The UK MPharm (1) - are we over reliant on traditional teaching methods?

Christopher A. Langley, Keith A. Wilson, Jill K. Jesson, Katie Hatfield

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Introduction-The design of the UK MPharm curriculum is driven by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) accreditation process and the EU directive (85/432/EEC).[1] Although the RPSGB is informed about teaching activity in UK Schools of Pharmacy (SOPs), there is no database which aggregates information to provide the whole picture of pharmacy education within the UK. The aim of the teaching, learning and assessment study [2] was to document and map current programmes in the 16 established SOPs. Recent developments in programme delivery have resulted in a focus on deep learning (for example, through problem based learning approaches) and on being more student centred and less didactic through lectures.
The specific objectives of this part of the study were (a) to quantify the content and modes of delivery of material as described in course documentation and (b) having categorised the range of teaching methods, ask students to rate how important they perceived each one for their own learning (using a three point Likert scale: very important, fairly important or not important).
Material and methods-The study design compared three datasets: (1) quantitative course document review, (2) qualitative staff interview and (3) quantitative student self completion survey. All 16 SOPs provided a set of their undergraduate course documentation for the year 2003/4. The documentation variables were entered into Excel tables.
A self-completion questionnaire was administered to all year four undergraduates, using a pragmatic mixture of methods, (n=1847) in 15 SOPs within Great Britain. The survey data were analysed (n=741) using SPSS, excluding non-UK students who may have undertaken part of their studies within a non-UK university.
Results and discussion-Interviews showed that individual teachers and course module leaders determine the choice of teaching methods used. Content review of the documentary evidence showed that 51% of the taught element of the course was delivered using lectures, 31% using practicals (includes computer aided learning) and 18% small group or interactive teaching. There was high uniformity across the schools for the first three years; variation in the final year was due to the project. The average number of hours per year across 15 schools (data for one school were not available) was: year 1: 408 hours; year 2: 401 hours; year 3: 387 hours; year 4: 401 hours.
The survey showed that students perceived lectures to be the most important method of teaching after dispensing or clinical practicals. Taking the very important rating only: 94% (n=694) dispensing or clinical practicals; 75% (n=558) lectures; 52% (n=386) workshops, 50% (n=369) tutorials, 43% (n=318) directed study. Scientific laboratory practices were rated very important by only 31% (n=227).
The study shows that teaching of pharmacy to undergraduates in the UK is still essentially didactic through a high proportion of formal lectures and with high levels of staff-student contact. Schools consider lectures still to be the most cost effective means of delivering the core syllabus to large cohorts of students. However, this does limit the scope for any optionality within teaching, the scope for small group work is reduced as is the opportunity to develop multi-professional learning or practice placements. Although novel teaching and learning techniques such as e-learning have expanded considerably over the past decade, schools of pharmacy have concentrated on lectures as the best way of coping with the huge expansion in student numbers.

[1] Council Directive. Concerning the coordination of provisions laid down by law, regulation or administrative action in respect of certain activities in the field of pharmacy. Official Journal of the European Communities 1985;85/432/EEC.
[2] Wilson K, Jesson J, Langley C, Clarke L, Hatfield K. MPharm Programmes: Where are we now? Report commissioned by the Pharmacy Practice Research Trust., 2005.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-100
Number of pages2
JournalPharmacy Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2007
EventEuropean Association of Faculties of Pharmacy annual conference - Madrid, Spain
Duration: 20 Sept 200721 Sept 2007


  • pharmacy education


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