Self-Authorship in Pharmacy Education

By Johnson, Jessica L. | American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, May 2013 | Go to article overview
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Self-Authorship in Pharmacy Education

Johnson, Jessica L., American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education


The 2011 revisions of the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) Standards and Guidelines "focus on the development of students' professional knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values, as well as sound and reasoned judgment and the highest level of ethical behavior." The standard revisions place additional emphasis on the "importance of the development of the student as a professional and lifelong learner." (1) ACPE has a holistic view of the professional education of pharmacy students in that it must promote both cognitive (knowledge and skills) and affective (attitudes and values) growth. The theory of self-authorship, currently unexplored in pharmacy literature, could help pharmacy educators better investigate and define the role of academia in the holistic professional development of pharmacy students.

Much of ACPE's description of a graduating pharmacy student or new practitioner can be explained by the developmental theory of self-authorship. The theory of self-authorship is essentially a theory of integrated intellectual and personal maturity, defined as "the ability to collect, interpret, and analyze information and reflect on one's own beliefs in order to form judgments." (2) This definition of self-authorship is reminiscent of critical thinking, a cognitive exercise that questions assumptions and relies on observation and analytical reasoning. Thus, it is a theory of cognitive or intellectual maturity. Notably, the theory of self-authorship additionally addresses the affective domain of development--students' attitudes, values, and motivations--their personal maturity. (2,3) The affective domain of self-authorship allows students to develop their "own beliefs," against which they judge the validity of new knowledge per the definition of self-authorship described above. Those internal beliefs also serve as the backdrop to new relationships with other individuals, who often have conflicting beliefs.

College education (and consequently pharmacy college or school) can be seen as a journey to self-authorship wherein, as students are challenged both personally and intellectually, they acquire and analyze knowledge, develop a personal identity, and learn to form complex, diverse relationships. (4) The kinds of educational experiences that provoke a transformation to self-authorship in college students are described in the pedagogical Learning Partnerships Model (5) as blending guidance with responsibility for learning, which creates a student-centered learning environment that empowers the learner. Beyond merely conveying knowledge of a subject, pharmacy educators can use the model to create challenging and provocative experiences that catalyze the development of self-authorship in pharmacy students, leading to their personal (affective) and intellectual (cognitive) development and preparing them for the personal and professional challenges of adult life.


Self-authorship theory states that an individual's transformation to self-authorship is not instantaneous but occurs over time in 4 sequential phases: (1) Following Formulas, (2) the Crossroads, (3) Becoming the Author of One's Life, and (4) Internal Foundations (Figure 1). (4) In the initial phase, Following Formulas, adolescents rely on external opinions for their values and beliefs. Their identity or "self" is externally defined and easily influenced by others, often their peers. They adopt externally defined "formulas for success" to not only guide their actions but also define their successes. Students often enter college in this phase, and have followed the advice of others (a formula for success) to get there. Because students in this phase lack the ability to critically evaluate new knowledge from other perspectives, they trust in authority figures to provide them with complete and accurate information. They view knowledge as certain and immutable and are not inspired to examine or question it.

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