Dr Mark Dallas, School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy
Within the School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy, coursework on a Part Two Pharmacy module, Therapeutics and Medicines Optimisation B (PM2B), was redesigned to reflect the multidisciplinary nature of the new module. In their assessed work, students demonstrated a better appreciation of the interconnectivity of the disciplines of Pharmacy, and students also expressed their enjoyment of the redesigned assessment.
- Redesign coursework to reflect the multidisciplinary nature of PM2B.
- Implement and assess a learning exercise that allows Pharmacy students to integrate their understanding of different Pharmacy disciplines.
In 2011 the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), the regulating body for the pharmacy profession within England, Scotland and Wales and the body responsible for accreditation of the Masters of Pharmacy degree course at the University of Reading, adopted a new set of standards for the initial education and training of pharmacists. The first criteria of Standard 5 stressed the need for integrated curricula. With modules within Pharmacy at the University of Reading being altered to reflect these standards, the existing coursework structures were not suited, as they would not have aligned to the joint nature of the new modules.
The aims, delivery and assessment of the module’s coursework were completely redesigned. Previously, students had been assessed solely by a written report, and the datasets used only reflected one discipline of pharmacy.
The new coursework that was devised was aligned with a modern day multidisciplinary drug discovery programme, with the intention being that this would allow students to appreciate the integrative nature of pharmacy as a science, and the multidisciplinary nature of their subject.
There were four assessed components that comprised the module’s coursework. A project report contributed 50% of the coursework final mark; a poster presentation 20%; reflective diaries 15%; and engagement 15%. By having multiple types of assessment it was hoped that students would engage with the topics, and that it would promote deep learning, while allowing students an opportunity to demonstrate a variety of skill sets. The poster presentation and project reports saw students assessed as groups. To assess engagement, a rubric was created, rating students on their academic engagement and their group engagement based on clearly defined criteria.
The redesigned assessment was enjoyed by students, and in their assessed work students consistently demonstrated a sufficient understanding of the interconnectivity of the disciplines of Pharmacy. Marks on the written report, however, were lower than had been hoped, and suggested that some adjustment to this aspect of assessment were necessary.
Having the coursework comprise different assessment types was valuable as it allowed staff to gain an insight into student knowledge retention, critical thinking, and their ability to work in a wider context.
The written report represented an assessment format with which students would be familiar, given the format of assessments at Part One. The value of having students produce a written report was that it allowed students to be tested on their application, rather than simple obtainment, of knowledge to address a problem.
Having students produce a poster presentation as part of their assessment on the module encouraged students to utilise different skills in their work. Communication skills, which had previously not been assessed in the module, but are an important skill that the University of Reading seeks to develop in its graduates, became a central element of assessment. By having to produce a poster that would then be presented to their peers, students were encouraged to engage deeply with the topic, and to take pride in what they created, and created an opportunity for peer learning.
Having group work as an assessed element was of great value in a multidisciplinary module. With group members having different strengths within the group, they are able to make a valuable contribution, and benefit from learning from others’ strengths in turn. While group work does introduce the possibility for ‘free-riding’, whereby students do not engage and instead rely on the rest of the group to deliver a good final mark, and this was something that students commented on in their feedback, the strength of group assessment is the key communication and collaborative skills it demands.
The creation of reflective diaries is especially pertinent to students in healthcare professions, as reflective writing is a central element of their continuing professional development. An additional and unforeseen benefit of this assessment was the insight it provided into students’ thought processes, which was valuable for making adjustments to the module.
Assessing student engagement was one of the challenging aspects of the redesigned assessment. Having a clear rubric made marking a more objective process.
To address the issues that were introduced by having group work assessed, a session on group dynamics has been introduced to the module in order to better set expectations. The skills addressed in this session will be valuable to students not only in this module, but can also be applied across their academic and professional experience.
A further innovation has been the use of online project management tools. This has both allowed students to better manage their work and engagement, and also allows assessors access to evidence to help with marking, and allows group work to be better monitored.