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Beyond Intensive Writing - Integrating Major Concepts with Literature in an Online Course Format. Wendy Doremus RN, MS, NP Adjunct Professor Dept. of Global and Community Health. Objectives. As a result of this workshop offering, faculty will be able to: .

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beyond intensive writing integrating major concepts with literature in an online course format

Beyond Intensive Writing - Integrating Major Concepts with Literature in an Online Course Format

Wendy Doremus RN, MS, NP

Adjunct Professor

Dept. of Global and Community Health



As a result of this workshop offering,

faculty will be able to:

understand the value of integrating literature to

enrich students’ understanding of major core concepts

imbed literature to strengthen student reading and

writing abilities

envision ways to adopt this approach for other

disciplines or as a face to face class

  • Why use literature?
  • Literature integration in an online G&CH course
  • Ways to embed literature in other disciplines
  • Ways to embed literature in face to face courses
  • Challenges
  • Questions/discussion/brainstorming
  • Other objectives or interests?
why use literature
Why Use Literature?
  • Stories give life to facts and figures increase interest and greater and longer retention of information
  • Moves historical information to a more intimate human level promotes deeper understanding, filling in the “why” behind the events
  • Illustrates the connectedness between politics, economics, environment stimulates higher order thinking
  • Integrative approach across disciplines strengthens reading and writing skills
why use literature cont
Why Use Literature? (cont.)

Supports AACU-LEAPessential learning outcomes of:

  • “engagement with big questions, both contemporary and enduring”
  • inquiry and analysis
  • critical thinking
  • written communication
  • synthesis across studies
student reading reflection quote
Student Reading Reflection Quote

“The book (Year of Wonders, by Geraldine

Brooks) gives a human aspect to the history

of The Plague. Even though we have learned

the numbers and studied the effects, when

you read about a specific person’s struggle, it

makes it all that much more real.”

Courtney (Fall 2012)

community health literature gch 320 dl1
Community Health & Literature (GCH 320 DL1)
  • Completely online elective course
  • Community/global health focus
  • Enrollment of upper class students with a variety of majors
  • NOT a Writing-Intensive Course (but similar)
  • Didactic element
  • Reading assignments - four books
  • Writing assignments - Journal, Discussion Posts, Final Essay
  • Assessment and feedback**
online format
Online Format
  • Blackboard
  • Asynchronous
  • Meets the needs of nontraditional students (married, with children, working, older, commuting)
  • Also appeals to traditional ‘cyber’ generation students
  • Regular communication (in addition to Discussion Forum posts):

- weekly announcements

- email

- “Ask the professor” discussion posts

not writing intensive but
NOT Writing-Intensive but . . .
  • Explicit writing learning goals and writing assignments
  • Specific evaluative criteria directed towards writing
  • Instructor feedback on writing assignments
  • Opportunity to draft and revise Final Essay
  • Quality of writing counts toward students’ final grades
didactic element
Didactic Element

Weekly Concept page:

  • Expands upon a specific key concept directly related to the reading assignment for the week
  • Includes related references for further study
  • Highlights a relevant quote
  • Features an appropriate illustration
Weekly Concepts Specific focus on key public health concepts tied directly to the week’s reading assignment, including topics of:
  • Disease causation and transmission
  • Social, behavioral and cultural influences on health
  • Epidemiology, surveillance, data and research
  • Environmental effects on health
  • Governmental and political influences on health
  • Leadership in health
  • Quality of life, health disparities, social justice, ethics
  • Global health vision
reading assignments
Reading Assignments

Four novel length books (fiction and non-fiction):

  • Approx. 100 pages of reading per week
  • Events of historical as well as modern day significance
  • Readings illustrate and reinforce key concepts in public health
  • Selected for representation and for high interest
  • Supplemental reading list provided
the books
The Books
  • Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks (fiction) – Based on a factual event of a town’s self-quarantine during a 1600’s outbreak of Plague in rural England
  • The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson (non-fiction) – John Snow’s efforts to contain Cholera in London in 1853
  • The Great Influenza by John M. Barry (non-fiction) – The 1918 flu pandemic
  • Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder (non-fiction) – The ongoing work of Dr. Paul Farmer to eradicate TB and other infectious diseases in Haiti and other destitute areas of the world
written assignments
Written Assignments

