In-class movies expand student understanding

Kyarra Harris

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Kristen Warner, an assistant professor of telecommunication and film, teaches a class geared specifically toward film analysis.

“We don’t give movie reviews, what we’re interested in is what does the film do? It’s important for our students to be able to pick out where these elements are coming from in the film. How do these film styles show up in these movies that we’re watching? It’s less like good or bad and more like and what is the purpose of this film? What does it do? What does it change?” Warner said.

However, in arts and sciences, where the focus is not film, there are still some movies or clips shown in class to enhance the lesson.

“I will typically show a film in my class once or twice a week,” associate professor of American studies Stacy Morgan said.

The clips benefit students in different ways, varying from informational to entertaining.

“If it happens to be a film that they are already familiar with, just through entertainment, you can use it as cultural evidence. For students, I feel like those are those light bulb moments when students think to themselves, ‘Wow I thought this was just for giggles,’ and it actually has a lot of symbolism behind it,” Morgan said.

Showing movies in class dates back to the 1950s. As technology advances, it becomes more accessible for teachers to use these tools in their classrooms.

“It’s a long tradition. We do all kinds of films. As a professor you know what you should show your students, but there’s an infinite number of films that you can show for an infinite number of reasons,” Warner said.

For students, these movies and clips help them 
better understand the material being presented in class by making real-world connections to new information.

Savannah Graham, a freshman in the religious studies 100 class, said she watches both full length films and movie clips in class, and they help her think outside 
of the box.

“Watching movies in class gives me a better perspective of what we’re 
learning so that I don’t just see things in one way,” she said.

As for the future of showing films in class, there is the idea of a movie-sin class, where students would analyze the quality of a film and whether or not the message reached 
its potential audience.

“I think that [a movie-sin class] would be something you should do when you are further advanced. The important thing is that, it’s not just about good or bad. It’s about knowing the style, context and history that makes criticism richer. So if it ever became about, it should be an upper-level graduate class because by that point you would have enough experience,” Warner said.

Some professors believe they already incorporate these skills into class today.

“We analyze films in class especially when we watch an entire film,” Morgan said. “When we do that, we typically spend an entire class period talking about the film in terms of content, in relation to the course unit and making connections, comparisons and contrasts to other material from the same unit. Which may be paintings or an 
academic article that they’ve read.”