Catherine Wasson advises on legal writing pedagogy at law conference in South Africa
On July 3, Catherine Wasson, Associate Professor at Elon University School of Law, gave a presentation on assessment techniques for legal writing courses at a law conference in Pretoria, South Africa.
Wasson’s presentation was part of the Academics Promoting the Pedagogy of Effective Advocacy in Law (APPEAL) conference at The University of Pretoria. Featuring speakers and presenters from several United States law schools and South African institutions, the second biennial APPEAL conference, “Promoting the Teaching of Legal Writing in Southern Africa,” drew more than 60 South African participants and 18 U.S. law professors.
Wasson, a founding member of APPEAL, led an interactive workshop on collaborative learning techniques at the first APPEAL conference in Nairobi, Kenya in 2007 and was asked to return to Africa this year to offer insights to South African law professors and others in the legal community on the subject of teaching legal writing.
Wasson, who leads the legal writing program at Elon Law, is hopeful that her collaborative work with South African law school faculty will have far-reaching implications, saying, “My goal was to give teachers practical ideas that would allow them to evaluate their students’ writing effectively in very challenging work environments. In the U.S., our relatively small classes allow teachers to meet with students, read and comment on their work extensively, and require redrafts of papers. That kind of assessment cannot be done in South Africa, where law programs have classes of 125 to 200 or more. Also, because law is an undergraduate program in South Africa, the students are younger than U.S. law students, and although English is the language of the law, it is the second, third, or even fourth language of many students. Because of these challenges, my presentation focused on alternative assessment techniques such as goal-defined grading, student self-assessment, and team-based learning. My hope is that teachers will give their students more opportunities to write if they know that less time-consuming and labor-intensive methods of assessment are available and effective.”
Founded in 2007, APPEAL is an international organization of academics, lawyers, and judges who are dedicated to promoting justice and the rule of law in the world community. The organization currently has approximately 75 members from the United States and more than 50 members from eleven African countries.