The Pandem Disease Center is a classroom-based Grades 9-12 curriculum supplement that will improve science education using highly engaging approaches to teaching and learning that focus on delivering science content on epidemiology and infectious disease.
The Pandem Disease Center curriculum and support materials aim to achieve the following goals:
To introduce students to epidemiology concepts and their importance and relevance in today’s environment of public health challenges.
We are facing an increased threat from infectious diseases. From Ebola to Zika to a dangerous strain of influenza, emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases are increasing due to a number of factors. Yet, students are largely unaware of the potential consequences until a major public health event occurs. It is clear that students should be more prepared to deal with the challenges to public health. Increasing science literacy about the issues surrounding infectious disease will produce a public more capable of understanding the health statements issued by Departments of Health, more capable of acting on the advice, and better able to protect themselves and the community from infectious disease.
To deliver epidemiology, infectious disease, and immunology science content through a problem-based learning approach.
The PDC curriculum uses a problem-based learning approach. In problem-based learning, students learn actively through solving real-world problem scenarios based on relevant science content. Educational research has long recognized the benefits of student-centered, problem-based learning over more traditional lecture only-based strategies. Students are active participants in solving real-world problems through critical thinking and problem-solving strategies.
Using a problem-based learning approach to science curriculum increases students’ understanding of the topic; students learn more and retain more information in problem-based learning classrooms. A major conclusion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NCES, 2012) was that “students were challenged by parts of investigations that contained more variables to manipulate or involved strategies decision making to collect appropriate data”. This is a fundamental approach to problem-based learning activities.
To recognize the interrelationship among science, societal, economic, cultural, and ethical factors that influence epidemiological investigations.
In today’s world, it is important that students understand how science is affected by societal, economic, cultural, and ethical factors in an environment. With scientific and technological advances and emergent ecological issues, science literacy becomes critical if individuals and governments are to make informed decisions about personal and societal matters (National Research Council, 1996.) The PDC problem-based learning modules immerse students in a scientific issue that is often in the news, such as actual outbreaks and threats of pandemics that occurred, included Ebola in 2014-15, Zika in 2015, and the deadly H3N2 influenza virus of 2017-18.
To promote awareness of careers in biomedical science and epidemiology.
There is a clear need to provide students with a foundation for a lifetime of science literacy and to stimulate interest in biomedical research careers. New and emerging pathogens and mutating viruses continue to appear. The need for future qualified scientists to deal with disease worldwide cannot be ignored. The challenge to identify, manage, control, mitigate, and prevent infectious outbreaks is a prime concern for world public health.
Are all your students capable of becoming epidemiologists? Of course not. But there is a wide range of careers within biomedical science that your students could explore if they became engaged in the possibilities. The PDC Epi-Career Directory provides a wide array of biomedical careers at all levels for students to investigate.
To enhance teachers’ abilities to implement critical thinking, problem-solving activities in the classroom.
Teachers are always in need of up-to-date science content and activities. There is not a lot of epidemiology science content available to teachers that also teach a wide range of the varied issues involved in epidemiology. The Pandem Disease Center aims to provide not only infectious disease curriculum, but also curriculum on the varied issues within epidemiology and immune responses.
In addition, even though the benefits to using problem-based learning in the classroom have been clearly documented, it still remains less utilized than traditional lecture methods. At first, it may seem daunting to teachers who are not familiar with the instructional strategy. Providing professional development and support will allow teachers to easily implement the strategy into their science classrooms. PBL resources and support are available in both the Teacher Professional Development section and in the password-protected Teacher Pages.
To accomplish these goals, the Pandem Disease Center has the following specific objectives:
- To develop a suite of problem-based learning modules that addresses the varied topics within epidemiology, infectious disease, and immune system responses.
- To create materials that support student analysis and encourage content mastery within the problem-based learning topics.
- To design problem-based learning modules that involve real-world problems faced by scientists who must consider cultural, social and ethical dilemmas.
- To develop a biomedical career directory to inspire student interest in epidemiology and biomedical careers.
- To provide a suite of key resources for teachers and students involving infectious disease, non-infectious disease, autoimmune conditions, and immune system responses.
- To create teacher professional development resources that will help teachers implement problem-based learning activities in the classroom.
- To provide alternative teaching strategies for science teachers.