J. Clay Hurdle, Laura L. Greenhaw 10.12806/V22/I2/R4
As leadership educators consider effective approaches to teaching leadership, it is important to consider the implications of teaching and learning theory. General tenets of social constructivism dictate that learning is carried out in groups. In particular, the co-construction of knowledge with fellow learners leads the individual learner to a deeper understanding of the world around them (Schunk, 2020). This is important for leadership because it has been asserted that leadership is a socially constructed phenomenon (Rost & Barker, 2000).
Social Cognitive Theory arose out of the constructivist school of thought and, at its core, suggests that the drivers of human behaviors are best understood through the interplay of people, their environment, and behaviors (Bandura, 1986). Accompanying theories that have resulted from the initial work in Social Cognitive Theory include the notion of social comparison and modeling. In a basic sense, people have a tendency to compare themselves to others whether it be friends, family, colleagues, rivals, or role models (Wheeler & Suls, 2005). Modeling refers to the fundamental piece of vicarious learning: observation of human or non-human symbols to acquire knowledge and/or modify behaviors (Schunk, 2020). The very essence of vicarious learning and the concept of modeling are central to a postindustrial approach to leadership education.
Vicarious learning presents leadership educators with an arsenal of approaches for engaging their learners. However, the types of models that best serve leadership education is a subject for debate. The general tendency is to have leadership students model “great leaders” of history and/or pop culture. While this can result in positive outcomes, Billsberry (2013) noted that leadership’s “slipperiness” as a construct can be further confounded by this approach due to the disconnect between grand challenges that “great leaders” tend to address when compared to the average person. Furthermore, he proposed that “great leaders’” challenges are situated in particular circumstances not necessarily relevant to leadership students. Therefore, if leadership instruction is to be vicarious, nonhuman models might present an alternative to avoid the pitfalls of “great leaders.” The advent of media and technology in the last century has provided educators with a robust cache of modalities at their disposal for instruction. Due to its novelty, dramatized media such as film has been found to be an effective tool for instruction (Golden-Biddle, 1993; Sprinkle & Urick, 2016; Taubeneck, 2000). In line with constructivist and social cognitive principles, using film in leadership instruction might encourage students to engage in more holistic conversations about leadership traits, behaviors, and practices than lecture-based instruction or the analysis of the aforementioned “great leaders,” (Williams, 2006). This study, therefore, sought to further understand the effectiveness of using film in a leadership education classroom.
Framework and Literature Review
Social Cognitive Theory.Social Cognitive Theory traces its roots to the work of Albert Bandura, who posited that human behavior could be conceptualized as the reciprocal interactions between a person, their behavior, and the environment (Bandura, 1982, 1986, 2001; Schunk 2020). Bandura (1986) contended that learning requires a learner to gather information through their behavior and perceptions of the environment in order to develop symbols that then guide them. As such, Social Cognitive Theory impels educators and learners to consider the ways in which learning occurs. Schunk (2012; 2020) noted that learning occurs either vicariously or enactively. Simply put, enactive learning refers to learning from the experience and the consequences of an action, or learning by doing. Vicarious learning, unlike enactive learning, is non-participatory. Learners rely on models to aid them in the acquisition of new knowledge, skills, and behaviors and their associated outcomes. Models can be other people or nonhuman symbols, including fictional characters, artwork, comics books, graphics, and books, to name a few (Schunk, 2020). Film can be considered a type of nonhuman model for use in learning (Manz & Sims Jr., 1981; Schunk, 1987; Schunk, 2012; Schunk, 2020).
