Experiential Teaching for Public Health Practice


Author(s): A. Gita Krishnaswamy and Bud Nicola

Pp: 22-30 (9)

DOI: 10.2174/9781681083872117010008


The founding faculty of the MPH in Community-Oriented Public Health Practice (COPHP) considered several learning models appropriate for students preparing for careers in public health practice (rather than research). They selected problem-based learning (PBL), which has been successfully applied by other practicebased disciplines and incorporates elements such as strong faculty-student collaboration, group learning, a reiterative research cycle, and case learning based on realworld problems. At its core, PBL is a method in which learning results from the intellectual process involved in understanding and resolving problems. These problems are presented in cases, written by COPHP faculty, that are often based on real public health situations at the state, national, or global level. Most courses also present at least one case that requires students to complete a real-time project at the request of a partner agency such as the local health department. Students explore and discuss the cases in small groups that simulate the structure of actual work environments such as health and human service agencies; and they learn to lead groups and to cope with functional and dysfunctional group dynamics. PBL cases are built on community issues, reinforcing the program's grounding in service learning in the community. The COPHP program also trains students and in use of a course management system through which students post their coursework. Both students and faculty provide continuous feedback on progress in facilitating student learning.

Keywords: Adult learning principles, Case learning, Competencies, Evaluation, Facilitated learning, Group dynamics, Learner-centered education, Learning cycle, Pedagogy, Problem-based learning, Reiterative learning, Research methods, Service learning, Small-group learning, Technology.

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