Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Best Practices Assessment to Guide Curricular Change in a Bachelor of Pharmacy Program

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Best Practices Assessment to Guide Curricular Change in a Bachelor of Pharmacy Program

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Pharmacy education literature is replete with examples of innovative instructional design and assessment. However, few studies have reported on the process of large-scale, systematic evaluation of an entire undergraduate pharmacy curriculum as the basis for major curriculum change. This paper reports the process of curriculum review and redevelopment used at the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Sydney and provides an example of the application of evidence-based principles in the systematic investigation of curriculum effectiveness.

Our Faculty has an international reputation as a centre for teaching and research in the pharmaceutical sciences and pharmacy practice. Education of pharmacists at this University began in 1899, and has continued through the introduction of a degree course in 1960, to the current provision of 4-year undergraduate (approximately 280 students accepted each year) and 2-year postgraduate (approximately 40 students enter each year) registration programs. Originally part of the Faculty of Science, Pharmacy at the University of Sydney was constituted as an independent Faculty in 2000 and currently comprises 3 disciplines: pharmaceutical chemistry, pharmaceutics, and pharmacy practice.

Like most undergraduate degree programs, our BPharm has undergone continuous small-scale changes to maintain the highest standards in "best practice" pharmacy education. The existing curriculum follows a fairly traditional model, with the first year focused mainly on basic science subjects (mathematics, chemistry, general biology, and human biology) in addition to foundation courses in pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences. The second year of the degree concentrates predominantly on biomedical and pharmaceutical sciences (biochemistry, medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, and pharmaceutics) and an introduction to pharmacy practice. The third year expands on the pharmaceutical sciences, with more emphasis placed on the practice of pharmacy. The final year of the program concentrates on the clinical and therapeutic aspects of pharmacy practice. Subjects are currently taught in a discipline-based manner with little continuity across the different disciplines. In years 1 to 3, the teaching occurs predominantly in a didactic manner, with some case-based learning introduced in the third year. The final year of the degree includes a substantial amount of problem-based learning.

The Faculty has a strong reputation for developing innovative learning and teaching practices, and much use has been made in recent years of simulated practice environments and integrated, small-group problem-based learning. However, these innovations have been largely discipline specific, and confined to individual course units throughout the curriculum. Anecdotal evidence from both staff members and students indicated a need for systematic, large-scale curriculum review in order to consolidate these developments, to enhance cross-disciplinary collaboration, and to ensure that the curriculum reflected well the rapidly changing nature of pharmacy practice.

Our objectives were to undertake a comprehensive review of our existing BPharm curriculum and identify best practices in pharmacy curriculum design, and based on the findings from this review, create the framework for a new curriculum that would meet the changing needs of the profession.

DESIGN

A pharmacy education unit (the first such unit in Australia) was established within our Faculty in late 2005 to provide leadership for the enhancement of learning and teaching across the Faculty. (1) The Unit undertook the responsibility for planning and guiding the curriculum review using an action research framework. (2) Action research is a well-established form of disciplined inquiry in education, and is regarded as "a powerful tool for change and improvement at the local level." (3) It is also consistent with recommendations of an emerging literature on best evidence pharmacy education (BEPE) (4). …

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