Spotlight, July 2015
After teaching SPH-Y 378 Recreational Therapy Assessment and Planning in a mostly traditional lecture format, Jared Allsop saw an opportunity to transform the class into an active learning experience that would provide professional development for his students.
With the support of an Active Learning Grant, Allsop integrated case method teaching into the course. He developed four case studies that present fictional clients for his students to assess and create treatment plans for. As his students work with clients of all ages and abilities, he had two challenges: first, to make the case studies clinically accurate, and two, to make sure they were diverse enough to address many areas.
“I had to contact people I knew in these fields to make sure these were as clinically accurate as possible,” Allsop said.
He developed four case studies that depict fictional clients dealing with assorted issues, from a 32-year-old man with a below-the-knee amputation to a 15-year-old girl with social anxiety.
“It’s a better way of presenting the material,” Allsop said.
Students work through two of these case studies in groups. They write assessments, identify treatment priorities, come up with goals and objectives, and identify activities that might meet the client’s needs. These in-class activities allow Allsop to provide targeted, immediate feedback on the correct and incorrect methods.
After benefitting from group work, students then complete the last two case studies as individuals, with the last case study being the final exam.
“To be honest, it’s a more fun way to teach,” Allsop said. “It’s better to work with groups and individuals.”
His case study activities also help hold students accountable, as they need to be well prepared for the in-class work they take part in. While the out-of-class workload is not heavy, Allsop said, it is important, and students are “immediately lost if they don’t come prepared.” Rather than delay case study activities so that unprepared students can catch up, Allsop has them go in the hallway to do the reading.
“These people are going to be professional recreation therapists—I want to train them so they know what it’s like to be a professional in the field, and part of that is treating them like professionals in the class,” Allsop said.
Thus, students learn fairly early on that they must be prepared. Allsop said those who come to class every time enjoy the case study activities and do well on the final exam.
“Students have been more engaged and ready to learn, so we move through the material more quickly, and then we can step back and look at the big picture,” Allsop said.
These case studies also provide foundational knowledge, Allsop noted, for the service-learning component of the course. This past semester, his students worked with People & Animal Learning Services (PALS), applying what they’ve learned through the case studies to help real-life clients meet goals and objectives.
Allsop will be interested to see how well these students do with their summer internships that follow this course compared to past students who didn’t have the active learning component.
“I expect a bump in clinical practice skills,” Allsop said.
Jared Allsop is a lecturer of recreation, park, and tourism studies in the School of Public Health.