1. Reading Reflection Journal

2. Discussion Forum posts

3. Final Essay with option for early submission for feedback/revisions

  • ALL written assignments should be submitted in correct grammatical form using conventional spelling
  • Extra credit if errors found in professor’s communications
reading reflection journal
Reading Reflection Journal
  • Freeform, personal response to reading assignment
  • Student self-examination of reaction to the reading
  • Exploration of ideas and questions
  • Opportunity for original/critical/analytical thinking
discussion forum
Discussion Forum

Biweekly Discussion Forum between students based on questions posted by professor:

  • No right or wrong answer to questions - designed to exercise critical and analytical thinking skillsand address big questions of global and ethical concern
  • Students should use citations from the assigned book and Weekly Concepts page as evidence to support their opinions
  • Students are also required to respond thoughtfully to at least one of their classmates’ comments
final essay
Final Essay

Position paper on a topic of the student’s choice:

  • Demonstrating synthesis and application of his or her enhanced understanding
  • Including citations from at least two of the four assigned books to support the thesis or position
  • Written with attention to clear and correct use of language
assessment and feedback
Assessment and Feedback

Written feedback and rubrics designed to:

  • expand the students’ skills in critical thinking and analysis
  • improve students’ writing capabilities
  • explain to students how to be successful
  • motivate students toward growth
challenges in teaching gch 320 dl
Challenges in Teaching GCH 320-DL
  • Varying reading and writing skill levels of students
  • Variety of reading modalities used by students (paperback, e-books, books on tape)
  • Using fair grading practices for varying skill levels
  • Students who fall behind and/or don’t turn in work
  • Student plagiarism
adapting for other disciplines
Adapting for Other Disciplines

When integrating literature to reinforce concepts:

  • Book selection is paramount
  • Align concepts and themes with selected literature


  • Use literature as a supplement to textbook
  • Co-teach with a literature-based class
  • Offer a choice of books from a selected list
  • Encourage opportunity to read for extra credit
  • Other?
challenges to adapting for other disciplines
Challenges to Adapting for Other Disciplines
  • Finding time in the syllabus to include literature
  • Finding the right book(s)
  • Instructor’s comfort level with literature
  • Other?
adapting for face to face course
Adapting for Face to Face Course
  • Didactic / Weekly Concepts page classroom lecture
  • Online discussion classroom discussion
  • Reading Reflection Journal homework assignment
  • Final essay (same)


  • Blended (both online and face to face components)
  • Other?
challenges to adapting for a face to face course
Challenges to Adapting for a Face to Face Course
  • Assessing classroom discussion/participation levels
  • Other?

Teaching concepts through literature:

  • enhances understanding and retention
  • supports essential learning outcomes

While there may be challenges:

  • can be accomplished online, face to face, or blended
  • is applicable across disciplines

Dr. Nancy Freeborne

Dept. Global and Community Health

Allan Weiss

Dept. Global and Community Health

Terri Ann Guingab

College of Health and Human ServicesHealthcare Technologies Innovation Lab

  • AACU Essential Learning Outcomes
  • Donohoe, MT, Bolger J. Student and faculty responses to the addition of literature to the preclinical curriculum. J Gen Int Med 1998;4(suppl. 1):74.
  • Donohoe, MT. Literature-Medicine-and-Public-Health-PSU-Syllabus2.doc
  • George Mason University - Writing Across the Curriculum
  • Risse GB. Literature and medicine. West J Med. 1992 Apr;156(4):431. PMCID: PMC1003294. PMID: 1574896
  • Public Health and Social Justice
  • Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum – A Policy Research Brief. National Council of Teachers of English.
thank you
Thank you!

My contact information:

Wendy Doremus RN, MS, NP

42 Alexander Rd.

Hopkinton, MA 01748

(774) 217-1274