Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Concept Mapping to Evaluate an Undergraduate Pharmacy Curriculum

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Concept Mapping to Evaluate an Undergraduate Pharmacy Curriculum

Article excerpt


The stated purpose of a pharmacy degree program tends to be to provide students with the knowledge and skills they will need to practise as a pharmacist. However, in the face of an explosion of knowledge and rapid changes in healthcare management and treatment, much energy is being expended to ensure that the content is up-to-date and relevant to practice. This process can result in an overcrowding of the curriculum, with each topic deemed to be of critical importance. (1) Further, to ensure that the vast amount of content is covered, pharmacy curricula may rely on delivering the content through lectures where the students tend to remain passive. (2) These lectures are often supported by tutorials or laboratory practicals to give students the opportunity to develop the necessary skills and to apply the knowledge learned.

As the modern world becomes increasingly uncertain and complex, educators can no longer assume that the provision of knowledge and skills will be enough to transform students into pharmacists. (3,4) Educators also must consider: Who are students becoming? What characteristics are they developing? What sort of professionals will they become as a result of their curricular experiences? These sorts of questions point to what has been described in the literature as an ontological approach to the curriculum. (3-5) While these theories acknowledge the importance of thinking about the knowledge within the curriculum, they suggest that another dimension for envisioning and developing a curriculum is needed to enable our graduates to cope with the modern world. At the core of these ideas is a new way of considering the curriculum as "an educational vehicle for the student's own journey of becoming, of the student coming into a certain kind of being." (4) In other words, the curriculum is seen as identity forming.

Before educators can view their college's or school's curriculum from this perspective, they must first consider what their assumptions about education and learning are. As described above, the existing approach to the curriculum tends to be centered on the acquisition of knowledge and skills, that is, a cognitive view of learning. With this view, learning is seen as an individual process and focuses on the mind. This is evident in colleges' and schools' attempts to make learning outcomes explicit so they can assess whether students demonstrate that they have achieved these learning outcomes.

This cognitive approach to learning tends not to give consideration to the type of persons students are becoming as a result of these experiences. The risk of this approach is that the curriculum may not provide opportunities for students to establish their identities as pharmacists. Similarly, Kegan argues that "students can learn cognitive skills, yet not be able to use them to decide what to believe because they have no internal sense of identity."6 Hence, there is a need for pharmacy educators to think about learning differently. The theory of social learning gives consideration to the type of person students are becoming as a result of their learning experiences. (7) The characteristics and functions of pharmacists have been described through the "seven star pharmacist": caregiver, decision-maker, communicator, manager, life-long learner, teacher, leader, and researcher. (8)

Within this theory, learning is believed to occur through participation in social practice, ie, "the whole person acting in the world." (9) That is, learning occurs through participation in practice and through participation students learn particular ways of doing things, ways of thinking, and ways of acting. Hence, as a result of learning, we think, act, and do things differently. Learning becomes transformational.

If educators shift their view of and focus for learning from cognitive to social, then their way of designing the curriculum will change. Rather than attempting to make students' learning outcomes explicit in the curriculum, the curriculum is seen as identity forming and becomes "an itinerary of transformative experiences of participation. …

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