Summer Teaching: A Professional Crossroads

Stefan Mandelbaum

Dr Stefan Mandelbaum taught International Commercial Law on King’s Undergraduate Summer School in 2012 and 2013. He is now a Senior Lecturer in International Law at Anglia Ruskin University and a member of the Senate at his institution. 

Teaching for King’s Summer Programmes as a doctoral researcher turned out to be an important crossroad in my academic career. Coming from a strong legal-philosophical background and responding to a 2012 call from the Summer School for module suggestions, I initially proposed a course on “dispute settlement in international investment law”, simply because my doctoral work already focused on this subject matter. During the interview, Summer Programmes put to me that a course on International Commercial Law would give me the opportunity to merge different aspects of international law into one course. While the course development and delivery turned out to be as challenging as preparing a fairly new subject for HE teaching naturally is, the course, with me as a lead tutor in 2012 and 2013, eventually ranked among the most popular courses in the Summer School curriculum. The in-class, organisational and pedagogic challenges which only a summer course poses, together with being involved in considering an audience even before their application  became experiences which have shaped my lecturing style ever since. In the following, I would like to give two examples of the impact my summer school teaching had on my career as a teacher in HE, one concerning the acquired pedagogic skills when dealing with an array of educational and cultural backgrounds in class, the other addressing the direct link between the subject of teaching and my current position.

Peer learning

In both years, the summer module on International Commercial Law cohort consisted of students of very different backgrounds, ranging from first year UG students and Masters students of various subjects to judges and business people. Overcoming this welcomed but also challenging mix of sometimes very different abilities led me to develop an in-class tutoring scheme in which I prescribed an overall task (e.g. case study, moot problem) for all students while appointing the most senior class members as group leaders. This method enabled a study atmosphere where the junior class mates were learning from me and their peers whilst the more advanced students were recognized as leaders and had to learn how to teach what they already knew. While this model of hierarchical participation originated in the diverse composition of an international summer school class, it developed over time into a critical pedagogic method which I have continued using ever since. From good student feedback in my previous years to a 100 percent satisfaction rate in both my King’s summer courses, the facilitation of such an integrative learning environment had led my last semester’s course on “International Commercial Arbitration” to be among the 10 top-scoring classes out of 2.500 at my present institution, Anglia Ruskin University.

Shaping my career

Learning how to cater for the varying abilities and expectations of summer school participants, however, is only one of the pedagogic upshots for my career. The subject of “International Commercial Law”, rather peripheral at the time to my research expertise, has been pivotal in getting the lectureship that I am holding now. My teaching orbits not so much the very specific doctoral topic I was working on (the market for such a position is rather thin) and my first appointment outside King’s College London as well as the leeway to my permanent post now was via a “visiting lectureship” on “Transnational Commercial Law”. I can honestly say that if it would not have been for King’s decision to opt for the ‘commercial side’ of international affairs, I would not teach and do research in this field, and I would not be able to now expand my research collaborations to the business aspects of international sports law or management studies, both of which emerging into cutting edge fields of scholarship.

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