Enlightening Law to the Dilettante


I have been teaching law to law and non-law students for more than a decade. Of course, walking into a classroom full of future lawyers are different than starting a class with students who are just there to have basic knowledge in law and pass the subject. It is not a walk in the park trying to teach legal maxims, statutes and cases to laymen. To some of them English is already a foreign language to learn, what more with the bizarre Latin words that they have to memorize in order to gauge the basic concept of law.
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When it comes to teaching law students, the list of cases and statutes are given to them at the start of the semester and they will have to find them either through online or offline research. During my dinosaur years reading law at the university, there were no online materials available. We have to drag ourselves to the library to find cases and statutes and sometimes even past years. Students nowadays are so lucky in the sense that they can access all these information anytime and anywhere they want with just few clicks. There are compelling reasons why they need to find the materials on their own. This is because they have to explain them to the lecturers in class. Since they are known as budding lawyers, they need to familiarize themselves with reading cases and statutes no matter how meandering and alien the cases are.
This style of learning, however, is not extended to the non-law students. They are not going to be lawyers and thus burning the midnight oil reading cases and statutes are futile for them. Figuratively speaking, they still need to know the basic legal principles and understand some of the landmark cases. At least they can save exorbitant legal fees charged by lawyers in the future if they already know some basic about law. This can prompt them to decipher simple legal problems without resorting the help from the professionals.
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Getting 100% focus from a class full of non-law students are proven to be arduous. In fact, the lecturer is lucky if he or she can get at least slightly over 50% of attention. Throughout the years of teaching the non-law students, I am becoming more creative in conducting my classes with them. My objective is not just to get them to pass the subject but also remember the lessons until their last breath. It is a lifelong learning process and hopefully they can apply it whenever they find themselves trapped in legal muddle. For instance, when they are working later, they will not have to ring the legal department asking whether an oral agreement is also a binding contract. This by the way, is always the basic misconception of laymen about contract.
There are many trial and errors I had faced in class. Some of the methods I tried had to be discarded since it did not bring any positive outcome to the subject but many I have keep and adopted as the pillar of my teaching to non-law students. Therefore, I am sharing here the best practices in class that I run through, to teach law to laymen so they will no longer be just that.
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1.       Captivating slides
I have to admit that I invested a lot of time in preparing my slides now. My slides used to be wordy and longwinded. This time around, I had put in effort to summarize some paragraphs and turned them into points. I choose colourful backgrounds and even include pictures with bright colours to attract the students’ attention. You can find a lot of free copyright pictures from Pixabay website to include in your presentation. My slides usually would have a theme. For example,  the chapter on Law of Contract will be filled with pictures of cupcakes. So rather than having dull presentations, the students’ eyes now are lighten up whenever the slides are projected in classroom. There are also a lot of power point tips and tricks that you can pick from Youtube. My favourite would be from PowerPoint School. Search for this name in Youtube.
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2.       Playing games in class
It is trite fact that games attract students’ attention more than mere chalk and talk. The millennial nowadays want to be involved and want to be heard in every steps of the lessons. One way to test their understanding in class is to play games that are tailored according to the lesson plan. We had done crosswords and word search in class and they really enjoy it. For this purpose, there is a website that can help you to create the games. You can go to The Teacher's Corner website and just enter your clues and expected answers. It will automatically transfer all these into the games that you had intended.
Another game that I had tested in class is similar to jigsaw puzzle. I will print out the points and distribute them to the students in class. They are supposed to cut them and arrange the points accordingly. For instance, the topic is on the Procedures of Law-Making in Parliament. The steps are all jumbled and the students have to arrange them in sequence. Of course this is a close book exercise and they are not allowed to refer to any references. Make sure their mobile phones are out of their reach while doing this activity.  
  
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3.    Answering past years
At the beginning of every semester, I would usually divide the class into small groups. The groups are created in order to micro manage activities in class, including answering past years’ questions. Since I am teaching law, the past years’ questions would be a remarkable reference to start the revision. On my part, I would compile all the past years’ questions and separate them into different topics. After I have completed the lecture for that particular topic, each group will be given one or two questions to answer.
So how do I encourage participation from them? Students are less interested if nothing comes from completing the past years even though these practices benefit them. When there are no marks involved, students are reluctant to take part. I normally buy small gifts like chocolates and sweets and reward them after they had submitted the questions. One of my colleagues then suggested a different method. She suggested to give one extra day for assignment submission if they submit their answers for the past years’ questions. That means if I have five topics to cover that semester, and past years questions are given after each topic, students who send in their answers would have five extra days to submit their assignments.

4.    Multiple Choice Quiz through online apps
(i)           Socrative
A quick way to gauge the understanding of your students after you have finished a lesson is through conducting pop quiz in class. Actually, I find that this is a good technique to bridge the relationship between the educator and the students. The millennials nowadays are always with their phones. They cannot even depart from their phones for a second. Since everyone in class would have their own phone, they can try to answer quizzes by using them. The questions need to be prepared by the lecturer before class. Please visit Socrative website for more information on this. You can even try the Space Race to make the class more fun and interesting.
(ii)          Google form
I have tried Google Form for online tests and quizzes. Prior to this, I honestly thought that Google Form is only meant for conducting surveys. There are more to it actually. You can create quizzes and test with Google Form. In fact, you can even tailor the answers you expected according to your own preference. You can select multiple choices, short answers or even essay if you want to. For multiple choices questions, of course it can be automatically marked by the system. If the test is asking for short answers or essay then you can change the setting to mark the answers on your own. I always love this way of marking because I can do it whenever and wherever I want to. It can be beyond office hours because you can even access them at home.

5.    Explaining cases through pictograph
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This was actually the way I practiced to understand cases when I was reading law for my Degree. I would draw stickmen to illustrate the parties involved and put in arrows and mind map to assist my understanding. There are hundreds pages of cases to read and it is impossible to understand them if you are always flipping the previous pages because you had forgotten what had happened before. You can never move on to finish a case. As a lecturer now, I teach my students to use this technic in trying to grasp the idea embedded in the case. Usually I will divide the class into groups and assign them each with a case. Just a simple case from the textbook would do. They have to draw it on the whiteboard and explain to the class. This would get the ball rolling. After few cases, they can already explain the cases after reading them on their own.

6.    Reward for high achievers in tests and assignments
I am an author of two motivational books, Submitting to Allah and Candle in the Wind. I had also written an e-book entitled Law of Contract for Laymen. When any of the students get high marks in their coursework assessments, I will present my books to them as a gift. Usually other classmates would be in awe after I had given the books for the first assessment and they would challenge themselves to work harder for the next assessment in order to get the books too. You can replace this with chocolates or cute stationeries. Simple principle of being human, we are all more competitive when we know there are something waiting for us at the end.

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Teaching can no longer be revolved around chalking and talking. In dealing with the millennial now, the lecturers too, have to keep abreast of what is the latest trend to deliver their lessons. Take it as a challenge and embrace it because you know the students will appreciate the effort that you had put in and value the knowledge you had imparted.



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