Using Autoethnographic Writing to Teach Critical Thinking in Health Behavior Theory Courses

Brynn Adamson, Kristen DiFilippo, Elizabeth Frasca, Caitlin Vitosky Clarke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Critical thinking is an important skill in all academic disciplines, but it can be difficult to develop assessments that adequately evaluate how critical thinking has changed over the period of a semester. In the context of health promotion, it is essential to prepare learners to appraise health information and misinformation, identify health disparities and work to address them, engage in health promotion practices that are culturally sensitive, theoretically driven, evidence-based, and acknowledge the role of social determinants of health and health behaviors. Health Behavior Theory is a fundamental subject taught in health promotion programs. While a large part of this subject matter involves the learning of health behavior theory, it presents an opportunity where critical thinking can be fostered through embodied pedagogy. Since students have had years of exposure to health information, as well as personal and observed experiences with health behavior, students come with many preconceived notions about the subject matter. In this article, we describe the use of a scaffolded experience of embodied behavior change and self-reflection, culminating in the creation of an autoethnography as a pedagogical experience which can support critical thinking in learners. We describe the development, implementation, and evaluation of the autoethnography assignment. As an embodied pedagogy, the autoethnography experience provides students with valuable insight into the difficulties of behavior change on an individual level while connecting individual experiences with social discourses that influence diverse meanings related to health behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)258-264
Number of pages7
JournalPedagogy in Health Promotion
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • autoethnography
  • critical thinking
  • evaluation
  • health behavior theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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