Esperanza Camargo

Innovations to Criminal Justice 300 Course, CTL mini-grant Fall 2016

Instructor: Esperanza Camargo, Criminal Justice (IVC)

Summary: In order to promote an individualized learning experience in her 118 student CJ 300 course, Professor Esperanza Camargo changed the class format from lecture-only to a combination of lecturing and class activities. Included in the innovations were group activities, clickers for providing feedback, audio and video components, and guest speakers. Based on student responses to a survey and on their general class performance, the new class format proved to be more effective in both engaging the students and delivering a more understandable content.

Final report

What I Did

My purpose was to design activities to get my students an individualized learning experience by encouraging them to work in groups and think critically, and providing feedback using the classroom response system (clickers). Moreover, I used audios and videos from news and current events, and from the U.S. Supreme Court website. In addition, I invited four guest speakers; specialists from the main criminal justice system agencies, police, prosecution, courts, and corrections.

My specific goals were to:

  1. Promote group activities (25% of the total class-score)
  2. Challenge students to think outside the box
  3. Provide a realistic approach to criminal justice issues
How It Went

At the end of the semester, I assessed the results of my new approach. I deployed a survey to get feedback from my students about the impact of the class activities. The 87 respondents indicated that clickers helped with class discussion and with remembering course content, but were challenged by the fact that they had to bring the clicker device to every class. If they did not, they did not get the points, which made them felt frustrated, even if the impact on their final score was very little.

The videos, audios, and guest speakers had positive impact and, I think, were fun and got them engaged. The surveys also showed that videos and audios helped them to develop critical thinking ability, as well as the ability to apply theory to practice. These innovations also helped them to prepare for exams.

In general, their participation in class discussion was good and gave them the possibility to discuss different points of view. Survey feedback on class activities showed similar strengths in helping them with test preparation and remembering course content, and also in promoting class attendance and a feeling of being involved.

In brief, the new class format was beneficial for my students. This conclusion is based on their response to the survey and on their general class performance that increased (79% got a B- or higher) compared to my previous classes in which I had used mostly lectures.

What I Learned

In general, the new class format (1/2, lecture/class activity) is more efficient on both engaging the students and delivering a more understandable content. The extra effort to get the class re-designed is totally worth it. Students appreciate it.

I learned that students put more attention to the class than I thought. And that they appreciate my extra-effort to help them to understand issues and their complexity. They also enjoy the guest speakers’ talks. They get engaged and interested.

I already introduced the class format to my classes this semester. It is working well. I did present these results at our faculty meeting in February and it was well received. We discussed the possibility to use the clickers in several classes, so students will get familiar with the device and the cost/benefit will be better for them.