Competency-based assessment of practice-based experiential learning in undergraduate pharmacy programmes

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Experiential learning, Students, Pharmacy, Education, Curriculum, United Kingdom, Competency-Based


Objective: To obtain feedback from experiential learning (EL) leads about how competency-based assessments could be undertaken by EL facilitators, and to scope existing EL assessment structures in undergraduate Masters in Pharmacy (MPharm) programmes across the United Kingdom (UK). Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted utilizing a nine-item on-line survey, consisting of five open-ended and four closed-ended question. All UK universities with MPharm programmes (n=30) were invited to participate in the survey. Variables of interest were perceptions on activities and competencies that could be assessed by EL facilitators. The survey utilised a 5-point Likert-type response ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. Other variables of interest were tools/methods that could be used to assess competency, and perceived advantages and disadvantages of the proposed methods, the latter two captured via open-ended questions. Results: Of the 21 universities that responded (Response rate: 70%), 17 were included in the final analysis. Fourteen of the 17 (82.4%) offered the 4-year programme, while 3 (17.6%) offered both the 4-year and 5-year integrated programme. Assessments were mainly undertaken by university staff (59%), with minimal amounts undertaken during EL (39%). There was unanimous agreement (100%) that facilitators could assess students’ communication skills and professionalism during EL. No consensus, however, was achieved with regard to the tool(s) or method(s) to be used to assess student’s competencies. There were 13 responses to the open-ended comments. An advantage noted was that EL facilitator assessment of students would allow for more accurate evaluation of students in the practice setting, while acknowledging barriers such as the burden of time and the lack of consistency in marking. To address this lack of consistency, the majority highlighted the need for facilitator training. Conclusion: Minimal assessments are currently undertaken during EL, with students predominantly assessed on return to the university. No consensus could be achieved with regard to the tool(s) or method(s) to be used to assess students’ competencies, suggesting that perhaps there is no one-size-fits-all, and that the tools and methods used should be informed by the competencies being assessed.

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