Case studies aren’t just for business schools anymore. Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health has been using the case method to teach MPH students as part of the new Columbia public health curriculum. Now, the seventh of the School’s public health cases has been published online and available to classrooms anywhere. It is called Scientific Method in the Real World: Experience Corps and the Johns Hopkins Study and features Mailman School Dean Linda P. Fried, co-founder of Experience Corps. The case looks at the challenges of adhering to best scientific research practices when operating in the real world – in this case, the national Experience Corps program. Students are asked to consider what public health researchers face when a “control” group in a scientific trial consists of real schools, with real students and volunteers.
The Mailman School case studies are available through Columbia University’s Case Consortium website.. They are available free (after registration) to educators and at a nominal cost to students, professionals, and other interested parties.
“The case method can be a powerful tool for learning public health. It gives students the opportunity to gain experience making decisions in the face of uncertainty, much as they will have to do every day when they graduate and leave us to work in their chosen field,” says Dr. Melissa Begg, vice dean for education at the Mailman School, who led the implementation of the new MPH curriculum.
The result of candid interviews with officials at the World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and city and state departments of health, the Mailman School case studies explore complex issues in public health from managing the SARS outbreak in Asia to regulating trans-fats in New York City restaurants.
Each case study tells a detailed story which stops mid-action, asking students to imagine themselves into the shoes of a decision-maker facing a tough call. Classroom discussions around the cases are lively, and most important, there is not a single right answer. “Students practice taking positions and defending them based on the available evidence, while developing communication and critical thinking skills,” explains Dr. Begg. “They learn to argue persuasively for their points of view.”
“While most existing case curriculum remains paper-based, the Mailman School cases are online and multimedia, meeting students where they live in the digital media world,” says Ms. Kirsten Lundberg, director of the Case Consortium at Columbia.
See all cases, and click on Case Collection.