Epidemiological Thinking and Population Health


and additional details in green for asynchronous online students.
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Written assignments

Individual assignments are not given a grade, but students may often be asked to revise and resubmit in response to the instructor's comments before the assignment is deemed complete (see dialogue around written work). Deadline for resubmissions--stated on the comments, but usually 1 week after the comments are returned.

a. Weekly additions to glossary of terms from chapters of the Gordis text illustrated by examples from the student's field (weeks 2-14). (Submit to Blog, and include in Portfolio, rationale and guidelines)

b. Weekly sketches of ways that the concepts, methods, and problems of that week might be applied to an issue in health research and policy that you address for the whole semester (for weeks 2-13; submitted to the blog the following week). (On the blog, specify category Project. Also include your sketches in Portfolio, guidelines)

c. Weekly annotations of references, of one of the common readings and one supplementary reference (or additional reference drawn from student's area of interest) (1 paragraph for each; posted to the blog at least 1 day before class; weeks 2-14; (On the blog, specify category Annotated Bibliography); rationale and guidelines)

d. Final portfolio selection and essay. (guidelines)

Participation and contribution to the class process

Allowance is made for other priorities in your life. I do not require you to give excuses for absence, lateness, or lack of preparation. Simply make up the 80% of participation items in other weeks and other ways (g-j).

e. Prepared participation in class meetings (14 items)
Prepared participation in class sessions is expected. This includes being punctual, not taking cell phone calls & having readings with you in class.

f. Prepared participation in class discussions and workshop period (for weeks 2-14; 13 items)
The check-in requires students to have completed (or at least drafted) your sketch on applying the themes of the previous session into your project.
The workshop section of each class meeting will be most useful if you have done some preparatory thinking in advance about applying the themes of the current session into your project, but it will also questions raised but not resolved during the structured hour-long discussion.

g. Syllabus "quiz" (submitted in session 2 or emailed)
This is an important exercise. It helps neither you as the student nor the instructor if you find yourself confused in week 10 about where to find instructions. Especially if you haven't spent time to systematically get acquainted with the course materials and/or haven't asked questions to help you -- and probably others -- clarify things.
Q: Why not spend time in class going over the materials? A: It is more effective for each student to do this at their own pace and then spend precious class time on specific, focused questions.

h. Conferences (sign up at least twice -- one by session 5; at least one more by session 10; 2 items)
for discussion of comments on assignments (see Dialogue around written work), your project sketches, discussion contributions, and the course as a whole. They are important to ensure timely resolution of misunderstandings and to get a recharge if you get behind.

i. Assignment check-list copied and maintained by the student throughout the semester (submitted in session 13 or emailed)
Keep track of your own submissions etc., so time talking with the instructor can be spent on content, not checking on what assignments you have completed, etc.

j. Peer commentary (1 item)
Comment on another student's draft portfolio posted to the blog. Keep Elbow's Varieties of responses in mind when you decide what approaches to commenting you ask for as a writer and what to use as a commentator. In the past I made lots of specific suggestions for clarification and change in the margins, but in my experience, such suggestions led only a minority of students beyond touching up into re-thinking and revising their ideas and writing. On the other hand, I believe that all writers value comments that reassure them that they have been listened to and their voice, however uncertain, has been heard.

Other Processes in the Course

Learning Community
Individually and as a group, you already know a lot about health sciences. You can learn a lot from each other and from teaching others what you know. Sharing on the blog will help the community develop.

Rationale and instructions are given in the blog's Instructions. This was new to the course in 2013, and is an ongoing experiment -- please provide feedback as we go about how it is working and could be improved.

Dialogue around written work
Instructor comments will come by email OR, if you let the instructor know that this is OK, as comments on your blog posts.

