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Dr. Melanie Health, Sociology 4QQ3: Women, Sexuality, and the Welfare State (approximately 35 students)

Dr. Heath has a roughly 50-50 mix of lecture material and group-based learning activities in her course.  She employs different types of learning activities, which all count towards student participation grades.

Students work with community organizations by participating in community activities, as a way to link the theories about the welfare state to local politics and community organizations in Hamilton. The students work in groups of four in the classroom when planning these activities.  Students are assisted by the Office of Experiential Education to identify organizations and coordinate their participation.

There are a number of research activities for students’ final group paper, including taking field notes at community events and conducting an in-depth interview. They continue to work on these activities in the classroom.

As a way of combining lecture and active learning exercises, Dr. Heath will introduce theories and research, and then ask students to apply these to particular cases or do the research themselves.  Students present their results to the class. To ensure that all students get to know one another, students are required to change tables/groups throughout the term.  She found that there were always good discussions about the findings from the activities.

Students create PowerPoint slides that are posted to Avenue, and Dr. Heath uses these to create an essay question for their exam.  Students are also asked to reflect on what they have learned through these activities.

She developed these active-learning activities mostly through researching active learning online and by discussing strategies with colleagues.  She also chats with students about what works and why.

Her experience is that students really enjoy the activities, and that it is not too time consuming for her to organize the activities.  The community engagement component of the class can be more challenging, as it requires quite a bit of organization, and there are always unexpected problems.  Dr. Heath is appreciative of how the Office of Experiential Education is very good at troubleshooting these issues.

In terms of offering advice to other instructors who want to use active-learning methods, Dr. Heath would stress that it is important to make sure that the activities are integral to the structure of the course, and that the students know that they are receiving credit in terms of their participation for the activities.  She also recommends mid-term evaluations to find out what is working and why.

Melanie Heath


Associate Professor | Graduate Chair of the Department of Sociology