Ekaterine ‘Keke’ Bakaradze is Associate Professor of Law and Education Quality Assurance Manager at International Black Sea University in Tbilisi, Georgia. She was also a participant in the 50-Hour Training Course in the IF Discussion Process that IF Fellows Mark Notturno and Ieva Notturno conducted in Washington DC last Spring for Junior Faculty Development Program (JFDP) scholars. Keke won a grant from IF after completing the training course to support her use of the IF Discussion Process in her ‘Academic English for Legal Purposes’ course. The following is Keke’s report about her students’ reaction to it.
By Keke Bakaradze
I am delivering an intensive course on ‘Academic English for Legal Purposes’ for freshmen year MA students using lectures and IF student-centered discussions. This year I have 10 students. I decided to divide the course into 12 hours of lectures, two hours of individual presentations, and 14 hours of facilitator led IF discussion sessions—with each student facilitating once and taking notes once, and me facilitating the discussions for four hours to show how it is done.
I began the course by explaining the facilitation part of it to my students: that it will involve them in the discussion of a wide range of policy possibilities in the field of law, and in the discussion of their possible implementation in the Georgian legal environment. I clarified that the course would mainly focus on issues related to the arrangement of the court system, including the structure and sources of the law and the institutional reorganization of the courts, and that they would be not only involved in discussions but also in facilitating them.
This was an absolutely new style of teaching for all of them. The students were at first surprised that the teacher is just an observer in the student-centered discussion approach. Then I explained that I would make notes during the discussions in order to assess their performance in them. I was very careful to explain everything because I wanted to be sure that all of the students agreed to the new teaching method. As none of them objected, I started to display the following possible topics of discussion:
- What are the possibilities of changing the existing model of Courts of Appeals and Cassation?
- What might the adoption of Magistrates Courts possibly change in the litigation process?
- How might it affect the process of judicial decisions?
- What examples of European and US Court systems and proceedings might possibly work well in Georgia?
- Would it be good for Georgia to adopt a trial by jury system?
- To what degree might the public trust and put its faith in the court decisions made by the jurors?
- What roles might the court system play in Georgian society?
- In what ways might we restructure the court system in Georgia?
- Would it be likely to create a functionally balanced system?
I also gave them the opportunity to suggest other topics about our legal system that they thought would be interesting to discuss.
My students were very interested and got involved in the discussion sessions quite actively. They were very motivated by the fact that most of the discussions would be student-led and not teacher-led. What they liked most of all was they could lead a free discussion, and that they could all express their opinions. They also liked the fact that they would be the policymakers (in the classroom), since the aim of the discussions is to develop conceptual possibilities for addressing their concerns regarding court organization and its possible transformation and reorganization, and that they would think through the consequences of the reforms they wanted to implement: that they could, in other words, discuss possible new judicial standards that Georgia might adopt, and the possible practical consequences of adopting them.
I was very interested in their feedback have listed their comments below.
- This is something new that we have never done and we think it will improve not only our language skills, but also our creative and logical thinking
- What we like in this course is that we can state our personal opinions without any restrictions and no one will interrupt us
- We are free to say what we want
- We are not opponents to each other, we express our ideas, listen to others and think of other ideas, improve our way of thinking
- Our ideas are important
- We respect each other’s opinions
- We are not the enemies, we help each other to develop more ideas and structure them in a logical way
- We are policymakers and we can be decisionmakers
- We develop leadership skills, we think that we can do something, we can make decisions
- We are intellectuals, we can develop any type of discussion
- We can choose the course content, we choose what we want to discuss
- We are not learning from the books, we are learning from our peers
- We are learning from the experience
- Our teacher does NOT teach us
- We are trained to be facilitators
- We are creating our imaginative world and we are ruling it
- Our Teacher is not a monster, she is just an observer