Throughout his life, Dale sought to explore and establish best practices and ideologies for engaging learners (Nichols, 2006). As a result, he devised a Cone of Experience (Dale, 1946) to categorize the various media by which learners could engage in vicarious learning experiences (Lee & Reeves, 2007). He organized learning experiences according to Bruner’s (1966) three modes of learning in an amended version of the original cone (Dale, 1969). Subsequently, learning experiences could be interpreted as being direct, purposeful experiences (learning by doing); iconic experiences (learning through observation); or symbolic experiences (learning through abstractions) (Lee & Reeves, 2007). While Dale’s Cone has been subject to some misinterpretation over the years (Jackson, 2016; Lee & Reeves, 2007; Lee & Reeves, 2018) it still warrants merit for its original intent to represent learning as a continuum for the types of concrete experiences learners can have in their pursuit of deeper learning (Jackson, 2016).With this in mind, Dale considered motion pictures (film) to be an avenue for learning and categorized it as a form of iconic experience in accordance with Bruner’s work (1966). This aligns Social Cognitive Theory’s notion of vicarious learning and modeling as well as the theoretical offshoots of Bandura’s work that relate to learning through observation.
Leadership & Film.As time progresses and new media continue to develop, educators have seen a multitude of new methods, tools, and teaching strategies at their disposal for the effective instruction of their discipline. Berk (2009) noted that videos (a broad term that encompasses film and related visual media) have been used in teaching since the days of 16mm projectors. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that YouTube video clips, DVDs, and now streaming services are employed by teachers with various pedagogical aims. Berk also affirmed that there are as many as 20 learning outcomes for the use of videos in the classroom including fostering deeper learning, tapping the imagination, focusing concentration on a particular topic, and serving to inspire and motivate learners.
English and Steffy (1997) outlined benefits of using film when teaching leadership. Broadly speaking, they believe film helps learners observe and consider leadership theory and practice with a great deal of depth through the lens of fiction or historical fiction. In addition, they suggest that film can help contextualize leadership in different ways than traditional textbooks or – to a certain extent – naturalistic learning settings. Many leadership educators have explored incorporating film into their leadership coursework. In fact, media clips were identified as the fifth most common instructional strategy in a recent study by Jenkins (2020). Leadership educators use film to teach a wide variety of leadership theories and concepts including authentic leadership (Scott & Weeks, 2016), servant leadership (Dryburch, 2020), power and influence (Urick & Sprinkle, 2019), strengths-based leadership (Rosson & Weeks, 2018), transformational leadership, leadership in teams, leading change (Hilby et al., 2016), and even toxic leadership (Edwards et al., 2015), among others (Cenkci, 2020; Kuri & Kaufman, 2020; Porter & Wimmer, 2012; Wimmer et al., 2012). Hannay and Venne (2012) stated that “movies are particularly useful in leadership education as they can provide role models of both effective and ineffective leadership practices that students can identify and discuss” (p. 245).
Although several published manuscripts recommend strategies for integrating film to teach leadership and others provide recommendations of films for teaching specific leadership theories and concepts (Cenkci, 2020; Dryburch, 2020; Edwards et al., 2015; Hannay & Venne, 2012; Hilby et al., 2016; Kuri & Kaufman, 2020; Porter & Wimmer, 2012; Rosson & Weeks, 2018; Scott & Weeks, 2016; Urick & Sprinkle, 2019; Wimmer et al., 2012), there are far fewer that report empirical studies documenting learner outcomes associated with vicarious learning through film. Wimmer et al. (2012) reported that students were able to recognize leadership lessons in The Office and connect leadership scenarios to their own life experiences. Likewise, Pogston-Tuck, et al. (2016) found that films helped students link theory to practice. Moreover, Lee and Lo (2014) noted that both inductive and deductive approaches to teaching with film were effective, though students were slightly more satisfied with the deductive approach in which the concept was learned prior to identifying and analyzing it in a film. We specifically sought to contribute to the latter knowledge base by exploring student outcomes.
Stages of Group Development.In 1965, Bruce Tuckman conceptualized a model of small group development, proposing that small groups develop through four distinct stages he named forming, storming, norming, and performing. These stages represent the progression of both task activity and group structure development over time. Forming is the initial stage wherein groups concern themselves with orienting, identifying boundaries of both personal interactions and task actions, and determining relationships among group members. Conflict signals the second stage, called storming. Overcoming conflict during storming leads to the third stage of norming, where cohesion develops, and new standards and roles emerge. Finally, performing is characterized by resolution of structural issues such that the energy of the group is focused on the task. Ten years after the original conceptualization, Tuckman and Jensen (1977) conducted a review of studies that empirically tested the model, resulting in the addition of a fifth stage, called adjourning. The stages of group development are commonly included in leadership education, particularly team leadership coursework. Indeed, Porter and Wimmer (2012) similarly used film to teach the stages of group development.
