Approaches to integrated assessment: School of Pharmacy perspective

Dr Hamde Nazar is the MPharm Programme Director in the School of Pharmacy.  She recently presented at the Faculty Learning and Teaching Forum on the topic of integrated assessment.  Here she outlines how the School of Pharmacy is tackling this challenge.

As a School, we are committed to providing an educational experience that will equip our graduates to develop the knowledge, skills and behaviours to apply in their careers as healthcare professionals. An integrated curriculum has been recommended to facilitate this application of knowledge to real world problems, but there is little in the way of direction and evidence to inform the appropriate curriculum design and assessment.

The Newcastle MPharm Pharmacy programme has been constructed in year long modules that integrate the specific disciplines which make up the knowledge base required for pharmacists: medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, pharmaceutics and pharmacy practice. Teaching and learning is anchored to diseases and conditions contained within the biological systems, and concepts of science and practice are contextualised therein. The curriculum is of a spiral nature, so that these concepts are revisited and built upon through the programme within contexts of increasing complexity, e.g. comorbidities. The programme level outcomes have been developed in such a way that they are discipline-neutral, and refer to skill, behaviour and competence development towards solving problems.

Many in-year assessments have been mapped to the programme level outcomes, and as such, assess students’ ability to draw upon knowledge across the disciplines, integrating it, to answer the problem posed by the assessment. Summative end-of-year exams are a combination of a single-best answer MCQ section and longer style questions compiled around patient scenarios that assess across all disciplines in one question. These assessments are challenging to devise, manage and assess, and require academic teams to work closely together to orchestrate. Some of our assessments are more successful than others in assessing true integrated thinking. However, as a team, we are adopting an approach to investigate the student learning experience through the programme and as they tackle these specific assessments, towards understanding how learning is happening and whether integrative thinking is really being nurtured and properly assessed.

Dr Hamde Nazar, Senior Lecturer, School of Pharmacy



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