This type of assessment mirrors practice that students will be moving into the following year. It uses the skills they have developed in extracting relevant data from published papers to provide an answer to a clinical problem in an evidence based way that would guide future management of a patient.
On graduation our students will need to be able to provide concise factual information that is not based on published guidelines but is based on their judgement of clinical evidence. This assessment mirrors the work of either a community pharmacist or a pharmacist based in a medicines information department.
Students liked the time limited task that they were set and the clinical relevance of the task undertaken. Feedback at the student-staff committee included comments about being able to “feel like a professional”, although there were comments that the limit on words (500) was too short. (The length reflects what they would be expected to deliver in practice – concise and to the point.)
Staff liked the assessment because it was focused and relevant to students' learning and had defined outcomes that were measurable.
We worked closely with pharmacy practitioners in the NHS to develop the questions and model answers based on real questions asked of pharmacists – this was invaluable. The model answers and the search strategies were available from the NHS as these were real enquiries. This made the marking straightforward. We used a small number of markers to ensure consistency of marking.
For the next academic year we need to improve our feedback to the students about where marks were lost and formulate some consistent feedback messages to be used.
We have a class of approximately 200 students so we used four different scenarios for the assessment. This was matched to four markers. There was the possibility for students to work collaboratively but we feel that the short time scale for submission prevented this. Having 200 different scenarios would be impractical for both marking and ensuring consistency.
This was delivered for a class of 200 students and could be adapted for any class size.
This time limited submission of a practical piece of work based on real-life problems or situations could be adapted to any subject in the university where students have to problem solve.