Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

A Capstone Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience in Research

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

A Capstone Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience in Research

Article excerpt


In higher education, a capstone experience is a culminating experience in which students are expected to apply knowledge gained from the curriculum to a personal or academic experience, where the focus is on synthesis and integration rather than acquiring new knowledge and skills. (1,2) Capstone experiences can be organized as: (1) an interdisciplinary course; (2) a discipline-based course that pulls together learning from the program of study; or (3) a course or series of activities that permit students to demonstrate their applied knowledge relative to an external requirement or competence. (2) However they are structured, the pedagogical approaches necessary for student enjoyment and success depend on the presence of several factors: collaborative learning, self-directed learning, problem-based learning, and other learner-centered instructional strategies that encourage critical-thinking, integration, reflection, and synthesis. (2) Thus, the activities or assignments in the capstone experience should require students to apply the knowledge gained in the course lecture portion of the curriculum to a real-world situation using higher-order thinking skills.

Many disciplines use capstone experiences or senior projects to assess student learning across the curriculum, eg, sociology, (3,4) engineering, (5) and accounting. (6) Additionally, many colleges and universities have adopted the capstone or senior assignment as part of their institution's assessment program. (7) The methods used to assess students' work are discipline-specific and range from basic to rigorous. Basic methods include requiring students to present their work publicly as an exhibit, performance, or poster that is judged in some way. An example of a rigorous approach involves systematically analyzing projects for evidence of program quality and using this information to make curricular changes. (7) Whichever method is used should provide useful insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the curriculum.

Since 1988, 3 studies have described the role of research in doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) programs across the United States. (8-10) These studies looked at the percentage of programs that required research coursework and a research project that included data collection, analysis, and a written report with or without a presentation. They found that the percentage of programs that required coursework in research methods essentially remained the same from 1988 (50%) to 1997 (54%) to 2007 (53%). The percentage that required a course in drug information/ literature evaluation rose from 78% in 1988, to 98% in 1997, and then decreased to 94% in 2007. The percentage that required an extensive research project was 22% in 1988, dropped to 14% in 1997, and rose to 15% in 2007.

Since 1992, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville has required all undergraduates to complete a senior assignment that demonstrates educational competency within the academic major. (11) This requirement arises from the university's belief that the ability to integrate a general education perspective into one's academic discipline is an essential mark of a university-educated person. (12) The university's Senior Assignment program was ranked as a national model for learning assessment by the Association of American Colleges and Universities in January 2007. (13) For 4 consecutive years, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville has been recognized by US News and World Report, America's Best College Rankings, as among the top 17 in the nation in the senior capstone experience category for its comprehensive program measuring the competency of graduating seniors. (14)

Within broad limits, the structure of the senior assignment is defined by each of the schools within the university. The broad limits are defined as: (1) each student must demonstrate a grasp of general education as well as the major discipline itself; (2) the assessment must be high stakes to assure motivation; and (3) the departmental faculty members must view and assess the results. …

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