Stone Soup Assessments & Assignments: Part 1

The Stone Soup Project is not only about developing and sharing knowledge about actual dispute resolution practice, but also sharing knowledge about Stone Soup pedagogical techniques.

In that spirit, we have asked faculty using Stone Soup assignments and activities to share assessments of their experiences as well as plans for the future.

This is the first post to do so after formally launching the project.  We plan to do several more posts like this so that colleagues can exchange ideas.

Rafael Gely’s Negotiation Course

We are fortunate that my Missouri colleague, Rafael Gely, the co-director of this project, volunteered to test it out and share his experiences.  You may recall that we posted the assignment for his Spring 2017 negotiation course as well as descriptions of the interview papers his students wrote for the class, including two sample papers.

Here is his assessment of the Spring 2017 course as well as his syllabus and revised assignment for the Fall 2017 semester and guidance for conducting interviews.  In the Spring, he required students to conduct interviews about significant negotiation and students were free to select any type of negotiation – and negotiator.  He thought it was particularly valuable for students to consider negotiations outside the legal context.  Students were required to find their own subjects, which they did without difficulty.  In hindsight, he was concerned about the small risk of students being subpoenaed, something we hadn’t considered at that point.

For the Fall 2017 semester, he is experimenting with the format.  He wrote, “The first time I used the interview assignment (Spring 2017), I asked students to interview one subject about a particular “significant negotiation” in which the subject had been involved.  I was very pleased with the results and I will surely consider repeating that assignment in the future.  However, in the spirit of experimentation that motivates the Stone Soup Project, I wanted to approach the assignment a bit differently this semester.  For the Fall 2017, I am asking students to interview a small sample of subjects (4 to 6) about a specific topic or topics which we will be discussing in class.  My goal is to provide the opportunity to students to explore in greater depth one of the topics we will be discussing in class.  I also hope that by requiring them to interview more than one subject, they will also see, what I suspect will be, the wide variety of lenses with which each one of us approach similar issues.”   When interviewing the subjects, students are required to ask students to describe actual cases illustrating the topic.

Charity Scott’s Negotiation and Mediation Courses

Charity Scott (Georgia State) used a Stone Soup assignment for her Spring 2017 negotiation course and Summer 2017 mediation course.  For the negotiation course, she adapted an assignment she got from Ken Fox in which students were required to interview experienced negotiators about their philosophy and worldview of negotiation.  Her mediation course was a one-week training and students were required to observe two mediations and write a paper analyzing their observations.

Her assessment of the negotiation course focused on a question that many students had about the realism of the problem-solving approach in practice.  Although some of the lawyers interviewed said they used a hard-bargaining approach, most indicated they used techniques consistent with the problem-solving approach covered in the course.  I asked some follow-up questions about the value and risks of assigning students to conduct interviews about negotiation philosophies rather than actual cases, along the lines of my comments about the risks of bias in doing so. Take a look at Charity’s nuanced responses.

In her assessment of the mediation course assignment, Charity said that as a result of the assignment, students learned about humility (mediation is a lot harder than it looks); the positive and negative role of emotions; variations in cases (one size doesn’t fit all); adherence to mediation canons; and issues of ethics, professionalism, and social justice.  She found that the assignment reinforced classroom lessons, made it more personal, and reinforced the connection between the law school and professional practice.

Of course, these are just summaries of the assignments and assessments, so take a look at the (pretty short) documents linked above for more detail.

Thanks so much to Rafael and Charity for being the first ones to share their experiences.

Moving Forward Together

Who’s next?  Our stone soup will be ever so much yummier with a few more assessments and assignments.

If you provide materials (such as an assignment, documents for students, plans for a focus group class, plans for debriefing a competition etc.), it would be great to include a paragraph describing any decisions you made to tailor them to your particular circumstances or goals etc.  See Rafael’s description above as an example.

Here’s the document to complete to write an assessment of a Stone Soup assignment or activity.

BTW, it’s not too late to include Stone Soup in your course(s) this year.  Several more faculty have joined the party and this year should engage at least 800 students in 48 classes covering 17 subjects, taught by 29 faculty from 24 schools in 3 countries.

Although most faculty will use Stone Soup in bread-and-butter ADR courses, I was pleased to hear that Stacey-Rae Simcox will use it in her trusts and estates course.  As we keep saying, Stone Soup is not just for ADR.

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