Emerging leaders should be able to think critically about real-world issues. This is the concept the Wellness Center at Northern Kentucky University has embraced with an innovative curriculum inspired by the widespread HBO documentary series, The Weight of the Nation.
The documentary series challenges and empowers everyone to approach positive solutions for the current obesity epidemic in the United States, and NKU Wellness seized a synergetic opportunity for the classroom. Entitled The Weight of the Nation: A Dialogue Connecting Curriculum to Real-World Issues, NKU Wellness piloted their curriculum in Fall 2012.
In the beginning, the discussion was catered to multidisciplinary course content including Human Nutrition, Community Nursing, and Professional Issues in Nursing. Since 2012, the dynamic topic has been a part of such classes as Intro to Construction Management, Digital Publishing and more.
“No topic or career path is irrelevant to this issue. Whether a student is going into a health related field or not, health will be at the forefront of any business’ strategic plan if they want to get ahead of detrimental healthcare costs and navigate new healthcare systems to come,” says Rachel Bishop, Student Wellness Manager at NKU and creator of the Weight of the Nation dialogue series.
After watching the Part 4: Challenges portion of the documentary series, students participated in a small group dialogue customized to their course content. Through critical-thinking and constructive dialogue, students explored their personal experiences, future professional roles and how they might create positive change for this public health issue.
This innovative initiative utilizes the cutting edge pedagogy referred to as a “flipped classroom,” in which the responsibility of exposure to a new concept is shifted to the student outside of the classroom, freeing a full class period for applied discussion or activity, instead of lecture. Watching the documentary before participating in the dialogue allows students to complete a comprehensive exploration of the obesity topic. “By first relating to the issue personally and from the broad perspective of society, the students are able to engage much more deeply during the applied discussion in class,” explains Bishop.
“We cannot expect future leaders to change systems that contribute to our poor state of health if they do not know: (a) why and where the system is broken and (b) how they are contributing to the system personally and professionally,” comments Maggie Gough, assistant director of Wellness at NKU. “This complex, and real-world issue is perfect for high-level, applied discussion in the classroom.”
The “Take Action Assignment” is the stimulus that prompts students to further apply what they have learned in a brief letter and/or reflection of their experience. Anecdotal evidence from the “Take Action Assignments” shared with the NKU Wellness Center since Fall 2012 confirms that the topic of obesity and the “flipped classroom” format inspire interesting dialogue among students and encourages engagement beyond the classroom. Faculty members agree that it is a unique and effective classroom tool. “This dialogue truly planted some thought-provoking seeds for my students to consider. Especially as freshmen, this exercise was good for broadening their awareness of an important issue that they otherwise might not take the time to contemplate,” said Jim Bradtmueller, professor of Intro to Construction Management.
Bishop recalls, “Every time I enter the classroom, no matter what subject matter, there is a genuine curiosity and enthusiasm for the complexity of this issue. Students thrive when they can apply what they are learning to what is really happening in the world today.”
Students who shared their “Take Action Assignments” with NKU Wellness were offered the opportunity to be showcased for exceptional efforts. Read excerpts and see digital posters from the most outstanding “Take Action Assignments” that came to fruition after The Weight of the Nation: A Dialogue Connecting Curriculum to Real-World Issues.
Learn more about The Weight of the Nation and the resources available to you.
About the Northern Kentucky University Wellness Center
Our mission is to build and support an overall campus culture that is not only conducive for promoting and encouraging healthy lifestyle behaviors, but also one that fosters employee and student engagement. We believe that if an employee or student feels good about him/herself and feels good about what they are doing at NKU, they will in turn be happier, healthier, safer, and more productive. We encourage everyone to take an active role in caring for themselves, their colleagues, and their environment. Valuing “whole” people, valuing health. Welcome to the essence of a healthy campus.