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Deakin (Students) Teaching – Peer Learning and the Vis Moot

At the time of my last Deakin Speaking post, the oral rounds for the Willem C. Vis (East) International Commercial Arbitration Moot were underway.  Today, the oral rounds for the Vis Moot in Vienna are coming to their close.  Another season’s ‘mooties’ will join the ranks of Vis Moot alumni for Deakin University, and for the hundreds of other law schools from over 60 countries taking part in this year’s event.  With that transition from participant to alumnus, it is an opportune time to reflect upon an interesting aspect of learning that occurs through the Vis Moot – peer learning.  So in this spirit, and taking as its point of reference the theme of Deakin (Students) Teaching, today’s post considers peer learning in the Vis Moot – following my earlier contributions Deakin (Students) Speaking and Deakin (Students) Deciding.

For many students taking part in the Vis Moot – probably most, perhaps even all – it will be their most challenging experience in law school.  The commitment required is immense, and part of the difficulty comes in the responsibility of student participants to chart their own course of strategy and learning.  However, the Vis Moot is an activity that has great potential for peer learning in meeting those challenges.

The Vis Moot is an international commercial law moot focusing on areas of international commercial arbitration law, and the international sale of goods.  Participating teams work through three stages.  First, a memorandum for the Claimant is drafted which presents up to 35 pages of written argument from the perspective of one side in the hypothetical dispute.  Secondly, after receiving a memorandum for the Claimant of another team, a memorandum for the Respondent is drafted in reply – responding (again in 35 pages of written argument) to actual arguments that another team has made.  Finally – and at the time of writing, quite topically – students present their arguments at the oral rounds of the Vis (East) Moot in Hong Kong, and the Vis Moot in Vienna.

These three phases of the Vis Moot all involve a high degree of difficulty.  At the same time, they present interesting opportunities for student participants to engage in peer learning activities that assist the overall progress of their team as well as the performance of individual team members.  In approaching the written exercises, team members have the opportunity to work collaboratively in developing arguments and the opportunity to critique each others’ contributions.  In approaching the oral rounds, students also have the opportunity to judge each others’ mock oral submissions.  In addition to getting feedback on their own performances, by also taking on the role of arbitrator, students gain an important external perspective on their own preparations for the oral rounds.

Once all is said and done for the Vis Moot each year, almost inevitably the first comment that student participants will make is – ‘we can’t wait to arbitrate for next years’ rounds’.  Through the world’s vast and growing Vis Moot alumni network, facilitated and promoted by the Moot Alumni Association, this peer learning continues after participation in the event itself.  Past ‘mooties’ judge informal practice rounds, judge at pre-moots, and judge in future editions of the oral rounds themselves.  Though the Vis Moot is organised around the format of a competition, these aspects of peer learning – these opportunities for Deakin students themselves to engage in and themselves learn from teaching exercises – go to the real essence of the event; an educational experience that facilitates cross-cultural understanding, and both personal and professional connections in the field.