Category: Professional practice
|Teaching and Learning Forum 2007 [ Refereed papers ]|
Jaimie P. Beven
School of Law
Increased access to higher education for under-represented groups does not, in itself, constitute educational equity. In addition to increased access, effort needs to be directed toward facilitating the retention and success of these students. Unlike traditional groups of students, equity groups are likely to endure additional difficulties in higher education which impact on the probability of these students being engaged in educational activities. The current paper outlines the use of the popular television genre of 'game shows' to engage a diverse group of first year undergraduates in a sentencing lecture.
Jenkins (1992) has proposed the use of a 'structured lecture' format - one in which students' activity is equally to that of the lecturer - in order to overcome some of the shortcomings of this particular learning context. After all, "lecturing itself ... does not lead to poor learning", the effectiveness of lecturing is determined by how the lecture is used (Ramsden, p.148). So we don't necessarily need to throw out the lecture concept; and let's face it, with increasing student numbers it would be economically impossible to do so. But student groups are growing more diverse as well as simply growing in numbers and we need to ensure student engagement for all students. Achieving student engagement with diverse groups of students does pose further challenges.
Each student enters university with their own unique set of prior experiences, yet "transition [to university] is more difficult for those students whose capital may not be in tune with mainstream university discourses" (Lawrence, 2005; p. 248). Universities have a peculiar culture - one which has formed progressively over a long history (Hill, 1998). It is a culture which emerged from a democratic ideal, but was kidnapped by a society reliant upon class distinction. Educators must become aware of the role of multiple discourses in modern learning environments, begin to address the diversity of students' socio-cultural experiences and implement appropriate teaching practices to facilitate engagement and inclusion of all students (New London Group, 1996). The development of teaching strategies suitable for diverse prior experiences along with the facilitation of discussion and debate is one way to increase academic engagement (Krause, 2005). Still, while theoretical and practical recommendations are available, there is a "prevailing sense of anxiety" and uncertainty about how to proceed (New London Group; p. 61). How do we bridge the diversity gap?
A fair amount of research has been conducted in an attempt to maximise advertising expenditure. For example, Lloyd and Clancy's (1991) positive effects hypothesis suggests that the more engaging a television program, the more likely viewers are to remember the advertising embedded in that program. While the reliability of this finding is debated by some media researchers (Danaher & Lawrie, 1998) it does, to some extent, parallel the assumption of student engagement and the associated learning outcomes. So, which television genres do people find the most engaging?
Using two measures, the percentage of minutes viewed (PMV) and the proportion of viewers that watch 80% or more of a program (P80+), Danaher and Lawrie (1998) identified the top three television genres as (1) news programs, (2) soap operas, and (3) game shows. Interestingly, information shows rated as the least engaging.
While the contestant was trying to rank the sentences, the lecturer encouraged as much participation from the audience as possible. There was a lively amount of yelling from the class as individuals waved their hands indicating which offence they thought went next.
Once the game show had ended, discussion and debate was initiated regarding the associated sentences for the offences. Most students were taken aback by the relatively minor sentences associated with offences such as child stealing, deprivation of liberty and stalking, while the severity of the sentence for burglary was also a topic of hot debate. Perspectives on the relative seriousness of the offences were elicited from the students, along with their understanding of why certain offences were taken more seriously than others. This gave students concrete examples to use while consolidating Hogg and Brown's (1998) assertions of an increased reliance on uncivil law and order policies.
|Game Run 1||Game Run 2|
|Possession of bullet proof clothing||$6,000||Fighting in public||2 Years|
|Impersonating a police officer||2 Years||Stalking||3 Years|
|Deprivation of liberty||10 Years||Forgery||7 Years|
|Burglary (residential)||18 Years||Assault occasioning grievous bodily harm||10 Years|
|Child stealing||20 Years||Manslaughter||20 Years|
|Wilful murder||Life||Armed robbery||Life|
"The game was great fun. It was much more interesting than learning that sort of stuff out of textbooks, where it might be tedious. And it was great to see everyone getting into it."... but engaging as well:
"I thought that was a great way to get us students to actually listen and pay attention, it made us more involved so I guess, well, taking my own experience, we learnt more that way rather than you just standing there and telling us about the sentences, so it sinks in more."Students also indicated that they found the content easier to remember than if they had relied on readings or a standard lecture:
"I remember what we learnt in that game still today. Like who knew that owning a bullet-proof vest was a crime? So it was a really different, fun and interesting way to learn about something that could potentially be really boring."More importantly, the activity appeared to foster a deeper level of understanding and appreciation of the concepts of civil and uncivil laws as well as the presence of extraneous influences in the area of criminal justice:
"I thought the sentencing game was great, certainly made me think about how inappropriate some sentencing laws are and further to this how wrong it is that they can be so black and white without looking at the circumstances of the crimes / events and influences in the cases."The response from one student was reminiscent of Northedge's (1976) description of education as personal growth:
"The views I had early July are fast evolving and challenging my perception of the society I live in and the views I have today. No doubt these will continue to evolve throughout the learning process, games such as yours lighten the learning process at times but manage to get the message through very effectively."Although a couple of students reported that they had not seen the specific game show before, all students were familiar with the game show genre. Additionally, one volunteer admitted that she had been reluctant to speak up in class and feeling generally uncomfortable and though that she didn't 'fit in'. When I asked her why she had volunteered, she said that she had become caught up with the excitement in the room. It may be that there is less pressure to 'get it right' with this type of activity, while a direct question can seem to just hang in a room of people not wanting to 'look stupid'.
The energy spent pays its dues though, when I later present the arguments and evidence associated with mandatory sentencing laws. Students are more engaged with this section of the lecture; while they haven't acquired the associated jargon yet, they now have opinions on the underlying issues. They have also engaged with their peers during the game and feel confident to express these opinions [even in a class of 200].
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|Author: Jaimie Beven received a BA (Hons) in Psychology from Murdoch University in 1998 and then went on to complete a PhD entitled Interpersonal Emotional Responses in Violent Offenders: (Re)examining the Role of Empathy in the School of Law. Jaimie began teaching in 1999 in the School of Psychology and moved to the School of Law in 2005 where she now teaches in the areas of Sentencing and Penology, Criminal Behaviour, and Criminology. Postal address: School of Law, Murdoch University, South Street, Murdoch WA 6150. Email: J.Beven@murdoch.edu.au
Please cite as: Beven, J. P. (2007). Bridging diversity to achieve engagement: "The Sentence is Right" game show rip off. In Student Engagement. Proceedings of the 16th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 30-31 January 2007. Perth: The University of Western Australia. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2007/refereed/beven.html
Copyright 2007 Jaimie P. Beven. The author assigns to the TL Forum and not for profit educational institutions a non-exclusive licence to reproduce this article for personal use or for institutional teaching and learning purposes, in any format (including website mirrors), provided that the article is used and cited in accordance with the usual academic conventions.