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College of Law extending reach through unique program to improve instruction in international classrooms

May 17, 2017

Seven international students who are on a mission to improve legal education in their home countries will be among the graduates when the Ohio Northern University College of Law holds its commencement ceremony on May 21.

Six law instructors from Kosovo and one from Afghanistan have spent the 2016-17 academic year developing their teaching skills while earning the LL.M. in Democratic Governance and Rule of Law. They are enrolled in the Program in Legal Pedagogy and Instruction and will earn certificates in that area in addition to their advanced law degrees.

“The main object of this program is to increase the critical-thinking skills of lawyers and law students in Kosovo and Afghanistan,” explained Howard Fenton, director of the ONU College of Law’s Center for Democratic Governance and Rule of Law, which earned a grant from the U.S. Department of State to administer the program. “In Kosovo, for example, faculty members lecture, while students take notes and memorize material, with little interaction between instructors and students. In the United States, there is a focus on a more interactive approach, which involves a modified Socratic model that engages students in a dialogue rather than just a monologue.”

The program includes all of the elements of the LL.M. program, with additional courses focused on interactive instruction.

The yearlong program had three elements that supplemented the LL.M. curriculum for the students.

After taking additional classes in the fall, the international students taught a course to each other in January, with each student instructing one unit and then writing exam questions. This spring, the international teaching fellows were each assigned an ONU College of Law faculty mentor, whom they shadowed during the semester. From this experience, the students learned practical applications such as how to prepare for, teach and evaluate a class.

“I am pleased with the outcome and look to hopefully continue this effort,” Fenton said. “It is impressive for ONU’s College of Law to have this type of international footprint. We are extending our reach and strengthening our reputation in legal circles.”