Professional Solidarity in Teaching: An Invitation to the ESIL Teaching Corner

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At many different levels of social interaction, COVID-19 has emphasised the need to act in a spirit of solidarity. The disruptions in higher education raise challenges for teaching and our field as a whole. One of the goals of the European Society of International Law (ESIL) is to support the exchange of ideas on matters of common interest to international lawyers and we therefore invite you to make use of the new ESIL Teaching Corner. In this post, we explain why we believe such a tool is particularly relevant right now and how you can use it in your own teaching activities. 

For many academics in the Northern Hemisphere, August is usually a moment of relative pause. For some, it is a time for uninterrupted research, of the kind that gets parcelled out, postponed, or comes to a standstill during the teaching year. This PhD Comics cartoon by Jorge Cham—interesting tidbit: a cousin of the first author of this post!—makes a regular reappearance on social media this time of year. For many others, August contains a welcome period of annual leave, perhaps taking a holiday before jumping back into another exam session, the teaching year or the early September conference circuit.

But these are not usual times.

August 2020 marks a period of global societal disruption due to COVID-19. In less than a year, more than 800,000 lives have been lost to this disease and some seem to suffer persistent health problems related to an infection with COVID-19. Families have been sequestered and divided; livelihoods have been lost. In international law academia, fixed-term and early career jobs have been lost, and the future prospects of our students, and potentially some universities as a whole, are uncertain.

We may feel isolated and irrelevant, but the role of international law in global health is undeniable and indispensable. If anything, the present crisis has shown the relevance of international legal scholarship, research and education, as several posts on this blog have illustrated (see here, here, here and here).

For those of us fortunate to have retained our teaching posts during this time of crisis, we emerged from a semester of wrenching disruption. For many of us, it has meant adjusting to distance learning and online delivery, up-ending decades of established practices; we have provided additional reassurance and support to anxious students, who often grappled with the anxieties of solitude and a massively disrupted student experience. Many of us have further done so under the weight of caring responsibilities, with children at home or helping vulnerable loved ones. Women’s journal submission rates fell in spring 2020 and researchers worry the trend might continue if the gendered structures of distributing work and measuring academic performance are not addressed.

In this challenging context, and with a view to the upcoming semester, the ESIL Board would like to draw the attention of international legal scholars to a yet relatively underused resource at your disposal: the ESIL Teaching Corner. The Teaching Corner is an online resource for ESIL members to share syllabi, module outlines, reading lists, and other international law teaching materials and tools. Our idea is to encourage the dissemination of examples and good practice amongst ESIL members, and especially to provide support for early-career researchers who may be designing a course for the first time. By seeing the innovations and ideas of others, we hope to nurture and inspire innovative teaching both in Europe and beyond, and simply support each other in teaching preparations.

Access to the Teaching Corner

How to access the Teaching Corner on https://esil-sedi.eu/teaching-corner: If you have been a member of ESIL for some time, you should have received a login email with a password. If you have lost the login email or are a new member and do not know the password yet, please contact esil.secretariat {at} eui(.)eu.

The Teaching Corner works primarily through a text-based interface. If you are looking to upload a document, you are invited to provide some information on your course for tagging purposes. The process is no more difficult than uploading a letter of recommendation or a peer review.

In particular, we would encourage those of you who have designed bespoke modules on aspects of international law on which there might not be many courses to share your resources, as this could potentially encourage the spread of such courses in other universities.

What is more, materials that are in languages other than English are especially encouraged, particularly as ESIL tries to nurture multilingualism in all of its activities.  If you are an ESIL member drawing inspiration from a document on the ESIL Teaching Corner, we ask you to please acknowledge the authorship of the member who uploaded the document. 

To consult the available courses in the Teaching Corner, go to ‘Search Course’, fill in the relevant criteria, and click on ‘search’.

It does bear noting that any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the documents and syllabi uploaded belong solely to the author, and not to the European Society of International Law or its Board. ESIL will not review or edit any of the texts uploaded; equally, it cannot guarantee the quality of the syllabi that are uploaded. This is, after all, purely a resource being offered to facilitate the preparation of educational materials.

Concluding Thoughts

During such times of disruption and crisis, we feel strongly that the potential of the Teaching Corner to support international law teaching is important. The global pandemic has drawn attention to structural issues in higher education such as the differential and unequal impact of the pandemic and issues with precarious employment (see here, here and here). We hope in particular that the Teaching Corner can, in a small way, help to support early career academics, by giving access to prior experience in how to structure and design modules, especially during this turbulent period.

Even for the more experienced amongst us, teaching remotely or using digital technology represents a new frontier, and we can draw on the inspiration of others as we adapt our teaching during the pandemic, be it by distance teaching, hybrid models or face to face teaching with new rules complicating in-class interactions.

If you are an ESIL member (or plan to become one), please consider sharing some of your educational resources with other members of the Society.

We very much hope to see this platform develop over time; content will be added progressively whenever ESIL members decide to share their teaching materials. The more ESIL members upload materials to the Teaching Corner, the more useful it will be for all of us!

We thank you in advance for your intellectual generosity and solidarity.

Gleider Hernández and Evelyne Schmid

On behalf of the Board of the European Society of International Law

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Comments

Richard Mackenzie-Gray Scott says

August 31, 2020

This is a fantastic initiative. Thank you Professors Schmid and Hernández for this thoughtful piece, which also helps raise awareness on important issues.

Parisa Zangeneh says

August 31, 2020

Thank you for this post and for thinking of people in precarious work conditions.