Experiential learning in MACH 5331 By Dr. Melissa Oden


I believe that every Professor wants to do their best to make sure that students are learning what they need to learn to be successful in today’s workforce. This is particularly critical in public health with old and new challenges facing public health practitioners each and every day. There are many different teaching methods that can be employed to assure that students are, indeed, obtaining what they need to be effective public health practitioners. However, with the culture of education in general, and the classroom specifically, changing with the entrance of Millennials into these learning spaces, it behooves Professors to critically consider what methods of instruction are best suited for their particular subject and classroom culture.

According to Ewell (1997), a growing number of stakeholders in higher education, including but not limited to politicians, employers and taxpayers, have growing doubts about what students are really learning in higher education and about the practicality of the current style of pedagogy in higher education. Does it really prepare students for the true complexities of today’s work world? Additionally, Ewell (1997) suggests several different avenues through which deep and lasting learning actually occurs. Human learning and development; curriculum and instructional design; and a continual examination of the core processes of learning to improve outcomes should be considered.

Because I teach courses in the Behavioral and Community Health Sciences, these courses lend themselves well to using experiential learning techniques. The Experiential Learning Cycle was developed by David Kolb in 1984 to describe the process of deriving meaning from direct experience (Oden, 2011). The Experiential Learning Cycle (ELC) (Kolb, 1984) consists of five important stages that pave the way to meaningful learning: (1) experiencing, (2) reporting, (3) processing, (4) generalizing, and (5) applying. This cycle is the conceptual foundation upon which all of my classes are designed. The purpose of using this theoretical construct is to support the student in moving past the basics of learning into deeper, more meaningful learning experiences, thus creating more fertile ground for learning to “stick”.

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Melissa Oden, DHEd, LMSW-IPR, MPH, CHES

Dr. Oden

Melissa Oden is a Fort Worth, Texas native who earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science from Texas Wesleyan University in 1997. She went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2001 and a Master of Public Health in 2006 from the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth. During her tenure as an MPH student at UNT, she was involved in the Public Health Student Association (PHSA) and was a fellow for the More Knowledge in the Sciences (MKITS) program, teaching 6th grade Science at J.P. Elder Middle School. She was also named Outstanding Student in the Social and Behavioral Sciences Department during her final semester at the Health Science Center. She is holds a Doctor of Health Education (2011) from Andrew Taylor Still University School of Health Management.

Dr. Oden has been a social worker for 13 years and a Certified Health Education Specialist for 8 years, and her work experience ranges from social work in hospital and long term care settings to teaching and public health education and community practice in the non-profit sector to professional development training. She is currently the Founder and President of Health Education Resources Network, and is also an Adjunct Professor for several local universities. Additionally, she has served as a Field Instructor for social work, and health education students from local universities.

She is a Licensed Master Social Worker with Independent Practice Recognition and a Certified Health Education Specialist. She is an active member of the Texas Public Health Association (TPHA), serving on that organization’s Executive Board & Governing Council and as the current 1st Vice President. She is also a Fellow with TPHA. She is also a charter member and Past President of the University of North Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health Alumni Society Board. She is the recipient of the 2012 Texas Public Health Association Jessie A. Yoas Memorial Advocacy Award for continuing the important work of advocating of key public health issues. She was also recognized in 2014 by Texas Wesleyan University as an alumnus “Mover & Shaker”. Dr. Oden lives with her husband, Jerry and their cat, Sam, in Fort Worth, Texas.