The potential of collaborative learning as a tool for forensic students: Application to signature examination


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The potential of collaborative learning as a tool for forensic students: Application to signature examination
Science & Justice
Cadola Liv, Hochholdinger Sarah, Bannwarth Anne, Voisard Romain, Marquis Raymond, Weyermann Céline
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Transferring theoretical knowledge to practical skills remains a big challenge in forensic science, especially in questioned documents. The examination of handwriting and signatures requires years of practice to develop the necessary skills. While students (and to some extent the general population) often have the impression that it is easy to differentiate handwriting from different persons, in practice, particularly when dealing with simulated signatures, there is a high risk of reaching a wrong conclusion when questioned document experts do not use a systematic approach and/or are not sufficiently experienced (see for example the famous French Dreyfus case). Thus, a novel teaching approach, based on collaborative learning, has been introduced in a theoretical handwriting class to improve the students’ theoretical knowledge, and additionally make them aware of the limitations of their practical skills and give them tools to improve them in their future practice. Through five activities, the students took the roles of victims, forgers, teachers and experts and created their own learning materials (i.e. signatures and mock casework). During those interactive activities, they learned to describe their signature’s characteristics, intra-variability and complexity, and thus evaluate their own signature’s vulnerability (as potential victims). They learned techniques to simulate signatures and detect the resulting forgeries’ characteristics (in the role of forgers). In the role of teachers, they prepared mock casework scenarios and gave feedback to their colleague’s examination of the produced material. As experts, they carried out signature examination as they would in a proficiency test and were exposed to the difficulties an actual expert may encounter in practice. The evaluation of this novel teaching scenario was very positive, as students learned more extensively the possibilities and limitations of signature comparison. They were more active and motivated in their learning experiences. The teaching team also had an improved experience. Some students complained of an increased workload and imprecise instructions. Improvements were tested and are discussed in this paper.
Forensic science, Questioned documents, Handwriting and signature examination, Collaborative learning, teaching.
University of Lausanne / FIP2017
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12/03/2020 1:27
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13/03/2020 8:09
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