Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Small-Team Active Learning in an Integrated Pharmacokinetics Course Series

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Small-Team Active Learning in an Integrated Pharmacokinetics Course Series

Article excerpt


Historically, pharmacokinetics education in pharmacy programs has been delivered using traditional lecture-based pedagogy in which information is defined, controlled, and directed by the faculty member delivering the material. However, the authors believe this method limits higher levels of learning as the lecturer defines the "important" content using learning objectives, lecture materials, and required textbooks. Consequently, the breadth of the material covered is limited and assimilated based on topic content and associated cues from faculty members about which material is most important. By doing so, the practice of requiring students to independently assess data and information, as practitioners do daily, is deferred until later in the student's education, generally until they begin advanced clinical practice experiences.

Some colleges and schools of pharmacy use problem-based learning (PBL) or case-based learning in their pharmacokinetics courses. (1-3) Key attributes of these courses and the present course series structure include delivery of foundational information by student and/or faculty members with application of concepts through case-based problems, followed by a collective review of solutions.

Faculty members at South University developed an integrated delivery format for a pharmacokinetics course series centered on an active-learning process in which students are required to assess, assimilate, and deliver information to peers, as is required of pharmacists in clinical practice. In this system, the course series is facilitated jointly by faculty members in the Departments of Pharmacy Practice and Pharmaceutical Sciences with 3 to 4 faculty members serving as facilitators and 1 as the course coordinator. The course series is taught over two 10-week quarters and is integrated with fundamental pharmacokinetic principles presented and immediately followed by relevant clinical case applications. By teaching the course in this manner, pharmacokinetic theory is continuously overlaid upon timely clinical examples, reinforcing important pharmacokinetic principles. This collaboration of disciplines ensures students have a comprehensive understanding of the fundamental pharmacokinetic principles and proper clinical application. This method also requires students to become actively engaged in the learning process by performing searches for relevant scientific and clinical pharmacokinetic data. This paper describes implementation and assessment of the effectiveness of this team-based approach to learning.


Pharmacokinetics I is a 4-quarter-hour recitation course taught in three 2-hour blocks each week. Pharmacokinetics II is a 3-quarter hour course taught as a recitation course with three 1.5-hour blocks each week. Rather than using a traditional group learning approach, the design was modeled after the classic team/work group structure used in many companies. Students were divided into teams of 8 or 9 students based on their final grades in the Pharmaceutical Calculations course, thus balancing levels of academic performance among the teams. With this distribution technique, the grade point average among teams varied by only +/- 0.2 based on a 4.0 scale. Teams were assigned a color designation as the team name and asked to elect a team leader and an assistant team leader.

The team leader acted as a facilitator, directing team organization, time management, and interaction. Additionally, the team leader served as the liaison to the faculty coordinator (ie, faculty team leader) for course issues raised by an individual or the team via completion of a weekly written report. The weekly team report provided a summary of team activities, attendance at meetings and in class, suggestions for improvement, and concerns with class material or structure. These reports were reviewed by the faculty team leader and discussed at the 1-hour weekly faculty team meetings as needed. …

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