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Teachers struggle with helping students learn complex content, on the one hand, and encouraging students to become more engaged at the beginning of the course, on the other. After 9 years of teaching in a traditional way, I now employ a more learner-centered approach. To engage students intellectually right away, I hand out a neighborhood research project on the first day of class. Because I divide it into manageable steps, however, they are not overwhelmed. So, why wait? My students spend the first weeks of class engaged in research in which they are genuinely interested and, at the same time, learn the basics of urban sociology. I argue that students in any course can learn the content more deeply by engaging in meaningful research starting on the first day of class.
This assignment allows students to study female criminality and victimization, which are often related. This component of the course is designed to examine the essential causes of female criminality, gendered experiences leading to crimes, and the criminal justice system’s dealings with these offenders. Students work in small groups to research a specific population of females involved in crime. The groups present their research to the professor and class through interactive role-play sessions.