Thinking about volunteering?

Although I am officially on maternity leave I am still continuing with my role as a volunteer mentor for male offenders, who have served relatively short sentences, upon release from HMP. Luckily as a volunteer I can be rather flexible with when I finish and start back up again after baby’s arrival. Of course working with, often very vulnerable, individuals I wouldn’t just go missing in action for a while when they needed support the most so I am working alongside another mentor who will take over whilst I am away.

I am actually busy all day today with a prison visit and then the organisation of a group get together but whilst having breakfast I have been reflecting on how much I will miss being a volunteer while I have a break for my baby. Of course this is by no means the end of me volunteering and as soon as I feel happy to do so I will be back.

["Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart."] – Elizabeth Andrew

Throughout the course of my degree I have been involved in a range of voluntary positions, all of which I have loved! I know that they have all been of huge benefit to me and I have loved being able to get stuck in to something I am really passionate about. Of course I love studying, reading books and learning but nothing beats getting to do something I hope to spend the rest of my life involved in. I know at some point it will come but up until now, over the four years of volunteering I have done I haven’t had a single day where I had arranged to go in and didn’t want to, or couldn’t wait for the day to be over. If anything I would love to do even more but I am aware that it’s important to not let my degree slip as I am hoping the combination of my degree along with the practical experience I have gained will stand me in good stead to progress in my career.

["Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote everyday about the kind of community you want to live in."] – Anonymous

I just wanted to share my thoughts on what it is like to be a volunteer and I honestly couldn’t recommended it enough – for so many reasons! I would love to hear from other people who are volunteers or who are thinking about gaining some voluntary experience!

["A moment of self - compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life"] – Christopher Germer

DD307 – Social Psychology, Week 23

It’s actually very nice only working on only one module! As I overlapped DSE212 and DD307 I often felt overwhelemed with the workload and wasn’t able to do much, if any, of the additional reading etc. Now that I have my DSE212 results I can concentrate fully on DD307.

This weeks is timetabled to be assignment week to work on TMA 05. I am a little behind on the reading so still catching up but we do have until the 7th of August to submit this essay. I am working towards a personal deadline of a week on Friday to have this essay complete.

This is the first TMA of the module I have actually been excited for when I looked at the essay question:

Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of a discursive approach to studying obedience. Make reference to agency and power in your answer.
Word limit: 2000

I am really enjoying the reading for this essay, particularly the comparison between Stanley Milgram’s infamous work and Stephen Gibson’s more recent work analysing tape recordings taken at the time of Milgram’s experiments.

What’s everyone else working towards at the moment?

Results are in…

So today I received my results for DSE212 – a week early. I do find the grading of the OU slightly difficult to get my head around in that not every module counts and others count in different ways etc. Level 1 courses do not go towards the final classification of your degree providing you pass, so in theory weather you get a 41 or a 95 it is irrelevant. However level 2′s go some way towards the final classification and level 3′s count considerably (from what I gather!) So far I have received grade 2 passes for every module I have completed, which is the equivalent to a 2:1 however when I logged on to my student homepage to retrieve my results I found I had been awarded a grade 4 pass, equivalent to a third. With regards to my essays I achieved;
70, 75, 72, 72, 83 and 93
However my exam was graded at 51 which, due to the weighting of the exam, has taken me down to a third. I feel disappointed at myself however I worked as hard as I could when it came to revision considering I am also studying towards DD307 and working. If I do well at DD307 I could still be on track however I now feel a considerable amount of pressure. DD307 is the first module I have seriously struggled with, and according to forums and Facebook groups I’m not the only one! I haven’t scored too highly on my TMA’s in DD307 so far and I’m trying not to panic now! I think it may be sensible to continue working on the essays in the same way but start thinking about beginning revision now.
I do feel as though Open University exam’s shouldn’t be so highly weighted towards your final grade as many people use the OU as they have many other commitments, I haven’t found the same support is offered for exams with the OU as it is to students studying at a brick uni.

Anyway this has turned into a pretty long post about nothing! I just wanted to share with you my results and hope that others who may be studying DSE212 in the future will be able to learn from my mistakes and focus on revision earlier that is timetabled!

