"I don't know why. I just make comparisons.": Concept-based instruction to promote development of a second legal languaculture in international LL.M. students

Restricted (Penn State Only)
Kurtz, Lindsey Marie
Graduate Program:
Applied Linguistics
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
October 05, 2017
Committee Members:
  • James P. Lantolf, Dissertation Advisor
  • James P. Lantolf, Committee Chair
  • Deryn Phillips Verity, Committee Member
  • Matthew Edward Poehner, Committee Member
  • Dorothy Evensen , Outside Member
  • sociocultural theory
  • concept-based instruction
  • analogical reasoning
  • LL.M. students
  • legal case reading
Although analogical reasoning is the heart of legal reasoning in the U.S. common law system, and “dominates the first year of law school” (Sunstein, 1993, p. 741), law students rarely receive explicit instruction in analogical reasoning and when they do, that instruction is often in the form of “general directives” (Hartung & George, 2009). For foreign-trained lawyers in LL.M. programs, this presents a multi-faceted tension. Not only are these students overwhelmingly learners of English as an additional language, but these students enter U.S. law schools with an already internalized legal languaculture (Agar, 1994) which either does not rely on analogical reasoning or uses analogical reasoning differently than the U.S. common law system does. Thus, these students are attempting to participate in a second legal languaculture while working to improve their English generally. Crucially, the positioning of these students in the law schools is almost exclusively focused on their status as language learners, and does not acknowledge learning needs related to their already internalized legal languaculture. Thus, the primary purpose of this study was to explicitly teach analogical reasoning, identified as critical for participating in U.S. common law analysis. In order to achieve this, a concept-based instruction (CBI) grounded in principles of Lev Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory (V-SCT) of mind was developed and implemented in a language-and-law-skills course for pre-LL.M. students studying criminal law. Thus, the study examines in detail students’ development in Case Reading in Praxis, Analogical Reasoning in Common Law Analysis, and how students engaged with the CBI curriculum in learning to read and write as common law analyzers. The study provides insight into the process of learning a second legal languaculture, and how appropriately-attuned instruction can provide powerful mediation that aids student development.