The Generator of Good Ideas

Wednesday, October 9, 2013 - 6:00pm
One of the "Fundamentals of Global Health" course exercises at the beginning of the semester involved neon-colored hats and working in teams on a global health issue.

By Dr. David Boyd
Associate Professor of the Practice of Global Health

“Dr. Boyd, do you want to hear my idea?”

Such begins many of my meetings with Junjian Gaoshan, a second-year student in the Master of Science in Global Health and my teaching assistant for the undergraduate course Fundamentals of Global Health.  It is a question to which I always enjoy responding “yes” because I have no doubt that a great idea is about to follow, one that we will bat around until we create an active learning exercise to enhance the class.

For professors designing and teaching a new class, the first run is a bit daunting, especially when using methods new to them, and can seem a bit lonely.

Not this time.  I have a teaching assistant who is also my design associate and who understands that a team-based class requires team-based design. 

When we designed the gateway course for the new global health major at Duke, we wanted to incorporate classroom elements that would allow the students to get out of their seats and apply the information we discuss.  We have used a variety of challenges, simulations, electronic polling, and even a ball toss to stimulate thought and illustrate the complexities of applying concepts that seem simple in the classroom but difficult to elaborate in the real world.

Gaoshan’s ideas, knowledge about global health issues and his go-getter attitude have been invaluable. I’m especially grateful to work so closely with one of our bright MSc-GH students on making the classroom experience both educational AND fun.

Along with a class of students who are smart, good-natured, flexible, and who enjoy finding new ways of doing things themselves, I find that the Fundamentals course has become the highlight of my week.  It’s the hardest I’ve ever worked on a class and the most rewarding one I’ve taught yet. 

Like most new classes, this one will evolve over the next few semesters—and all for the better, thanks to those ideas from Gaoshan and students in my class. 

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The students in the Master of Science in Global Health program at Duke have the opportunity to participate in a wide range of activities outside of class that provide hands-on experience and strengthens their knowledge of global health issues.   Apply today and join Gaoshan and his colleagues as they make a difference at Duke and in the world.