Using Individual and Group Case Analysis to Effectively Increase the Class Size While Meeting Course Objectives

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Laurie Goldsmith, Faculty of Health Sciences

Project team: Barb Berry, Teaching and Learning Centre (TLC), and Lee Johnson, research assistant

Timeframe: April 2013 to May 2014

Funding: $5,000

Course addressed: HSCI 305 – The Canadian Health System

Description: HSCI 305 is an introductory level course on the Canadian health care system in the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) at Simon Fraser University. This course is required of all FHS BAs and BScs. As the FHS undergraduate programs have grown, the course size for HSCI 305 has needed to increase to meet demand. In the past the course has been taught using a course design best suited to no more than 40 students. FHS now needs a course design that can be taught to 120 to 150 students at a time, without overburdening the instructor or TMs/TAs with grading, while also allowing the students to undertake assignments that allow them to marinate in the complexities of health care policy.

In Summer 2013, Dr. Goldsmith will teach a substantially redesigned HSCI 305 that accommodates 120 students and includes the addition of tutorials. This course redesign includes multiple elements to allow students to develop and demonstrate their skill in understanding the trade-offs in health care policy making without requiring multiple individual level writing assignments and excessive grading burdens.  The course redesign elements include weekly tutorials to allow for small group discussions elaborating on the issue presented in the weekly large class, an individual case analysis assignment, and a group case analysis assignment.  The group case analysis assignment is designed to build on the individual case analysis assignment so that students get an opportunity to refine and advance their learning. 

The Teaching and Learning Development Grant will fund the further development and evaluation of the individual and group case analysis assignments. The findings of this project are expected to help improve the course design for a large class version of HSCI 305 from the student, TA and instructor perspective. The findings of this project may also be transferrable to other classes in FHS and elsewhere at SFU and to other health sciences programs in Canada running large undergraduate courses on the Canadian health care system.

Questions addressed:

  • To what extent do the individual and group case analysis assignments meet course objectives as evaluated using (a) student, instructor and TA perceptions, and (b) the quality of student work?  This primary research question will be supported through the following subquestions:
  • Do the class material and class approach serve as appropriate preparation for the individual and group case analysis assignments?
  • Does the individual case analysis assignment serve as appropriate preparation for the group case analysis assignment?
  • Do the individual and group case analysis assignments help students move towards intermediate understanding of the course material?
  • Are the individual and group case analysis assignments feasible to run in a class size of 120 to 150 students?

Knowledge sharing: The syllabus and assignments for HSCI 305 will be shared with the other faculty member and sessional instructors who teach HSCI 305 and are also facing larger class sizes in future semesters. The final report for this project will also be shared with those instructors and offered to all other faculty in FHS.  This project’s final report will also be offered to other faculty teaching undergraduate courses on the Canadian health care system at other Canadian universities.  The FHS is expecting to hold its second Celebration of Teaching Day in March 2014 where FHS faculty members share teaching innovations with each other. The results of this project will be shared at this event.  An oral presentation or poster at a TLC event will be considered as well.  A poster will be submitted to the Canadian Association for Health Services and Policy Research (CAHSPR) annual conference in May 2014.