Where and How to Search for Evidence in the Education Literature: The Wheel

By Poirier, Therese; Behnen, Erin | American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, May 2014 | Go to article overview

Where and How to Search for Evidence in the Education Literature: The Wheel


Poirier, Therese, Behnen, Erin, American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education


INTRODUCTION

Pharmacy faculty members are faced with many teaching challenges today including an emphasis on incorporating active-learning strategies using instructional technology tools; measuring learning and outcomes through such things as progress examinations, objective structured clinical examinations, rubrics, and portfolios; and incorporating various instructional strategies such as team-based learning, high-fidelity simulations, and inter-professional education. In the recommendations from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Task Force on Best Evidence Pharmacy Education, Hammer and colleagues recommended that a series of papers in The American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education (AJPE) on "how to's" for the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) and educational research is needed. (1) During the last few years, researchers have provided the academy with numerous key articles in the area of SoTL that guide the development of projects. (2-5) What is lacking is a guide to searching the educational literature. Even if faculty members do not perform SoTL or educational research, faculty members should have a scholarly approach to teaching, which requires knowing how and where to search for education literature beyond the pharmacy discipline that supports teaching. Having an awareness of the levels of evaluation used to appraise the educational literature is also important. The intent of this article is to guide faculty members in conducting a comprehensive and exhaustive literature search and in appraising the literature in preparation for publication of scholarship of teaching and learning, for educational research projects, and in being a teacher scholar. These guidelines are summarized-by the acronym WHEEL, which stands for where and how to search for evidence in the education literature. The analogy of a wheel is appropriate because as new information is learned and the search process is repeated, the wheel moves forward.

WHY TO SEARCH THE EDUCATION LITERATURE

Health professionals are familiar with the practice of evidence-based medicine for the best treatment of patients. For this purpose, they identify a question, search the literature, appraise the evidence, apply the evidence, and evaluate the outcomes. (6,7) This process is also applicable to teaching methods used to educate pharmacy students. In order for educators to take a scholarly approach to teaching, they must first review and be familiar with what is already known about different teaching methods. Evidence, including published literature as well as data collected internally, should be used whenever educators are doing anything from trying a new active-learning technique in the classroom to revising an entire curriculum. Searching the literature is a key component in this process. Reviewing the evidence prior to implementing a change can help to inform educators about potential pitfalls and best practices. A comprehensive literature search should be conducted to review all potentially valuable information. Assistance with how and where to search for education-related literature is useful as most pharmacy faculty scholars do not receive this training.

Published literature provides background support to indicate what is known about a specific area. It also assists in identifying the needs or unknowns in the particular area of study. Reviewing the background support and data then allows educators and researchers to formulate their specific ideas or research in an evidence-based manner and provides focus to support a unique project that would have a great impact in the classroom and could add to the literature. Literature from other disciplines or from higher education in general may have already evaluated a similar teaching method and what they found may be applicable to pharmacy education. Analyzing the existing evidence in light of the current proposed project is an important step for conducting research that matters. …

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