For anyone who had received results or will be soon well done and good luck :-)

DD307 project

DD307 Book 1
So I have now completed and submitted my ‘project’ for DD307, which is pretty heftily weighted and goes alongside my overall TMA score and my final exam score in order to determine my final module grade. I must admit I thought that this would be favourite part of the module as I thoroughly enjoyed the choice and flexibility which was involved with the DD301, Crime and Justice, project. However this wasn’t the case! I found the time between TMA 03, the project proposal, and the time allowed for completing the project, TMA 04, just wasn’t suffice! This project was different to DD301 in the sense that we had to complete and analyse our own interviews which we had to record and transcribe (such a lengthy process!) and complete a report in a pretty standard format:

Background and Research Question

When we submitted our proposal we had to choose an approach to adopt. The choices were;
Discursive Psychology
Social Psychoanalytic
I decided to adopt a discursive psychological approach as this fitted with my research question. I enjoyed finding out more about this approach and it was an interest process however I don’t feel I have benefited a great deal of psychological knowledge from doing this project. For DD301 I focussed on mass incarceration and I still now feel as though I gained a deeper insight into my chosen topic. This project had a different focus and it was placed on the the approach taken and the process in which you undertook in order to achieve your research along with how you analyse your data in accordance with your perspective. I understand that, as a social psychology module, this is the focus but I would have loved to be able to investigate a topic in greater depth and I didn’t feel as though there was the time or scope to do this with this project.

I would advise anyone who will be doing DD307 in the future to take their time with the project and get started as early as possible as it does contribute towards 30% of your final grade so is heavily weighted in comparison to standard TMA’s. I didn’t find that following the time set out was enough and would advise people to get a head start. Also take time to choose an area to research as even now I am not sure that I choose a topic to best understand my approach. Once I have received my marks and feedback I will do another post which should hopefully provide some more advice for future DD307′ers!

The challenges

I have previously mentioned that I volunteer as a mentor for male offenders upon release from prison who have served relatively short sentences. I may, if it’s something people are interested in reading, do a more in depth post about my role as a mentor but I just wanted to share my, all to familiar, experience from yesterday.

When an individual expresses interested regarding having a mentor inside prison they go through an interview process and are eventually matched with 1 or 2 mentors. On the day of their release the project co-ordinator and the mentors collect the individual from prison and we usually spend the day together attending any appointments and getting to know each other a little.

I think something which many people feel, which I fully empathise with as to a degree this was my view a number of years ago, is that many people inside prison express the view that the system is against them and they are being ‘set up to fail.’ I want to emphasise that this is my experience only, I am fully aware of the success stories, and have been involved in a number of these, and the dedication and teamwork displayed by many individuals within agencies who work alongside these guys but time and time again when we go to collect someone who is keen to work with us we are left feeling baffled by the end of the day.

Before we go to collect a guy we make sure we have spoken with, if appropriate, their probation officer, staff at an approved premises if this is the situation, and anyone from other agencies who are involved in the rehabilitation of the individual.

So, yesterday, after a slight misunderstanding with release times (something I could write a whole separate post about) we finally met up with with *A* and headed back over to the area he was resettling. A and ourselves were both informed that he must arrive at the approved premises by 2pm for his induction and other than that we only had to go to the job centre to open a new claim. We were told his probation officer was on holiday and was happy for him to wait until next week for their first meeting. We had to pass the approved premises to get to the job centre so thought we would drop by to put a face to a name and to see if it was possible to leave A’s things in the office. We were ever so lucky as when we turned up staff from the approved premises along with a stand in probation officer were waiting, stating that they did have a meeting with him at 12 noon. Luckily this probation officer was understanding however in the past we have worked alongside guys who have been breached and recalled back to prison for situations very similar.

Nobody could quite work out why we were all given different times and information but I do have a degree of sympathy with those who feel as though this is being done purposely. Although I doubt that it is, I just feel that often the disjointedness of agencies who work alongside offenders places the individual in an even more difficult position than the one in which they are already in.


It’s over and I survived!!
On Tuesday 3rd June at 1pm I officially finished DSE212, the penultimate module for my degree. I want to say good luck to everyone with upcoming exams and well done to everyone who may have recently had an exam!
I found DSE212 to be a pretty challenging exam, and there was A LOT to revise. I would recommend starting early for anyone who will be completing it as part of their degree (no matter what your tutor says!) The exam was composed of three parts;
-A list of 8 key terms and you had to write a paragraph on 5 of the 8 (there was 45 to revise so pretty tricky) I was confident with 4 of them but my fifth choice ended up being a sentence long!
-Next was 2 essays, with 45 minutes for each. I chose the cognitive approach to learning option and comparing the psychoanalytic and humanistic perspectives approach to change.
-The final part was another 45 minute essay with a choice of a question from each chapter in the final module text book. I struggled with this section and went for the lifespan development option but I have no idea how I managed with it and feel as though this may be the section which has let me down.

It’s a pretty short wait this year until results are out on 14th of July so I have everything crossed. I am extremely happy and proud of my TMA results for this module but unfortunately due to the weighting of the exam it could bring me down grade boundaries pretty easily if I don’t do so well in the exam! It is all over now and I am going to enjoy finishing off my final module, DD307 in a less stressful manor! Due to overlapping the two modules, which are both pretty demanding, my marks for DD307 haven’t been as good as I would like so I am hoping I have time to pull it round!

