Academic journal article Journal of Film and Video

Subjects under Study: Broadening the Perceptions of Future Filmmakers and Film Scholars

Academic journal article Journal of Film and Video

Subjects under Study: Broadening the Perceptions of Future Filmmakers and Film Scholars

Article excerpt

Our Contemporary Wars as Opportunities for Educating and My Motivations for Course Development

Each day I am mindful of the fact that I am teaching students during a time of war. The tragedies, the costs of war, and the effects of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan not only matter now, but also will be with us for decades or longer. Even though most of our students are safe within the confines of the United States and have not seen war firsthand, many who come to our campuses have family members, friends, and acquaintances who are, or have been, deployed to these theaters. And with increasing frequency, veterans are joining us in our classrooms as a result of the post-9/11 GI Bill. In light of all of these facts, students often express the desire to understand what current military-service personnel and veterans have experienced. Ultimately, today's conflicts offer educators the opportunity to engage film students in immediate events and experiences that can significantly deepen their understand- ing of the world around them and the subjects they analyze and film.

For film educators, current events provide the chance to explore real-world subjects in the classroom, but they also challenge us to incorporate innovative teaching techniques that can help us reach our students. Since many students come to my class with unclear or stereotypical visions of the military-service experience and of war in general, I have crafted a multifaceted pedagogical approach that helps students become fully engaged in analyzing the war film genre so that they can better un- derstand a film subject. In the course, students screen war films, read veteran testimonial literature, interview veterans concerning their military-service experience, invite veterans and their families to speak to our class, and par- ticipate in a variety of service-learning projects that help them contextualize course materials. For those who teach other areas of film studies and film production, this method can facilitate deeper student understanding of a variety of film genres and subjects. For example, if one is teaching a documentary film course, stu- dents may benefit from a similar pedagogical approach that addresses a specific subject, such as urban poverty, educational funding, minority rights, or a variety of other research topics. Thus, this template for a film course that immerses students in a close study of a subject through film, written and oral testimony, and service learning is not limited to an exploration of war alone.

Although I caution my students that no one course (and no one film, for that matter) can provide all insights concerning a given subject, the course "War, Film, and the Soldier Experi- ence" demonstrates that one can more deeply research a topic from many different perspec- tives, which results in a more complete picture of the subject under study. Herein, I present an overview of the pedagogical approach I take in the classroom. Based on David Kolb's concep- tualization of learning styles, it offers particular promise for film faculty who wish not to simply use film to reach students but to utilize other teaching approaches to help film students un- derstand the nuances that must be considered by filmmakers and film scholars who study particular populations or subjects. I provide details concerning how the course is structured and how I intersect the course elements during three different periods of time in the course calendar, and I discuss student feedback per- taining to their stated reasons for enrolling in the course and their overall class experience.

Kolb and Learning Styles

Research suggests that students learn in a vari- ety of ways. With this in mind, I have designed "War, Film, and the Soldier Experience" to ap- peal to a wide variety of learning styles by vary- ing my pedagogical approaches in the class- room. According to Kolb, learning occurs in a cycle comprised of "concrete experience (CE), a feeling dimension; reflective observation (RO), a watching dimension; abstract conceptualiza- tion (AC), a thinking dimension; and active ex- perimentation (AE), a doing dimension" (Evans, Forney, Guido, Patton, and Renn 138). …

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