Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Investigating the Correlation between Pharmacy Student Performance on the Health Science Reasoning Test and a Critical Thinking Assignment

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Investigating the Correlation between Pharmacy Student Performance on the Health Science Reasoning Test and a Critical Thinking Assignment

Article excerpt

Objective. To determine whether there is a correlation between pharmacy students' scores on the Health Science Reasoning Test (HSRT) and their grade on a package insert assignment designed to assess critical thinking.

Methods. The HSRT was administered to first-year pharmacy students during a critical-thinking course in the spring semester. In the same semester, a required package insert assignment was completed in a pharmacokinetics course. To determine whether there was a relationship between HSRT scores and grades on the assignment, a Spearman's rho correlation test was performed.

Results. A very weak but significant positive correlation was found between students' grades on the assignment and their overall HSRT score (r=0.19, p<0.05), as well as deduction (a scale score of the HSRT; r=0.26, p<0.01).

Conclusion. Based on a very weak but significant correlation to HSRT scores, this study demonstrated the potential of a package insert assignment to be used as one of the components to measure critical-thinking skills in pharmacy students.

Keywords: Health Science Reasoning Test (HSRT), critical thinking, deduction, pharmacokinetics, package insert


A pharmacist's role as a medication therapy manager requires the use of problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. Pharmacy education is therefore transitioning from knowledge-based to competency-based curricula that emphasize the development of critical-thinking skills. Inherent with this shift in androgogy is the need for teaching methods and assessment tools that effectively promote and evaluate these skills. Standards for the professional program in pharmacy issued in 2016 by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) (1) stress the importance of implementing critical-thinking skills in pharmacy school curricula. Faculty members are encouraged to employ teaching methods that stimulate higher-order thinking, problem-solving, and clinical-reasoning skills. According to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), critical thinking and problem-solving are two essential skills all pharmacy graduates should possess. (2)

Critical thinking is defined as "the process of purposeful, self-regulatory judgment. (3) The critical-thinking process requires interpretation, analysis, evaluation, inference, explanation, and self-regulation. (2) Validated instruments used to measure critical-thinking skills include the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (WGCTA), (4) California Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST), (5) California Critical Thinking Disposition Index (CCTDI), (5) and the Health Science Reasoning Test (HSRT). (6) The HSRT, a specialized form of the CCTST, is designed specifically for health science professionals and students in health science programs. Results from the HSRT provide an overall critical-thinking score, a percentile ranking, and the HSRT scale-scores of analysis, inference, evaluation induction and deduction.

The usefulness of these commercially available instruments in assessing critical thinking in health science students has been explored in several studies. These studies include candidate selection relating to admissions and/or progression, (7-11) curricula assessment, (12) and evaluating improvement in critical-thinking skills after a particular intervention or longitudinally. (13-16) Two studies to date have used these instruments to validate custom assessments to measure critical thinking. (17,18) Adamcik and colleagues showed that student performance on only one component (puzzles) of a custom computer assessment program was significantly correlated to WGCTA scores (r=0.31, p<0.05). (17) Similarly, Buur and colleagues demonstrated a weak positive correlation (r=0.22, p<0.05) between a custom assessment and deduction (a scale score of the CCTST). (18) Neither of these studies used the HSRT in validating their assessments. In light of these findings, effective assessment measures of critical-thinking skills validated by the HSRT still need to be developed. …

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