside of City. We wanted to share the research to show how research informed teaching can be dynamic and relevant to a wide audience. We also hoped to pioneer a new teaching method that could be used by others in higher education.
This was one of the biggest challenges of the innovative format. We took fantastic advice from successful podcasters Dr Tom Bennett (of The Media Law Podcast) and Dom Pates (of Teaching Here & There) but it was a baptism of fire! Adrienne, who is techy and enjoys this kind of thing, watched a few YouTube tutorials but spent a lot of hours editing and producing. We have to admit it is tough to initially start and set up a podcast, and you need to prepare a lot in advance, but once everything is in place then sharing to Spotify, Apple & Google is very easy. Sabrina also set up our Twitter feed (@clslawsocpod) to promote when each episode was released and we internally advertised to the Law School.
What support might you have needn’t for doing this, if you didn’t have the same degree of confidence shown here?
Some resources are needed, a very good network to diversify the guests on the podcast is essential. Very good technical skills are key, as well as a love and understanding for tech! A production assistant would have been welcomed, perhaps if Adrienne was not so determined to learn everything herself.
What would you advise other colleagues interested in podcasting, based on your experience?
It is great fun but also very hard work. If you are not very techy it might be worth getting some support!
What was student feedback like overall?
Overall the feedback was very positive. Some of our students even said that Law, Rights and Context was the module they have preferred the most so far on the LLB because of its format and the discussions. They thought that this approach was very modern, adaptable and preferred it to recorded lectures.
Would you do this again? What would you change for a later series?
We are doing it again! We might be offering a few more new episodes this term. We want to make transcripts more user friendly with timestamps for key concepts and we will offer some short written summaries for each episode, compiled by our fantastic student educational assistant, Katie Henderson (LLB Graduate from the Class of 2022).
Want to find out more?
Sabrina and Adrienne will be talking about their podcast at the CLS Teaching and Learning Exchange. 3rd November 2022 11:00-12:00.
Inspired by this blog to create your own podcast?
Join ‘Podblast’, a free online event that guides participants to learn how to record and publish an entire podcast series in one morning. Active learning Network 7th Dec 2022 09:00 – 12:00, contact LEaD for training and support or review our podcasting guide to find out more.