My name is Lone Holst. I am a pharmacist with a Ph.D. in “Use of herbal remedies in pregnancy”. I teach Social Pharmacy which is all about how pharmacists should do their work in a pharmacy or elsewhere. I am involved in a first semester course, FARM103 which is an introduction to the profession – I will get back to that – and an 8th semester course, FARM205 which consists of a few introductory lectures and a full semester of internship in a pharmacy. We are 2 permanently employed Associate Professors teaching the courses together with a Ph.D.-student and a teacher practitioner working 20% for us and 100 % in a pharmacy. In addition I supervise master students for their 5th year research project.

I “inherited” both courses from a colleague who retired some years ago, and we have made small changes over time. However, the FARM103 course is overdue for a revision and I think TALIDA can help me doing a better job with that. In addition, I think teaching is important and I would like to get better at it, to make it more interesting for the students to learn and to inspire them and get them to see that their profession is useful and important to society.

As I said, FARM103 is a first semester course and it is meant to be an introduction to Pharmacy and pharmacists. We want the students to get to know the profession, its challenges and possibilities and to find out what the life as a pharmacist can be like. Originally we gave lectures on topics like law, history of pharmacy, pharmaceutical terminology, the health system, epidemiology, side effects and intoxications, and we invited guest speakers who were pharmacists in different positions (hospital pharmacy, industry, authorities, global pharmacy, private pharmacies and medicines information) to tell about their work and answer questions. The students have 3 days of placement in a pharmacy. As time went by we tried out Problem Based Learning (PBL) for a couple of years, made the students give presentations on different topics, made them search for information and present it in the right way (“søk og skriv”), we tried peer-feedback on some assignments, and recently we have started to introduce Team Based Learning (TBL). Two years ago we changed from “4 hour written exam” to “portfolio” as a summative assessment. During this process of around 7 years we haven’t changed our learning objectives and we haven’t looked at the course as a whole – just changed bits and pieces.

This is where constructive alignment comes in – we need to rethink the course completely. What do we actually want the students to learn? I think we should have higher ambitions than just “to give them an introduction to the profession” but it is essential that we do that too because they need that from the beginning to see the point in other subjects taught later. Assessment is an important issue; no one failed the portfolio but when we had written exams, approx. 10% failed – mostly due to language problems. This gave us the opportunity to supervise students on the need for Norwegian language skills. They should be fluent to be able to do their job in a pharmacy or elsewhere in the health system safely, so if they don’t understand exam questions in their first semester, they need to work on it.

I intend to:

  • Redesign the learning objectives
    • Be more specific and a bit more ambitious than now
    • More reflection
  • Find suitable assessment methods – formative and (maybe) summative
    • Would like to try “contemporary issues journal” as social pharmacy is connected to what goes on in society
    • Don’t want to go back to written exam, but I will have to find ways to evaluate written and spoken language skills ( need individual work in addition to group)
    • Reflective notes
    • Feedback on all assessments
    • Make rubrics to evaluate student work. This will give them clear criteria to work for and enable me to compare over years.
  • Choose suitable learning activities:
    • Use TBL for as much as possible of the course. Might even challenge guest lecturers to try it (if we keep them on).
    • Placement in pharmacy should remain
    • Reflective notes
    • New activities?

Further thinking and discussion with colleagues is needed. A new version of the course should be ready for autumn 2018.

I think my students will learn more by doing more work themselves (TBL, assignments for placement days) and by discussing and reflecting more. The contemporary issues journal should make them understand the place of pharmacy in society and their contribution in the health services.

Does it work? I should be able to see that from the assessments and evaluations.

And does it work better than before? This is tricky because I don’t know what to compare. Marks? Portfolios have been graded pass/fail and nobody failed. We even had very few who failed the written exam used earlier. I could look at drop-out, but that means that I will have to wait for 5 years and drop-outs could be (and probably are) caused by a 1000 other things. Student evaluations have been good for years and we have taken them into account when we made plans for the next year (excluding guest lecturers who did not perform well, changing our own approach if something did not work out as expected). I need some supervision from TALIDA to find a way.

In addition to this project being very useful it is also fun and it is great to get to know people from other parts of the university. Though we work with very different subjects and think in different ways (arts and humanities vs medicine and natural sciences) we often struggle with similar things in teaching or can give each other new ideas. This is about personal development for us in addition to better education for our students.