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Laura (H800 2016) Trying to Teach Theory!

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laura nicholson
1 April 2016

Narrator

I work as a lecturer in a further education college and one of the modules my students study is ‘health promotion’. As part of this module, students have to work in groups to design, plan and create a health promotion of their choice and deliver it for one morning in the college refectory. The latest cohort of students delivered their health promotions mid March 2016.

 

Situation

At the start of the module the class was organised into groups. There were 3-4 students in each group, with 6 groups in total. Firstly, students identified other health promotions in the UK to gain an insight into the current areas of interest. Then the students learnt about the theories of health promotion, so they could apply this in the design of their promotions. Next, I showed them all photos and discussed past promotions that other students had done, to help the students identify the scope of their own promotions and to help generate further ideas. Students then agreed, within their groups, on a topic that they wished to cover and then they researched the relevance of their promotion in relation to the benefits it can have on an individuals health. They then had approx 2-3 weeks to design leaflets, posters and activities to inform and attract visitors to their stall.  

 

Task

Past health promotions over previous years have always been successful and well executed. However, after the promotion the students have to individually write a 1000 word report on the design and overall effectiveness of their health promotions. This report must include an explanation of the health promotion theory that they used to underpin the design of their promotion. They are able to correctly identify the theory they have used but I always find that students struggle to link how the theory informed the promotions overall design. This then results in a loss of marks, which is frustrating when they have put in so much time and effort in relation to the practical element. This has always been the case and over the past year I have continually adapted how I deliver the theory element of the module to try and rectify this.

 

Actions -  the following attempts were made to adjust the lesson on health promotion theory to various different cohorts of students

First attempt (Dec 2014)

  • Students researched health promotion theories and selected one which they found relevant to support the design of their own promotions.

OUTCOME- this didn’t work, there were too many theories for students to choose from and they did not have the time to gain sufficient understanding of each of them before they made their selection.

Second attempt (March 2015)

  • I provided a selection of 4 broad theories and explained each

  • I provided handouts on each to enable students to refer back to something that was explained simply and clearly.

  • To develop understanding through collaboration,  students then worked in their groups to select the most appropriate theory.

OUTCOME-This worked much better and questioning and answer activities showed a good understanding but still the theory wasn’t applied effectively in their reports.

Third attempt (Dec 2015)

  • I provided a selection of 4 broad theories and explained each

  • I  provided handouts on each theory and students worked in their groups to select the most appropriate theory.

  • Students then conducted further research on the theory (to increase the element of student invovlement in the development of their own knowledge) 

  • Students then wrote, in 100 words, why they felt they had selected the most appropriate theory to base their promotion on.  I placed a small word count on this because i wanted them to explain it as concisely as possible as i go with the idea that if you can explain something simply then you have a better understanding of it.

OUTCOME- Understanding of the theory was improved and i could check this by questioning and answering techniques and by reading their 100 word summary. This meant I was able to check every individual students understanding and add further support where necessary. However, the application of the theory in the report, in relation to how the theory informed the promotions design, was still weak.

Fourth attempt (March 2016)

  • I provided a selection of 4 broad theories and explained each

  • I provided handouts on each theory

  • Students worked in their groups to select the most appropriate theory.

  • Students then conducted further research on the theory and wrote in 100 words why they felt it was the most appropriate theory.

  • I created and designed 3 practical demonstrations of health promotions, one based on alcohol consumption, one based on smoking and one based on dental hygiene.

  • I set up 3 mini stalls in the classroom, each with activities, and got the students to identify the theory that each stall was based on and to justify why. I did this to link the context in more clearly with the teaching of the topic, to try and 'bring it to life'.

OUTCOME- Understanding of the theory was further improved, I was able to assess this through verbal and written feedback. I have to wait until the students submit their reports to identify just how much their understanding has been improved by including this practical demonstration.

 

Results

The practical element of the module i.e creating and delivering a health promotion, was the best yet. The students all commented on how much they found the demonstration of my mock promotions useful in helping them with their own designs and all were of a very high standard. So, the changes have had a positive impact but whether the changes have impacted on the area I initially intended them to (understanding theory) remains to be seen.

 

Reflections

Improvements can always be made but sometimes these improvements are not always apparent from the outset. Sometimes it takes mistakes to be able to see better ways of doing things. I have also learned so much more about my role as a lecturer over the past few years, so I am now able to draw on this experience to identify better ways of teaching. Generally, I have found that the more interactive I can make a lesson and the more involved I can get the students, the better the outcome.

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