2008 Teaching and Learning Symposium

2:30-4:30 p.m., May 6, 2008
HUB Ballroom

Session Description



Innovative Teaching Methods for a Large Introductory Epidemiology Course

Yuzo Arima, Kathryn Adeney, Zoe Edelstein, Sara Nelson, Amy Poel, Kerryn Reding, Britton Trabert, Jack Goldberg - Epidemiology

Introduction to Epidemiology (Epi420) is an undergraduate course that focuses on understanding disease occurrence in human populations by introducing students to the epidemiologic tools needed to evaluate factors contributing to disease. The class typically enrolls 120 students, and includes weekly lectures and discussion sections. The lectures, conducted by the faculty instructor, are 2 hours and the discussion sections are of equal length led by 3 teaching assistants (TA’s). It is common in epidemiologic research to administer surveys to collect data on risk factors and health outcomes, and we invite all students to complete an anonymous Catalyst survey about their health and lifestyle. The collected survey data are used to illustrate epidemiologic concepts in a way that is directly relevant to undergraduate student life. For example, we present tables displaying the quantitative relationship between coffee consumption and sleeplessness. Students are asked to interpret these data using epidemiologic measures such as incidence and prevalence, and discuss the potential for bias and the challenges of making causal inference.

The use of health data derived from a class survey is an innovative way to teach epidemiology compared to typical methods using hypothetical or less relevant published data. We are exploring ways to expand the use of the survey to present more complex epidemiologic concepts (e.g. confounding) and planning an evaluation of our survey-based teaching method. Furthermore, for weekly class evaluation, the students write an in-class “minute paper”, where they identify material that was most difficult or unclear. These minute papers qualitatively and quantitatively address key issues for the course, helping the TA's focus on certain topics or improve their teaching. Minute papers also gather information from less vocal students, thereby connecting the teacher to all students. The use of the student health survey and minute papers provides an innovative platform for active learning.




Index of Symposium Presenters