Dr Carmel Brown
The Block Model approach to teaching and learning at Victoria University, Melbourne, involves intensive delivery of one unit at a time over a four-week period. The model is not just an administrative change; an assumption of the model is that it promotes a stronger intersection of industry, community, and student aspirations. Based on this model, the degrees in Criminal Justice and in Criminology, and degree combinations with law and psychological studies are set up to optimise applicability and employability. First-year content for instance, includes current issues such as African-Australian relation to crime and its coverage, and juvenile justice challenges with an eye on government plans to construct a new youth custodial facility. Changes in assessment tasks provide scope for feedback to students on an expanded set of capacities. Further to this approach there is a work-based placement in third year. To inform course deliberations, first-year students are invited to nominate their interests and experience in work and in criminal justice, and to identify academic strengths and challenges. This paper elaborates on the Block Model with reference to a sample set of documented student interests. Reflection on those interests and the unit reveals a fine line between academic and employment-related learning. A broader productive life emphasis is one resolution of this tension.
Carmel Brown’s background includes policy and practice in the criminal justice field in addition to her current position at Victoria University. The former includes education leadership at a youth custodial facility, policy with Corrections Victoria, and Forensicare, the Victorian specialist criminal justice mental health agency. Her academic interest is using the cycle of action-reflection to inform practice. Relevant theoretical underpinnings are: Kolb’s learning cycle (1974); Schon’s ‘reflective practice’ (Schon, 1995) and Engestrom’s activity theory (2001).