Multi-Faceted Approach to Improve Learning in Pharmacokinetics

By Persky, Adam M. | American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, April 2008 | Go to article overview

Multi-Faceted Approach to Improve Learning in Pharmacokinetics


Persky, Adam M., American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education


Objectives. To integrate a series of educational strategies ranging from content delivery to assessment, including a change in philosophy regarding the use of in-class time, to enhance learning of pharmacokinetics.

Methods. Several approaches were taken to develop a significant learning experience in the basic and clinical pharmacokinetics courses including games, a piloted multimedia module to offset content delivery and free-up class time, reflective writing, and an immediate feedback assessment. Games, a multimedia module, reflective writing assignments, and other innovative learning tools were incorporated into pharmacokinetics courses, as well as an assessment tool to provide immediate feedback.

Results. Median examination scores did not improve following the incorporation of the teaching innovations; however, based on survey results, student satisfaction increased.

Conclusions. Already high median examination scores (>90% from historical controls) did not improve; however, the effectiveness of the innovations implemented, which included deep learning and critical thinking and communication skills, may be more accurately measured over the long term, eg, in performance in advanced pharmacy practice experiences.

Keywords: multimedia, reflective writing, games, pharmacokinetics

INTRODUCTION

Parallels can be drawn between the optimal management of diseases and learning environments. For many diseases, optimal treatment requires targeting different physiologic pathways and pathologies in a concerted, synergistic effort. Similarly, learning may be improved by focusing on various aspects of a student's educational needs. Finks states that the key to learning is the ability to create significant learning environments. These environments should include formulating and communicating learning goals with appropriate feedback and assessment procedures, generating teaching and learning activities to support the learning goals, and integrating the component parts. Most reported strategies aimed at enhancing student learning have centered on teaching and learning activities (ie, active learning) but may exclude other potential teachable moments inside and outside of class. Enriching the learning environment through incorporation of a variety of teaching and learning strategies and methods both in and out of the classroom, rather than relying on a single, isolated classroom method, should yield enhanced learning. Combining learning activities that actively engage students, such as games and immediate feedback assessment, with out-of-class activities, such as reflective writing and asynchronous content delivery, can create a significant learning environment that addresses a broad range of students' learning needs.

Games are one active-learning strategy that offers a creative, interactive, in-class alternative to the traditional lecture or classroom activity. This technique can be used to reinforce previously learned material, introduce new ideas or concepts, create opportunities to apply and practice learned material, and motivate/engage participants. Games that incorporate and integrate skills necessary to the developing practitioner, especially if they emulate real-life experiences and/or draw upon learners' prior experiences, can be beneficial in that they can deepen understanding and promote achievement of desired abilities. Desirable skill sets promoted through games or other active-learning approaches include communication, critical thinking, creative thinking, and practical thinking.

While games can enhance learning within the classroom setting, they do not necessarily address what students are doing and thinking outside of class. Students must reflect both on what and how they are learning (1,2) since deep learning takes place only in the context of the learner's belief that information is relevant and important. Deep learning focuses on the significance of what is being learned and relates new information to previous knowledge, all with the motivating factors behind learning being intrinsic; this type of learning works better for long-term retention whereas surface learning is more for short-term retention.

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