Sample Assignment Descriptions

Sample Assignment Descriptions

Each course contained several assignments to help students think critically and apply principles, while blending public health and planning perspectives and methodologies. In addition to term papers and exams, assignments ranged from in-class debates on predetermined topics to field-based data collection efforts designed to introduce students to empirical research. The following assignment descriptions correspond to those listed under each of the unit descriptions.

Local neighborhood case study

  • Learning Objective: To illustrate how building practices are influenced and to evaluate the effectiveness and sustainability of design innovations.
  • Assignment: Tour a local neighborhood and answer essay questions concerning the community’s urban revitalization plan, using analytic techniques presented in class.

Campus and neighborhood walkability audit

  • Learning Objective: To assess the walkability of residential and campus settings as part of physical activity environment at home or school.
  • Assignment: Use existing or newly developed instruments to collect field data in two or more settings, in either a residential or campus environment; gain data-collection experience and reflect on daily settings and their walkability, including sidewalks, barriers, traffic, destinations, and the presence of others.

Service-learning group project

  • Learning Objective: To become familiar with community organizations and their process to improve the welfare of communities.
  • Assignment: Work for the entire semester with a group of service providers, such as assisting hurricane victims or developing a resource book for an urban farm.

Activity diary

  • Learning Objective: To increase awareness of how choices, constraints, and design affect movement patterns and physical activity.
  • Assignment: Keep a week-long travel diary of pedometer readings and travel patterns, with critique of how built environment influenced travel.

Transit use

  • Learning Objective: To understand opportunities and barriers for alternative transportation systems relying on mass transit.
  • Assignment: Follow a round-trip circuit of 8–10 segments on bus, heavy rail, trolley, and on foot while monitoring waiting times, ridership numbers, wayfinding, and relative safety.

Op-ed, radio spot, or video

  • Learning Objective: To communicate persuasively about contemporary social issues, integrating information and ideas, and present ideas in a clear, succinct way in a public forum.
  • Assignment: Produce an op-ed, one-minute radio spot or one-minute video on the built environment and health, related to policy and ethics of popular interest; present to the class for discussion and critique; submit for publication.


  • Learning Objective: To gain appreciation for contemporary issues related to topics presented in class.
  • Assignment: Debate a topic assigned at beginning of semester; present pro and con positions, each followed by 2-minute rebuttals.

Policy memos

  • Learning Objective: To construct critical arguments and present succinct positions to educate decision-makers.
  • Assignment: Draft two policy memos on built environment issues directed to decision makers at local and state levels.

Photovoice report

  • Learning Objective: To collect community perspectives on the feasibility of built environment approaches to remedying disparities of social capital and mental health or other topics.
  • Assignment: Develop recommendations through in-class Photovoice exercise; evaluate feasibility of recommendations based on reflections and assigned readings.

Healthy communities portfolio

  • Learning Objective: To engage in reflective thinking about what student has learned during the semester.
  • Assignment: Present portfolio illustrating the evolution during the semester of the student’s thinking about healthy communities, with narrative discussing lessons and future applications of the work.

Reading critique

  • Learning Objective: To critique topical readings and assess strengths and weaknesses in the information presented to guide next steps.
  • Assignment: Review assigned readings and write a clear, thorough yet concise two-page paper commenting on significant data highlighted in the readings, strengths and weaknesses of the arguments presented and applicability to the session topic. (Download sample assignment)

Pecha Kucha

  • Learning Objective: To research a specific healthy community’s topic and synthesize the materials into a clear, informative and engaging presentation.
  • Assignment: Students will work in teams of two to develop and present one clear, thorough and concise summary of the session’s topic complete with pertinent data and full references (APA format). The required submission includes (1) a presentation of 20 slides, 20 seconds per slide (slide 1 is the introduction slide and slide 20 is the reference slide), and (2) a 2-page summary narrative. Submit the slides and 2-page summary document to collab as a *.ppt and *.doc or higher format. (Download sample assignment)

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