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Education and Documentary Films

From November 5th – 12th a group of lecturers from Moscow and Saint Petersburg HSE campuses participated in an intensive continuing education course at the Central European University (Budapest).

The Curriculum Resource Center at the Central European University (CEU) organizes educational sessions on curriculum development and modern teaching methods. The result of the sessions is a series of ready-to-use curriculums which have passed international evaluation by the specialists of this university. Participants of the sessions are lecturers from universities of Central and Eastern Europe, as well as Post-Soviet countries.

A group of lecturers and postgraduates students from the Moscow and Saint Petersburg campuses of the HSE (Elena Iarskaia-Smirnova, Professor at the Department of General Sociology, Pavel Romanov, Professor at the Department of Socio-Economics Systems and Social Policy, Zhanna Chernova, Associate Professor at the HSE Saint Petersburg Branch Department of Sociology, Roman Abramov, Deputy Head of the Analysis of Social Institutions Department and Daria Prisyazhniuk, a postgraduate student) participated in a session entitled ‘Teaching Social Policy with Documentary Films’.

The session took place in Budapest from November 5th – 12th 2011. The participants acquired new knowledge and skills in teaching methods and the evaluation of education results. During classes, complex problems of group and individual evaluation of different forms of student activity were discussed. In addition to this, the session included a discussion of the opportunities and limits of integrating documentary films into the study process. During the session some course syllabuses were presented, such as ‘Corporate Social Policy’ by P. Romanov, ‘The Sociology of the Public Sphere’ by E. Iarskaia-Smirnova, ‘Visual Methods’ by Zh. Chernova and ‘The Sociology of Education’ by R. Abramov. Some of these courses are already being taught at various HSE faculties, while others are currently under development.

The participants of the session thoroughly examined the potential for integrating documentary films into the educational process. Which films can stimulate a discussion in a class? Is it necessary to show films in the class or can students watch them at home? What in the contents, plot or cinematographic language should be the subject of discussion? Can students themselves become authors of documentary films focused on social problems? These were among the questions actively discussed at the CEU.

In addition to this, as part of the session a prominent historian T. Lahusen, Professor at the University of Toronto, and author of documentary films on the themes of collective memory and everyday life, gave a master class. His films are a form of anthropologic study and can be successfully used in the study process. Lahusen even organized his own film production company Chemodanfilms.com, which specializes in documentary ethnographic films.

During the summarizing roundtable discussion, E. Iarskaia-Smirnova and P. Romanov shared their experience of integrating documentary films into the study process. Of course, it was impossible to discuss all the methodical aspects of the use of documentaries in the educational process, but session participants have made serious progress in broadening the range of active education technologies used at the HSE.

It is also worth saying that the session in Budapest coincided with a documentary film festival which featured new works from different countries.  The programme participants met some directors and producers of these documentary films at a roundtable discussion where they discussed this genre as a way to understand social reality and other topical questions.

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