Dr. Ethan Amidon
Assistant Professor, Criminology
To see more funded grants, check out our Internal Assessment Grant page.
Rationale for requesting the Assessment Grant
The Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice’s Introduction to the American Criminal Justice (CRM210) course was accepted in the General Education curriculum in the spring 2017 semester. Before the start of the fall 2017 semester, the department needed to develop a pretest/posttest, a rubric for the journal assignments, and a self-report survey. The creation of these instruments was needed in order to assess the student learning outcomes associated with General Goals 1, 2, and 12. Using the funds associated with the assessment grant, a one day retreat was held to discuss the creation of these assessment instruments.
Ethan Amidon, Julie Baldwin, John Eassey, Brett Garland, Diane Leamy, Caryn Saxon, and Ivy Yarckow-Brown
The meeting began with a discussion of the topics that should be covered in the pretest/posttest. Based on the original General Education proposal, the department indicated that the pretest/posttest would be used to assess student learning outcomes (SLO) 1.1, 1.2, 1.4, 2.2, 12.1, and 12.2. In order to identify which subjects to cover in this assessment instrument, we created a list of all of the subjects that were contained within the descriptions associated with the previously mentioned SLOs. After all of the subjects were outlined, we identified a number of topics within each subject to potentially examine in the pretest/posttest. During this discussion, we reevaluated the use of the pretest/posttest to assess SLO 2.2 and 12.2, and we concluded that the assessment of these two SLOs could be achieved solely through the use of journal assignments. Appendix A contains the list of the subjects within the remaining SLO descriptions and the list of the topics that were identified within each of these subjects.
The next topic of discussion was the use of journal assignments to assess the SLOs identified in the original General Education proposal (i.e., SLO 2.1, 2.2, and 12.4). During this discussion, it was determined that we could strengthen our assessment of the subjects outlined in our SLO descriptions by expanding the number of SLOs covered by the journal assignments. Overall, the group decided to expand the use of the journal assignments to cover SLO 1.1, 1.2, and 1.4 as well. Appendix B contains the list of journal assignment criteria that were established based on the descriptions for SLO 1.1, 1.2, 1.4, 2.1, 2.2 and 12.4.
Finally, we discussed the use of a self-report survey to assess SLO 1.1, 1.2, 1.4, 2.1, and 12.1, which were identified in the original General Education proposal. However, based on the expanded reliance on journal assignments to assess the SLOs, the group questioned whether the use of a self-report survey in the course would be necessary. Based on this discussion, the group decided that the combination of the pretest/posttest and the journal assignments would allow us to fully assess all of the SLOs. Therefore, we voted to eliminate the use of a self-report survey in the course.
Post Meeting Actions
Following the meeting, the group created a number of pretest/posttest questions that were designed to capture the subjects and the topics identified in Appendix A. This process initially yielded a 60 question pretest/posttest. After assessing the length of the initial instrument, it was decided that it would be best to reduce the number of questions in the pretest/posttest. We hoped that by reducing the number of questions in this instrument that we could potentially encourage students to take the completion of the entire pretest/posttest seriously. However, with the potential reduction in the number of questions, we realized that we would not be able to address all of the topics that were identified for each subject in Appendix A. After weighing the pros and cons associated with reducing the number of questions, we believed that potentially enhancing the quality of the data gathered was more important than covering every topic we had identified during our meeting. The process of reducing the number of questions in the pretest/posttest resulted in a 30 question version of the instrument, which is contained in Appendix C. We have included identifiers in Appendix A and C that indicate how the questions contained in the pretest/posttest align with the subjects and topics that were discussed during the meeting. The final version of the pretest/posttest was approved during a departmental meeting on August 17th, and this instrument was deployed in all of the CRM210 sections at the beginning of the Fall 2017 semester. The journal criteria are also being used by all instructors to assess the required journal assignments.
Appendix A: Pretest/Posttest SLO Subjects & Topics
SLO 1.1: Identify and follow through on personally and socially relevant problems and reasonable solutions to those problems.
Students often harbor preconceived notions about criminal offenders and the justice system, which are often based on false or misleading information disseminated through popular culture. During the course students will receive extensive exposure to information on offenders, victims, and criminal justice policies and practices. Particular emphasis will be placed on pressing problems within the field, such as the implications of mass incarceration and reentry, police use of force, plea bargaining, crime rate trajectories, offender recidivism, and victim roles in the justice process. Students will be exposed to and reflect upon the crime problem and its impact on society and current and past strategies for addressing critical issues in criminology and criminal justice.
Potential Subjects & Topics:
Implications of mass incarceration (1.1A)
- Citizen safety
- Use of private prisons
- Costs and quality
Prisoner reentry (1.1B)
- Collateral consequences
- Different forms of reentry
- Barriers to prisoner reentry
Police use of force (1.1C)
- Use of force continuum
- Qualified immunity
Plea bargaining (1.1D)
- The degree to which plea bargaining is used
- The role of attorneys
- The use of coercion in the process
Crime rate trajectories (1.1E)
- Recent changes in crime rate trend
Victim roles in the justice process (1.1F)
- Presentence investigation report
- Pressing charges
- Restorative justice
SLO 1.2: Identify relevant information sources, make reasoned choices among those sources and open-mindedly follow where those sources lead
Students will explore a wide variety of methods involved with collecting and disseminating information on criminal activity, victimization, and criminal justice processes. The strengths and limitations associated with official records, victimization studies, and self-report data will be examined.
Potential Subjects & Topics:
Methods involved with the collection and dissemination of statistics on criminal activity, victimization studies, and self-report data (1.2)
- Dark figure of crime
- Media and public representation of crime problem
Strengths and limitations of these data sources (1.2)
SLO 1.4: Analyze evidence, statements, alternative viewpoints, graphics, and other forms of information.
Students will be challenged to consider and analyze their beliefs and perspectives on the factors that influence criminal activity and how the criminal justice system operates. As part of the course, students will analyze competing explanations behind the purposes of criminal law, philosophical justifications underlying offender punishment and reform, and interpretations of criminal justice organizational goals, roles, and functions. Students will examine the strengths and weaknesses of differing viewpoints on criminal justice issues.
Potential Subjects & Topics
Examine explanations behind the purposes of criminal law, philosophical justifications underlying offender punishment and reform (1.4A)
Interpretations of criminal justice organizational goals, roles, and functions (1.4B)
- Role of prosecutor and defense attorney
- State, federal, and local
- Technical violations
- Intermediate sanctions
SLO 12.1: Identify the rights and responsibilities they have in their own communities and
the broader society.
The course will inform students about citizen rights in relation to criminal justice processes. Students will also learn about discrimination issues in policing, the courts, and correctional systems. Exploring these issues will help students identify their personal and social responsibilities for ensuring equality and fairness in the distribution of justice.
Potential Subjects & Topics
Provide information on citizen’s rights (12.1A)
- Constitutional rights
Explore discrimination issues in policing, the courts, and correctional systems (12.1B)
- Sentencing disparities
- Racial profiling