Session 1. Form Disciplinary Teams

2 hours

PhD students may come from a range of different disciplines. In CARTA’s experience, these have included medicine, nursing, environmental health, epidemiology, demography, therapeutic sciences, psychology and sociology. This introductory activity serves to break the ice, as well as group students to begin describing their own disciplines.


Preparation for you, the facilitator

  • Decide on a specific public-health issue as the focus of these sessions, such as the causes of mortality and morbidity in under-fives 
  • Prepare a set of statements to read out, as in examples in Step 1
  • Prepare the task instruction on a flipchart or slide
  • Clear an open space for the students to move around in

By the end of the session students can:

  • define their own discipline
  • in addition, students get to know each other
45 minutes1. Form teams by disciplineFacilitator with full group
15 minutes2. Introduce the taskFacilitator
1 hour3. Describe each disciplineStudents in teams
  • Step 1. Form teams by discipline
    45 minutes
    Invite the students to gather in the open space. Explain that they should move between two sides of the room in response to each of your statements:
    • one side labelled ‘agree’, that is, ‘this is true for me’
    • the other side labelled ‘disagree’, that is, ‘this is not true for me’
  • Make your series of statements. In response, students choose which side of the room to move to. Encourage a relaxed atmosphere to break the ice; students first get to know each other through responding to non-judgemental and possibly amusing statements.
  • You might state, for example:
    “I have travelled to East Africa before.”
    “I watch football.”
    “I can ride a bicycle.”
    “I can drive a car.”
    “I like to do karaoke.”
  • You can also prompt revelations and brief comments about gender norms and roles.
    “I have a child.”
    “I have changed a baby’s nappy/diaper.”
  • Draw attention to gendered responses, such as the number of men who have a child but have not changed a nappy. 
  • After a while, make statements about disciplines, such as:
    “I am a medical doctor/specialist.”
    “I am an epidemiologist/biostatistician.”
    “I am a sociologist/anthropologist.”
  • Students who choose ‘agree’ after these last statements are now forming disciplinary teams. Keep going until everyone is grouped. You may need to split or join groups until each team has three to five members. If you only have one dentist, for example, you might have them join a small group of clinicians. If you have too many social scientists, you could divide them into smaller teams, such as sociologists and anthropologists.
  • Step 2. Introduce the task
    15 minutes
    Introduce the specific public-health issue that you have chosen, in the form of a question. For example: What are the causes of mortality and morbidity among under-fives in Uganda?

    Explain the overall task for this series of sessions, which is that each team will research what their discipline contributes to our understanding of this question by conducting a literature review. It is important that they limit their search to key papers from their discipline. After an initial search, the group must agree on 10 papers that make the greatest contribution.

    For now, though, in this first step, each group discusses their understanding of their discipline.

  • Step 3. Describe each discipline
    1 hour
    In their teams, students define their discipline. They begin to develop a list of search terms, and a search strategy, to identify literature on the contribution of their discipline to the issue. This process continues through other sessions in this set.

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