Visualizing International Relations: Assessing Student Learning Through Film



Much has been written in the last decade on using film as a pedagogical tool in the classroom and specifically in the teaching and learning of international relations (IR). Instructors assert that film has numerous beneficial effects in terms of student interest, engagement, conceptual understanding, and class performance. This article builds upon the existing literature and fills a gap by presenting and analyzing the empirical findings of recent classroom research on the usefulness of five films for student engagement, understanding, and interpretation of various IR topics (IR theory, media and war, and human rights). The data and their analysis reveal that film can potentially be a powerful and dramatic medium to aid student learning of IR, but the results are mixed. Students' written work also demonstrates that film's value can be overrated and that film can be superficial and confusing. This research sheds light on how we can better use film in the international studies classroom beyond its entertainment and illustrative value.