As part of a recent major curriculum renewal at McGill University’s Faculty of Law, the Faculty created a first-year course with small group sessions led by upper year students. These groups of 16-20 first-year students and their upper year leader—a Tutorial Leader (TL)—meet during two Integration Weeks (one in September and one in January) and during the Integration Workshop, which meets regularly throughout the fall and winter semesters. During the Integration Workshop portion of the course, TLs are paired with professors who mentor and guide them as they develop their own pedagogical skills.
The TLs are enrolled in a Legal Methodology Teaching course. This course is an opportunity for TLs to develop their teaching skills in the context of the first-year course. TLs are largely responsible for facilitating discussions during the tutorials and providing the students with feedback comments on their assignments. TLs meet regularly with their supervising professors to discuss challenges, reflect on successes, and address their questions.
In tandem with their teaching responsibilities, TLs complete a number of assignments designed to help them improve their teaching skills through reading and reflection on different aspects of teaching their discipline. At the same time, responding to first-year students’ questions and providing feedback comments on their assignments has the potential for deepening TLs’ understanding of foundational knowledge in law.
This year, we introduced a new assignment—a blog post where each TL addresses a facet of teaching of their choice. TLs observed their supervising professors in class teaching the first-year students and they observed librarians providing instruction at workshops. For the blog assignment, TLs were asked to collect several readings from credible sources on a topic related to teaching, such as teaching small groups; using peer review as a teaching tool; enabling active learning; using pass/fail grading schemes; grading with a rubric; and designing group work. They then had to write a reflection on the topic in relation to the teaching they had observed.
Requirements for the assignment:
- Articulation of a main idea
- Discussion of any special considerations applicable to legal education
- Illustration of main points with concrete examples drawn from their observations
- A title that captures the main idea
- References to readings (hyperlinks or in-text citations with a references list)
- A thought-provoking question at the end to engage readers
The assignment was due in the fall semester so that TLs could put what they had learned through observation, research, and reflection into practice during the winter semester. TLs wrote insightful pieces that will be published over the coming weeks. Stay tuned!
Professor Tina Piper coordinates the first-year Integration Workshop.
Check out the other posts in the Law series:
- An educational revolution: Should students depose the traditional master of classroom? (4/23/2019)
- The elephant in the room: Teaching students who don’t know what’s going on (4/11/2019)
- A “pass/fail” grading system can be the “A+” grading system for law school (4/2/2019)
- Before you go “On your mark …”: Instructors and constructive feedback (3/19/2019)
- Giving pass-fail grading a pass (3/12/2019)
- Réfléchir comme un avocat : Réflexion sur l’acquisition des habiletés pratiques dans les ateliers d’intégration (2/28/2019)
- Should McGill’s Faculty of Law make a pass at a pass-fail system (2/12/2019)
- Teaching for anxiety (1/29/2019)
- How can we support student learning in law school? Upper-year students share their thoughts (1/15/2019)
Featured image photo credit: Lysanne Larose.