Learning Bridge: Curricular Integration of Didactic and Experiential Education

By Karimi, Reza; Arendt, Cassandra S. et al. | American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, April 2010 | Go to article overview

Learning Bridge: Curricular Integration of Didactic and Experiential Education


Karimi, Reza, Arendt, Cassandra S., Cawley, Pauline, Buhler, Amber V., Elbarbry, Fawzy, Roberts, Sigrid C., American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education


INTRODUCTION

In the Mandarin language, the word "learning" is not 1 word, but rather 2: the first means "to study" and the second means "to practice." Similarly, pharmacy education has 2 major components: didactic and experiential. Although the components are interrelated, integration within the curriculum requires careful planning on the part of both experiential and didactic educators. Effective integration of didactic lectures with experiential training has been linked to increased student learning. (1,2) Conversely, in the nursing field, a lack of continuity between didactic material and experiential training may contribute to the development of student cynicism. (3) Curricular integration, however, poses a challenge for PharmD programs for many reasons including lack of correlation between didactic and experiential material in the curriculum, scheduling challenges, lack of awareness among pharmaceutical science faculty members about clinical practices, and lack of awareness among faculty members of the benefits that an integrated approach could bring to student learning. Because of factors like preceptors' workload, scheduling, lack of familiarity with the didactic curricular schedule, and poorly defined expectations from the educational institution, it is a challenging task for them to bridge the gap between what students are learning in didactic courses and the clinical skills needed for pharmacy practice.

Despite data indicating positive effects of an integrated curriculum on student learning, (4-6) there is a paucity of pharmacy colleges/schools that integrate their didactic and experiential curricula in "real time." As many colleges and schools of pharmacy depart from a teacher-centered environment and move toward a learner-centered environment, the classroom is no longer the center of student education. (7) In a learner-centered environment, students actively participate in curricular activities and reflect on their learning. Many professional healthcare programs' accreditation agencies emphasize the important role that integration between didactic and experiential curricula plays in student learning. (8-10) The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) states in standard No. 14 that, "The pharmacy practice experiences must integrate, apply, reinforce, and advance the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values developed through the other components of the curriculum." (11) In addition, ACPE guideline 14.4 states that, "The introductory pharmacy practice experiences should begin early in the curriculum, be interfaced with didactic course work that provides an introduction to the profession, and continue in a progressive manner leading to entry into the advanced pharmacy practice experiences." (11) These statements emphasize that integration between didactic and experiential components of the PharmD curriculum should be a well-defined and well-structured curricular activity.

The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy's Center for the Advancement of Pharmaceutical Care (CAPE) encourages faculty members and pharmacy institutions to enrich their curricular outcomes to prepare pharmacists for their evolving important role in pharmaceutical care. (12) The Pacific University School of Pharmacy is a learner-centered environment that delivers a unique modified block curriculum in which one block is taught at a time, with each block varying in length depending on the topic being presented. Within this 3-year curriculum students are encouraged to be active and integrative learners. (13) The school's IPPEs begin the second week of the first year (IPPE 1) and continue throughout the second year (IPPE 2 and IPPE 3), with students spending an 8-hour day at their assigned pharmacy once every other week. Students are assigned to a single IPPE preceptor during their first year, in which their tasks are legally limited to the functions of a pharmacy technician.

Theoretically, beginning IPPEs early in the curriculum would allow students the opportunity to correlate and apply didactic classroom materials with practice experiences throughout their first year. …

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