DSE212 Revision Websites

I am hoping to still get some posts up but until 3rd June I will be rather busy revising! I just wanted to share a couple of websites which are great for DSE212 revision – They also cover ED209, DD303 and DD307 so worth ‘bookmarking’ if you plan to do any of these modules in the future.

DSE212 Revision Toolkit

Just One More Ten Pence Peice

I do want to note that both of these websites have been created by past students and some of the information may be out of date but so far I have found them invaluable. I have however checked notes or information made against the current module text books.

It goes without saying that the module website is also a great tool, EPoCH and the DVD clips are great refreshers when you want something quick to fit into a spare 30 mins!!

Good luck to anyone revising at the moment, let me know what you are revising for how you are getting on :-)

The End is in Sight, DSE212

This happens every module but I can’t quite believe that I am finishing the reading and beginning to put together a plan for the final TMA of DSE212…’s scary! When I first started DSE212 I was rather apprehensive. I think mainly this was due to the fact that I had only previously completed criminology related modules and I was leaving this all behind to begin the psychology element to my degree. My nerves increased at my first tutorial as I was the only student who wasn’t going down the straight psychology route and so the only one who hadn’t completed level 1 and level 2 psychology modules. I remember looking through all of the module texts and purchasing some past papers and feeling as though much of it was in a foreign language! But week by week, following the study planner, things began to make more sense and I managed to achieve the highest mark of my degree yet with my past DSE212 TMA, with 93! This last essay is all about nature v nurture and something I am interested in but I also feel a little scared that this is the last piece of work to be handed in before the exam. I am nervous about the exam but I am going to create a revision timetable and try and use my time left as effectively as possible.
So which modules are people finishing and what’s next on the agenda?

I want more blogs…

I wanted to share my frustration and appeal for help.

I really struggle to find criminology or psychology related blogs to read! There are thousands of books, websites and some pretty ‘serious’ blogs around on the subject but I can probably count on one hand the number of informal ‘chatty’ style blogs on the subject. I love my degree but after doing a full days study sometimes I want to read something light and quick and there doesn’t seem to be much of that around – particularly about criminology. I’m not sure what the point to this post is other than hoping someone can suggest some blogs which may fit the bill!
If you have a blog or have any favourites please share them in the comments :-)

Barter Books Book Haul

I popped up to Barter books this morning as I had come across some old books which I no longer wanted whilst moving and thought I would see if there was anything of interest I could pick up in return. I ended up choosing a couple of books which I am hoping to get stuck into once I complete my degree. I am really keen to gain a better understanding of UK criminal law and drug and alcohol issues when I finish my degree and luckily found some perfect books! The quality, like any other second hand book shop, varies however today I was lucky and all but one of the books are in fantastic condition!

The first book I picked up is for a bit of light reading! I have a few other books I would like to get through before this but I’m always up for a new book so couldn’t resist! The book is by John Blake publishing and written by Kate Kray and is a very brief look at ‘the truth about the toughest men in the world.’


I was very pleased to come across Michael Allen’s textbook on Criminal Law. Although it isn’t the most recent edition it is still very relevant and, unlike many second hand textbooks, there is no scribbles or highlighting in it which is a huge bonus!


The next book I saw is by Max Cruickshank and although it is aimed at parents it acts a great basic books outlining all the basic information you need to know about smoking, alcohol and drugs including information about policy, mental health, recovery information and a great fact and myth section. Some of the information in here is very basic but for anyone interested in the field who is looking for a jargon free book to start off with, or indeed parents who are after a guide I would really recommend this.


I’m always a little put of by text books which aren’t UK focused unless I am looking at a subject in great depth however I had heard about ‘Addiction is a Choice’ written by Jeffrey A. Schaler with many people either strongly agreeing or strongly disagreeing with the content. I really enjoy challenging my views and like having a book which doesn’t necessarily fit with my feelings on a subject. This books seems as though it may just do that! Although I won’t get round to reading it cover to cover for a while I will definitely discuss my thoughts on here – maybe even before I finish as it is split into sections which may possibly be able to be read in no specific order. I would love to hear from anyone who has read this book!


The last two books come from a series which I wasn’t aware of. In the series there is;
This is Alcohol
This is Cocaine
This is Heroin
This is Nicotine
This is Ecstasy
This is Cannabis
I managed to get my hands on This is Alcohol by Nick Brownlee and This is Cocaine by Nick Constable. They are published by Sanctuary Publishing and focus on a variety of issues surrounding the drug from culture to history, health, money and more and seem to be pretty informative for short books.


All in all a very successful trip!