1, Number 3, August/September 2000
Plays and Congruence: Some Suggested Teaching Principles
Goldman, Wayne State University
summer Wayne State University's Mediating Theory and Democratic
Systems Program offered a one-day workshop on Teaching
Conflict Management in Academia. Barry Goldman, the author
of this piece, was one of the program presenters. He graciously
agreed to share some of his thought with CMHER readers.
a lot of my teaching by the seat of my pants. I like it
that way. But it creates a disconnect between what I do
and what I tell my students to do.
follows is a list of statements that would, if they were
put into practice, increase the congruence between what
I teach and the way I teach it and, I think, increase
the effectiveness of my teaching. The list grew out of
a talk I gave on the use of role-plays in teaching negotiation.
Id be interested in readers' comments.
the role play to the target concept
are plenty of fine role plays out there. This site has
links to sources for many of them. But the effect of even
the best scripts can be diluted to zero if they aren't
assigned when the class is dealing with the appropriate
idea. Don't waste your great logrolling script on the
night your lecture was on gender and culture.
means you will have to read a lot of role plays. There
is no help for that. You can't teach students to do their
homework unless you do yours.
the technique with care.
plays can be done privately by students in pairs or small
groups or they can be performed by one group with the
rest of the class observing (the fishbowl technique).
The roles in the fishbowl can be fixed or they can change.
Roles can be assigned to volunteers, they can be assigned
by an instructor with a particular pedagogical agenda
or they can be randomized. Or they could appear to be
selected by one of these methods when in fact they are
selected by another. And role plays dont have to
come from role play books. They can come from films or
literature, from the news or from real life.
the presentation technique keeps the class interesting,
but it is also good pedagogy in a way that is analogous
to varying negotiation technique. A teacher with one presentation
is like a pitcher with one pitch or a negotiator with
one gimmick. Pretty soon they get "solved".
Your Students Where You Find Them
am the instructor. I've been doing this for a long time.
I know what I want to cover and what I consider inessential.
Its easy to decide that I know best and I dont
need to listen to my students.
students have ideas about what they want to know, what
they need to work on, what interests them. You won't find
out unless you ask. Then you can let them design role
plays that deal with issues that matter to them or that
employ techniques they have encountered in real life.
Meaningful problems are better teachers than teachers.
You can't teach students to listen unless you listen.
the Least Intrusive Intervention
whole idea of negotiation role plays is that they provide
students an opportunity to experiment in a situation where
there aren't real dollars riding on the outcomes. If the
instructor has chosen the script, assigned the roles and
selected the technique with an eye toward matching the
target concept s/he can relax and "let the problem
be their teacher".
first rule of intervention is: Don't.
way to note things for the rest of the class without interrupting
the players in the fishbowl is to use a flip chart that
the players can't see. No doubt there are much more expensive,
computer-assisted ways to do this but a flip-chart will
it is necessary to intervene while a role play in going
on there are several ways to do it. One is to sneak over
to the player who needs it and whisper. One level up from
the whisper is to slip into the fishbowl as if you were
a party or a co-mediator and slip out again.
the next level up the scale of intrusiveness you can ask
the players to freeze in role while the rest of the class
processes what has been happening. And at the most intrusive
level you can stop the role play, bring the players out
of role, discuss and return to role.
goal ought to be to use the least intrusive intervention
that will accomplish the job. This requires that the instructor
be aware of the different possible levels of intrusiveness,
have a clear idea of which one is appropriate under the
circumstances, and have a clear idea of exactly what constitutes
point worth making is that it is not only the instructor
who can take the role of intervenor. Coaches or "consultants"
can drop into the fishbowl too.
Leading Questions and Let Them Talk
people things is not an effective way of getting them
to learn them. People learn best from what they themselves
do, think and say. Therefore, in debriefing an exercise,
let the players explain what they learned.
it's necessary to tell them something, tell them in a
way that they are likely to hear you. Criticism gets ignored.
Phony flattery is eventually discounted. But by asking
questions and working together toward answers you can
"let them have your way". You can lead and teach
may also be helpful to debrief in expanding groups. First
the small group debriefs itself. Then it brings its conclusions
to the larger group. This gives students more confidence
in what they have to say which in turn increases voluntary
participation and reduces the teeth-pulling feature of
Monitor Your non-verbals
attention to those body language leaks. Model the behavior.
You cant teach students to do it unless you do it.
all about mindfulness. Its all about paying attention.
Effective, engaging, exciting classes dont just
happen. And subject-matter expertise is only necessary,
not sufficient to make them happen. Care and attention
to the process is essential. Just as it is in any dispute
the little clear plastic name tag sleeves you get at conferences
and use them to identify your role play characters.
article like this should have at least one actual, practical
piece of advice. That's it for this one.
(firstname.lastname@example.org) is an experienced ADR practitioner
and instructor. He has served as a neutral third party
for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, the
American Arbitration Association, the Michigan Employment
Relations Commission, and the National Association of
Securities Dealers (NASD). He also trains new arbitrators
and panel chairs for the NASD. As a visiting assistant
professor at Wayne State University, Barry teaches graduate
and undergraduate courses including Negotiation Theory
and Practice, Dispute Resolution, and Labor Arbitration.
Barry has been teaching courses at WSU since 1979.