In this study, we asked learners to identify scenes in a film that exemplified the stages of group development and conduct a critical analysis of the team’s progression through the model. Subsequently, the purpose of this study was to explore the effectiveness of using film as a pedagogy to teach the stages of group development (Tuckman & Jensen, 1977) in a team leadership course. Specifically, we sought to
Determine learners’ perceptions of a team in film analysis assignment.
Explore learners’ ability to identify and describe the stages of development of a team in film.
This research was conducted in a team leadership course at the University of Florida taught during Fall 2021 and was approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB). The learning objectives of the course focus on developing learners’ knowledge, skills, and ability to effectively communicate in and lead groups and teams, including the stages of group development. The course incorporates experiential learning by assigning learners to project teams in which they must utilize the leadership skills learned throughout the course to develop and carry out a unique team project of their own design. The content of the course is loosely guided by the stages of development, such that knowledge and skills are taught in a progression that aligns with learners’ potential needs in different stages. Additionally, learners complete individual assignments designed to assess their understanding of the course content. One such assignment includes viewing a film about a team and analyzing the team’s progression through the stages of development (Tuckman & Jensen, 1977). All learners received direct instruction on the stages of group development during the third week of the course. During weeks 11 and 12, learners viewed the movie Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Kasdan, 2017) together in class. We chose Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle for this assignment due to the film’s inherent reliance on teamwork as a thematic element and tool for advancing its plot. Furthermore, the film’s present popularity seemed a practical reason for selection rather than asking students to watch a more obscure film and fostering a potential learning barrier. Although the film presents a humorous fictional story of high school students who inadvertently become characters in a video game and must work together to ‘win’ the game and escape, the plot avoids the “great leader” challenge identified in the literature (Billsberry, 2013). The movie characters are similar in age to most of our traditional undergraduate learners and, like our learners, find themselves having to collaborate with a somewhat unfamiliar group of people to achieve a common goal. Despite the unrealistic nature of navigating a video game, the actions and interactions of the characters as they cooperate and display team characteristics represent how the stages of group development may be experienced in real life. Following viewing, learners participated in a class discussion identifying and analyzing various leadership concepts illustrated in the film. This included, but was not limited to, the stages of group development, conflict management, team design, communication, group decision making, and team norms, roles, and responsibilities. Learners then composed and submitted their written analysis the following week. As an additional requirement of the written assignment, learners responded to questions assessing their perceptions of the assignment, including to what degree they enjoyed analyzing a team in film and to what extent they found it easy to apply their knowledge of the stages of group development to the interactions of the fictional team.
The population for this research consisted of all learners enrolled in one section of a course on team leadership at the University of Florida during Fall 2021 (N = 16). While the film analysis assignment was a course requirement, participation in this research project was not compulsory. Subsequently, in accordance with the University IRB-approved protocol, ten learners consented to participate in the research, allowing us to include their written assignment in our data analysis. Of the 10 written assignments, only nine were analyzed because one student was absent during the in-class viewing and watched the sequel to Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle by mistake.
Descriptive statistics were calculated for Likert-type questions assessing learner perceptions of the assignment as well as the assignment grades. A content analysis (Saldaña, 2021; Saldaña & Omasta, 2022) was then conducted to analyze the data from participant-written assignments accordingly. Descriptive coding (Saldaña, 2021) was used to organize data segments. Concept coding (Saldaña, 2021) was then used to assign macro-level meaning to data when attempting to identify emergent themes in participant writing. In our study’s case, concept codes were used to identify movie scenes salient within the data, which were then evaluated to determine which stage of group development was being described. This enabled us to organize themes by the stages of group development. The cross-checking of these with participant identification of the five stages in their own words coalesced the data’s emergent themes according to the scenes established in the descriptive coding phase. It was determined that this approach was both effective as well as complementary to the deductive approach taken to teaching the stages of group development for our learners (Lee & Lo, 2014).
