Case study: adult learning and public health—a foundational training programme in field epidemiology with lessons and opportunities for collaboration

Matthew Myers Griffith, Barbara Pamphilon

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Abstract

This article explores the first field epidemiology training programme
(FETP) through a case study to understand its approach to learning and
education. Field epidemiologists deploy to outbreaks to investigate, control,
and prevent future epidemics and pandemics. Since the 1950s, they
have learned their trade through FETP. FETP arose at a paradigmatic
crossroads, has endured for seventy years, and is now delivered in over
ninety countries. COVID-19 has highlighted the urgency for re-thinking
learning in the health sector, hence the analysis of this case can inform
FETP, public health, and the adult education field. Inductive content
analysis of this case using published accounts from the programme
designer-leader and participants suggests the programme’s approach to
learning reflected Knowles’s andragogical assumptions, Kolb’s experiential
learning cycle, and Lave and Wenger’s legitimate peripheral participation
in communities of practice. Alignment with such influential
contributors to the field of adult learning clarifies the programme’s paradigm
and explains its endurance. Now, given the lessons of COVID-19,
critical learning approaches are needed to enable field epidemiologists to
engage issues of culture and power as they investigate epidemics. Recent
adult learning theories offer opportunities for adult educators to collaborate
with public health programmes. COVID-19 urges that we do not
hesitate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-66
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Lifelong Education
Volume43
Issue number1
Early online date4 Feb 2024
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2024

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