Paul Almond – University of Reading
Paul runs a final year module that looks at theoretical criminological concepts and applies them to a practical setting. It appeared that students couldn’t always make the link between theory and how policy/practice should be formed. The key question posed by Paul is ‘how can assessment tackle both elements and link them together’?
Paul was inspired by a Reading seminar on problem-based learning (PBL) which described a real-estate module using real world clients and student groups would work on their issues or policies. The problem with the criminal justice system is the lack of, or lack of access to CJ ‘clients’ and government policy departments! So, Paul created his own set – Project Panacea. It sounds rather like Yes Minister! meets Fantasy Football as students receive a budget (£100m) and will be working for the ‘Minister for Justice’, Sir Geoffrey Hagan, and must justify their policy and allocation of funds. A list of 20 options allows the student to select policies and then discuss their choices in a non-assessed group presentation. An assessed written report ‘for the Minister’ is then required that should identify a coherent set of theoretical principles and show how they would work in practice.
The ‘client’ was created to be as realistic as possible –Paul highlighted that using stimuli such memos and press releases, email account (i.e. do not email your lecturer/tutor) and a blackboard site with videos, podcasts, and regular official-looking documentations all contribute towards making the project look realistic and plausible for the student groups.
Using some great videos (apparently the Rt Hon Minister is Paul’s father-in-law), the project does simulate the real world and professional practice. As the project continues, government policy sways, the minister looks increasing more tired and dishevelled with a little haphazardness introduced along with a few changes in priorities!