Design, development and delivery of a pharmacist tutor training program at James Cook University

Knott, Gillian Jane (2014) Design, development and delivery of a pharmacist tutor training program at James Cook University. Masters (Research) thesis, James Cook University.

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Background: The worldwide increase in demand for academic staff in higher education over recent years has resulted in the employment of increasing numbers of sessional staff. This trend towards casual or sessional employment of academic staff has been of benefit to universities, providing both cost savings as well as increased diversity and flexibility of student education. For health professional programs, the use of practicing health professionals on a sessional basis has been invaluable in ensuring that student education is both current and relevant to their chosen profession. In terms of teaching workload, it has been estimated that internationally, a half of all teaching in tertiary institutions is undertaken by sessional staff.

Recent Australian statistics indicate that sessional staff are estimated to comprise approximately a quarter of the workforce in higher education institutions and are responsible for 50% of the teaching in universities. This high teaching load of sessional academics, in combination with a lack of attention being paid to their management and support, has potential implications for the quality of teaching and learning at universities. Sessional staff training and support programs have become well established in higher education institutions in both the United States of America (USA) and the United Kingdom (UK), and are now being developed in the majority of universities around Australia. It is recognized that while general university wide policies are required for the support and management of sessional staff, training programs should be tailored to suit both the requirements of the particular institution and the specific school or discipline. For this reason, programs may vary widely in terms of structure and content, both within and between institutions. At the James Cook University (JCU), a general university-wide sessional staff orientation and training program has been in place since 2005 and attendance at this program is a requirement of ongoing employment for all JCU sessional staff. For tutors in the Discipline of Pharmacy, while this introductory session provides a good induction to the university environment and the process of student education, it is not pharmacy specific and in addition it does not address the ongoing needs of sessional staff.

Aim: The aim of this study was therefore to design, develop and evaluate a tutor training program specifically for pharmacist tutors in the Discipline of Pharmacy at James Cook University.

Methodology: In order to inform the design of the training program, a needs analysis study was conducted, which involved the development of a tutor questionnaire, which was sent to 40 past, present and potential pharmacist tutors at JCU. The questionnaire was used to inform a series of three focus groups involving pharmacist tutors, pharmacy academic staff and pharmacy students. Data from the tutor questionnaire was evaluated using mixed methods, integrating qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis, with the data from the focus groups being analyzed using qualitative thematic analysis.

The pharmacist tutor training program was implemented for the 14 currently employed tutors in February 2013 and evaluated using two post training self-evaluation surveys. The first survey, distributed immediately after the face-to-face training session, assessed the usefulness and relevance of the training program. The second survey, distributed after one full semester of tutoring, obtained general information on perceived program benefits, problems experienced and potential future program topics. The second survey also required that respondents self-rate their competence levels at three stages in their development as tutors: prior to the program, immediately after the program and then again after one full semester. Competence ratings were obtained for a range of tutoring skills and attributes, including confidence, marking and assessment and teaching knowledge and skills. Data from the two post-training surveys was analyzed, again by the use of mixed methods combining both quantitative data analysis and qualitative thematic analysis.

Results and discussion: The needs analysis study highlighted the importance of pharmacist tutor involvement in the practical areas of the pharmacy curriculum, which included clinical dispensing, extemporaneous dispensing and clinical counselling. The tutor's role in marking and assessment was identified as an area for concern. The most important perceived benefits of a training program were enhanced teaching consistency and student learning and increased tutor confidence. Four major content areas for a tutor training program were identified as the provision of effective student feedback, student assessment, teaching practical skills and teaching communication skills.

The results of the first post-training feedback survey were overwhelmingly positive, with the majority of the 12 tutor respondents (83%) indicating that the content of the program was relevant and that the program had met their current needs. Tutors felt that the main benefits of the program were an increase in general confidence levels, the opportunity for interaction with other tutors and staff, a better understanding of their roles and expectations and the acknowledgement of tutors as an integral part of the pharmacy teaching team. Importantly, tutors found that the topic of 'Assessing student learning' was one of the most useful sections of the training program, with 92% of tutors rating this section as either very useful or mostly useful. This indicated that the program had appropriately addressed the problem area of assessment and marking. The findings of the second evaluation survey showed that tutor self-competence had improved in all suggested areas of competence between just prior to the program and after one full semester of tutoring, with the most significant improvement occurring in the area of marking and assessment. Initial competence prior to training was rated as average to good in most areas, while competence after one full semester of tutoring was rated as good to very good.

Conclusions: This study clearly indicates that the JCU pharmacist tutor training program has been successfully designed, developed and delivered to meet the needs of pharmacist tutors, in addition to delivering other benefits, including an improvement in both tutor confidence and competence. This program has also contributed towards the integration of pharmacist tutors into the Discipline of Pharmacy teaching team, which in turn will play a role in supporting academic staff in delivering improved learning outcomes for pharmacy students in the program at JCU.

Item ID: 41348
Item Type: Thesis (Masters (Research))
Keywords: higher education; James Cook University; pharmacist tutors; pharmacists; pharmacy education; pharmacy; problem based learning; sessional staff; training programmes; training; tutors
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Publications arising from this thesis are available from the Related URLs field. The publications are:

Knott, Gillian, Crane, Linda, Heslop, Ian, and Glass, Beverley (2015) Training and support of sessional staff to improve quality of teaching and learning at universities. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 79 (5). pp. 1-8.

Knott, Gillian, Crane, Linda, Heslop, Ian, and Glass, Beverley D. (2014) Training and support of sessional staff: a needs analysis of training requirements at James Cook University. In: Abstracts from the Australasian Pharmaceutical Sciences Association Conference. From: APSA 2014: Australasian Pharmaceutical Sciences Association Conference, 5-7 December 2014, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.

Date Deposited: 01 Dec 2015 04:47
FoR Codes: 11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1115 Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences > 111503 Clinical Pharmacy and Pharmacy Practice @ 100%
SEO Codes: 93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9302 Teaching and Instruction > 930202 Teacher and Instructor Development @ 100%
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