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Revamped Forensic Investigation education highly rated

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Forensic Investigation - a woman in a white suit squats and investigates the back of a car

Student experiences of the revamped Forensic Investigation courses at the Netherlands Police Academy Forensic are favourable. Students are generally very satisfied with the modules. All the modules get a pass mark. The average final mark is as high as 8 out of 10. They also favourably rate the transition to actual practice after completing training. These are the findings of a comprehensive evaluation of the training programme conducted by TNO.

"We started updating the course five years ago," says Roy Hengeveld, coordinator of Forensic Investigation at the Netherlands Police Academy. "At first, the police wanted to start training colleagues themselves. Our education system was seriously outdated, and we could not cope with the strong demand. About one hundred and fifty to two hundred forensic investigators wanted to undergo training. And we could only train 12 to 24 a year."

From rigid to flexible 

We had to change course. Roy: "As a cluster, we brought about a dialogue with the country and said: we want to tackle this issue and gain your trust. This trust was given. We interacted with a number of team heads and came up with a plan. The aim was to move from streamlined and rigid teaching to flexible, modular teaching. The teaching team has contributed significantly by developing the programme and continuing to pull out all the stops to provide it. In the end, this is how we achieved our higher goal." 

Evaluate and adjust 

One criticism of the previous system was that no connection was felt between theory and practice. "We interacted a good deal with the units out in the field when developing the programme. The police are very keen to do the right things. That also means holding endless meetings to get it right first time. But if you spend too much time on meetings, you will likely miss the boat. We said to the lecturers: make sure you have a focus group, but do not make it too big, and develop the programme. We did some very good and some not-so-good things in the process, but we evaluated every module we developed and constantly made adjustments where necessary."


Students were used to having classes every other week over a long period, but now they are as consecutive as possible. Roy: "Lecturers were instructed to set up the modules in such a way that students learn everything about one subject area in one, two, or more weeks. We have applied this to every field: shooting incidents, drugs, DNA, blood splatter patterns, and so on. For the realisation plan, we put those modules into 'trains'. This involved giving the participants a week-long introduction, followed by the first module in the next week. When the first group finished the introduction, the second group started the introduction, and so on. Over time, we caught up. And we could adapt the start times to the intake times of the new students."


This is how we trained fourteen groups, totalling about one hundred and fifty participants in one year. Not only did we increase the quantity, but the quality of training also improved. TNO recently assessed the training. For this purpose, students completed digital questionnaires at three different times. The students gave the modules an average rating of 8.06. "I knew we were doing well, but I was still surprised by that result," says Roy. "An 8 out of 10 is not something you often see in this kind of evaluation. We worked hard for it. And we managed to do it in a difficult period, developing the programme while work continued and also having to contend with the Covid-19 crisis. It is a fantastic result."


One of the things that could be improved is the flexibility of the training. "We get a lot of people coming in laterally, students from universities of applied science who already have a forensic background, such as in the legal field or in a laboratory.  These are bachelor students who join the training at secondary vocational educational level and are still required to follow all the modules. We can look more efficiently at granting exemptions for certain exams. Not everyone needs to do everything these days, but things simply do not align well right now. We are also continuing to look at the practical relevance aspect. Each discipline has its own quality network, which includes the specialists. That will give us an even closer connection to police practice and allow us to take the practical relevance of the training to a higher level. We have a bit more time and space for doing this now."

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