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Faculty & Staff Honors

Faculty & Staff Honors

East Tennessee to Study ESSENTIALS Course

Dr. Megan Quinn, assistant professor in the department of biostatistics and epidemiology, has received funding for a proposal titled “Assessment of Impact: Public Health ESSENTIALS.”

[Photo: Dr. Megan Quinn]

The ESSENTIALS course has been taught for several years, but was integrated into the new Bachelor of Science in Public Health (BSPH) curriculum in 2015 and is now required for all students. ESSENTIALS provides an innovative learning environment that promotes self-efficacy, leadership, problem solving, and teamwork. However, the impact of the course on these skills has not been assessed. The current project will address this gap by validating scales for self-report of self-efficacy, leadership, problem solving, and teamwork. It also will determine whether the ESSENTIALS course changes students’ perceived skills in these domains. The proposal lists specific strategic curricular enhancements based on areas of reported skill attainment from course assessment.

The ESSENTIALS course, which is taught at the Valleybrook campus, uses frugal innovation principles to enable students to experience real world public health issues outside of the typical classroom setting. The course provides students with the opportunity to address real world situations using only materials and methods that would be available in various low-resource settings. Students work in teams challenged with basic public health issues in the context of low-resource communities, both domestically and internationally.

Assessing the course will provide a method to understand what skills students are achieving through the course and what skills could be further developed through modifications to this course. Information from the assessment will allow course instructors to strategically align course instruction with student skill development and outcomes. Since the course was first offered, it has changed significantly as a result of input from student participants, faculty perspectives, and input from topic area experts.

The instructional development grant will allow assessment of skills through validation of survey instrument, pre- and post-course data collection, and analysis of course impact.  As appropriate, this information will be reported in the Public Health education literature.  The Instructional Development Advisory Committee members stated they appreciated “the concept of frugal innovation principles and that students were being exposed to them through this course” and recommended the project for funding.  Dr. Quinn expresses, “We are excited about the opportunity to assess the impact of the ESSENTIALS course. This is important as this course provides students with skills in key areas that will help to prepare them for the workforce.  This grant gives us the opportunity to measure those skill levels and then strategically modify the course.”