This book aims to show what we can do to create a learning environment that encourages students to take a deep approach to learning through the use of popular culture stories in the law school and criminal justice classrooms. Popular culture enhances the deep learning process by helping students develop cognitive skills, competences, and practices that are essential for the professional practice of law and criminal justice and that are often neglected in traditional law school and criminal justice curricula. These skills include rapid cognition and other similar thought processes, metacognition, the interpretation and production of popular culture texts, the narration of stories, and effective communication with the press, among others.

By deconstructing the notion of deep learning and by examining the power of popular culture in law school and criminal justice progr ams, I will show you how to bring about deep learning in our’ law and criminal justice teaching practice. After reading this book, you will have the theoretically grounded and research-supported strategies and tools that are necessary to implement a deep learning environment through popular culture stories in law and criminal justice classes. Committing to fostering a deep learning environment in our classes is an urgent imperative. We owe it to our stirdents.


The analysis of the plays, films, TV shows, and their characters throughout the book follows a Stanislavskian theory of scene analysis (Stanislavski, 1936). The description of the selected scenes used to illustrate the main aspects of teaching for deep learning through popular culture is based on the analysis of the characters’ back stories, objectives, beliefs, the subtext, the given circumstances, and the characters’ reaction to the given circumstances. Thus, this description may include actions which the TV show, film, or play does not explicitly show but which one can assume based on a carefiil Stanislavskian scene and character analysis.

You can understand and engage with this book perfectly well whether or not you are familiar with the stories (films, TV shows, books, and songs) used for the discussion and explanation of the deep learning process and the role of popular culture. Needless to say, you do not need to choose the same works to implement a course on law—or criminal justice—and popular culture. Any relevant popular culture work will help enrich the deep learning process, if you include all the elements, strategies, and practices discussed throughout the book. On a related note, the main tenet of this book, i.e., that popular culture can enhance the learning process, applies to all disciplines and is not restricted to the law school and criminal justice classrooms.

Throughout the book I use popular culture stories for two different purposes. One obvious purpose is to give examples of how popular culture works can be incorporated into the classroom. The other purpose is to illustrate teaching and learning concepts such as deep and surface learning, metacognition, or rapid cognition.

Another important caveat: I do not claim that you can only create a deep learning environment if you teach through popular culture (Bain, 2004). What I do claim throughout the book is that popular culture stories can gr eatly enhance this process in the law and criminal justice disciplines.


This book is divided into eight chapters. Chapter 1 contains this introduction, which situates the book in its context and states its main purpose. In Chapter 2,1 will explore the reasons why students learn superficially by focusing on the signature pedagogies of law school and—graduate and undergraduate— criminal justice programs, that is to say, the way we teach. I will also address the notion of deep learning. I will delve into a detailed examination of the elements and factors of deep learning. Deep learning requires a series of cognitive and metacognitive interventions at both the individual and the group (social) levels so that learners can construct new knowledge that results in both a concepmal change in their cognitive structure and in their position in academic and professional communities1. In Chapter 3, I will explore a thought process (rapid cognition) that has traditionally been neglected in law schools and criminal justice progr ams, as well as in most other areas of higher education, despite its importance for professional practice.

Chapter 4 deals with motivation—a key factor in the deep learning process. I will analyze the types of motivation and their connection to learning. I will then examine the factors that foster intrinsic motivation

‘I follow a constructivist approach to deep learning, as this approach is understood by Schwandt and McCarty (2000), who advanced the idea that “everyone who believes the imnd is active in the making of knowledge is a constructivist” (Graffam, 2003). In this sense, constructivism is a point of departure, which includes doubts, debates, criticism, and self-criticism (Canetero, 2009). Constructivism is founded upon the idea that the individual is not a mere product of the social context or his or her internal dispositions, but rather his or her own construction that is produced every day as a result of the interaction between those two factors. At the same tune, my conception of deep learning is compatible with xygotskian and neo-vygotskian notions of social learning and development. It is also compatible with findings in cognitive neuroscience (Zull, 2002). Cognitive neuroscience deals with research on brain processes and structures; it also examines the role that the brain plays in the learning process (Zull, 2011).

and the role that popular culture plays in the development of intrinsic motivation. In Chapter 5,1 will analyze the stories embedded in academic disciplines. I will focus on the stories that law and criminal justice tell both inside and outside the courtroom. I will also compare the narrative structure of legal and criminal justice stories and stories told in popular culture. After briefly visiting the law and popular culture field, I will concentrate on the use of popular culture as primary sources for law and criminal justice teaching. Chapter 6 deals with media literacy. I will trace its evolution in educational settings and its current—marginal—role in law and criminal justice programs. I will discuss tools to help students both interpret and produce media texts connected to the practice of law and criminal justice. I will also explore ideas to design classroom activities to foster the development of media literacy in law school and criminal justice university courses. In Chapter 7, I will explore the notion of metacognition and how we can help students use metacognitive strategies to engage in reflection about theft learning process and self-evaluation. The emphasis of this chapter will be on how we can use metacognitive categories to encourage students to take a deep approach in their learning process. Chapter 8 will recount an experience in planning and enacting a course on criminal law taught entirely through popular culture stories. The course aimed to help students examine criminal law deeply and to help them interpret and produce popular culture texts dealing with theoretical and practical issues of criminal law. Finally, the last chapter will offer a brief summary of the mam ideas of this book, that is, that deep learning is the answer to the performance problem of law school and criminal justice programs and that the pathways, practices, tools, strategies, and initiatives developed in this book, which focus on the use of popular culture in our classes, can foster an environment that is conducive to deep learning.


deep learning teaching law

criminal justice university

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