Rationale for the Assessment system
The different assignments are commented on then "graded" either OK or revise & resubmit. An automatic B+ is awarded for 80% (approx.) of written assignments OK/RNR and participation items fulfilled. The rationale for this system is to keep the focus of our teaching/learning interactions on your developing through the semester. It allows more space for students and instructor to appreciate and learn from what each other is saying and thinking. My goal is to work with everyone to achieve the 80% satisfactory completion level and not really think about grades at all during the semester. Students who progress steadily towards the automatic B+ goal during the semester usually end up producing work that meets the criteria in the syllabus for a higher grade than a B+.
Please keep track of your own progress on a printout of this checklist. To gauge whether you are on track for at least a B+, simply note whether you have submitted 80% of the assignments and completed 80% of possible participation items to date. If you are behind do NOT hide and do NOT end the semester without a completion contract. You are free to do more than 80% of the assignments and fulfill more than 80% of the participation items, but it does not hurt your grade to choose strategically to miss some in light of your other work and life happenings. Ask for clarification if needed to get clear and comfortable with this system.

Taking stock (both of student's development and of course)
during semester ("formative evaluation")
I encourage students to approach this course as a work-in-progress. Instead of harboring criticisms to submit after the fact, we can find opportunities to affirm what is working well and suggest directions for further development.

at end of semester
1. Final portfolio and essay by student
2. The last session involves multiple angles on course evaluation, including written evaluations during class, and planning for your ongoing PD. With the aim of:

Glossary Guidelines

Idea: Non-specialists need to become comfortable with the fundamental ideas and basic vocabulary of epidemiology in order to converse intelligently with specialists in epidemiology and biostatistics. One way to move in that direction is to practice making the ideas accessible to the layperson.

Secondary Idea: The Gordis textbook is very clear and classroom time is limited, so it's better to nudge students to use time-outside-class to learn by working systematically through the text.

Instructions: Each week add one entry on a Glossary section of your evolving Portfolio in which you explain the meaning and significance of one of the terms from chapters of the Gordis text (see suggestions below) illustrated by an example from your own field.
Example from a previous student
Submit your current copy of the glossary by session 4 and an update by session 8 (unless you want to post them on the blog as you go).

Key terms/concepts in epidemiology (provisional list; see also helpful introduction and glossary)

Key concepts in statistics (provisional basis for mini-lecture related to class 5)

Guidelines for Annotations

The aims of annotation are:

To decide what to write, think of these as resources you are providing for other students (current and future), who might not have time to read the article OR who might need stimulation/guidance about what they decide to make time to read.

You are encouraged to view and build on the annotations made by students in previous years. In that case, indicate what changes and additions are yours. "Build on" a previous annotation may mean improve its informativeness, or, if you have a difference of interpretation, you may indicate what both sides are.

Of course, it does nothing for your learning if you copy and paste large chunks of previous annotations into yours -- especially if this means you make the effort to digest the article.

In situations where you think the previous person did a wonderful summary, then your addition could be to connect the article to your own interests and research. The sense-making rubric is worth trying.

Your choice of additional articles to annotate might arise from:
(For example, for week 6 a student might review Barker's commentary in the same edition as Davies 2006. For weeks 7 &8 topics on heterogeneity within populations and variation in health care, a student might review the July '07 report on cancer rates among Asian-Americans, http://caonline.amcancersoc.org/.) (The compilation of syllabi may serve you as a resource here.)

Students post annotations on the wordpress blog, but the link for outsiders to submit annotations is http://bit.ly/EpiContribute

Guidelines for Portfolios

1. These are developed from the following components:

2. Sketches: Use the broad guidelines to write something that shows that you are thinking about the week's concepts and how they apply (or do not) in some particular situation. Due by the next class. My comments will affirm what you have done and make suggestions for revision -- revision and resubmission is a standard part of my courses -- and that's how we'll evolve expectations for your particular sketches. (See Example from a previous student)

3. For the final portfolio assignment, identify 6-10 examples from the components in #1 that capture the process of development of your work and thinking about the subject of the course (see course description below). These do not have to be simply your best products. Write a 1000-1500 word essay that explains your choices and discusses them in relation to the various aspects of the course description, insofar as it represents the goals of the course. (See Examples from previous students)
Complete draft due Week 13, uploaded to blog for instructor and peer commentator; comments due by week 14. Final version due one week after last class, uploaded to the same place.