Results and Findings
Four Likert-type questions assessed learners’ perceptions of the assignment. Participants
responded on a 7-point scale, where 1 indicated “extremely difficult” or “strongly disagree” and 7 indicated “extremely easy” or “strongly agree”. As noted in Table 1, learners reported that they found the assignment to be easy (m = 5.9), as well as applying their understanding of stages of development to a team in film (m = 6). Participants also indicated they enjoyed the assignment (m = 5.7).
Learners’ Perceptions of the Team in Film Analysis Assignment
Writing this paper on the stages of group development was ___.
Applying my understanding of the stages of group development to a team in film was _____.
I enjoyed this assignment.
I would have preferred a different assignment to assess understanding of the concept.
Note. N = 10. 1 = extremely difficult/strongly disagree and 7 = extremely easy/strongly agree.
Overall, participants seemed to be adept at identifying the five stages of group development in the context of the film as indicated by a mean grade of 96.35%. Subsequently, researchers sought to construct emergent themes based on the data present in the different segments of the participants’ essays. How this naturally played out in the nine participants’ essays revolved around the participants’ overt inclusion of the five stages of group development, which were then supported by the explanation of how these were applicable to specific scenes in the film. As such, coding these essays precipitated the common scenes, which participants deemed as underscoring the stages of group development. These constituted the principal themes for the five stages of group development identified in the film outlined in the ensuing subsections.
Forming. In nearly every participant’s essay, the detention scene at the beginning of the film was outlined as one of the first elements of the forming stage. Participants noted that the scene was the first instance where the principal characters were together and began to truly learn about each other’s backgrounds and personalities. Although this constituted the first piece of the forming stage, participants also noted that it was not the completion of the forming stage.
Participants indicated that the moment in the film where the principal characters discover their Jumanji avatars’ strengths and weaknesses for the first time exemplified the final phase of the forming stage. In their writings and prior to identifying the scene, most participants underscored how this was the point where team members meet and establish their skills and purpose. These sentiments from both the detention scene and the avatars’ strengths and weaknesses scene are conveyed by Participant U, who said:
The forming stage is the initial stage that focuses on team building, missions, goals and getting to know each other … In the movie, this stage initially happened when the characters got detention and while they were there, they found an old video game and decided to play it. Each character picked a player and was unknowing assigned to a role on a team. Once they got sucked into the game, they were not aware of what was happening or that they were a team. After meeting Niall, they figured out that they were in a game and their purpose and goals. They were able to find out more about each other and the aspects of the game such as the map and their strengths. This gave them a better understanding of each person’s roles and responsibilities.
Participant W concurred, explaining:
The first stage, forming, is where team members are brought together. During this time, individuals have yet to uncover their team’s purpose or what their roles are. In this time of uncertainty, team members may unconsciously be waiting on a leader to give them direction and purpose. In the film, Spencer, Bethany, Fridge, and Martha were all placed in detention for various reasons. None of them were close with one another, making this collaboration more uncomfortable. After discovering the Jumanji video game and becoming trapped in the jungle, the group began to realize they would have to make a plan in order to make it out as a team.
Storming. Similar to the forming stage, in almost every essay, participants indicated that the scene in which Fridge’s avatar pushes Spencer’s avatar off the cliff (sometimes referred to as a mountain by participants), resulting in a loss of one of his game lives, constituted the pinnacle of the storming stage in the film. Participant R described thecliff scene, writing:
… Fridge and Spencer begin fighting over why they are not friends anymore (storming) and Fridge pushes Spencer off of the mountain causing Spencer to lose one of his three lives. This incident however does have a productive outcome as the team agrees not to waste any more of each other’s lives.
