A is for Application
Students in a school of public health usually want to know how what they are learning can be applied in the real world. When I discuss an application of the material, I like to be able to point students to an example not just of the way in which the material MIGHT be used but to an example of the way that the material IS being used. This is how we make things real. Students are looking for a reality.
I recently received a comment in a course evaluation that demonstrated that at least one student had not been convinced of the applicability of the material. Many other students have commented that they could not understand how someone would not realize the application, but even having one person not get it suggests that there is room for improvement.
In the course, students were asked to evaluate the quality of several cost-effectiveness articles. The comment in the course evaluation was that the evaluation of quality criteria seemed like a rote exercise. The next time I teach this, I will make sure to mention the following: in students' professional lives they may be asked (1) to review grants that include proposed cost-effectiveness analyses and will need to understand what makes a high quality approach; (2) to act as a peer reviewed for a manuscript submitted for publication, where they will also need to know what makes a high quality piece; (3) to participate as part of a research team to plan for a cost-effectiveness analysis so that they will need to understand what makes a high quality study; or (4) to use papers that have already been published to motivate policy change and they will need to asses the quality of articles that might drive quality change.
I am considering asking students to offer a final thought at the end of each assignment in which they draw a conclusion about quality combining the multiple points they have assessed rather than simply assessing the quality criterion by criterion. This would help to make students more aware of the need to go beyond simply reporting on individual criteria and to make the assignments feel like it is closer to a real world setting.