Teaching, Learning, Curriculum Solutions

by Kimberly Hall

Clinical Professor Robert Bordone combines role-play with interactive technologies to record, assess and reflect on key steps in the student negotiation process. In the school’s flagship Negotiation Workshop, Bordone uses interactive technologies to capture student results in the Ellsworth v. Ellsworth case, the capstone to the course, where students act as family lawyers.

In his new advanced “Multiparty, Decision-Making, and Teams Negotiation Workshop,” Bordone leverages technology in running the C02 simulation where students confront collective action problems in their role as international policymakers negotiating their nations’ carbon emissions over a 10 year period.

Family Law: Ellsworth v. Ellsworth
Students negotiate the terms of a divorce decree in pairs, representing the two spouses Bill and Ellen Ellsworth.  The clients in this case are played by real actors often recruited from the community or the ranks of HLS staff and administration.

Bordone presents the students with a comprehensive set of issues to negotiate both during class time and over the course of a weekend, including assets, custody and future expenses such as college education and medical care. The parties come to resolutions and log their decisions on a Web-based interface through multiple-choice fields and include comments explaining their agreements in class.

The software is programmed to compile and display the results visually, facilitating comparisons through bar graphs pasted into slideshows. Once all students have completed the negotiation, Bordone and his team access and evaluate the results. A comparative analysis is made among the groups in class where peers discuss one another’s results. Bordone explains,

“The student interface that the Law School Library was able to provide us for collecting our data has enabled us to provide students information that we used to have to calculate by hand. Moreover, we can now give our students a deep dive into comparative results across different negotiations in the class. The interface developed by our colleagues in the Library has taken this simulation to a new level.”

International Policy: The Carbon Emissions Game
In the Advanced Multiparty Negotiation Workshop, students represent a single country in environmental negotiations like the Copenhagen Conference on Global Warming. Their task is to persuade 23 other countries to reduce carbon emissions while protecting their own industries and ability to grow their individual economies. The negotiations take place in 10 discrete rounds where students first discuss their projected emissions before recording their promised levels of carbon emission reduction through clickers, individual poll devices.

Through the recorded votes, Professor Bordone was able to take the game from a simple idea into one that incorporates many of the variables of actual negotiations. For example, the technology allows Bordone to introduce complexity into the negotiation by adding random events such as economic downturns, natural disasters, and internal political strife.

Countries operate under different constraints, with more powerful countries exercising more influence on the outcome of each round. News stories incorporated into the game influence student decisions. Finally, as with the Ellsworth game, final votes are displayed through bar graphs and displayed for class analysis and discussion.

“Without the technology that the library was able to provide to run the CO2 game, it would have been impossible to run the negotiation in real-time without a staff of at least three or four teaching assistants collecting and analyzing the results in a frantic way. Moreover, we would not have been able to simulate the complexity that makes the negotiation so rich,” says Bordone.

 

This article was first published on the Teaching, Learning, Curriculum website for Harvard Law School.