Student Health Education Teams in Action
At first glance, it looks like any
other adult education class, multiage, multicultural, and multilevel.
Upon closer inspection, however, questions arise. Who is the teacher?
Is it the middle-aged woman at the board? Could it be the young
man who appears to be taking notes? Perhaps it is the older woman
who is speaking? When entering the classroom, the casual observer
would notice a group of adults ranging in age from mid 20's to early
70's. During the discussion everyone takes part. The material they
are talking about comes from the ABE Health Curriculum Framework,
and the students are members of the Health Team at a weekly meeting.
The woman at the board is this week's leader, Amelia. She is a student
is an ABE GLE (Grade Level Equivalent) 4-5.9 class, and she moderates
the discussion and writes the brainstorming results. The young man
is Jose from an ESOL SPL (Student Performance Level) 2-3 class and
is he taking notes of the meeting.
The older woman voicing a suggestion, Martina, just moved from an
ABE GLE 0-3.9 class to a GLE 4-5.9. She is making a point during
The teacher/facilitator has just distributed a copy of the ABE
Health Framework to each of the eight team members. While looking
over the framework, one of the team members notices a diagram illustrating
the importance of good health in every aspect of life. The team
to make a poster of the diagram to display on the Health Bulletin
Board. They discuss making a new heading which would be easier for
all students at the center to understand. "I need a compass,"
says David, an ESOL 2-3 student from Portugal. He wants to draw
and enlarge the diagram, which includes a sizeable circle. The teacher/facilitator
goes to the GED Classroom to look for one. Jose, David's classmate
from Cape Verde, suggests making a compass. Jose's wife, Helena,
and Winnie from China, both students in ESOL SPL 6-8, take two pencils
and some string and make a compass. Amelia, the leader, needs a
ruler to measure out the lines for the heading. All of this is accomplished
without any input from the facilitator. The students drive the process.
After the poster is completed, the team practices their cancer
presentation. They are researching cancer on the Internet in response
to a health issues survey they developed for all students at the
center to complete. Initially, the survey was posted on newsprint
and students voted during class break time. When checking the results,
the team felt that the numbers were low and perhaps invalid. They
decided to ask students to complete a paper copy of the survey during
class (see Initial Assessment in appendix). This produced more accurate
results. The cancer presentation includes a two-sided paper with
a drawing done by David illustrating "What is Cancer?"
The team reviews the language to assure understanding of all classes
at the center, which range from ESOL 0-1 to GED. On the reverse
is a typed list of prevention tips augmented with clip art drawings
(see appendix). After practicing, the team decided to pair up for
the class visits. They talk about which team members would be most
effective in each class in terms of translation requirements of
ESOL. Next they discuss the best time and day to visit the classes.
The last item on the agenda is the Health Team T-shirts. A member
of the Center's Advisory Board had referred the team to the adjacent
public junior high for possible printing of the shirts. The Advisory
Board at the program is composed of representatives from community
agencies, business people from the community, the program's director,
counselor, and volunteer coordinator, a state representative, and
students from the Adult Learning Center. After several phone conversations
and visits regarding colors and graphics, the school declined the
job. One of the team members now proposes making their own shirts
using the computer and iron-on material for the graphics. This is
enthusiastically received and will be the plan for the next meeting.
The Health Team concept is a participatory model. A former health
team member describes the process. Sandra, a dentist in her native
country of Colombia writes, "I became involved in the health
team in a voluntary way. One of my teachers gave me an application.
I filled it out and after that we had a meeting to know each other.
We started to plan how to do good things." All students at
the center are offered the opportunity to join the Health Team.
The application is modeled on an employment form (see appendix).
After the teacher/facilitator reviews the applications, interested
students gather for an "interview." Potential members
meet with current or past team members and the teacher/facilitators.
The former team members explain the duties of the team and offer
examples of the work previous teams have done. Candidates answer
questions such as: Why do you want to join the team? How do you
think you can help the team? Do you have any health-related experience?
