Assignment: Diagnosis and Treatment

I have written about my affinity for group projects before and I’ve posted an assignment I use in my survey classes called “The Big Book of ABC’s.” I want to share another assignment from my medical history class that can be modified for any class in which the students examine how more than one group of people approached the same problem.

Much like The Big Book of ABC’s, the Diagnosis and Treatment assignment combines group work with individual assessment, thereby diminishing complaints about working in groups. Since each student has control over a large portion of his or her grade, most students are less worried about working with others and produce better work because of it. When I used this assignment last spring, I was impressed by how enthusiastic the students were about the in-class component.

The “Diagnosis and Treatment” assignment helps students hone their research and problem solving skills in an interactive environment. This assignment’s research paper and classroom activity reinforce each other, as students strive to research the topic thoroughly in anticipation of the in-class component. Likewise, students are more “present” during the classroom activity because they are on the lookout for opportunities to apply their research.

This assignment can be modified for any class in which students study groups of people who had different approaches to the same problem. The assignment can be used to examine change over time (how the same group responded to an issue at different times), differences among contemporaries (how different groups of the same period responded to an issue), or both.  The assignment could be used to study religious sects’ response to a theological issue, political parties’ response to a policy issue, economists’ response to an economic issue, etc.

Below is the assignment as I used it in my medical history class.


Diagnosis and Treatment Assignment

This assignment has two components. They are:

  • A six page paper recounting the research that you did for the project, how your contributions assisted in the success of the group, and a self-assessment as to the level and quality of your participation. (10%)
  • Participation in the in class activity. (5%)

The Basics

You will be broken into five groups, each representing different schools of medical thought. They are as follows:

– Allopathy to 1860

– Thompsonian Medical Treatment

– Water Cure Medical Treatment

– Mind Cure Medical Treatment

– Allopathy after 1880

You and your group mates will do research on the medical philosophy, diagnostic methods, and treatment methods of the practitioners you have been assigned. Your findings will be important to your individual papers, but also to your group’s success during the in-class activity.

The In-Class Activity

Each group will assume the role of the practitioners assigned. All of the groups will be examining a patient at the same time. I will be the patient, “sick” with one of the illnesses that we covered in detail in lecture and in the readings. The first task will be to diagnose the illness by asking the patient a series of questions. Each group will get to ask one question at a time and, at the end of the exercise, each group will hand in a list of their questions (this is part of your group grade). After all the questions have been asked, each group of “physicians” confers with each other to come up with a diagnosis. Once a diagnosis is reached, the group must then come up with a course of treatment that the group will share with the class.

The Paper

The paper is an opportunity to showcase your research and participation in the preparation for and execution of the in-class activity. At least four pages of the paper must focus on what you found in your research and how it was applied during the in-class activity. The last one/two pages should be an assessment of your group’s performance as well as your own self-assessment. Your self-assessment should include how you would rate your participation on a scale of one to ten. Additionally, you should also rate each of your group mates on a scale from one to ten with a short explanation to justify your assessment.

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