This is a video of Professor Dennis Raphael talking about how he engages first year students in his health policy and management class at York University.
Hey my name is Dennis Raphael. I am a professor of health policy and Management at York University at the Faculty of Health. I’ve been teaching off and on I guess since 1976 but I have only been teaching undergraduates since 2001. The course that I teach is foundations of health. It’s a first-year introductory course and we have about 400 students in it. We also have tutorial sections that are associated with it so I lecture for two hours a week and then they have a one hour tutorial that’s taught by myself and 12 other teaching assistants. The first thing I learned very quickly was that under normal circumstances the students would not do the reading for each week and one of my older students recommended what I do is require the submission of ten, 150 word summaries over the course of the term. So for each of the 12 classes, students would be required to hand in a paper with the total possible number being 10. It gets handed in at the end of the class and the students are asked to summarize in 150 words what they’ve read, what was new to them and how it changed their thinking. And what you find with that is while they may not rigorously read at least you don’t have to worry about talking about textbook material and having the students looking at you blankly. The second thing we do is assume that the students really don’t understand what the purpose of writing papers are and in a sense what the university experience is about. I’m struck by the view that students hold that they’re primarily coming to University in order to get a good job. I point out to them that they prolly will get a better job but if they think the only reason for being here over the next four years is to get a good job they are gonna have a very very long four years. I also point out to them that something like fifty to seventy percent of students over five years after their graduation change careers. So I tried to indicate to them that you’re here primarily to learn and luckily since I work in the health field I could make the argument that what they’re learning is relevant to them whether they go into the health professions or not. The other important thing is to recognize that they need to be shown the relevance of what they’re doing, so again I’m in a lucky situation in the health field. I just don’t do health care I do health broadly defined including issues of employment, housing, transportation. So I make a point of looking at the newspapers prior to each class and without much difficulty I’m able to find headline stories that I can bring up from the Toronto star or The Globe and Mail and actually put on the screen in front of them to show the relevance of what we’re studying in this introductory health class to their day-to-day lives and the day-to-day lives of others around them.