Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Developing an Assessment Process for a Master's of Science Degree in a Pharmaceutical Sciences Program

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Developing an Assessment Process for a Master's of Science Degree in a Pharmaceutical Sciences Program

Article excerpt


Program assessment has been receiving increased attention in higher education and pharmaceutical education in particular for many years. A search of American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education archives for publications between 1990-2003 using the search terms "abilities-based assessing," "abilities-based assessment," "assessment outcomes," "assess outcomes," and "programmatic assessment" found 48 articles or notes and 116 abstracts. (1) The report of the 2003-2004 American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) Academic Affairs Committee described steps in the continuing call for and development of resources for schools and colleges of pharmacy to use in demonstrating program effectiveness. The report indicated that a useful assessment program incorporates results of institutional research to identify; "(1) evidence of effectiveness, and (2) indicators of needed change in a continuous quality improvement environment." (2)

An increase has occurred in program-level assessment at US schools of pharmacy. A survey by Bouldin and Wilkin in 2000 found that only 29% of respondents had a formally adopted assessment plan in place. (3) Many institutions relied on tools such as North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) results, although this does not allow for assessment of relevant clinical skills and does not provide information related to institution-specific program outcomes. In 2006, Kirschenbaum et al reported that 60% of responding schools had a formally adopted assessment program, although a large percentage still relied at least in part on NAPLEX or state licensure examination results (85% and 44% respectively). (4) The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) Standards for Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) Programs, adopted in 2007, place a higher emphasis on outcomes assessment, suggesting that a survey done today would show most or all US schools of pharmacy have some sort of formally adopted assessment program. (5)

Anderson et al reviewed changes in the definition of assessment as it became more widespread, looking for similarities and themes. They concluded that although emphasis varied, authors consistently agreed that assessment consisted of a systematic and continuous process, emphasized student learning with the cornerstone being what students can do, and focused on improvement of educational programs. (1) The last component is often the most difficult, with many programs failing to "close the loop" and use the information gathered through assessment to actually make improvements to the educational program.

Assessment of academic program effectiveness is becoming more and more common at all levels, not just in professional programs. Legislatures demand evidence of effectiveness from public institutions as part of the justification for continued funding, while accrediting bodies are increasing the degree to which program assessment is part of accreditation standards. (6,7) Parents and students are also interested in the benefits accrued from the investment in an education. Therefore, there is increasing pressure to demonstrate the benefit of academic programs.

Faculty members are generally familiar with course-level assessment. They are comfortable with the tools used, such as tests, quizzes, homework, presentations, and papers. Faculty members understand the role these types of assessment play in their courses. Faculty members interested in developing as teachers or improving student outcomes in their courses will explore ways to provide formative assessment to improve student learning, or summative assessment to assign student grades. The results of these assessments are collected with student learning in mind; however, this information is also analyzed to document faculty members' effectiveness as teachers and for promotion and tenure dossiers.

There can be resistance among faculty members to participate in program-level assessment when such programs are first proposed. …

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