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Involving Students in Research Decision-making: Developing a Competency Graduated Descriptors Tool HERDSA 2010 Conference Dr Susanne Owen Prof Ieva Stupans Assoc Prof Greg Ryan Ms Leigh McKauge Mr Jim Woulfe. Experiential Placements in Pharmacy

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Involving Students in Research Decision-making: Developing a Competency Graduated Descriptors Tool



Dr Susanne Owen

Prof Ieva Stupans

Assoc Prof Greg Ryan

Ms Leigh McKauge

Mr Jim Woulfe

Experiential Placements in Pharmacy

Carrick Institute DBI Standing Committee meeting presentation31 August 2007

Assoc Prof Ieva Stupans

Dr Susanne Owen

australian health workforce context
Australian Health Workforce Context
  • Australian Health restructure : National Boards (July 2010)
  • Ageing general population & health workforce : more health students; need for more placement opportunities
  • Health students assessed in relevant competencies (skills, knowledge, attitudes), with competencies being holistic & acknowledging complexity & situational contexts
  • Graduated (incremental) competency levels for novice to experienced increasingly acknowledged (Benner, 1984; Dreyfus & Dreyfus (1996)

Pharmacy university program followed by one year internship after program completion, including competency assessment

project background
Project Background
  • 2007 ALTC-funded Australian pharmacy project mapped experiential placement programs, identifying characteristics & issues
  • Experiential placements valued but students emphasise need for scaffolding & feedback on progress towards achieving competencies
  • 2008-2010 ALTC project focused on improving curriculum planning & developing graduated descriptors, with stakeholder consultations conducted across Australian states & territories

Student consultations at each pharmacy school & at four consecutive annual student leader forums

researcher stakeholder collaborative research approaches
Researcher-stakeholder Collaborative Research Approaches
  • Benefits of researchers & practitioners working together (Pew, 2003; Hemsley-Brown, 2004; Hoppes & Chesbro, 2003)
  • Students involved in satisfaction surveys but usually limited opportunity for decision-making involvement & student views sometimes sidelined
  • Knowledge-use dissemination models highlight value of stakeholder involvement: extended workshops, ongoing contact, follow-up action (Floyd, 2001; Louis & Dentler, 1988)

Community of learners approach beneficial for developing stakeholder-researcher solutions to problems: ongoing involvement & dissemination educational change

research aim
Research Aim
  • To collaboratively develop and trial competency graduated descriptors for early and late stage pharmacy placements & to include a significant role for students within the research process
  • National student leaders’ workshop preliminary feedback
  • Final tool exemplar
  • State/territory stakeholder consultation data including student focus group sessions
  • Levels of support required for early & late placement
  • National student leader feedback on final tool
student leaders workshop initial feedback
Student leaders’ workshop initial feedback
  • Student groups at conference workshop provided verbal/written feedback regarding identification of characteristics for early & late placement students for eight competency areas
  • Favourable student feedback regarding involvement:
  • This was very useful as we did not touch on any competencies in our course at uni. This makes me think about my own competency levels as a student and what is expected of me.
  • Good to have students involved with the (consultation) session…it means we can be more involved with making an experiential learning activity more relevant and effective. Also using competency standards means that we as students know what is required of us in a professional setting.
stakeholder consultations
Stakeholder consultations

Six key themes regarding format/value of evolving graduated descriptors competency tool:

  • University-profession competency continuum
  • Grid competency developmental aspects
  • Self-assessment & reflection focus
  • Clear expectations & feedback
  • Preceptor support and training
  • University & preceptor scaffolded student learning
levels of support expectations
Levels of Support Expectations

Student views (n=102) re levels of support expectations for early & late placement students across 8 competency areas:

  • Early placement students need assistance (direction, instruction) or minimal assistance
  • Late placement students need minimal guidance (student views) or guidance (prompting, cues) (preceptor/academic views)
national student leader views on final tool exemplar
National Student Leader Views on Final Tool Exemplar
  • “it’s not that hard to get your head around” “pages are rather busy and daunting”
  • “too blue”
  • “bigger comments box needed to be more reflective”

These views were considered further by the project team.

Very positive student response to being involved

  • Student and other stakeholder contributions informing all research phases: inception, implementation, evaluation, future decisions
  • High student satisfaction at involvement in the various research process phases.
  • High student attendance numbers: attended after-hours consultations after completing offsite placements.
  • Trusting relationship built over four years; student views highly valued

Universities have an important role to play within the professional context, particularly in terms of students being involved in formulating materials about their learning, and valuing their broader involvement within the educational research and wider professional process.


Dr Susanne Owen