Resources: proficiency scales for criminological psychology topics

If you get this you win 1,000,000 geek points.

I’m not a massive fan of presenting a set of learning objectives (or whatever we’re calling them this inspection cycle) at the start of every lesson. I agree it’s important that students know where they’re heading and how what they’re engaging with relates to other things they are learning; I just don’t think that sticking today’s LOs on the board and reading them out/getting students to copy them down is a particularly effective way of accomplishing this. That said, there is still an argument for defining clear set of LOs when we plan.  When we teach a syllabus whose content and examination format we don’t determine (like A – Level Psychology) careful thought needs to be given to translating its potentially vague statements into terms that are meaningful given the people we’re teaching, the context in which we’re teaching them and the timescales involved.

I’ve done this a variety of ways in the past. I’ve always found it a very useful exercise for me, but of relative little apparent value to my students. To try to extract some more mileage from the process I’m currently experimenting with proficiency scales (Marzano, 2017). Besides communicating clearly what students need to be able to do, Marzano’s format also requires us to consider what progression in knowledge and understanding might look like in a topic and gives a scoring rubric we can use as the basis for assessment and feedback. I am interested to see how this works in practice.

Here is a set of proficiency scales for the Edexcel criminological psychology topic and a generic proficiency scale (RTF) you can adapt for your own purposes. I’ve divided up the content using SOLO levels (Biggs & Collis, 1982) because it’s a fairly useful model of how students’ knowledge and understanding can be expected to develop. I’ll upload more topic proficiency scales when I’ve finished writing them.

Biggs, J.B. & Collis, K.F. (1982). Evaluating the quality of learning: the SOLO taxonomy. New York: Academic Press.

Marzano, R.J. (2017). The new art and science of teaching. Alexandria: Solution Tree/ASCD.

5 thoughts on “Resources: proficiency scales for criminological psychology topics”

  1. Fantastic resources, always have been a great help and a great idea. I am also following the Edexcel spec – was wondering how you introduce the criminal psychology topic to the cohort (any specific methods/techniques) if that’s a worthwhile thing to do or if you just get stuck into the spec content? What would your first lesson look like? As my first time teaching this, I am looking for ways to get students engaged from the very beginning. Many thanks!

    1. Hi Tas! Congratulations on posting the first comment ever on this blog that wasn’t spam šŸ™‚ Where it comes to criminological psychology my priorities are to help students realise that the topic is much broader than they usually assume and to give them a framework for linking together the specification content they are going to be learning. I generally start by prompting the students to construct a ‘story’ of a crime, starting with the motive, ending with the release of the rehabilitated offender and including as many steps in between as they can think of collectively (e.g. the criminal act, the reporting of the crime, the police investigation, interviewing of witnesses/suspects and so on). Previously, I’ve done this in fairly general terms but this year I think I’m going to find an actual case, or fake one up so it’s got all the features I want. I then prompt them to identify all the points at which psychology might become relevant and make links with material they learned about previously (e.g. in the Edexcel specification, things like reconstructive memory, biopsychological explanations of aggression, social learning theory; there are lots of points of contact if the dig for them). I then teach the topic in terms of the ‘crime story’ the students constructed. This means resequencing the content as it appears in the specification but I believe it makes the topic more coherent and helps the students to understand the relevance of each subtopic. Something I may try this year is to create a timeline of the ‘crime story’ which we can keep going back to and adding to as we move through the topic. I hope that gives you some possibilities – I’m very grateful for your question as it’s got me thinking about better ways of teaching this topic.

  2. Wow! Yet again a brilliant idea, I think that would go down great with students. Many thanks for sharing, I’ve always considered it a risk when it comes to original ways of teaching as I am never sure about how worthwhile it will be. But will definitely try to incorporate more of this over the year. If you do use the fab new ideas you mention, would love to hear what your students made of it. Cheers! šŸ™‚

    1. Hi Tas. Again, thank you. Lots of things militate against risk taking in teaching. It’s often more attractive to go for the ‘safe bet’ lesson because, whilst we know that it may not be optimal, the risks associated with doing something different are too great: lost learning time, the fear of losing our students’ faith, the fear of our managers’ disapproval, the dread of our own emotional response when we realise that a lovingly prepared (and expensively, for new ideas take time and effort) hasn’t worked out… I know all this because, like you, I’m constantly fighting it myself. Trying new things takes energy and time and, in our game, both are frequently in short supply. On the other hand, my experience of taking the risky option has generally been that (1) if you replace a bad lesson with another bad lesson, then you’re no worse off than when you started; (2) if you like your students and they like you they’ll do their best to make an innovation work; and (3) if it doesn’t, they’ll tell you a lot about why it failed and you can learn from that. I’m doing the ‘story of a crime’ lesson next week with a couple of groups so I’ll post an update saying what happened.

      1. I’ve tried the ‘story of a crime’ lesson with a couple of groups. I based it around a case I got from a documentary featuring a former offender who became a probation officer. The first got very hung up on explanations of criminality, so with the second group I gave clearer prompts about the different parts of the timeline they should think about: pre-crime, investigation, trial and sentencing, imprisonment, release and re-integration. The group got quite into it so I’ve decided to go ahead and centre the whole topic around it. Here’s the boardwork from the lesson: Boardwork from 'story of a crime' initial lesson. My next step is to make a skeleton wall display. My plan is to assign small groups of students to add to it every time we learn something new in the topic.

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