Home Faculty Additional Information Dwight Golann Video Teaching Classroom Use of Movie Clips or Banishing Boredom: How Hollywood Can Help
Classroom Use of Movie Clips or Banishing Boredom: How Hollywood Can Help
By Steven Rosenberg
Even the most compelling course materials contain potentially boring elements. Any sustained course of study is improved by including elements designed to entertain as well as instruct. Carefully selected short segments of movies, referred to here as ¡°clips¡±, are ideally suited to this need. Some academic subjects are better suited to this approach than others. It might be difficult for a professor of advanced mathematics to find suitable material. However, where the subject involves a wide range of human interaction such as negotiation and mediation, the video clip approach offers opportunities to illustrate the instructor¡¯s points and invites the application of creativity by students. My purpose here is to provide guidance in applying the clip technique to negotiation and mediation instruction, Particularly as they might relate to the Resolving Disputes text.
The general approach to presentation of the clip is the ¡°humor sandwich¡±. The bread is the teaching point and the meat (or tofu for the vegans) is the humor. The professor develops an instructional point, and then shows the video clip illustrating that point followed by a review or summation of the point. This is the familiar ¡°Tell ¡®em what you¡¯re gonna tell ¡®em; tell ¡®em what you told ¡®em¡± approach. The clip technique sandwiches a video image between the two ¡°tell ¡®ems¡±, increasing both the enjoyment quotient for the class and the retention of the point illustrated.
Finding and selecting material is one of the enjoyable aspects of this approach. Consider this - the time you take watching films this time can reasonably be described as ¡°working¡±. Furthermore, you will have a built in excuse to purchase an unlimited supply of home theater and electronic equipment. I personally point out to my wife that ¡°It¡¯s all deductible¡± (disclaimer: this is not to be taken as tax advice and you are urged to consult the Internal Revenue Code, which tends to be somewhat more liberal than my wife).
When considering any piece of video as a potential instructional clip, keep two basic criteria in mind. (1) It must illustrate the target concept without much of a stretch. Like a joke that gets no laugh and must be explained, the clip will lose much, if not all, of its impact if the professor must follow it with a lengthy explanation of how it relates to the point; (2) It must be entertaining to an individual without the slightest interest or knowledge of the course subject matter. In the first place, there may be such people in your class no matter how late in the semester it is. Secondly, we can best be assured of the entertainment, as opposed to the academic, value of the clip if it stands alone as entertainment.
Once you have introduced this method to your class you will probably find your students a productive source of suggestions for further clips. They are likely exposed to many more media sources than you are and can point you to promising pieces. Exhibit D indicates where to find the clips presented below.
After you have selected a scene you would like to use you need to consider length and editing. One minute to three minutes is an ideal length. Unless the scene is really riveting and illustrates a fundamental issue in the course, anything longer can be a problem. Also, even with the most careful selection and preparation, not every clip will be a winner. If it doesn¡¯t work, better it is over quickly. Obtaining clips of the appropriate length may require some editing. Whenever possible, choose a scene that is of the appropriate length in the original production. Begin and end where the director has decided to begin and end the scene. Hugely talented and experienced editors have spent hours choosing these breaks for dramatic impact. Wherever possible, rest on their laurels.
Your introduction of the clip, or ¡°set up¡±, necessarily draws on the context of the film or program from which it was taken. Strike a balance between giving sufficient background to set the scene and alerting students to the ideas that will be presented while not revealing the surprise or dramatic moment. Avoid the problem of your well-meaning friend who urges you to repeat a joke to a new audience by referring to the punch line.
Skilled use of the equipment available to you is critical to the success of this technique. Nothing detracts more from the impact you are seeking than fumbling with the equipment after you have provided the set up and the students are eagerly awaiting the clip. Allow plenty of time before the class begins to make sure the equipment is in working order. You want the humor to derive from the clip, not from the students¡¯ derision at your performance.
Besides general use during regular classes, clips can also be used as an interesting and fun homework assignment. Assign the students in groups of 3-8 to watch a film and report back to the class about the lessons that film has for negotiators or mediators. The films Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid and Gandhi are particularly rich in such material.
Finally, video clips can be used on the exam. Show one or more clips with specific test questions asking the students to describe fundamental principles related to the subject matter illustrated by the clip. This could be a clip that has been shown in class or one that was saved for testing purposes. To respond to such questions students must not only be very conversant with the course material, but also be able to apply that knowledge in a creative manner, an arguably useful skill for negotiators and mediators.
