Experiential Teaching for Public Health Practice

Building a Culture

Author(s): A. Gita Krishnaswamy and Amy Hagopian

Pp: 41-50 (10)

DOI: 10.2174/9781681083872117010010


Faculty of the Community-Oriented Public Health Practice program (COPHP) continually refine our curriculum to support an anti-racist, inclusive program culture. COPHP faculty draws the most from successful contributions to their own learning, including trial and error, expert and personalized coaching, clear social and cultural expectations, and constructive feedback. COPHP “community of learners” begins to take shape at the first contact prospective students make with the program, as faculty and a graduate student coordinator assess applicants’ potential to succeed in COPHP and in using the problem-based learning (PBL) method. Program culture continues to evolve through a busy orientation week designed to prepare new students for the unique demands of PBL and introduce library research methods and the roles of public health workers. Perhaps the most important orientation week activity is “Case 0”, a practice PBL case through which students learn about the radical history of public health, adult learning theory, and institutional racism. In analyzing the case, students are exposed to a classroom culture that support formative, reiterative learning as well as self-reflection and equitable team roles and processes. The combination of COPHP’s dynamic learning culture, social justice orientation, and student leadership strives to support student activism and community service. In the recent years, COPHP students have helped form two important student-led organizations that address racism, oppression, and reproductive rights. Graduates tend to maintain strong relationships with the program, faculty, and local organizations, further extending COPHP’s vital community.

Keywords: Admissions, Anti-racism, Collaboration, Culture, Graduation, Group skills, Multi-cultural, Norms, Orientation, Personal growth, Service, Studentdriven.

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