Month: November 2014

Reimagining the biggest course that never happened

In my prior position, I was in charge of implementing a sequence of courses called “Scholarship.” The charge was to instill a culture of scholarly thinking into the PharmD curriculum. I coded that into getting the students to ask questions about how to improve quality of care, services provided, address workflow issues, and to do so in a systematic fashion. The scientific method is not something to fear, and is not reserved for ivory tower researchers. When faced with 140 budding pharmacists, most of whom are aiming themselves at retail pharmacy, this becomes a daunting task. For three years, I implemented what had been previously developed (a sequence of courses spanning three years of the PharmD curriculum), with some tweaks here and there for following years. Eventually, some larger changes were made. This was, after all, a brand new sequence, and would take a while to reach steady state.

It wasn’t working. I was increasingly unhappy with the way the sequence was going, and the students weren’t happy with it either. It felt disjointed and episodic. When you are trying to accomplish something, and what you are doing is not working, you need to change something, right? Sometimes, having a spouse who is outside your field is a useful thing. Mine tends to put me farther out in left field than I thought I could go, to pick me up out of my thought box and make me look at it from the outside. When I feel stuck, that is the time to consider your out-of-the-box left field ideas with a new level of “what if….” From this process was born the biggest course that never happened.

One hundred forty students. Three years. One real project. Start to finish. Let’s do this! Then, let’s start crossing years…they can participate in each other’s projects, add onto them, critique them…then maybe we can partner with other schools to increase the reach, generalizability, sample sizes…let’s take it interprofessional too! You see where this can get out of control very quickly, in a fun and exciting way, right?

I started to implement parts of this where I thought I could do so without rocking the boat TOO much with the sanctioned course sequence. Instead of pulling in disjointed examples for different topics, I reframed things using the same example…the one they were developing. When talking about developing a research question, we did it. Together, as a class of 140, we developed a question. Sure, they had more than one idea, and this led to those who felt strongly defending the question in which they were most interested. Why was it important? Now we are getting into background and significance. How might we approach answering this question? Now we are talking about methodology and reviewing study designs. What are our measurable outcomes? Now we talk about endpoints, operational definitions, levels of measurement. To anyone who has taught or been through a research methods course, none of this sounds particularly novel or interesting. Doing it with 140 budding pharmacy practitioners, however, who are not training to be researchers, this was a fun process.

Before I could really start to make big changes, though, I ended up in my current position, no longer at the helm of this sequence. All this has managed to do, however, is toss my thoughts even further. Considering my new position, you know where this is going. That’s right, online. How would I do this now? There would be a course website. There would be discussion, links, voting…the written assignments, reflective pieces, guided questions I had them write about this process would be blog posts. I wonder what we might crowdsource. I wonder what collaborators I would find. I wonder what knowledge these budding pharmacists (and whoever else ended up in this space) would contribute to the collective intelligence of the…profession of pharmacy…health sciences community…community at large…Universe.