The Criminology TeamUniversity Centre at Blackburn College
Thisinitiative sought to address the engagement features identified by Trowler and Trowler (2010). The features were identified from a literature review and recommended learning experiences that sought to: pose academic challenge, open up additional interaction with staff, encourage learning beyond the classroom, respond to individual needs, have an extra-curricular approach, encourage participation in a learning community and encourage interactions with diverse peers (para. 2.1.2).
This paper seeks to explain how a change in assessment methods enabled these features to be directly addressed in the teaching and learning of UCBC criminology students. It will consider issues that impede such changes and suggest ways for circumventing restrictive interpretations of assessment regulations. The use of online resources will also be assessed:http://criminology.sost.blackburn.ac.uk
This paper considers the findings from includingphotography in the teaching and assessment ofundergraduate criminology students. The catalyst forthis project was the ‘What is Crime?’ photographycompetition held by the Centre for Crime and JusticeStudies that was announced in September 2008.The competition required entries in any of threecategories: Environment Finance Violence
“The title of the competition ‘What is crime?’ invitesimaginative, possibly subversive entries.”(What is Crime judge, Ken Loach)The task was incorporated into the formal assessmentof first year criminal justice students on the HND andFdA Criminology programmes.A student research group that included other cohortswas established in order to hold a public exhibition ofthe photographs at the end of the academic year.
Course Number of Usual word limit per Total assignments assignmentHND Criminology (2 years) 20 1,750 35,000FdA Criminology (2 years) 16 2,500 40,000BA Criminology (per year) 5 4,000 and 10,000 for the dissertation 26,000 (plus 4 exams)
Are these methods appropriate for ‘the newundergraduate’ (Newburn, 2007) or ‘Digital Native’(Prensky, 2001)?Do they prepare them for their post-Universitylife? (Handel, 2007)Do they get the best out of staff?Do they equate with ‘doing criminology’? (Haywardand Presdee, 2010: Framing crime: culturalcriminology and the image.)
"Go and sit in the lounges of luxury hotels and on thedoorsteps of the flophouses; sit on the Gold Coastsettees and on the slum shakedowns; sit in theOrchestra Hall and in the Star and Garter Burlesque. Inshort go and get the seat of your pants dirty in realresearch.” (Park, 1927)“Both insight and reliability are needed, but insightdoes not need to always arise simultaneously out ofthe same exact protocol as reliability. Powerful insightcan arise out of walking down a street by mistake.”(Kane, 2004)
A valid form of assessment? Ethics committee approval?Health and safety implications?The marks for the assignment were split equally withhalf based on the photograph and application ofsemiotic principles and the other half for an assessmentof the rationale behind WIC including a justification forwhy their photograph was suitable.The assignment was undertaken in groups due to thenature of the task, the need for resources and itsrequirement for the students to actively observe lifein their communities.
‘Text books have a tendency to encourage‘right’ answers… Visual imagery encourages the kind ofcritical perspective our schools have found it so hard toengender through the traditional curriculum… There isenough ambiguity of interpretation in judging what wemake ourselves that one may be bold to think foroneself’ (Takata and Curran, 2009: 32).
Support from colleagues in other disciplinesenabled two lectures and seminars onphotography and semiotics to be provided.The students were given time for ‘PractisingLooking’ (Sturken and Cartwright, 2001) and their‘Semiotics 101’ sessions introduced them to thework of writers such as Roland Barthes (1981).
(i) ‘prohibited places’ under the Official Secrets Act 1911.(ii) Article 8 of the ECHR (e.g. Wood v Commissioner of the Police for the Metropolis  EWCA Civ 414).(iii) s. 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000(iv) s.58(v) s. 58(A)
When police powers under s.44 were in place the police nolonger had to have objective suspicion for stopping andsearching people for ‘articles of a kind which could be usedin connection with terrorism’ (s.45) in a specified area for28 days.Research by the British Journal of Photography (2009) hasrevealed the extent of this power.In April 2011 it was announced that in 2009-10 there were92,000 people stopped and searched under these powersand a total of two people were arrested for terrorism-related offences (The Independent 15 April 2011).
‘It seems to me inevitable, however, that so long as the principalterrorist risk against which use of the section 44 power has beenauthorised is that from al Qaeda, a disproportionate number of thosestopped and searched will be of Asian appearance (particularly if theyhappen to be carrying rucksacks or wearing apparently bulky clothingcapable of containing terrorist-related items)… Ethnic originaccordingly can and properly should be taken into account in decidingwhether and whom to stop and search provided always that the poweris used sensitively and the selection is made for reasons connectedwith the perceived terrorist threat and not on grounds of racialdiscrimination.’ (as per Lord Brown in R. (on the application ofdiscriminationGillan), (on the application of Quinton) v Commissioner of Police ofthe Metropolis (2006) paras. 80-1).
