Following a significant change in emphasis at the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC – the regulatory body for pharmacy) we needed to design a curriculum for accreditation that would meet new standards in which interdisciplinarity was seen as important, blending not just across academic disciplines but also between academia and the pharmacy profession (involving experiential learning) and interprofessional learning across health professions (working with Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Glasgow).
The curriculum we designed has three essential features: (i) we began by identifying graduate attributes – what qualities should a Strathclyde pharmacy graduate have?; (ii) the focus of all classes is on student learning, not our teaching – we have shifted away where possible from lectures to workshops and student led work; (iii) student skills development including both pharmacy specific and transferable skills.
Pharmacy specific skills are developed by effectively integrating all practical and experiential learning with what is being taught in workshops and lectures; by having students reflect together on their experiential learning in pharmacies when they are back in the University; by engaging in interprofessional learning with medical and dental students to work together on common problems (which could be practical or more theoretical – prescribing medicines or ethical dilemma for example).
Transferable skills are either explicitly highlighted in class (explaining why certain things are being done and what might be got out of it); or better, professionally taught. We engaged a professional role-play company to work with our students on developing good interpersonal understanding and communication skills, both fundamental to good clinical practice.
The positive impact on students has been in their level of engagement and their ability even in Year 2 to undertake experiential learning in hospital and community pharmacies – everything we deliver has to answer the question "why does a pharmacist need to know this?" and students are encouraged to be independent learners and – more importantly – to see themselves as pharmacists from the get go.
For staff the most positive element was the act of creating the curriculum and then managing its implementation. It was a collaborative exercise – within the university and with the wider pharmacy community - sharing ideas, knowledge and skills to define something new and better than what had existed previously. The degree of enthusiasm shown for teaching by all staff concerned was exemplary.
We are doing this again, but with the biomedical sciences curriculum. The key thing staff should know before starting this is how much time and effort it is going to consume. That has to be offset with jam tomorrow – if we get this right we can produce a more effective, efficient and enjoyable programme for staff and students.
We worked with students, staff, other Universities and the profession of pharmacy to create this curriculum. Having this level of internal and external engagement is hugely helpful.
The challenges are twofold: (i) getting everyone, internal and external, on board to appreciate the cost: benefit analysis of doing this; (ii) time – this requires key staff leading the programme to give up very significant amounts of time, and everyone else to give up just significant amounts of time.
This was a substantial programme – we have over 140 domestic students throughout the course, with articulating students joining later. Scale in terms of student numbers should not be an issue – it's the principles that are important. What is a problem is having to introduce a new programme while simultaneously rolling out an old one.
Many of the core lessons here are totally applicable throughout any University – focus on graduate attributes; focus all the time on intended learning outcomes that will deliver those attributes; put student learning at the heart of everything – talk with students not at them, challenge them from the start, foster independence; teach skills explicitly and in context; create assessment that truly reflect the intended learning outcomes and which are easily manageable using contemporary methods that work for large classes – don't create unnecessary work. And focus on staff as well – make the curriculum as effective and efficient as possible to deliver quality education whatever the class size.
Slides of the new curriculum. Curriculum.pptx