The Evidence: Translating a crime scene outreach activity for school pupils into a Higher Education module whilst maintaining student engagement




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In April 2014, a team of academics at [anonymised] University developed a ‘hands on’ outreach initiative for year 8 school pupils attending a TeenTech event. A realistic crime scene was set: the pupils, dressed in forensic overalls, approached the ‘live’ scene of a crime whereby a car had just crashed, a ‘body’ lay injured in the vehicle and a distressed witness was causing havoc nearby. On cue a Police Officer approached the scene of the crime and the children were led through a process of gathering evidence and interviewing the witness in order to identify the cause of the crash.

In the past year, the outreach activity has been incorporated into numerous other on-campus school visits and university-wide open days, with more than 200 school pupils to date participating in our practical challenge. The age range of participants has naturally increased to include pupils in year 8 to year 12, and accordingly the content and pitch of the activity has evolved significantly. Feedback from schools and TeenTech organisers has been extremely positive; student engagement is exceptionally high. It has proven especially effective as a way to enthuse and motivate pupils identified as disengaged from education.

The academic team recently acquired University funding to adapt and enhance the scenario to develop a new cross-Faculty module on Forensic Investigation aimed at Physics, Mathematics and Forensics undergraduates. The translation of a single, focused activity lasting between 20-30 minutes into a 12-week module involves significant new material development, however the ethos of the module will continue to centre about our innovative ‘hands on’ crime solving scenarios. This is because with striking consistency, studies show that innovative, active, collaborative, and constructivist instructional approaches shape learning more powerfully, in some forms by substantial margins, than do conventional lecture- discussion and text-based approaches [1]. Another step towards the improvement of student engagement is the provision of clear, immediate feedback. Our crime scene scenario concludes with an animated film that shows the cause of the accident – texting while driving, which immediately confirms the students’ success or otherwise in solving the crime. This paper presents our collaborative experiences in translating a successful school activity into a HE module, and includes the benefits and challenges to raising the academic level whilst maintaining student engagement.

[1] Pascarella, E.T. and Terenzini, P.T. (2005). How college affects students, Volume 2, A Third Decade of Research, p.646, San Fransisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.



student engagement


Bassford, M., O'Sullivan, A., Bacon, J., Crisp, A., Fowler, M. (2015) The Evidence: Translating a crime scene outreach activity for school pupils into a Higher Education module whilst maintaining student engagement. Proceedings of the Raising, Advancing and Inspiring Student Engagement Conference (RAISE) 2015, held at the University of Nottingham 10-11 September 2015


Research Institute

Institute for Allied Health Sciences Research
Institute for Research in Criminology, Community, Education and Social Justice