Participant U also elaborated, saying:
A great depiction of this in the movie is when Antony and Spencer got into a fight about the paper. Built up tension between them caused Antony to say some rude things to Spencer, procced to push him off a cliff and Spencer lost a life. After that incident, the team realized that they cannot keep wasting lives and they must work as a team to be able to win the game and return home. The resolution of this conflict was able to dissolve some of the tension between the teammates and they were able to begin taking the game seriously and start working together.
Prior to also highlighting the cliff scene, Participant Q noted that the principal characters spend a great deal of their time in the storming stage throughout the film, indicating that the point where Spencer’s avatar pushes Fridge’s avatar out of the helicopter was part of the storming stage as well. This view did not arise in any of the other essays; however, a few participants did note a couple of other sequences as possibly pertaining to the storming stage. For example, Participant Y noted that the personality differences and strengths and weaknesses differences between both principal characters and their avatars were a source of storming throughout the film. This is a rational point; however, the participant does concede that this comes to a head with the cliff scene, noting:
In one scene, Spencer discovers that he can read his strengths and weaknesses of his character. This causes other players to discover more about their characters. Some players are happy and others are not. For example, Spencer is the strongest, and Fridge is not. Fridge is the strongest character in real life, but he cannot use any of this strength in the game. This is frustrating for him. Bethany has taken on a male character, and she has lost much of her feminine beauty. This is also frustrating for her. In the midst of this frustration, communication gets tense between Fridge and Spencer. Fridge blames Spencer for landing him in detention. A fight ensues between Fridge and Spencer, causing a loss of life.
Participant W notes something similar with respect to character personalities as the foundation of the storming stage. Nevertheless, they also concede that the pinnacle of the stage is manifested in the cliff scene.
This stage is depicted in the film when the cast of characters become accustomed with their new physical bodies. They experience conflict in solving puzzles like the map and navigating personal issues. Rising conflict ultimately leads to a confrontation between Fridge and Spencer. The conflict is over personal issues involving the decline in their friendship and the consequences of cheating on assignments. It ends with Fridge throwing Spencer over a cliff, leading to the team’s discovery that they each only have three lives. Spencer serves as a leader with morals and does not retaliate against Fridge. Instead, he uses it as a teaching moment and ultimately the team’s bond grows stronger.
Norming. There was more variance among the participants’ identification and description of the norming phase. Nevertheless, a couple of participants indicated the instance where Bethany and Martha’s avatars set aside their differences as the point where the characters work together so that Martha can learn how to “seduce” the guards at the transportation shed as a distraction. Participants R and S both referenced the characters’ setting aside their differences and the guard seduction scene. Participant R wrote, “Another example of this stage was when Bethany gives Martha a pep talk, which allows her to become more comfortable in her role, which is to seduce the guards with her looks and her strength of dance fighting.” Similarly, Participant S explained,
Bethany also shows a great example of this when she later on coaches Martha in the art of flirting. She uses a strength that she has to help her teammates out which in turn also moves the entire team closer to completing their common goal.
Another scene participants consistently identified as norming was when the characters obtain the gemstone from beneath the black mamba snake in the bazaar. The bazaar scene was described by Participant U, who wrote:
Anthony was able to use his knowledge about the snake to identify the species and know that they must defang it. The team was able to work in an agile setting and trust one another. Spencer was able to grab the snake using his strength and Anthony was able to successfully kill the snake and get the stone. By working together as a team and utilizing one another’s strengths they were able to successfully complete their task. This was a venerable and scary moment for everyone on the team and by working together and trusting each other, they were able to establish a closer bond.
Participant Y also identified this as a norming scene, stating:
An example of this is in the room with the snake, a player came up with an idea to maintain eye contact with the snake while another player was supposed to grab what the snake was protecting. This idea was obeyed, but the team failed to acquire the item on the first attempt. The second time around, Fridge stepped in with another technique, this time not to distract but to kill the snake, and the team succeeded. No criticism was held against the first player. This team has made it a norm to trust one another.
Participant Q also referenced the bazaar scene as an example of norming, but noted parenthetically that it was also an example of performing. This is an interesting point as several participants considered this scene as an example of performing in the next subsection.
