Saturday, November 8, 2008

Teaching Law in China (November Insights)

The fall semester is long (about 18 weeks) and is divided in half. I taught Torts for the first 9 week segment and will begin teaching Legal Ethics/Legal Profession on Nov. 14th. The Renda students report that many of them have 7 classes, which means over 21 contact hours per week. Unlike their US counterparts, the Chinese law students carry fairly slender books. I have prepared my own materials for Torts and have been assigning about 10 pages per class. With 7 classes, it makes sense that the reading has to be manageable. In addition, from our classroom exercises it is apparent that the language skills of the students vary widely. Some can read through a paragraph quickly. Others need several minutes to digest the material and look up words they do not understand.

The class started out in early September fairly small, but has grown to 48 students. This is due in part to the addition of students who had been focusing on the Chinese bar exam, which was given at the end of September. Other students are sitting in on the class to help them improve their English. Thirty two students actually took the final exam. The fact that 16 students would voluntarily audit a 3+ hour class at 8 am on Friday morning captures the motivation of these graduate students.

The students frequently will express their thanks for the course. It may perhaps be a polite way to welcome the foreign professor. But from their comments I infer that they are used to a more passive learning experience and are interested in more interactive and livelier classrooms.

The 7 week course for the Temple Law School/Tsinghua LLM was an intensive and tiring experience, but worth it to meet the great students and learn more about teaching legal reasoning to Chinese students. Ding and I hope to develop a US legal reasoning text for Chinese students, so Ding attended most of the classes. This has helped us generated shared ideas on the best approach to this subject.

Alas, final exams means grading….

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