Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

A Roadmap for Educational Research in Pharmacy

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

A Roadmap for Educational Research in Pharmacy

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Educational research has undergone significant growth in recent years amid increasing demands for accountability, data-informed decision making, and evidence-based quality improvement. While governing bodies like the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education assess the effectiveness of current practices in pharmacy education, (1,2) curricular changes and pedagogical innovations are permeating colleges and schools of pharmacy. (3-7) Amid the many challenges and changes facing health professions and higher education, educators are uniquely positioned not only to re-engineer learning and curricula within colleges and schools of pharmacy, but to engage in educational research that goes beyond informing course redesign and truly guides the transformation of learning and curricula. Thoughtful consideration should be given to the ability of educational research to inform, empower, and transform faculty members and the academy as pharmacy educators strive to understand and improve curricula and educational outcomes in pharmacy.

While some debate surrounds its definition, educational research generally refers to the systematic and critical investigation of any aspect of education that advances knowledge and benefits society by allowing people to live fuller lives. (8) It draws from a wide range of philosophies, constructs, and disciplines, equipping researchers to engage a diverse array of methodologies and approaches in their studies.

Educational research differs distinctly from assessment and evaluation, although the latter 2 terms are often used interchangeably. Assessment, which provides ongoing feedback for targeted improvement, guides good practice. (9) In contrast, evaluation guides good decision-making by facilitating judgments based on performance quality. (10) Although these approaches are closely related and often complementary, educational research requires a systematic approach that results in knowledge that can guide theory, contribute to conceptual frameworks, and inform future research. (8) Results from assessments and evaluations can inform study design, inspire research questions, and provide support for educational research, but they do not meet the standards of rigor required for educational research (Table 1). (8-10)

Educational research also differs from the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). Defined as the systematic study of teaching and learning, SoTL involves answering questions about activities designed to promote student learning and improve teaching practices, and disseminating findings publicly. (11) SoTL focuses on practice-driven inquiries that are led by investigators (faculty members and teachers) with a vested interest in the issues under investigation and the critical experience necessary to assess change and understand subsequent findings. (12) This approach has provided significant insight into student learning and effective educational practices; however, the scope of educational research can extend well beyond teaching and learning. Educational leadership, enrollment modeling, student activism, economic impact, admissions practices, student debt, faculty equity, and organizational effects are among the numerous topics that can be examined with educational research. Educational research may also focus on populations outside of the local setting or on topics external to the investigator's vested interests.

A growing body of literature demonstrates the use of educational research in pharmacy and health professions education. Journals such as the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education frequently publish empirical studies investigating various facets of pharmacy education, including student outcomes, faculty development, and instructional design. Similarly, Academic Medicine, Journal of Nursing Education, and Medical Education publish research on a wide range of educational issues that include innovative approaches to traditional and clinical teaching, faculty development, and curricular design. …

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