How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Camera: Video in Negotiation Pedagogy

How can video be used to enhance the teaching of negotiation? This question was addressed by Michael Moffitt from the University of Oregon Law School in his presentation called “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Camera: Video in Negotiation Pedagogy” at the NP @ PON faculty dinner seminar on April 21, 2011. The seminar was organized by NP @ PON directors Larry Susskind (MIT) and Michael Wheeler (Harvard Business School). Each semester NP @ PON brings together PON-affiliated faculty to discuss new research, insights, and ideas about how to enhance negotiation and mediation instruction.

Michael Moffitt shared quite a few ways that video can be used in experiential law school negotiation classes. He explained how simple it is to incorporate informal video recordings of simulated negotiations into class discussion. The state of the technology allows students to make videos of themselves and distribute them in real time with no production costs at all. Videos allow instructors to capture data that might otherwise be lost since each person’s recollection of a negotiation varies from the actual event. There are literally more than a dozen ways to use video to enhance student learning in classes and on-line that focus on different combinations of students interacting, students interacting with faculty, and both students and faculty interacting with outsiders.

Some possible arrangements include:

Undirected view: Have students watch a video of their role play negotiation and identify areas they would like to improve on or discuss in more depth.
Review suggested/directed by faculty: Faculty directs student attention to a particular lesson s/he wants them to pay attention to in their independent viewing of their video.

Written analysis of clip selected by student (with or without faculty guidance): Students watch their video and are asked to choose a short snippet to analyze and annotate (for instance, the moment in a negotiation when someone put the first number out). Videos seem to improve the quality of these analyses because they are based on the tape’s record of what happened, not the student’s memory, which is often confused with what they intended to have happen.

Preparation for feedback session with faculty: Students watch the tape of their negotiation and identify a portion they want to discuss with the professor. Professor Moffitt showed an example of a negotiation with multiple students, all of whom had identified the same three minutes out of over five hours of tape. For those watching these excerpts for the first time, the few minutes the students selected seem unremarkable. As Professor Moffitt explained what each student took from those moments, he was very glad there was a video record of these exchanges. Watching the video and hearing what the individual students had to say were very revealing.

Feedback memo: Students review the video and write a memo to their negotiation counterpart with feedback. Video allows students to ground their feedback in ways that are easier for their partners to accept. Professor Moffitt noted that the quality of peer feedback is higher with videos than when students are given only oral feedback to one another directly after a negotiation. Students also tend to be more thoughtful when feedback is structured in this more formal way, when they have time to reflect and review the tape, and when they know the professor will be reviewing it.

“You be the teacher” day: Student pairs are given twelve minutes of class time to show a portion of their videos from the semester and distill key moments of learning. Professor Moffitt sometimes gives students an opportunity to re-script and re-shoot earlier negotiations for which they want a “do-over.” The quality of student presentations is generally high because they do not want to waste their colleagues’ or the professor’s time.

Peer written analysis of student-selected clips: Students are asked to analyze a part of a another student’s negotiation video. In Professor Moffitt’s experience, students are often good at analyzing their own and their counterparts’ performance in negotiations, but not as strong in guessing what is going on with others. Since all three skills are important, this exercise in third person observation helps strengthen important skills.

Voyeurism enabling (for reputation, preparation, etc): Students are given access to their peers’ negotiation videos and told their pairings in advance for a new negotiation exercise. Many students watch each other’s negotiations in preparation, hoping to identify negotiation styles and patterns. Professor Moffitt asserts that in real-life negotiations one is likely to be familiar with a counterpart’s style and patterns ahead of time.

In-class illustration or demonstration with faculty selected video clip: Faculty view student negotiation videos and choose examples to show the class. This can be very labor intensive for the faculty, though students respond very favorably when examples are used from the course they are currently taking as opposed to stock examples.

Online “I Like/Don’t Like” / Commentary: Possible future uses for videos in negotiation instruction involve engaging a broader audience in the conversation. What would it be like to get input on negotiation style and substance not only from classmates and faculty but from a vast number of users of the internet? Professor Moffitt speculates that there is potential for getting commentary on negotiation videos from broader audiences, similar to the way outsiders are eager to comment on products on or liking or commenting on something on Facebook.

Student learning portfolio (think “writing sample”): Another potential frontier for the use of video in negotiation pedagogy would be to ask students for a portfolio of video clips (rather than a written journal). Students can then use this material in their job searches much like a writing sample.

Professor Moffitt emphasized the difference between using videos sporadically as opposed to six or eight times a semester. Regular use enables his students to see patterns across exercises and make shifts in their own behavior. Another key component in deciding how to use video is to consider the level of faculty involvement required. There are some uses that require very little faculty involvement, and others that are more intensive. Professor Moffitt reports that he no longer uses journals, and finds student feedback and reflection to be more substantive and thoughtful when grounded in video clips.

Professor Moffitt says that he does not videotape everything and that students sometimes feel inhibited when he tells them, “We want you to get better by trying things you might not normally do, now smile for the camera.” The use of the camera takes some getting used to, which is why he recommends using this method frequently in course contexts. Also, video might fail to capture certain things and also overemphasize others. For example, in multi-day negotiations, video of the official negotiation does not capture conversations that happen in the hallways or over coffee between the negotiators, which can often be critical moments.

A number of questions were posed, including how video might be used in large courses where the professor would not have time to look at numerous video clips. A more general question was raised about whether we think the way to teach students to negotiate is by showing them superlative examples that they can mimic. Or, are we trying to help them improve their performance through their own trial-and-error?

Lawrence Susskind (MIT) suggested that we enable students and faculty to try lots of things, give them feedback and let them learn to make adjustments.

Daniel Shapiro (Harvard Law School) asked how Professor Moffitt measures the success of a student’s analysis since there are so many different criteria that could be used for determining if a negotiation is “successful.” Professor Moffitt said that he grades students on their analysis of their performance in the negotiation, rather than their abilities as negotiators. He expects student reflections to demonstrate understanding of core course concepts, be grounded in video data, and to ultimately convey the meaning they are making of their performance along with the development of self-awareness.

Lisle Baker (Suffolk University Law School) wondered about the possibility of shortening the time between when the negotiation is captured on video and when it is reviewed and reflected on. Shrinking this time might facilitate even deeper student learning and self-awareness because they will be almost reflecting in action as opposed to reflecting on action.

The audience was inspired by Professor Moffit’s presentation. It is clear that there are many ways of using video in negotiation instruction and that they can offer a powerful teaching tool. The PON Clearinghouse is going to move quickly to distribute a short summary of Professor Moffitt’s suggestions with each role play simulation order it fills.

To discuss this article further please join us at the NP@PON Discussion Forum.

Written by Carrie O’Neil, taken from the Summer 2011 issue of Teaching Negotiation, the bi-annual e-newsletter for Negotiation Pedagogy at the Program on Negotiation (NP@PON), which can be found here.


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