This is best displayed when they are in the bazaar and they are trying to get past the snake …. This scene perfectly displays norming (and performing) as the team now understands how to use their strengths to help each other and we get to see this in action.
Performing. Similar to the norming stage, the performing stage presented more variance with respect to the scenes participants felt illustrated the stage best. For some participants, the bazaar scene was considered a moment where the characters came together and accomplished group tasks by relying on their strengths, as seen in Participant W’s explanation.
The performing stage is all about the active flow of the team’s functions. They are using all they have learned through earlier stages of team development to perform to their fullest potential. In Jumanji’s team, members use their strengths to work their way through the jungle and solve puzzles as they arise. They remain together as a cohesive unit, depending on each other for task completion and safety. When solving the puzzle with the snake in a basket, the team knows to keep Martha away because of her venom weakness. Fridge uses his strength in zoology to solve the puzzle by defanging the snake. This can be applied to each member throughout the film. For example, Spencer uses his skills in martial arts to fight off villains in the bazaar and Bethany uses her skills in cartography to read the map. The team now works as a cohesive unit due to their combination of skills.
Other participants found the transportation shed scene to be the prime illustrator of the performing stage, highlighting that individual strengths contributed to the collective goal of commandeering the helicopter to advance through the transportation level. Specifically, Participant Q described,
An example of them performing is when they need to sneak into the vehicle shed. The group needs to sneak into the shed so they vote to have Martha distract the guards. Since Martha doesn’t know how to flirt Bethany does her best to teach her before they send her down to distract the guards. As Martha is distracting the guards the rest of the team sneaks into the vehicle shed to find a getaway vehicle that Jeff can pilot. … together they escape and defeat the level.
Still other participants noted that the final scene in which the team worked to return the sacred gemstone to the jaguar statue was a good example of performing because it served as another collective effort in which the characters worked together to successfully meet their goal. Participant Y exemplified this, saying:
Toward the end of the film, each player uses their unique strengths to distract the enemy and hold on to the jewel. In one part, even a weakness is used. Martha is holding the jewel and finds herself surrounded by snakes, and her weakness is venom. She accepts the risk of death and instantly forms a game plan. She dies to distract the enemy, but she knows from watching other players die that she will be revived and fall back to the ground, this time away from the snakes. Because of this moment, she can hand off the jewel to Spencer, who is racing up the mountain on his motorbike. The jewel is placed in its rightful place and the team has fulfilled the mission.
Adjourning. Universally, participants noted that the adjourning stage of team development was best represented by the characters concluding the game by returning the precious gemstone to the jaguar statue and leaving behind their avatar bodies to return to the real world. Most participants also noted that part of this process involved the characters remaining friends after their goal was attained. Participant V wrote:
…the ‘adjourning’ stage of group developments comes next and is the final stage. This phase occurs after the team has completed their mission, and the team dissolves, even though close bonds have often formed. This is shown in the movie where the group is still friends even after completing their mission, even though they had not been friends at the beginning of the movie.
Similarly, Participant Z described,
At the end of the film, when the group finally got the stone to the Jaguar and lifted the curse, it was time for the group enter the Adjourning stage … The team experience turned out to be a transformative one. They all remain friends afterwards and Spencer becomes more confident, Fridge reclaims his friendship with Spencer, Bethany is more down to Earth, and Martha branches out of her shell and starts dating Spencer.
Discussion & Recommendations
The purpose of this study was to explore the effectiveness of using film as a pedagogy to teach the stages of group development (Tuckman & Jensen, 1977) in a team leadership course. Specifically, we sought to
Determine learners’ perceptions of a team in film analysis assignment.
Explore learners’ ability to identify and describe the stages of development of a team in film.
It is important to note some limitations prior to drawing conclusions and offering recommendations. First, enrollment in the course was lower than anticipated, resulting in a small sample size. Moreover, not all learners consented to participate in the research, further restricting our analysis. Therefore, the findings are not generalizable beyond our sample. Second, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a fictional story containing some unrealistic behaviors such as one character pushing another off a cliff with the knowledge that he would ‘come back to life’. This may have limited some learners’ ability to identify behaviors that exemplified the stages of group development. Nonetheless, meaningful conclusions can be drawn with respect to the research objectives.
