Fearing Minefields But Finding Goldfields: Teaching International and Comparative Workplace Law in China or Anywhere Else
Thomas Jefferson School of Law
International Journal of Comparative Labour Law and Industrial Relations, Vol. 25, No. 1, p. 33, 2009
Thomas Jefferson School of Law Research Paper No. 1421965
This article explores the goals, challenges and outcomes associated with a course entitled "The Global Workplace," which the author taught in May-June 2007 as part of Thomas Jefferson School of Law's inaugural Study Abroad in China Program. Although she had previously taught a similar course, this was her first experience with a cross-cultural, cross-national classroom. The article reviews the goals the author had for the course, aspirations that did not differ in content from what she ordinarily hopes to achieve when teaching the course: (1) introducing students to international workplace law principles and international organizations, such as the International Labour Organization (ILO); (2) comparing several national systems so that students achieve insight into how common workplace problems are addressed differently in different countries; and (3) creating creative, open-minded, future transnational lawyers through respectful discussion of policy and the tools available to facilitate transnational legal practice. Next, the article describes three challenges attendant to teaching international and comparative workplace law in a foreign country. These challenges were: (1) language-related, because the Chinese students were not used to speaking and reading English on a regular basis; (2) pedagogical, in that the Chinese method of law instruction is typically lecture-based rather than interactive and Socratic; and (3) political, because some of the issues in the course implicate Chinese and American foreign policy and workplace conditions. Finally, the article reviews the outcomes achieved during the author's three weeks in China. By the end of the course, the author felt she had: (1) piqued the students' interest and increased their knowledge in the course subject matter; (2) facilitated cross-cultural appreciation and the development of friendships between the Chinese and American students; and (3) achieved a depth and balance in her teaching that had perhaps been more difficult to achieve when teaching on American soil. This last outcome continues to yield fruit in the author's classroom in the U.S.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 20
Keywords: labor law, employment law, work law, legal education, pedagogy, international law, comparative law
JEL Classification: K10, K33
Date posted: June 18, 2009 ; Last revised: December 12, 2012
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