Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

An Active-Learning Assignment Requiring Pharmacy Students to Write Medicinal Chemistry Examination Questions

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

An Active-Learning Assignment Requiring Pharmacy Students to Write Medicinal Chemistry Examination Questions

Article excerpt


Actively engaging millennial students in the classroom and involving them in a course beyond the classroom has been a challenge to the teaching community, including pharmacy educators. The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) guidelines 10.2 and 11.2 emphasize the need for pharmacy faculty members and preceptors to incorporate newer active-learning strategies to improve the critical-thinking and problem-solving skills of these students. (1) Active learning has been a buzz word since the 1980s and there is a plethora of literature published on this topic. (2-7)

Over time, pharmacy colleges and schools across the country have developed several active-learning strategies to engage students in the classroom, such as think-pair-share, classroom discussions, minute papers, student debates, and class games. (8) Active learning is superior to passive learning, but student engagement in the learning process is still lacking in many of the implemented active-learning strategies. (9) "Learning by teaching" is one of the successful teaching strategies that was introduced in some German schools to better engage students in the active-learning process. In this approach, learners perform teaching-related activities. This guided active-learning process is an efficient learning strategy that improves student investment in the course. (10)

In this study, we followed a "learning by teaching" approach that involved students writing multiple-choice examination questions, a task usually performed by the instructor. The major objectives of this study were to increase student appreciation for medicinal chemistry; provide an additional study platform to improve student learning; and engage students in teaching-related activities.


At the Texas A & M Health Science Center College of Pharmacy, there is no separate medicinal chemistry course that relates directly to disease states. Instead, all disease states are taught in 8 integrated pharmacotherapy courses. In each of these integrated courses, physiology, pharmacology, medicinal chemistry, and pharmacotherapy are taught sequentially for a given disease. The active-learning exercise presented in this paper was instituted in the medicinal chemistry component of the Integrated Pharmacotherapy VI course during fall 2011. This is a 5-credit-hour course with 15 hours assigned to the medicinal chemistry component. Topics covered included anti-inflammatory drugs, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, allergic rhinitis, benign prostatic hyperplasia, erectile dysfunction, urinary incontinence, arthritis and gout, and peptic ulcer disease.

All students enrolled in the Integrated Pharmacotherapy VI course in fall 2011 were divided randomly in to 15 groups (5 to 6 students per group) at the beginning of the semester and each group was assigned 1 lecture for which to construct multiple-choice examination questions. All students were provided detailed instructions for constructing the examination questions (Appendix 1). To construct more meaningful questions, students were encouraged to make notes and consider the most-stressed points in class. Each group was asked to write 5 or 6 examination questions depending on the number of students in the group. After constructing the questions, the students had to match each question with 1 or more of the provided learning objectives and justify all right and wrong answer choices for the question. Each group member was responsible for evaluating all of the group's questions for accuracy and completeness. The students submitted the completed assignment using Blackboard (Blackboard Inc., Washington, DC) for a group grade. Students were required to write questions and submit their assignment within 48 hours of their assigned lecture.

Accuracy and completeness of the student-submitted questions as well as feedback for all choices were graded based on the rubric provided in Table 1. …

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