Crime scene house benefits students across many majors

December 4, 2014
FISCH

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Approximately 95 students enrolled in the Technical Writing course at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville recently gained experience in technical communication by writing an informational field report on a scene presented at the university’s Forensic Investigation Crime Scene House, located on College Farm Road in Platteville. Karen Pluemer, English lecturer at UW-Platteville, teaches the course.  

The scene was set up in the kitchen, dining room and living room at FICSH. In the living room, a “victim” was dead, sitting in a Lazy Boy in front of a television. At the scene, there was evidence that the victim had gotten ill and had a history of heart disease. Students had to consider if he had died of natural causes or if there were other observable clues that, when collected, indicated that something else may have happened to him. Students had to write about what they observed clearly, concisely, and accurately, complete with references to figures, photos and diagrams.

The students were from a wide range of majors, including biology, building construction management, business administration, industrial tech management, computer science, psychology, sustainable and renewable energy systems, forensic investigation, political science, English, electrical engineering, industrial engineering, general engineering and administration/entrepreneurship.

“I wanted to get students out of the classroom and onto a scene where they needed to observe details and think critically to piece together what they thought happened,” said Pluemer. “My goal was to simulate a situation that students may encounter in their professional careers. Many of the students in these majors will be writing maintenance reports, inspection studies, site reports and investigation reports, so they'll need to have some experience in observing an incident or scene, observing and cataloging the details and then using those details, photos and diagrams to support a conclusion – as they keep in mind the purpose and audience of the report.”

Pluemer said that for the students, the most challenging part of the assignment was collecting the details and then getting what they saw into a written document, in a coherent format, with proper references to photos, figures and diagrams.

UW-Platteville’s FICSH, which opened in 2010, provides a hands-on opportunity for UW-Platteville students to gain knowledge of the procedures followed in crime scenes using important principles such as photography, latent fingerprint development techniques, footwear impressions and evidence documentation, collection and preservation.

Written by: Laurie Hamer, College of Liberal Arts and Education, (608) 342-6191, hamerl@uwplatt.edu

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