Below is a guest post from TSP’s Sarah Shannon.  Sarah is a PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of Minnesota and a TSP Graduate Student Board member.  She studies law, crime, and deviance, especially the intersections between crime, punishment, and public welfare programs.


We’d all love to bring renowned sociologists and other social scientists into our classrooms as guest speakers, but budget and logistical constraints tend to get in the way. The good news is podcast interviews, such as TSP’s Office Hours, mean that “virtual guest speakers” are a mere click away!

This is how I have approached using podcasts in the classroom – as an opportunity to bring in the real voice of the scholars whose theories and research we cover through course readings and lectures. I’ve found that using audio technology in the classroom can enhance students’ grasp and interest in what might otherwise seem like mundane course material.

For example, last February I interviewed Dr. Robert Agnew for TSP’s Office Hours. We discussed a recent article he published in Theoretical Criminology on the potential consequences of climate change for crime. During our conversation, Dr. Agnew described the potential physical and social consequences of climate change and then applied his General Strain Theory of crime to explain how climate change might become a driver for increasing crime rates in the years ahead.

This past May, I taught a course in criminological theory for juniors and seniors at the University of Minnesota. On the day that we covered strain theory, including Dr. Agnew’s General Strain Theory, I played back the podcast and had students respond to the following two questions:

1)     How does Dr. Agnew apply strain theory to climate change? Be specific.

2)     Do you find his argument persuasive? Why or why not.

Because Dr. Agnew’s description in our podcast interview is so clear, students had little trouble explaining how the theory might apply should climate change play out the way many experts anticipate and most found this very persuasive. One student later commented in course evaluations that this particular activity helped him see how criminological theories apply in “real life.”

Office Hours offers a wealth of other such interviews that, as Teaching TSP bloggers have noted before, can be used in the classroom, covering such topics as crime, inequality, demographic change, social movements, politics, and more!