Addressing ‘social inequities’ as they relate to law in the School of Criminology

From left: Marsha-Ann Scott Black, Helene Love and Tamara O'Doherty

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Tamara O’Doherty, School of Criminology

Project team: Helene Love, School of Criminology, Marsha-Ann Scott Black, Research Assistant

Timeframe: March 2021 to June 2022  

Funding: $5,000

Courses addressed:

CRIM 135 – Introduction to Canadian Law and Legal Institutions: A Criminal Justice Perspective
CRIM 230 – Criminal Law
CRIM 317 – Sex, Work and The Law
CRIM 335 – Human Rights and Civil Liberties

Final report: View Tamara O'Doherty’s Final Report (PDF) >>

Description: For this project, we would like to uncover and document opportunities for intervention in the Canadian undergraduate Criminology legal curriculum to better address its racist and colonial root. We want to ensure that our presentation of the law incorporates a clear anti-oppression pedagogy. In previous ISTLD grants, students expressed their desire to see faculty incorporate anti-racism and anti-colonialism throughout SFU, but especially in contexts where colonial constructs such as law and impacts of colonization such as over-incarceration of Indigenous persons, systemic bias in policing, and barriers to accessing justice are discussed, or ought to be discussed. Our immediate target audience for curriculum change will be the instructors teaching law-related courses in Criminology; however, the ultimate audience and target for this work remains the students themselves who will be subjected to our future attempts at better meeting the departmental learning goal. In so doing, we hope to better arm our students for their subsequent work in and with the criminal justice system.

Questions addressed:

  • What are the current strategies used by faculty to meet the learning objective (LO) related to social inequities under the law?
  • What challenges are experienced by faculty in meeting the LO and what strategies do faculty use or recommend to overcome challenges?
  • What is an anti-racist/anti-colonial pedagogic practice?
  • What are current best practices for implementing anti-racism and anti-colonialism into law-related teaching practices at the undergraduate level?
  • What are the challenges associated with incorporating anti-colonial/anti-racist lenses and what supports are needed to incorporate the pedagogies into the classroom?
  • How well are current law-related faculty teaching practices aligned with the best practices?
  • What opportunities exist to incorporate anti-racist and anti-colonial pedagogies in order for faculty to better meet the LO?
  • What supports are required for faculty, teaching assistants, and students to ensure that LOs can be met?

Knowledge sharing: We will present our findings to our legal stream colleagues and the anti-racism/equity committee in Criminology at an early stage in the development to obtain their feedback and then again once the report is finalized. Secondly, we will present our findings to the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee within the School of Criminology. And finally, we will present our findings at conferences such as the Law and Society Annual Conference in 2022 and at the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education conference in 2022.  

Keywords: Decolonization, anti-racism, anti-oppression, curriculum, social inequities, student-centered, teaching practices