Quantitative data revealed that learners found the assignment easy and enjoyable. This aligns with Lee and Lo’s (2014) findings that students were satisfied with a deductive approach to learning through film. Additionally, learners reported that applying their understanding of the stages of group development to analyze a team in film was easy. This is substantiated by the high grades students earned on the assignment (m = 96.35). Content analysis of learners’ essays indicated vicarious learning occurred through the iconic experience of viewing the film, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017), as depicted in Dale’s (1969) modified Cone of Experience. Moreover, as Berk (2009) noted, learners in our study were able to focus specifically on the stages of group development, strengthening their understanding of the concept. Similar to Wimmer et al.’s (2012) findings, learners in our study accurately identified behaviors indicative of stages of development exhibited by the team in the film. Moreover, they provided further explanation connecting the illustration to the appropriate stage of development, supporting findings reported by Pogston-Tuck, et al. (2016).
Overall, learners accurately identified stages of the Jumanji group’s development, but there was some variation in terms of which scenes learners felt depicted a stage best. This was particularly true of the norming stage, where three different scenes were used as examples of group norming. This may be attributed to the difficulty in depicting the somewhat ambiguous stage of norming. Furthermore, Tuckman and Jensen (1977) revealed that some questions arise through research regarding the distinctness of the stages Tuckman (1965) conceptualized, specifically the middle three- storming, norming, and performing. Moreover, only one student explicitly noted the disruption of group development and regression resulting from the addition and socialization of Jeff, a fifth and final team member, several scenes into the movie. Again, this may be attributed to the difficulty of depicting distinct stages of group development. However, it may also signal a lack of critical thought in which one might expect learners to challenge the assumed linearity of the model as a result of the vicarious experience.
Several recommendations emerged from this study. Regarding research, first, this study should be replicated with a larger sample size. Second, a deductive approach was used, wherein learners were taught the stages of group development and then asked to apply them through the iconic experience of the film. Lee and Lo (2014) however, indicated that an inductive approach is also effective. Future research should investigate differences in student outcomes when learning inductively versus deductively through film. Vicarious learning is thought to result in modeling. Our learners were not instructed to further extrapolate their learning to their own experiences; thus, it cannot be determined if or how they modeled the group development behavior they learned. Therefore, we recommend future research explore how learners model behavior learned vicariously through film. Additionally, research should investigate if the type of film has bearing on student outcomes, such that more ‘realistic’ films provide models of behavior learners could actually mimic, as opposed to fictional films where characters exhibit behaviors real people cannot enact. Similarly, research should investigate the impact of film familiarity on student outcomes. If learners have seen the film previously, are they better able to focus on the task of identifying the leadership concepts present as opposed to just following the plot?
Practitioner recommendations were derived from the instructor’s reflection following data analysis. If possible, show the film during class time. This allows the instructor to teach “in the moment” by emphasizing specific scenes or content that illustrate leadership concepts. In the debrief discussion or written assignment, encourage learners to identify personal experiences that exemplify the leadership concepts learned or imagine how they would enact the leadership behaviors identified in the film. Additionally, instructors could contribute to developing life-long learning practice by incorporating reflective questions throughout the course about leadership competencies learners have identified in other media. Finally, leadership educators should consider incorporating media into their teaching, especially where learners might not have their own experience to learn from but could benefit from vicarious learning.
Our research aimed to fill a gap in the literature regarding learner outcomes from teaching with film. Findings indicated that our learners enjoyed the assignment of analyzing a team in film, perceived the assignment to be easy, and accurately identified scenes that exemplified the stages of group development, achieving some level of vicarious learning. Despite some noted limitations, these findings lend support to the few previous studies that indicate teaching with film results in positive learner outcomes. As educators continually work to employ effective pedagogy, film continues to have potential for contributing to teaching and learning leadership.
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