Kolb’s experiential learning cycle can be used with many topics. One example is teaching epidemiology and infection control. This topic requires students to measure disease frequencies and spread, identify and use methods to control and manage disease spread. Currently I am designing problem-based cooperative learning via community service tasks in epidemiology and infection control. I feel this can make the learning experiences authentic and interesting to the students, and more importantly, relevant to their lives and worthwhile. The idea is to enable the students to address problems related to their field of study within their communities in a cooperative manner. All the other forms, listed above, are currently included in my teaching. But, as everything, continuous improvements are always sought.
problem-based cooperative learning via community service tasks:
One specific topic can be addressing the infectious risk of the livestock market of Alaqiq, Albaha, followed with proposing methods to mitigate these risks. The livestock market is located at the center of the residential areas, and near the farmers market, where fresh produce is sold. Contamination and cross-contamination of the fresh produce is a real risk that cannot be overlooked. In addition, the close proximity of the livestock market to residential areas can lead to the spread of many infectious diseases. The community is trying to find solutions currently.
The concrete experience that can be used include a filed visit, followed by sample collection. The collected samples can be analyzed in the laboratory for infectious microbes. The prevalence of various pathogens in the collected samples can then be calculated (this is a concrete epidemiological experience). They can now relate the results, for example, with the reported prevalence of these pathogens described in the theoretical part of the course, and the carrier status (asymptomatic) rates observed in other countries. Nonetheless, this is only the first stage of the experiential Learning cycle, That is, the “concrete experience”.
Subsequently, the students can write and discuss aspects of their experience to foster their reflective observation. Some real learning happen when students reflect on their experience. During their reflection, they can consider what are the reasons behind the spread of diseases, and the importance of studying the sources of infection, so they can start linking the current experience to previous ideas and concepts (a process called scaffolding). This will allows them to understand the meaning of their experience. That is, become producers of knowledge. They can also start to consider solutions. The discussion will also allow the students to use cognitive and emotional information from several sources (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile). To discuss the experience, the students will have to utilize the information they have, synthesizing and evaluating the data, and make meaning out of it all. In the end, reflection will enable the students to go beyond the original experience.
In addition, another activity can be added to aid students’ abstract conceptualization, which is, to ask them to synthesize a hypothetical scenario where the livestock market caused the spread of a serious zoonotic disease, and include the reasons why they think this is a potential risk, and what can be done about it.
The final activity, which is the active experimentation part of the cycle, can include asking the students to propose an action plan to avoid the spread of diseases, and presented it to the livestock market sellers for approval. This will increase students understanding of the value of their studies, and its relevance to the health and wellbeing of their own community, and the complexity of the issue at hand.
This way students are going to take with them real-life experiences and be more confident in the workplace after graduation to do their job. They awareness and understanding of the theory and its relationship with the workplace will be come more concrete.