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THE DESIGN AND TEACHING OF DRAMATIC FILMS: AN APPROACH TO VALUES EDUCATION By Anthony N. Penna & Mathias von Brauchitsch Mr. Penna is associate professor ofHistory at Carnegie-Mellon University and served as senior educational contentfor the Decades ofdecision series Mr. von Brauchitsch directs special projectsfor WQED Metropolitan Pittsburgh Public Broadcasting Inc. He designed the entire series, and served as scriptwriter andfilm director classroom routine. Yet their purpose and often their content remain peripheral to the manifest and unspecified goals ofcourses. The use of documentary and dramatic films in public school, college and university classrooms has increased greatly during the last decade. This marked increase in use has been stimulated by the availability of federal and state funds for purchase, by studies on the impact of commercial and public educational television programming on the learning of children, adolescents, and adults and by film-makers who deviate from the conventions about proper film length, the use of sound and narration , and audience participation. Films with precise goals may vary from five to sixty minutes in length. Self-winding, silent film loops allow the audience to stop, proceed, and rewind the film at will. Films without narration promote a more extensive range of interpretation than those in which the narrator tells you what you should see. A few experimental film series programme stoppages into the film at which time discussions about an issue commence before viewing the succeeding segments of the film. Almost without exception, conventional and experimental films serve a fundamental purpose in the classroom, they enrich courses whose substantive range is limited to a conventional narrative descriptive text or extended to include multi-texts, anthologies, monographs, source books, reprints and the instructor's assumed right to duplicate whatever he or she wishes. Put another way, films may divert instructors and students from the routines of lectures, recitations, and seminar discussions. They lift the burden of performing in class from the faculty and students alike. The intense interpersonal dialogue common in most classrooms disappears in the darkness of the film classroom when attention is focused on the film. At best, films offer refreshing breaks in an established It is the purpose of this paper (1) to present some empirical findings concerning the impact of films on the learning of the viewing audience, (2) to describe the rationale and development for a film series titled Decades of Decision: The American Revolution and, (3) to report on an alternative teaching strategy which may be utilized by instructors concerned with values education. In general, the authors argue that the instructional goals and teaching strategies which accompany films ought to reflect the same precision of thought and dialogue which accompany the development and production of films. In discussing the impact ofdramatic motion pictures on young audiences, W. W. Charters concludes: "The range of influence of the commercial movie is wide; the motion picture because ofits potency in many directions plays a substantial and significant part in the informal guidance ofchildren .... The (dramatic) motion picture is an extremely powerful medium of education." (1) The 33 statement is based on the ability of dramatic motion pictures to affect the attitudes of the young. Using such films as Birth of a Nation. AU Quiet on the Western Front. Criminal Code. Charters shows that attitudes towards a social value can be changed by a single exposure. He found the cumulative effect offilms to be especially powerful; motion pictures which singly were ineffective became effective when used in combination with others. This finding is supported by the work of Maslow who suggests that a peak experience may have a powerful influence on major changes in the individual. (2) The hypothesis arising out of Maslow's work is that a single powerful experience may have much more impact on the individual than many less powerful experiences. Although this topic has been explored only in a cursory way, the evidence collected so far suggests that a single hour of classroom activities may bring about a major reorganization in cognitive as well as affective behaviors. In any case, Herbert Blumer clearly established that dramatic motion pictures affect conduct. He ascribes this finding to a phenomenon, which he calls "emotional possession." In watching a motion...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9922
Print ISSN
0360-3695
Pages
pp. 33-42
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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