Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning Strategy Enhances Students' Higher Level Thinking Skills in a Pharmaceutical Sciences Course

By Soltis, Robert; Verlinden, Nathan et al. | American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, February 2015 | Go to article overview

Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning Strategy Enhances Students' Higher Level Thinking Skills in a Pharmaceutical Sciences Course


Soltis, Robert, Verlinden, Nathan, Kruger, Nicholas, Carroll, Ailey, Trumbo, Tiffany, American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education


INTRODUCTION

Developing students' critical-thinking and problem-solving skills is an educational goal common to perhaps every academic program or discipline. Critical to achieving this goal is the use of teaching and learning strategies that engage students and promote development of the process skills of application, analysis, and evaluation. Yet, despite a growing body of evidence demonstrating the efficacy and superiority of active-learning strategies and national reports calling for the adoption of these methods, (1-4) instructional strategies in science and math disciplines tend to be passive, leading to student disengagement and contributing to the "leaky pipeline" of science. (5-9) The reasons science faculty members give for being reluctant to adopt active-learning strategies include the significant amount of time needed to prepare materials, the reluctance to reduce the amount of material covered, and the perception that students are unwilling to engage in or prepare for these types of classroom activities. (10-12) In the pharmacy academy, active-learning strategies are recognized as important to achieving educational outcomes and, therefore, widely adopted in professional programs. (13-15) However, the use of active-learning strategies is not uniformly distributed. Faculty members in the biomedical and pharmaceutical sciences are 3 times less likely than faculty members in the clinical and social and administrative sciences to use these techniques. (15)

Process-oriented guided inquiry learning (POGIL) is a teaching strategy that was initially developed in college chemistry and biology courses and is used successfully to engage students in the classroom and to promote learning. (16-20) The POGIL strategy begins with introducing students to a model, diagram, problem, or set of data and then requires them to work as a team to answer a series of questions leading to development of a concept or principle (guided inquiry). Thus, it uses elements found in team-based and problem-based learning. The POGIL strategy is based on the idea that learning has 2 components: content and process. While content is important for operating in any discipline, the ability to develop a deep understanding of a concept and the ability to apply that knowledge to solve novel problems--the process component of learning--is the critical skill. (21,22) The process skills and team-based activities associated with the POGIL strategy provide a means to achieve the CAPE 2013 Outcomes of producing learners, problem solvers, collaborators, and communicators. (23)

This study was designed to assess the effectiveness of the POGIL strategy on enhancing students' problem-solving and critical-thinking skills in a required course in the professional pharmacy program. Introduction to Pharmaceutical Sciences is a first professional (P1) year course designed to integrate foundational material from the biological and chemical sciences into an understanding of the basis for drug behavior in the body. It is a concepts-based course that prepares students for later course work in pharmacology, medicinal chemistry, pharmacokinetics, and pharmaceutics. Given that deep understanding, long-term retention, and development of problem-solving and critical-thinking skills are necessary for success in a professional pharmacy program, we felt implementing the POGIL strategy at an early stage of the curriculum would provide students a better foundation of learning skills for later course work in the pharmaceutical sciences. Our hypothesis was that using the POGIL strategy would enhance students' problem-solving and critical-thinking skills as ultimately evidenced by students' improved performance on examination questions requiring higher-level thinking skills. We sought to determine: (1) if instruction using the POGIL strategy increased student performance on examinations, specifically their performance on questions requiring higher-level thinking skills; (2) what students' perceptions of the POGIL strategy were; and (3) how the POGIL strategy impacted students' perceptions of their ability to attain learning objectives. …

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