Do you understand the way the team works? Do you have any questions
for us? Based on both the application and the interview, the facilitator
and former team members vote on candidates for the current team.
Although the members receive a stipend, this is not mentioned until
after the members have been chosen. At the first meeting, the new
members are told about the stipend as well as the fact that it is
based on attendance and participation. Members receive the stipend
at the conclusion of the school year.
Health topics are identified by surveying all the students at the
center. Team members research the health issues indicated by the
survey results. Sandra reports, "We did research into depression,
asthma, high blood pressure, nutrition, diabetes and quit smoking.
We made brochures, contests, newsletters, bulletin boards, presentations,
and we explained the topics in an easy way for everyone. We went
to other schools and performed a skit. We shared coloring books
(teaching about asthma) and crayons with children." The team
also arranged for Public Health nurses to come to the center to
check blood pressure. To follow-up they arranged for a visit by
the mobile health van for additional screenings. Team members called
and scheduled both visits. They notified all students and staff
and also developed a timetable for classes to be checked. The team
escorted each class to the screenings and wrote thank you notes
to the health practitioners. All of this work was accomplished during
weekly Health Team Meetings.
At first the new team members are a little nervous about taking
charge. Their previous academic experience, especially for ESOL
students, is to sit quietly without much participation while the
teacher runs the class. In addition, some students are not confident
in their ability to speak English. However, they recognize right
away that the experience of speaking and writing English will improve
their skills in both areas. Once they grasp the concept that they
are in charge, and the teacher is a facilitator who stays in the
background and is used as a resource, a transformation takes place.
The team members work together in a cooperative fashion or independently
on an aspect of a project they feel strongly about. They come up
with ideas, they decide how to address the health issues, i.e. developing
a brochure, video, pamphlet, newsletter, or bulletin board, arranging
for guest speakers, contacting community health practitioners, etc.
In addition, their research is the basis of a curriculum, which
is distributed to all staff members. The curriculum contains an
initial assessment as well as a post assessment. The initial assessment
can be a survey, and true-false "quiz", a brainstorming
discussion, or a K-W-L process where students list what they Know
(K) about a topic as well as what they would like to know (W). At
the conclusion, they will note what they have learned (L). The post
assessment may be the initial assessment, a survey, or a product.
Last year's team was concerned mid-year as to whether they were
reaching the learners at the center. They decided to develop a survey
asking for additional learner input and suggestions.
Overall, the participatory concept meets the needs and requirement
of adult learners. It touches upon the Freirean approach in that
learners identify problems and issues from real-life experiences
and seek solutions. The theories of Malcolm Knowles, which suggest
that adults move from dependency to self-directedness, draw upon
their experience for learning, and want to solve problems, also
support the health team model. The strongest evidence lies in the
words of the student members of the health team, "I have a
good time being part of health team. I learned about health, I improved
my relationship with classmates, teachers, and students. I met people
from different schools. Had been part of the health team was an
unforgettable and nice experience."
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Mary Dubois has been associated with the New Bedford Public
Schools/Division of Adult and Continuing Education's Health Team
since its inception. She is currently the Curriculum Facilitator
and has taught ESOL, ABE, and Adult Diploma Classes during her seven
years with the program.
NEW BEDFORD ADULT LEARNING CENTER
This will follow th eprocess of the Studnet Action
Health Team members.
The class will have an oral discussion on "What I Know About
Cancer." The teacher will list this information on the board
as students offer input.
Students will write what they know about symptoms and prevention.
The class will complete a survey listing the different types of
cancer and the number of people they know with each type. One class
at the center will compile the surveys for the school.
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Originally published in Adventures in Assessment,
Volume 14 (Spring 2002), SABES/World Education, Boston, MA, Copyright
Funding support for the publication of this document
on the Web provided in part by the Ohio State Literacy Resource
Center as part of the LINCS
Assessment Special Collection.