HEAL UoS

Posts Tagged ‘Teaching’

(More) HEAL teaching outside the Law School

In 2014, Genetics, Gratuitous self-promotion, Reproduction, Teaching on March 24, 2014 at 8:31 am

Following on from John’s post last week, about teaching on the MSc in Public Health Nutrition, I recently led a session on ‘identity’ for the CIP module Ethics in a Complex World. The module is led by Dr Julie Wintrup and therefore ‘housed’ in Health Sciences. But, it draws in (a lot of) contributions from the Law School, not least from our current Head of School, Professor Hazel Biggs, who co-led a number of the initial large-group sessions this semester, alongside Professor Roger Ingham (Psychology), and Dr Angela Fenwick (Medicine). Both John Coggon and A.M. Viens will also be making cameo appearances later this semester.

As the list of names and disciplines in the preceding paragraph suggests, this is a truly inter-disciplinary module. For the teaching team this demands some reflection on ‘our’ respective disciplinary boundaries and assumptions – not only in setting up the overarching aims and objectives, but down to the detail of selecting the ‘what and how’ of discrete sessions/topics, and indeed the assessment(s). In turn, the diverse student body bring their own disciplinary, and other, assumptions, life experience and questions to the table, both in the large and small group sessions – raising some excellent questions for further engagement, analysis and reflection. The other colleagues can be quite challenging with their questions too, which can only be a good thing! Further, the team actively engages with social media throughout the course, and as I was speaking Fiona was ‘Scoop’ing, and Julie tweeting.

I was part of the core group that set up this module, but had to step aside this year due to other commitments, so it was a real pleasure to return for a ‘guest’ spot, and to (re-)consider donor conception, mitochondrial donation and identity matters (after thinking about hidden law-making for a fair while – more news on that project to follow in a future post). As John made clear last week, these types of sessions are not about ‘instructing’ people as to the ‘correct’ answers to ethical issues, but rather to provoke reflection.

Certainly, in terms of academic study, legal developments and policy-making, interest in donor conception has waxed and waned over the decades. We seem to be in a ‘waxing’ phase, inasmuch as this area was the subject of a dedicated NCOB Working Party and Report in 2013, and is linked to the debates around mitochondrial donation, including a 2012 NCOB Report and the current DH consultation on the Draft Regulations on mitochondrial donation (i.e., how should we treat egg/mitochondria donors in this context?). I was privileged to be asked to give evidence on the regulatory aspects of donation to the former Working Party, and to have my research referenced within its Report (fn 112, 397); further, being involved in an evidence session for the latter Working Party, and being invited to comment on the draft Report.

But, no matter what can be said about the academic treadmill – whether for the good, the bad, or with indifference – it is still the greatest privilege to introduce people to new areas and/or ideas, and ask them to have a re-think about their assumptions, and in doing so to continue to challenge your own thought processes and rationale(s).

Caroline Jones

HEAL teaching outside the Law School

In 2014, Public Ethics, Teaching on March 17, 2014 at 8:34 am

There’s been lots going on in HEAL over the last couple of weeks, with various research papers being presented on campus, development of a HEAL consultation response regarding organ donation after brain death, and A.M. Viens jetting off to Copenhagen where he was co-organsing a conference on Public Health Ethics. Further to all this, and of course the regular path of the academic treadmill, I recently taught at the medical school to students on the MSc in Public Health Nutrition. It’s always interesting to deliver teaching outside of the familiar disciplinary frame. For this class, I was charged with introducing ideas about public health ethics, law, and governance. This means bringing a philosophical focus that places many of the students on the course outside of their academic comfort zones.

Such a foray into ‘alien’ literatures and methods means that the teaching raises distinctive challenges both for the tutor and the students. A complexity for the students in this context comes in the open nature of many of the questions asked when bringing philosophical approaches to the curriculum. In particular, this strikingly relates to questions concerning the very meanings of public health practice, and public health ethics. For example, I got very interesting and mixed answers on whether or not I, or Penny Nestel who runs the course, can be said to work in public health.

The productivity in exploring such questions doesn’t arise in reaching the ‘right’ answer. Rather, it’s about the critical self-reflection and questioning that they trigger in the students. People who study on courses such as our MSc are motivated to work in health promotion; they are committed to what Larry Gostin characterises as an article of faith in the great importance of health. My purpose in bringing a philosophical analysis to the education is not to lessen that faith, but to invite the students to scrutinise the strength and substance of its foundations.

I find the reward of this sort of teaching really comes out in the small- and whole-group discussions. A vast range of interesting ideas and questions were raised at the recent session. I’m looking forward to starting teaching the full, ten-week course on Public Health, Law, and Ethics with A.M. Viens later this year on the MSc in public health. We’ll be able there to explore philosophy and public health in a much more sustained, and deeply engaged, way.

John Coggon