This guide concludes with my favorite dozen clips that may be used to illustrate given aspects of negotiation and mediation. These are only suggestions and the best clips may be those that you discover on your own. The world of digital media is rich in appropriate material and new films are available on video and DVD every week.
The following are examples of videos that may be used to illustrate concepts covered in the Resolving Disputes Text. Although they are in sequence, you may want to vary the order to fit the course coverage.
This video clip can be used early in the course, perhaps on the first day. It is a favorite of most students and sets a nice tone for the class as well as presenting a central concept often developed during the study of negotiation or mediation. Negotiation and Mediation offer an opportunity for the parties to have a productive argument about a conflict. Discuss what that means and how it is possible. Explain to the class before showing the clip that you do not have a good example of how to have a productive argument but you have found an excellent example of how not to have an argument.
After discussing distributive bargaining the following clip can be shown. Danny DeVito, Michael Douglas¡¯ divorce attorney, informed him that there would be some advantage to him if he remained in his residence with his estranged wife. As the scene opens Michael is explaining the agreement that was the result of their (distributive) negotiation concerning sharing the house. It is obvious that it was a terrible result and demonstrates the fallacy of only focusing on getting the largest share of the pie (or the house) without considering the overall consequences of the agreement.
This clip can be viewed at any time but preferably after discussing the importance of understanding the other sides thinking and interests.
After a review of collaborative bargaining principles this clip can be used to anchor the concept of separating the people from the problem. Explain the context of the clip. (The scene is a partnership meeting and the attorneys are discussing what to do about a young associate that they feel is degrading the reputation of their firm.) Point out how touching it is that these attorneys were able to put aside their personal negative feelings about this individual and focus on the real issue - money!
After the subject of collaborative bargaining has been covered the above clip can be utilized.
This video may be used at any juncture in a negotiation or mediation course. Explain that Vinny’s girl friend played a game of pool with J.T. and won $200 which J.T. refused to pay. Vinny attempts to collect the money and a type of negotiation ensues in which Vinny represents his girlfriend. J.T. makes a counter offer that is clearly not a “yesable” proposition. After viewing the clip observe that J.T.’s counter was ridiculous and certainly not a “yesable” proposition. However, point out that negotiators frequently make offers that are just as ridiculous indicating they gave no thought to whether it was a “yesable” proposition.
After covering the teaching points indicated on Exhibit B the above clip can be used as a review and to stimulate further discussion.
Listening is a core skill for both negotiators and mediators. The body language of the listener is significant for both the listener and the speaker. After discussing this point as it applies in negotiation and mediation, you can show this clip asking the students if they think Chevy’s body language was helpful. (In a “Weekend Update” Skit Chevy Chase makes faces and mocks Jane Curtain while she is speaking.)
For the parties to create a durable agreement they must discuss and then put all critical terms in writing. This clip can be shown after discussing the importance of this concept in negotiation or mediation. (In this scene Catherine Turner was traveling on a bus in Bolivia that ran into Michael Douglas’ jeep ¨C totaling both vehicles. Catherine negotiates with Michael to take her to a phone to make an emergency call.) Explain that they reach an agreement but ask them if they can determine which critical term was left out of the agreement. Also see if they can find where Michael uses “standards” to bolster his position. You can also explain that they will see that no matter how difficult the situation may appear it is still possible to negotiate.
After spending some time on the subject of mediation the above clip can be utilized.
This video may be shown in the context of exploring the appropriate use of the joint session. It demonstrates the process dangers presented in the joint session when the mediator expresses an opinion on the law. This clip can simply be introduced by asking the class if they can determine the nature of the problem the mediator creates in the joint session. (Here our intrepid mediator attempts to intervene between two men fighting over the winnings from a slot machine. His intervention, pontificating on the law, backfires.)
To help a mediation participant analyze her position and make the best decision possible, the mediator will sometimes act as the “agent of reality.” Such situations frequently develop in relation to the value of the case or the likelihood of success at trial. In helping parties analyze such issues mediators are often tempted to evaluate a party’s position in terms of percentages or odds. This clip points out the process dangers in doing so. Numbers can be interpreted in ways not contemplated by the mediator. After discussing this point, show this clip and ask that the students notice the confusion, rather than clarity the mediator creates by using numbers. (Here Jim Carey asks his romantic interest what the chances are of them “ending up together.” Her response, which was meant to discourage him, has quite the opposite effect.)
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