Anjali Deshpande and Greg LevFevre
Left: Anjali Deshpande, Clinical Associate Professor, Introduction to Public Health. Right: Greg LeFevre, Assistant Professor, Environmental Engineering & Science.

Today’s community of teaching in higher education provides a rich supply of ideas: from helping students engage in academic discourse with honesty and integrity, to facilitating effective group work, to going beyond traditional teaching methods and “flipping” course content. The methods instructors incorporate into their course depend on course content, instructor experience and creativity, and the prior knowledge and motivation of students.

 

In this series, we will highlight an array of teaching strategies implemented by instructors at the University of Iowa. Each strategy, provided directly from the instructor, enhances student engagement and broadens the scope of understanding. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anjali Deshpande, Clinical Associate Professor, Introduction to Public Health

 

  1. Work in teams to solve problems. Public health is an interdisciplinary field and is becoming more multisector (working with other community entities such as housing, transportation, or food systems). I want students to see that the real problems in public health require thinking across disciplines and across settings.
  2. Introduce students to the many tools and resources that are currently available in the field. Especially regarding community assessment, data, and evaluation of health programs, give students the opportunity for some hands-on use of these tools to solve a health problem.
  3. Use directed reflections to help students synthesize concepts. Though reading an article or chapter provides students with needed knowledge, it is equally important to have them analyze the new knowledge in the context of what they have already learned and apply it in practice with real world population health issues. They will get more in-depth knowledge in later courses but I want them to start thinking about the big questions, what their role might be, and how to communicate about public health all along the way.

 

Greg LeFevre, Assistant Professor, Environmental Engineering & Science

  1. Establish goals/expectations. I have learned the importance of communicating what students should expect to learn and complete for assignments so everyone is on the same page. If students understand why they are doing something, it seems more relevant and helps them feel like they can succeed.
  2. Generate central themes. Both for the course generally and for each lesson, I focus on a few things to share and explain, rather than trying to share as much information as possible—which just gets lost. I think of these as “topic sentences” for lessons and try to ensure that whatever we share relates to those themes.    
  3. State the take-aways. This is a good place to shepherd students to ensure that they are internalizing the main points and not getting stuck on irrelevant details. Some details are critical, some are not. When students are exposed to ideas for the first time, they often do not have the depth-of-field or experience to ascertain such differences.
  4. Circle back. Repetition and feedback along the way are important, and I don’t think that seeing an important theme once in a single context is good enough for students to internalize it. I encourage students to solve problems by adapting the knowledge that they have learned in one situationto a novel condition. I then ask them to tie together what they’ve learned and to distill the central themes.