CEA Affiliate Week: Leah Christina Neubauer and Suzanne Carlberg-Racich on Evaluation and Public Health: Examining MPH Coursework, Curriculum & Culminating Experiences

We are Leah Christina Neubauer and Suzanne Carlberg-Racich from Chicago. Neubauer is based in DePaul’s MPH Program and is President of the Chicagoland Evaluation Association (CEA).  Carlberg-Racich is a Visiting Assistant Professor in DePaul’s MPH Program.

We are both interested in evaluation-related coursework, curriculum, and culminating experiences in Master of Public Health (MPH) programs.  In the DePaul MPH Program, students are required to: 1) enroll in a 10-week evaluation course, 2) conduct evaluation throughout their 9-month applied experience, and 3) include evaluation in their culminating, capstone thesis project.

But, evaluation in the MPH program has been a journey that started WITHOUT an evaluation course.  Over time, evaluation has involved quite formally into the curriculum. Thus, we were interested to tell our evaluation-evolution-story at AEA 2013.  We led a Think-Tank Session: How Much Evaluation Is Enough? Evaluation Theory and Practice in a Master in Public Health (MPH) Program.   The session was attended by a small group of folks who were affiliated with public health, public policy, and social work disciplines.

Our post highlights some lessons learned, hot tips and rad resources from our session and ongoing work together in this area.  We look forward to contributing more information in the coming year.

Lesson Learned #1: Evaluation is quite relevant for public health. Evaluation is essential for public health practice, thus skills are expected and in high demand. This topic is quite applicable to a growing number of undergraduate and graduate public health programs which are charged with developing and implementing evaluation-related coursework in a Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) accreditation-mandated public health field. 

Lesson Learned #2: Public health and evaluation theory need each other. Public health courses and curriculum need evaluation theory and principles. There is room to grow in this area – but how do we balance public health behavior change and evaluation theory in a limited amount of academic preparatory time? Or in the case of the DePaul MPH program, a 10-week evaluation course.

Lesson Learned #3:  “Live Evaluation Project” Enhances Classroom Learning. Students value the in-class live evaluation project as part of the 10-week course.  In the class, students are able to ‘conduct’ an evaluation as a class.  This learning also enhances their nine-month applied field experience.  By the time students graduate with an MPH degree, they will have completed at least two evaluation-related experiences.

Lesson Learned #4:  Public health and evaluation teaching literature can and should be expanded. Both public health and evaluation literature (particularly of the applied disciplines) can be enhanced with information on pedagogy, course design, culminating experiences and curriculum development. 

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Chicagoland Evaluation Association (CEA) Affiliate Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from CEA members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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