Teaching

APPROACH

My courses build students’ critical thinking through the combination of scientific research with the experiences of those directly impacted. The foundations to my teaching include the flipped format, experiential learning, and team-based projects. These immersive and transformative techniques aim to cultivate empathy, engagement, and applied learning.

 

Flipped classroom formatting has gained popularity in higher education particularly for skill-based courses in science and engineering. The flipped format has been especially effective in teaching my undergraduate research methods class to make an often “boring” and difficult subject more approachable. I assign Learning Logs with a series of content and reflective questions about the readings, which ensures students retain the material in preparation for in-class activities. Students are also provided short concept videos to guide them. During class, students work together and obtain immediate instructor feedback on assignments typically reserved as homework. The flipped format increases mastery of core concepts, participation, and engagement during class.

 

I use experiential learning in my courses to help students generate and apply knowledge through hands-on activities. In my undergraduate Corrections course, students attend a tour of a local correctional facility and interact with formerly incarcerated guest speakers. In my other courses, I facilitate service-learning to support community engagement. For example, students in my Women, Crime, and Criminal Justice course next semester will volunteer at a local shelter for domestic violence and human trafficking survivors. After each experiential learning activity, students complete a reflection assignment in which they apply course concepts to their experiences and reflect on how the activities facilitated their learning. Students often mention that experiential learning enhances the class by bringing course material to life and humanizing those directly impacted.[1]

I recently began assigning team-based projects to end my courses as a “finale” rather than a traditional final. Students in my content-based courses create their own Podcasts or infographics on controversial topics (e.g., the death penalty, prison nursery programs) to provide recommendations for local policymakers. Similarly, students in my undergraduate Research Methods course develop a proposed study to examine a local criminal justice issue. I support students throughout the semester by facilitating incremental activities along with on-going formative feedback. The team-based projects create a sense of community and promote personal interests through the focus on local issues. On the last day, I hold a communal exhibit to share students’ final projects with fellow classmates.

In all of my courses, students apply core concepts to issues facing the community. My reflective and project-based assignments build students’ social consciousness and long-term engagement. My courses challenge student preconceptions about the correctional system by exposing them to the perspectives of those directly impacted. Students leave my courses prepared to interact within an increasingly diverse workforce and clientele.

 

[1] My students’ reflections are summarized in a recent publication: Belisle, L., Boppre, B., Keen, J., & Salisbury, E.J. (In press). Bringing course material to life through experiential learning: Impacts on students’ learning and perceptions in a corrections course. Journal of Criminal Justice Education.

Courses

Corrections
This course is designed to enhance students’ understanding of what society/the government does with individuals who have broken the law. We will explore the goals and functions that society expects our correctional system to accomplish, which are oftentimes contradictory in nature (e.g., to both punish and rehabilitate). The course begins with the development of punishment and corrections, mainly focusing on adults. Next, we will discover what it is like to live and work in correctional facilities. Finally, we end the course with special topics and the future of corrections, including correctional approaches used in the field. A major focus of the course will be on evidence-based correctional programs and policies.

After successfully completing this course, students can reasonably expect to achieve the following objectives, assuming active study and participation:

  • Distinguish between the underlying theoretical and philosophical foundations of the U.S. correctional system

  • Explain the influence correctional goals have had upon the way clients are supervised/treated

  • Describe basic correctional policies, procedures, and sentencing structures based upon their theoretical foundation and scientific evidence

  • Discuss the impacts of incarceration on incarcerated persons, their families, and communities

  • Compare multiple perspectives on controversial issues in corrections (e.g., the use of the death penalty, solitary confinement)

Research Methods
This course is designed to enhance students’ understanding of the research process: how to create and collect data to answer complex social problems. Students will be able to assess the benefits and limitations of various research methods with attention to validity, generalizability, and reliability. An emphasis will be placed on how research should inform crime-related policies and practices. Most importantly, students will develop their own research skills through activities and assignments in the course.

After successfully completing this course, students can reasonably expect to achieve the following objectives, assuming active study and participation:

  • Describe how systematic research methods can improve information-gathering in everyday life

  • Define core concepts related to research methods

  • Identify the strengths and weaknesses of different research methods in relation to validity and  generalizability

  • Practice skills vital to the research process (e.g., finding and summarizing scholarly articles, developing research questions, creating survey questions, and identifying the best method(s) to answer research questions)

  • Plan a research project that examines an important social issue

  • Discuss the importance of research in relation to policies and practices in criminal justice

Women, Crime, and Criminal Justice (coming Spring 2020!)
 
Women, Crime, and Criminal Justice is a 500-level course that will provide students with an immersive understanding of women’s involvement with the criminal justice system. The course will be divided into three major sections: 1) women’s victimization and pathways into criminality; 2) the incarceration of women and gender-responsive correctional programming; and 3) women as professionals working in the field of criminal justice. A major concentration of the course will be on intersectionality, a lens to understand or explain how multiple forms of marginalization (i.e., gender, race, social class, sexuality) shape women’s involvement in the criminal justice system.
After successfully completing this course, students can reasonably expect to achieve the following objectives, assuming active study and participation:
  • Explain gender/intersectionality within criminal justice contexts

  • Identify how the gendered and intersectional realities of women influenced by socially-constructed roots of oppression and privilege shape law-breaking behavior, victimization, and working in the field of criminal justice

  • Reflect on one’s own social identity and the positions of others, especially in relation to those involved in the criminal justice system

  • Assess the gendered/intersectional implications of punishment, incarceration, and treatment in correctional settings for women

  • Formulate policy recommendations on issues related to gender and crime

STUDENT PROJECTS

Examples of students' final projects can be accessed here

© 2016 by Breanna Boppre.
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