According to s. 58(1)(a) it is an offence if a person “collectsor makes a record of information of a kind likely to beuseful to a person committing or preparing an act ofterrorism”.In R v G, R v J (2010) 1 A.C. 43 the HL declined to clarifythe potential reach of s. 58 and confirmed that it can applyeven where it was not intended to assist somebody,somewhere, to commit or prepare, an act of terrorism.An offence could also occur via s.58(A) when a personelicits, publishes or communicates ‘useful’ informationabout members of the police, armed forces or intelligenceservices.
The eventual submissions from the students showed adiversity of harms such as elder abuse, psychologicalabuse of children, poverty and the effects ofrecession. The manner in which the photographs weregenerally taken – a snapshot on a mobile phone wasone of the most pleasing aspects of the initiative.The results also showed an 8% increase in the meanaverage grade compared to the previous academicyear.‘Statistical insignificance?’
‘there is no den in the wide world to hide a rogue. Commit a crime and the earth is made of glass.’ (Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1841: para. 36) Please test this opinion by visiting the Criminology Department’s studentphotography exhibition ‘What is Crime?’ inrooms H605-6.
The research group interviewed 88 peoplebefore they went into the exhibition and fourmonths later the same questionnaire was sentto them.46 people replied and using a test fordifferences it was found that attitudestowards ‘harm’, ‘intent’ and ‘real’ crimes hadchanged significantly.
In March 2011 these 46 respondents were sentanother questionnaire to which 11 of themreplied.Their recall for the exhibition was rated at7.3:10 and ‘images of social deprivation’ werethe most common specific recollections.The main reasons for their visit were ‘supportfor the students’ and ‘curiosity’.
“The pictures were very striking and easy toembed in the memory. The juxtaposition ofscenes of disrepair and neglect with brightshiny buildings close by was particularlymemorable.” (J)“A sort of menacing experience camethrough… that illustrated the silent, alarmingstate of affairs, that exist all around us.” (K)
‘In Hiding’ by Jade Conway, FdA Criminology year 1:This image depicts a row of rose trees covered by plastic bags forprotection against the cold weather. The connotations of this imagesuggest the rose trees represent the powerful people in society –exactly the ones who are being protected by the current debt climatewe are suffering in. The rose canes also connote the powerful peoplestanding tall and unharmed by the climate. This photograph wastaken whilst I was out randomly walking with my horse throughsome fields. I came across the row of roses and thought it would be agood image to use as it inspires thought and results in meaning beingestablished by the viewer.The students were asked to submit their work on a wiki calledCrime Today (UCBC Criminology Department, 2010).
The method encourages the production of original work and enables randomness and a ‘sideways glance’ to be brought into the curriculum. It allows the full range of students to undertake the kind of research recommended by Robert Park, Stephanie Kane and others. The level of interest from the public provides an additional dimension for teaching and learning. The youTube video of the exhibition has now received over 1200 hits (UCBC Criminology Department, 2010) However, the ‘digitalness’ of current criminology students requires further investigation.
Barthes, R. (1981) Camera lucida. New York: Hill & Wang.British Journal of Photography (2009) ‘Why is Derbyshire the best place to live if you are aphotographer?’ Available at: www.bjpnline.com/public/showPage.html?page=868495 (accessed March2010).Emerson, R.,W. (1841) Essays – Compensation. URL (accessed May 2009)ttp://www.bartleby.com/5/105.htmlHandel, M. (2007) A new survey of workplace skills, technology, and management practices (STAMP):background and descriptive statistics. Presented at National Research Council Workshop on FutureSkills. Washington, DC. 23 May.Kane, S., C. (2004) ‘The unconventional methods of cultural criminology’. Theoretical Criminology, 8(3), pp. 303–321.Newburn, T. (2007) Criminology. Cullompton: Willan.
Prensky, M. (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. URL (accessed October 2010)http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/prensky%20-%20digital%20natives,%20digital%20immigrants%20-%20part1.pdfSturken , M. and Cartwright, L. (2001) Practices of looking. New York: Oxford University Press.Takata, S. and Curran, J. (2009) ‘The art of learning by doing’. Criminal Justice Matters, 78, pp 32–34.Trowler, V. and Trowler, P. (2010) Student engagement evidence summary. URL (accessed April 2011)http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/documents/studentengagement/StudentEngagementEvidenceSummary.pdfUCBC Criminology Department (2010) What is Crime? URL (accessed November 2010)www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sJ4PUMYiSEUCBC Criminology Department (2011) Crime Today. URL (accessed July 2011)http://criminology.sost.blackburn.ac.uk/?q=node