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How do we improve skills required for critical thinking in pharmacy students?

How do we improve skills required for critical thinking in pharmacy students?

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How do we improve skills required for critical thinking in pharmacy students?

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  1. How do we improve skills required for critical thinking in pharmacy students? Jennifer Short, Betty Exintaris, Paul White & Sab Ventura Department of Pharmaceutical Biology, Monash University

  2. Monash University Teaching and Learning Plan “The development of Monash graduate attributes, particularly: communication skills; an enthusiastic interest and capacity for enquiry and research; the ability to articulate a sound argument; effective problem solving skills; the capacity for critical thought; the ability to work collaboratively and harmoniously and to assume leadership roles; and socially responsible and ethical attitudes.” Faculty of Pharmacy, Operational plan 2005-2007

  3. Background • Project aim • To replace a laboratory-based practical with a teaching and learning approach designed to facilitate the development of verbal communication skills, i.e. an in-class debate • Context • Group: 187 (2005) and 159 (2006) pharmacy students (PHA4041); anti-emetics, the gastrointestinal system, cancer and chemotherapy, adrenal, pituitary, thyroid and parathyroid glands, sex hormones and diabetes

  4. Predicted outcomes • An alternative environment for learning • Variability in the course design • A greater degree of student-driven learning • Personal freedom • Improved communication skills • Enhanced ‘quick thinking’ • Improved research and planning skills • An understanding of the mechanisms of ‘spin’ • An enhanced understanding of the influence of personal viewpoint, prior opinions and personal ethics

  5. Debate topics In 2006, students were given a list of topics and allowed to vote on the top six to be debated Topics were to align with the lecture content, but were not designed to substitute for the content of the laboratory practical Goal: interesting and relevant topics, equally able to be argued in the negative and positive Problem: allowing choice revealed a clash between interest and relevance

  6. Implementation Groups of 30 students, three debate sessions Topics were allocated in advance, but not their team position (i.e. affirmative or negative) On the day of debating students were divided into teams, given their team position and 90 min to prepare Peer assessments were collected at the conclusion of the debate At the end of the final debate session, an evaluation sheet seeking student feedback was collected

  7. What did you think of the debate process? • “It was a more effective method of examining issues that are important in the drug industry and pharmacology” • “Interesting (refreshing after 3 years of pracs)” • “I thought it was a great idea – increases team work and was also interesting to be a member of the audience” • “Very interesting, we can learn new topics in a very informative and yet relaxed method. It also makes us think of both advantages and disadvantages of various topics” • “Boosts confidence, helps in enhancing communication skills, helps build relationships with fellow students” • “Gave us a chance to think logically about a variety of subjects relating to human disease and how pharmacy can help public health” • “Debating is so much better, helping us to examine real life issues rather than sitting there looking at an organ bath”

  8. What did you think of the debate process? • “Debating has been good as it is more relevant to what we will be thinking about when we’re out in the workforce (as opposed to organ bath expts which never seem to turn out how its supposed to anyway)” • “Debating is great. We can improve our oral skills, and at the same time learn a lot. A very enjoyable session, and very useful for a pharmacist” • “Excellent process for improving our clinical pharmacy skills and communication skills. As such, the debates were useful but didn’t seem to improve our pharmacology knowledge significantly” • “Worthwhile exercise, just maybe not for pharmacology… probably in pharmacy practice” • “Not very consistent for students learning as only focus on your topic and if don’t have communicating/public speaking skills by now it’s not the p’cology departments problem”

  9. 58% The debates were relevant

  10. 85% The debate topics were interesting

  11. 58% The debate topics were relevant

  12. 55% Debating is a worthwhile exercise to be held in class

  13. 42% 40% Debating is an effective manner with which to examine pharmacological issues

  14. 39% 29% ‘Traditional’ pharmacology practical sessions are more appropriate

  15. 45% 35% There should be more debating – perhaps in third year

  16. 47% The debate arguments were balanced

  17. 73% The debate topics should be better aligned with the lecture topics of VCP4041

  18. 59% Debating helped me realise there are two sides to every argument

  19. 61% Debating helped me to more fully engage with the topic areas

  20. 58% Debating helped to improve my communication skills

  21. 53% Everyone (including reserves) should debate

  22. Problems identified and future plans • Selection of topics • Background information, starting references • Prior training in the skills required • Perceptions of peer-bias • Relevance to pharmacology? • Success? • Oral communication, engagement, critical thinking. • Student comment about procedure: “Merge both [sessions] together, maybe? ‘Traditional’ prac to provide basic info, lay foundations for argument. Debate after prac”

  23. The allocation of marks at the end of the sessions were fair

  24. In terms of assessment, the debates should be worth more