Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Health Education

First Advisor

McDermott, Robert


This dissertation investigated relevant issues among undergraduate students at two institutions and how these issues could be incorporated into an introductory personal health course. By illustrating how these issues can attract student attention, relevancy, confidence, and satisfaction, educators can make these introductory personal health courses more responsive, thereby increasing student motivation to learn. This study used a qualitative research design. Focus groups and interviews were conducted in order to gain insight into issues students felt were relevant to their lives, their satisfaction with their personal health course, and how these courses could be updated in terms of content and delivery. The ARCS Model of Motivation was used as a theoretical framework for development of questions as well as to organize emergent themes. This model has been shown to increase student motivation to learn, and the current study aimed to expand this to include health courses, which could lead to an increase in adopting healthier or risk-reductive behaviors. After five focus groups and two interviews, data saturation was met, and analysis was conducted. Findings indicate a strong desire among undergraduate students for a larger focus of content to include mental health issues (e.g., stress, time management, pressure, and healthy coping mechanisms), physical health issues, and harm reductive issues surrounding the areas of sexual health and alcohol and substance use. Additionally, students reported better recall and a preference for active learning over a more didactic method of instruction. By understanding relevant issues facing college students and incorporating those within an introductory personal health course, educators can enhance the responsiveness of these courses by illustrating relevancy of topics and teaching students how they can confidently learn to adopt healthy behaviors and practice harm reduction. This is particularly useful among undergraduate students as they are in a time of transition and emerging adulthood and are willing to learn and establish new patterns of behaviors. If educators can balance what they as experts want students to know and what students say are relevant to their lives and what they want to know, these introductory personal health courses could be an effective tool for increasing overall health and wellness of students.




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