Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Student Pharmacists' Perceptions of Testing and Study Strategies

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Student Pharmacists' Perceptions of Testing and Study Strategies

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

An important responsibility in educating student pharmacists is instilling in them a commitment to lifelong learning so that as pharmacists they will be able to maintain and expand their knowledge and skills to better serve patients, the profession, and society as a whole. Ironically, it is the responsibility of educators to place more responsibility for learning on student pharmacists as they progress through PharmD curricula. Jungnickel and colleagues (1) state that "self-directed learning will be required for pharmacists to be viewed as pharmacotherapy experts by other health professionals." ACPE Standard 11 states that teaching and learning methods should "foster the development and maturation of critical thinking and problem-solving skills ... and enable students to transition from dependent to active, self-directed, lifelong learners." (2) Pharmacy students should be able to determine their individual developmental needs, a domain encompassed within self-regulated learning. (1) Regardless of which term is preferred, be it self-directed learning, professional development, self-regulated learning, or lifelong learning, all point to the need for student pharmacists to take control of their learning, not only in pharmacy school, but also in the years that follow as pharmacy practitioners.

Monitoring cognition or metacognition is essentially knowledge about knowledge and is used to monitor and regulate cognitive processes. (3) Pharmacy students should possess the skills necessary to employ metacognitive strategies prior to completing the PharmD degree and, preferably, early in the curriculum. Content knowledge in the pharmacy profession and in health care in general expands at a rate much faster than that at which curricula could be updated to ensure that learners are exposed to and comprehend all knowledge regarding topics important to the profession. Effective professional development relies on students' abilities to monitor learning and make changes as necessary to increase learning. However, college students receive minimal instruction on how to learn or regulate learning. (4) Research regarding the extent to which self-regulated learning strategies are taught to and employed by pharmacy students as compared with the general college student population is lacking. Student pharmacists, in general, are perceived to be high achievers; however, high achievement scores are not necessarily predictive of learning strategies suitable for a profession that requires lifelong learning. In other words, the type of learning strategies students use to perform well academically and achieve above average grades may not be the type of learning strategies that best serve student pharmacists as they develop into knowledgeable practitioners.

Popovich has suggested that negative learning experiences in pharmacy school could result in students developing a mindset inconducive to lifelong learning. (5) The amount of and importance associated with examinations in pharmacy curricula could result in student pharmacists who have a short-term (eg, learning for examinations) rather than long-term perspective on learning, eg, learning for a lifetime. Short-term learning is commonly driven by deadlines or an upcoming critical event as opposed to systematic monitoring of learning. (4) Whereas this method of learning may allow many students to succeed from a grade/achievement perspective, the amount of long-term retention garnered from some strategies used to study for tests is questionable. (6,7)

Pharmacy courses often involve few administered tests (eg, administration of only a midterm and final examination or 3 examinations per semester) that comprise a large percentage of students' course grades. Tests often are used for 2 purposes: to determine how much students have learned, and to assign grades. While these are valid reasons for administering tests, tests can serve an additional purpose: increasing learning. …

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