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The Classroom as a Gang: An Active Learning approach to Teaching Undergraduates about Deviant/Criminal Groups
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active learning
social constructionism
criminological theory
encouraging participation

How to Cite

Steele, Jennifer. 2019. “The Classroom As a Gang: An Active Learning Approach to Teaching Undergraduates about Deviant/Criminal Groups”. TRAILS: Teaching Resources and Innovations Library for Sociology, July. Washington DC: American Sociological Association.


Research has shown that active learning approaches are more effective in helping undergraduate students retain course material and enhance student engagement in the course in comparison to traditional lecture format. In this active learning exercise students must come together and form a "gang" in criminology or juvenile delinquency courses. This activity...

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Subject Area(s):
Resource Type(s):
Class Activity
Class Level(s):
Any Level
Class Size(s):

Usage Notes

This exercise was originally designed for a small classroom of 10-15 in order to encourage participation and cohesiveness among them, however larger classrooms should break the students into groups of 5-8; it is equally effective in both designs. In the first meeting students are told that they have 10 minutes to start but will be provided more time...

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Learning Goals and Assessments

Learning Goal(s):

  1. Students will be better able to discuss various theories of crime explaining criminal activity, including but not limited to social learning, routine activities, rational choice theory, and general strain theories.
  2. Students will be able to identify, and dispute various definitions of gangs offered by researchers, government, and the public using social constructionist theoretical framework.

Goal Assessment(s):

  1. This goal will be assessed through the students’ ability to make connections between their choices for criminal activity/behavior to the criminological theories. An in class writing prompt is used, followed by group discussion (appendix B).
  2. Students are presented with a handout on the definitions of gangs used by law enforcement. This goal is assessed several proceeding discussion questions (appendix C). Followed by a paper assignment (appendix D).

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