Collaborative work on H1N1

My colleague Mary Lynch asked me to share a project my bioethics students just completed.

I asked the 14 students in my Bioethics seminar to research the legal and ethical implications for Albany Law School of an H1N1 outbreak, and to work together to draft a memo outlining any policy changes the class would recommend to the Administration as a result of its research. The class worked on the project intensively for the better part of a week and a weekend. Although they had some disagreements, they reached consensus and drafted an impressive ten page memorandum that set forth the rationale for policy changes, the issues raised by a potential H1N1 outbreak, the applicable ethical and legal principles, and their recommendations on institutional responsibilities, attendance polices, isolation, school closures, vaccinations, and alternative means of instruction. They supported their recommendations with citations to the CDC, the state health department, the WHO, and other authoritative sources.

I was impressed enough with the students’ work product that I submitted their memo to the administration. The associate dean let the class know that the administration was persuaded by and grateful for the students’ input. She told the students that they should expect to see many of their recommendations incorporated into the school’s policy.

In reflecting on the project, the students noted how difficult but how satisfying collaborative work can be. They said they put many more hours into this assignment than they had other assignments — in large part because they felt their work might really make a difference.

Overall, I think the students learned a lot about public health ethics and policy drafting from the exercise. I’d love suggestions from blog readers about how to turn an exercise like this into a graded exercise. Given how much time the students put in, I think they should probably get more than class participation points for their work, but I worry about grading group projects.

2 Responses

  1. What a great project! Could you post the report the students wrote?

  2. In response to Dean Howarth’s request, here is the proposed H1N1 policy developed by students in the Bioethics Seminar at Albany Law School.

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