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October 10, 2007

In Ukraine, Law Professors Learn New Teaching Methodologies

October 10, 2007

In September 2007, ABA ROLI started its new training aimed at teaching law professors new methodologies for teaching law and introducing new courses into the current academic curriculum, as part of a USAID-funded legal education reform program. The first two seminars—“Interactive Methodologies of Teaching Law” and “Teaching Human Rights Law”—took place on September 6-8 and September 27-29, respectively and attracted almost 200 applications. This enthusiastic response suggests the great interest in and need for similar future trainings.

The Ukrainian justice system is in the process of reform, a component of which is the reform of the legal profession and legal education system.  The existence of a high quality legal education system has a decisive impact on how competently and effectively a justice system functions.  A legal education is the first step in the establishment and internalization of professional knowledge, values, attitudes, and behaviors— in sum, everything that constitutes good professional standards.

After many years of ineffective or failed legislative reforms, as well as a significant increase in the production of new lawyers, very little has been achieved in the reform of higher legal education in Ukraine. In this context, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative has been providing training programs for law school faculty for many years within the context of its clinical legal education program. The emphasis of these seminars has been the introduction of practical clinical methodologies into the course curriculum.

Ukrainian professors familiarized themselves with interactive teaching methods such as the Socratic Method, role-playing, moot court, and in-class assignments, and learned techniques for incorporating these methodologies into course planning. The “Teaching Human Rights Law” seminar echoed the earlier seminar in its emphasis on the specific methodologies of teaching, but this time adapting those methodologies to specific subjects: human rights theory, interpretation of human rights treaties, how to research human rights issues, analysis of human rights cases, and how to teach human rights effectively using problem situations to teach and examine, as well as integrating human rights into other law courses.

As a result of the seminars, the professors have committed to modify their course syllabi to reflect the most suitable teaching techniques for the particular subjects they teach. On the feed-back questionnaire, one of the participants of the methodologies seminar wrote, “The seminar made me think about using interactive methods of teaching on a regular basis, not just from time to time.”