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A Framework for Practice-Based Teaching in Public Health

Greece, Jacey A. DSc, MPH; Wolff, James MD, MPH, MAT; McGrath, Donna EdM

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: August 31, 2018 - Volume Publish Ahead of Print - Issue - p
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000000863
Practice Full Report: PDF Only

Context: To prepare master of public health graduates for successful application of public health competencies in their careers, accredited schools of public health must identify the knowledge, technical and professional skills needed for practice, and provide opportunities for application of these skills in public health settings.

Program: Practice-based teaching (PBT) is a pedagogical approach where students learn through course instruction while working on a real problem and producing implementable deliverables for a public health agency. Currently, no framework exists for designing, implementing, and evaluating the pedagogy. This article defines PBT for public health and presents a novel 5-step framework, PBT STEPS, to guide faculty in development of a practice-based curriculum for public health education, including (1) securing partnerships, (2) training and technology, (3) engagement and implementation, (4) presenting deliverables, and (5) sizing up the results.

Implementation: PBT has been implemented using PBT STEPS in both domestic and global courses, teaching a variety of technical competencies. Collaborating agencies for PBT courses have ranged from small community-based organizations to large departments of public health, to international nongovernmental organizations and to private hospitals. Each step is described and illustrated through a practical example from a past PBT course.

Evaluation: The practical example was evaluated through a mixed-methods approach to assess outcomes for students and collaborating agencies. All students (n = 12) reported significant increases in ability with the technical and professional competencies addressed in the course, and all agencies (n = 3 representing 5 distinct projects) reported utility of the final deliverables to the agency and populations served.

Discussion: Evidence-informed, feasible, and innovative solutions created through PBT collaboration provide significant benefits to the agency and the communities they serve while successfully training students for the public health workforce. Utilizing the PBT STEPS framework allows for successful and productive academic and community collaborations.

Departments of Community Health Sciences (Dr Greece) and Global Health (Dr Wolff), Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts; and Educational Policy and Planning, Boston University School of Education, Boston, Massachusetts (Ms McGrath).

Correspondence: Jacey A. Greece, DSc, MPH, Department of Community Health Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health, 801 Massachusetts Ave, Boston, MA 02118 (

The authors acknowledge Bethany Shaw for the graphic PBT STEPS framework. They are also grateful to their teaching assistants and their many agency partners over the past decade whose collaboration has been invaluable to developing the PBT STEPS framework. The framework proposed in this article represents the work of the authors and does not reflect a framework uniformly implemented at the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH).

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest and no source of funding.

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