Simon Tweddell, BPharm, MRPharms, FHEA, and senior lecturer in Pharmacy Practice and curriculum development fellow at the Centre for Educational Development at the University of Bradford, was tasked with developing a pharmacy program that met the new requirements of the pharmacy regulator. The current program did not integrate subject disciplines, was relatively teacher-centered and didactic and was not engaging students effectively.
Tweddell had a short time frame to put together a team that could develop an innovative new program for approval. He wanted to create something brand new that engaged students and met the needs of future patients and employers by enhancing the development of workplace skills.
His design called for a program based on sound educational pedagogy that focused on students taking deep approaches to learning through elaborative and collaborative learning, reducing content to a core curriculum and taking both a thematic and spiral approach to curricula design. As part of the program, students would commence themes in year one and revisit them each year, each time increasing in depth, breadth and complexity, and with concrete and contextual examples to show the relevance of concepts to pharmacy practice.
The school introduced Team-Based Learning (TBL) as the predominant learning and teaching strategy to motivate and engage students, helping them to take deeper approaches to learning and develop their skills for employment. At the time, TBL was fairly new to the UK, so Tweddell flew to Denver, Colorado, to see it in use at Regis University. TBL users from Regis also visited the University of Bradford to help train and develop the faculty.
TBL is a special form of collaborative learning. Taking a “flipped” approach to learning, students were provided study guides before they came to class. Using the study guides, students viewed content and engaged with various multimedia resources prior to class. During class, students took the iRAT, a short test made up of MCQs (multiple-choice questions) and submitted responses through student response clickers.
Using TurningPoint, TBL instructors gathered immediate feedback to know if the students answered correctly. The students then did the same test again as a team, called tRAT, where they gathered to discuss the questions as a group.
Tweddell explained, “While they were going through the tRAT, we looked at the graphs in TurningPoint to see how the students performed. Based on the results, we could identify which concepts needed further discussion and clarification by instructors.” He continued, “It can be difficult for instructors to gauge the level of student understanding when using traditional methods such as the lecture. TurningPoint and student clickers are a useful tool that provides us with real-time data to quantify the degree of student understanding.”
After the test, instructors dedicated considerable class time to helping students apply this new knowledge by completing team application exercises involving authentic problem solving and in-class discussions. By utilizing the Blackboard integration, the School of Pharmacy was able to take the data collected in real time and upload it directly into the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).
The school used clicker keypads with all three areas of TurningPoint – PowerPoint®, Anywhere and Self-Paced polling.
“The self-paced functionality, providing the ability for students to work at their own pace, and the graphical feedback that we can provide to students to see how they have performed on the test is extremely beneficial,” said Tweddell.
To assist the 40 to 50 faculty members with this program implementation, the School of Pharmacy appointed a Team-Based Learning associate whose primary role was to support TBL and the technology around it.
The University’s Centre for Educational Development had been following the progress of Pharmacy’s new curriculum and used it as an inspiring example of what could happen if a program team took a developmental and evidence-informed approach to curriculum development. The University of Bradford developed a new curriculum framework that encouraged program teams to follow a similar evidence-based approach to curriculum design.
Tweddell used his experiences of curriculum design and implementation to support program teams across the university. He helped to align other programs to this framework and encourage the wider use of active learning strategies such as TBL. To increase the use of collaborative learning and to make traditional lectures more interactive, Tweddell demonstrated what could be achieved with technology-enhanced learning tools such as TurningPoint and classroom polling clickers.
The consensus from the academic staff within the School of Pharmacy was that the implementation of the new pharmacy program had been successful in increasing engagement and interactions with students. Students prepared for classes as never before, leading to discussion and debate on a whole new level. TBL was also introduced in two courses in the final stages of the outgoing program. This enabled comparative data to be collected. Both quantitative analysis and qualitative focus groups were conducted. Qualitative results showed a preference for TBL and quantitative results showed a 7% rise in assessment results in one course and a 13% rise in another, when compared to similar pre-TBL assessments.
Moving forward, Tweddell hopes to encourage faculty within other departments and universities in the UK and throughout Europe to consider using TBL, TurningPoint and student response clickers. As part of the workshops that he will lead, the vast majority of lecturers will experience TBL and TurningPoint and he expects that both will be used more widely at the university and beyond.