Peer Tutoring in My Legal English Classroom

Peer tutoring and peer evaluation activities increase the students’ engagement in the learning process. Student tutors require deeper knowledge and understanding of the task which may lead to better preparation for the classes, raising awareness, learning to share with others and performing additional out-of-class activities, e.g. reading, watching tutorials, etc.

Peer tutoring activities generate significant benefits for the students. They develop reasoning and critical thinking skills, improve self-esteem and interpersonal skills, motivate students to communicate by various means, not only face to face but also using latest ICT tools, so students’ digital competence may also increase.

Collaboration and teamwork are key competences for students. The syllabi academic teachers draw up for their legal English and business English courses always include the element of cooperation, group work, pair work as social competences that graduates require.

The project which I introduced into my legal English classes in spring semester 2019 was aimed at deeper engagement of students in the learning and teaching process. Students were delegated a number of peer tutoring tasks which were supposed to give them more responsibility, empower them to provide feedback and keep them accountable for the quality of the assignments carried out.

The activities which I introduced into my classes were modelled so that they developed the productive language skills of:

  1. writing/drafting (legal opinions, correspondence, blog posts, contract clauses paraphrases in plain English, translations), and
  2. speaking (presentations, job interviews).

An important element of each activity was the preparation stage during which students familiarized themselves with the rules, language, layouts and standards of modern writing/correspondence or presentations.

Before they made any attempts of writing legal opinions or paraphrasing contract clauses, they were introduced to plain language rules, they studied model answers, analysed layout, etc. Only then they were asked to write a document/text on their own. Peer tutoring involved in writing activities consisted in peer correction at the first stage before the assignment was handed in for the teacher’s grading. For writing tasks students were also familiarized with the correction code, so that they used the same code and the comments were understood by the authors of the texts evaluated.

In the case of presentations students studied the structure and the language of a presentation first and they were sent an evaluation sheet with checklist questions to know what their peer evaluators will be paying attention to while listening to and collecting feedback for the presenters. During presentations the audience was asked to make notes on the evaluation sheets under four headings: delivery, content/structure, body language, and visual aids. After each presentation audience commented on the strengths and weaknesses of the presentation and asked questions, they had been asked to prepare to rehearse a question and answer session after each presentation.

To help students prepare for job interviews a speed interviewing session was organized. Interviewers were given the grid to evaluate the interviewees and had five minutes to talk to each candidate after which time the interviewees moved to another interviewer.

As a follow up activity the interviewers group together to discuss their marks for each candidate and choose the student with the best score to get the job. The interviewees, on the other hand, may discuss the questions they had to answer, which were the most challenging, what surprised them, etc. or decide which interviewer was the most professional, asked the most interesting questions, etc. When the students announce their choices, they discuss the strengths and weaknesses of individual candidates and the teacher may also give the class some feedback.

During the semester the students also prepared their CVs. The CVs were supposed to be authentic but anonymized. I photocopied the CVs and distributed them among students who worked in groups and were asked to provide feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of the documents they got and choose the best one from the collection provided. On the basis of the peer feedback and the teacher’s feedback, students had an opportunity to polish their CVs and resubmit them.

At the end of the semester students filled in a short questionnaire in which they shared their opinion about peer tutoring activities performed during their classes. Most students (73%) admitted they improved their letter writing skills, job interviewing skills, presentation skills. The students felt the comments they received from their peers after the presentations were most useful (82%). More than a half of students (60%) found the feedback concerning their letters of advice useful, while in the case of CVs only less then one third of students (27%) valued the feed and most students (55%) were not sure whether the feedback they received helped. Eight students out of ten enjoyed taking the role of an evaluator and reported that they had improved their confidence. They also confessed that positive comments were easier to give and for most of them (78%) their peers assessment was important.

Quite interestingly, my students considered writing letters of advice as the most enjoyable of all tasks and speed interviewing as the least. The same order is reflected in the question about usefulness of the activities.


W dniach 9-10 maja 2019 wzięłam udział w konferencji pt. Kompetencje dla XXI wieku: certyfikacja biegłości językowej na Uniwersytecie Warszawskim.

