Not your parents' classroom

August 22, 2013 by Bri Loesch and Chelsea Hagan | CPH Communications
Categories: Academic, Students, Faculty

Not your parents' classroom

“There is nothing humanizing about being lectured at in a giant lecture hall,” said Amy Acton, clinical assistant professor of epidemiology in the College of Public Health.

Acton and two other professors in the college, Haikady Nagaraja and Randi Love, have taken non-traditional approaches to teaching. These professors have found ways to engage students inside and outside the classroom.

Acton is collaborating with her students on a new e-textbook for her Introduction to Global Public Health course. The e-textbook will not only include students’ work, but will also be maintained and updated more regularly than print textbooks.

The e-textbook will also contain interactive features including pictures, videos, and possibly 3D technology. Students in Acton’s course will have the opportunity to submit published work in the e-textbook, keeping the content current and accurate.

“We have found that students are motivated to work harder, dig deeper, and be more creative when they are co-creators of course content,” Acton said. “By channeling their passion and discovering their unique take on the global public health issues of the day, students inspire one another-- and their professor! They are no longer the passive recipients of facts and figures. The subject matter comes to life.”

Nagaraja, professor and chair of biostatistics, took his teaching outside the classroom and outside the country.

He taught Field Experience in Global Public Health- India at Manipal University  in India over May term. The course was designed and directed by Nagaraja. The interdisciplinary cohort included 17 Ohio State students who attended daily lectures and participated in several field visits to see public health issues and work in action.

“The opportunity to interact with my students beyond the classroom allowed me to teach them more, and I was able to learn more from there as well,” Nagaraja said. “The numerous interesting questions asked by them made me think and organize my thoughts on topics beyond what is dealt with in a typical classroom. This experience provided me with a special meaning for being a teacher.”

Love, clinical associate professor of health behavior and health promotion, took her teaching outside the classroom locally.

“People remember experiences and experiences shape lives,” Love said of her non-traditional approach.

With this thought in mind, Love created her field-based graduate course, Public Health in Action, which allows students to gain real-world public health experience over the summer through an organized service activity connected to specific learning objectives.

“One of the strengths of this type of class is that students must learn about and work with people and within social environments that are dramatically different than their own,” Love said. “This kind of learning is likely to stay with them and positively impact their practice when they graduate and enter the public health workforce.”

During the 2013 summer term, the class focused on poverty and privilege as a social determinant of health. Students volunteered for local outreach programs or agencies for approximately 40 hours of field work.

While traditional-style courses are still prominent and effective, these unique approaches to teaching public health allow students to be an active part of their own education.

“These teaching-learning approaches add an element of authenticity to the traditional classroom approach,” said Michael Bisesi, senior associate dean of academic affairs. “Rather than only hearing and reading about certain topics and related theory, students have an opportunity to see and experience real-world examples or applications of theory.”

Bisesi adds that these methods may also stimulate expanded critical thinking and creativity for addressing real-world public health issues. They also increase the potential to more effectively engage students by expanding opportunities for them to contribute to respective courses. 

“The faculty members leading these efforts recognize the value of using more contemporary or applied teaching-learning approaches that may enhance the overall experience for their students,” Bisesi said.



About The Ohio State University College of Public Health

The Ohio State University College of Public Health is a leader in educating students, creating new knowledge through research, and improving the livelihoods and well-being of people in Ohio and beyond.  The College’s divisions include biostatistics, environmental health sciences, epidemiology, health behavior and health promotion, and health services management and policy.   It is ranked 19th among all colleges of public health in the U.S. by U.S. News & World Report, and also includes the top 10-ranked MHA degree program.  The College provides leadership and expertise for Ohio and the world through its Center for Health Outcomes, Policy and Evaluation Studies (HOPES), Center for Public Health Practice, and the NCI-funded Center of Excellence in Regulatory Tobacco Science (CERTS).

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