December 18, 2018

Criminologists-in-training teach each other new perspectives

On the first day of CJUS448 Criminology, assistant professor Allison Willingham polled her students to see what they felt caused criminal, delinquent, or deviant behaviors.

On the first day of CJUS448 Criminology, assistant professor Allison Willingham polled her students to see what they felt caused criminal, delinquent, or deviant behaviors.

On the first day of class Allison Willingham polled her students to see what they felt caused criminal, delinquent, or deviant behaviors

On the first day of CJUS448 Criminology, assistant professor Allison Willingham polled her students to see what they felt caused criminal, delinquent, or deviant behaviors.
    
“Their answers ranged from ‘bad decision-making’ to ‘they’re just born that way,’” said Willingham, who is a member of the Human Behavior, Justice, and Diversity Department. “It was important to me to offer them multiple other perspectives.  After all, these students one day are going to be working as police officers, attorneys, judges, correctional officers, victims’ advocates – so it is necessary for them to understand the different paths that may lead an individual to commit crimes.”
    
Willingham employed a sociological lens, emphasizing factors like inequality, poverty, and relationships to teach this course, which is taken by legal studies and criminal justice majors. The course introduced the students to a history of criminological theory, beginning with early classical thought from Jeremy Bentham and Cesare Beccaria, and extending through present day research and theories, including strain, anomie, labeling perspective, delinquent subcultures, social learning theory, control theories, conflict theory, feminist theory, and critical criminology.
    
“By the end of the course, most of the students felt that poverty and delinquent peers contributed to delinquency and deviance,” said Willingham. “But they understood and could explain and evaluate so many different other theorists’ beliefs – everyone from Karl Marx to Travis Hirschi. It was impressive to me how interested and engaged they were, and how open they were to learning new ways of thinking critically about crime. These LSTU/CJUS majors are truly passionate about their chosen careers.”
    
During the last week of class, Willingham turned the tables on her students and asked them to take turns teaching the class about different criminological perspectives using active learning techniques. The students organized games and group activities to help their peers understand new information.  

“One activity had the students reviewing real cases about transnational political crimes.  The students had to collaborate and decide what charges they could file against the state for these acts,” said Willingham. “It was astounding how much thought and effort went into building these activities. I was thrilled by their work.”

On the first day of CJUS448 Criminology, assistant professor Allison Willingham polled her students to see what they felt caused criminal, delinquent, or deviant behaviors.

On the first day of CJUS448 Criminology, assistant professor Allison Willingham polled her students to see what they felt caused criminal, delinquent, or deviant behaviors.

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