University of North Carolina School of Public Health
Department of Epidemiology

EPID 160, Principles of Epidemiology for Public Health

Cooperative learning model

Lecture courses risk relegating students to the role of passive listeners not actively engaged in the learning process. Higher level learning requires the student to become actively involved in applying concepts and methods to problems, and to exercise critical judgment by attempting to reach a solution or draw conclusions when faced with a complex set of findings. These higher level thinking skills will be continuously called upon in the classroom method, Cooperative Learning, used throughout this course.

Cooperative learning is an instructional technique that brings students together in small, fixed groups to work on structured learning tasks. It enables all students to become more involved with the course material and to articulate their understanding of this material through problem-solving exercises with other members of their group. Students "who become involved in active discussion of their ideas with other students are more likely to have less irrelevant or distracting thoughts and spend more time synthesizing and integrating concepts than students who listen to lectures" (Bligh DA. What's the Use of Lectures. Penguin Press, 1992). Student-to-student interaction is positively related to critical thinking outcomes and to study habits characterized by more active thinking and less rote memorization (Smith DG. College classroom interactions and critical thinking. J Educ Psych 1977;69:180-190.)

Based on these pedagogical principles, Drs. Carl Shy and Lorraine Alexander redesigned EPID 160 along the lines of a cooperative learning model:

  • Students are assigned to small learning teams, typically 8-10 students per team. Teams work on case studies during the scheduled lab time (which you select when you register for the course).

  • A graduate student teaching assistant (TA) serves as consultant for 2-4 student teams

  • There is no final exam.

In most real life situations, there may not be a "right" answer but several different ways to address problems. Some of these ways are more efficient, more constructive, and/or more durable. An important lesson to learn from the experience of cooperative learning is that most solutions to community problems are more effective when the solution is reached by a team effort that actively engages all members of the team in addressing the problem and encourages creative thinking of the team in proposing a solution. This process converts learning from an individual to a social
activity and draws upon the collective wisdom of those attempting to reach a solution.

EPID 160 home page
What is epidemiology?
Should I take EPID 160 or a different introductory course?
Course objectives
Course content
Class times
Other resources
Information for prospective teaching assistants
[EPID 160 history]

Updated 11/25/2003vs