Tematem, który często pojawiał się w wystąpieniach konferencyjnych były nowe deskryptory poziomów znajomości języków obcych (z uwzględnieniem poziomu pre-A1), które uwzględniono w nowej wersji skali ESOKJ opublikowanej w 2018 roku. Z tym dokumentem w wersji angielskiej mozna zapoznać się tu:

Nową tendencją w certyfikacji i testowaniu jest odchodzenie od sprawności językowych na rzecz działań językowych. Zamiast czterech tradycyjnych sprawności pojawiły się zintegrowane działania:

·      Odbiór tekstu, recepcja (słuchanie + mówienie)

·      Tworzenie tekstu, produkcja (mówienie + pisanie)

·      Reagowanie językowe (interakcja)

·      Mediacja językowa (przetwarzanie tekstu).

Działania mediacyjne umożliwiają komunikację pomiędzy osobami, które z różnych względów nie mogą się ze sobą porozumieć. W sytuacji mediacyjnej użytkownik występuje w roli pośrednika (mediatora, tłumacza), który przetwarza tekst. Dla mnie to działanie jest szczególnie interesujące, gdyż jako lektor języka prawniczego na co dzień na moich zajęciach angażuję studentów w tłumaczenia, parafrazy, definiowania terminów prawniczych. W 2016 roku pisała o tym Barbora Chovancova, którą znam z konferencji Legal English w Białymstoku i Supraślu tu:

Myślę, że warto, aby nowe deskryptory i działania językowe znalazły odbicie w naszych sylabusach i na naszych zajęciach. Można o nich więcej przeczytać w Językach Obcych w Szkole 1/2018 na str. 94

Zachęcam do dzielenia się Waszą wiedzą w tym temacie.





Memrise Tutorial

This week I am going to present at the BLEC Conference „LANGUAGE AND LAW – TRADITIONS, TRENDS AND PERSPECTIVES” at the University of Białystok. I will talk about using memrise in teaching Legal English. Below you can find the abstract of my presentation.

I have also prepared a handout in which I explain step by step how to create courses on memrise. I hope it will be useful for you and your students.

Memrise is an educational tool available both online and for mobile devices. Memrise uses flashcards and mnemonic techniques to aid in teaching foreign languages and memorizing information from other subjects, e.g. geography, law or mathematics. Memrise courses are created by its users through the process of crowdsourcing, therefore they are tailored to the individual needs of the users and may focus on the specific content of a particular coursebook or classes.

The paper will attempt to present possibilities of using memrise in teaching and learning legal English vocabulary during a tertiary course leading to TOLES (Test of Legal English Skills) certificate examination. The paper will look various types of exercises which facilitate memorizing vocabulary, learning collocations, prepositional phrases, develop the skill of paraphrasing and defining legal terms of art in plain English. Application of the crowdsourcing method enables the learners to participate in the process of the course creation and constitutes for them a supplementary, out of class exposure to the target language.

The second part of the paper will discuss the results of the research conducted by the author among her law students. The aim of the research was to investigate the students’ opinions about memrise as a tool which might facilitate individual learning of the specialist language as well as to assess whether memrise may influence the test results achieved by the students during the legal English course. The paper will contrastively analyse the progress tests results achieved by the students who have used memrise to revise and recycle language material and those who have chosen traditional (non-mobile) methods of learning. The research will also attempt to address the question whether the students who have been the contributors to the content for memrise courses have performed in tests better than those who have only been the users.

WIKI for Students of Law has been specially designed for Polish and Russian students of Law.

The Project is coordinated by dr Elena Vyushkina from Saratov State Law Academy, Russia and dr Aleksandra Łuczak from Kozminski University, Warsaw, Poland.

Below here is a presentation of WIKI DURALEX for the 5th International Scientific and Methodological Conference on „Information and Communication Technologies in Linguistics, ELT and Crosscultural Communication” at Lomonosov Moscow State University on 7-9 June 2012

The article describing DURALEX WIKI Project written by dr Aleksandra Łuczak from Kozminski University has been awarded the third place in the competition organised by a Polish magazine for foreign languages teachers „Języki obce w szkole” and can be read here: