During the last 30+ years I have taught at higher education institutions in three different countries (Germany, England, Northern Ireland) with some additional teaching activities in the Netherlands and Ukraine. I am also engaged in further education, mainly through teaching at the European Academy of Law in Trier (Germany), and have experience on offering blended learning formats.
I believe that the academic learning and teaching should aim at enabling graduates to think critically, research and evaluate information adequately for a range of professional activities and to continue studying their subject in a self-directed manner after graduation.
My main objective in teaching is to convey a systematic understanding of the field I am teaching, and to introduce students to methods to enhance their knowledge through self-study. Teaching students a canon, possibly implying that this canon will remain unchanged, would not motivate students for adapting to change. In order to achieve this, law should be taught in historical, social and economic perspective. Graduates will thus be able to appreciate future change, and to update their knowledge accordingly.
From this main objective, three sub-objectives derive:
First, students need to be introduced to some canonical knowledge, consisting of the main cases and the main pieces of legislation (which in International Law subjects such as EU law includes Treaty law and derived legislation).
Second, students need to be made aware of conditions under which the law and its application have developed, and how they relate to socio-economic factors.
Third, students need to be enabled to reflect critically on the canon, and to develop their own approaches, either in response to clients’ interests, or to policy demands.
Methods for achieving these objectives differ.
Conveying canonical knowledge can be achieved by offering very structured study materials, which give precise directions which cases and academic writing to read. A lecture is a good medium to introduce these materials, but lectures should be supplemented by and on-line learning environment for students to explore the topics offered. Lecture recordings and videos can enrich an on-line environment, though they cannot replace contact hours. I record lectures since 2012, and find that students are more confident in asking questions in lecture and by e-mail, since they can satisfy themselves that the question has not been answered already.
Making students aware of how the law has developed and how it relates to other factors can be achieved through reflective discussion of parts of the canon, e.g. in tutorials. For this purpose, self-directed learning needs to be encouraged. Selected materials, made available through web environments, and guiding questions for group discussions are helpful.
Enabling critical reflection can be achieved by presenting historical or even political material (e.g. through web-pages containing multi-media material) and to have students engage with these. This can be achieved (depending on class size) through moot-like exercises, or through delivery of mini-essays, and discussion of these among students. A good e-learning environment can enable such learning without face-to-face teaching.
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