Academic Training in Planning

BEPHC provides interdisciplinary undergraduate, graduate, or continuing education curriculum at the intersection of Planning and Public Health. This curriculum is flexible enough to be offered as a full semester course, individual units or single class modules or individual assignments. Additionally, this website offers links to helpful websites, organizations, conferences, videos, and other web resources.

Developing a Model Course & Learning Goals

The aim of the course is to provide understanding of the interactions between the built environment and health, and skills to engage these issues as professional planners, public health practitioners and other related professionals. More specifically, the learning goals are for students to:

  1. Understand public health and planning history, evolution and significant movements to the present, and historical and current theories on the relationship between the built environment and public health.
  2. Identify contemporary features of the built environment such as patterns of development, parks, public works projects, houses, and transportation systems that reflect past efforts to influence health, and use methods developed by architects, urban planners, public health professionals, sociologists and anthropologists to address current health impacts of the built environment.
  3. Learn about oneself and the context in which others operate to better integrate that understanding when evaluating differing built environments, socioeconomic positions, social and cultural backgrounds, and health status.
  4. Adopt new feelings, interests or values based on issues addressed throughout the semester.
  5. Develop skills to identify studies and engage communities, critique methods and findings, and apply lessons from planning and public health research to current and future problems.
  6. Integrate current evidence regarding the impacts of the built environment on health with information and perspectives from other courses and/or personal experiences.

A model course is provided that covers material for a three-credit course and is organized into four broad units over a fifteen-week semester:

  • Unit 1: Planning and Public Health Foundations (Planning History, Public Health History, Interdisciplinary Applications) (2 weeks)
  • Unit 2: Natural and Built Environments (Indoor and Outdoor Air Quality, Water Quality, Food Security, Land Use and Transportation, Planning Design Approaches, Environmental Impact Assessments, Health Impact Assessments) (6 weeks)
  • Unit 3: Vulnerable Populations and Health Disparities (Vulnerable Populations and Health Disparities, Mental Health, Social Capital, Environmental Justice) (3 weeks)
  • Unit 4: Health Policy and Global Impacts (Health Policy, Sustainable Planning and Global Warming, Healthy Housing) (3 weeks)
  • Final Learning and Reflection (1 week)

Course Design

This curriculum was developed in collaboration with faculty from U.S. planning and public health schools, based on their experience teaching built environment and public health courses. The semester outline and modules provide a mix of foundational knowledge and significant learning opportunities for students to engage this interdisciplinary course material.

Creation of this curriculum and the modules is informed by the course design strategy of L. Dee Fink, a leader in course design who argues that traditional, content-based methods of teaching are insufficient because they focus on information, not transformation, and on teaching rather than learning. He proposes an integration of situational factors, learning goals, teaching and learning activities, and feedback and assessment to promote significant and interactive learning, and training of self-directed learners.

Fink’s strategy integrates content-centered approaches with learning-centered approaches, where students engage in critical thinking, application of course knowledge to solve real-world problems, and thoughtful reflection. Fink’s approach also stresses the importance of contextual or situational factors, such as the difficulty of teaching students with varied levels of experience and knowledge. With Fink’s strategy, situational factors are addressed directly in the learning goals and activities.

Feedback and assessment procedures respond directly to the learning goals, and active learning or collaborative activities that help build skills faculty want students to have at the end of the semester. Such activities may include students developing design characteristics for a built environment that acts to decrease the prevalence of a chronic disease, or conducting a case study that applies methodologies from various disciplines to a place-based health problem. Assessment focuses on various characteristics of high quality contributions; students are also involved in assessing and determining appropriate criteria for evaluating their work, preparing to do so once they begin working in the field.
Course learning objectives were developed to follow Fink’s learning taxonomy that includes the following dimensions:

  • foundational knowledge: understanding and remembering information and ideas
  • application: developing skills; thinking critically, practically, and creatively; and managing projects
  • human dimension: learning about oneself and others
  • caring: developing new feelings, interests, and values
  • learning-how-to-learn: improving learning skills
  • integration: connecting ideas, people, and realms of life