Dr Simon Tweddell

The below guest blog has been written for us by our Distinguished Educator, Simon Tweddell from the University of Bradford.

Challenge

In 2010, Simon Tweddell was tasked with developing a new pharmacy programme that met the new requirements of the pharmacy regulator. The current programme didn’t integrate subject disciplines, was relatively teacher-centered and didactic and wasn’t engaging students effectively. Simon had a short time frame to put together a team who could develop an innovative new programme for approval. He wanted to create something brand new that engaged students and met the needs of future patients and employers by enhancing the development of skills that would be required in the workplace. A programme based on sound educational pedagogy was designed. This focused on students taking deep approaches to learning through elaborated and collaborative learning, reducing content to a core curriculum and taking both a thematic and spiral approach to curricula design. Students commence themes in year one and revisit these each year, each time increasing in depth, breadth and complexity and with concrete and contextual examples to show the relevance of concepts to pharmacy practice.

Solution

The School introduced Team-Based Learning (TBL) as the predominant learning and teaching strategy to motivate and engage students, help them to take deeper approaches to learning and develop their skills for employment. At the time, TBL was fairly new to the UK, so Simon flew to Denver, Colorado to see it in use at Regis University. TBL users from Regis also visited the University of Bradford to help develop faculty members. Today and since the implementation of the new programme, TurningPoint and ResponseCard NXT devices are being used to deliver the iRATs (individual readiness assurance tests).

TBL is a special form of collaborative learning. Taking a ‘flipped’ approach to learning, students are provided with Student Study Guides before they come to class. With these, students study content by engaging with activities and various multimedia resources prior to class. In class students take the iRAT which is a short test made up of MCQs (Multiple-Choice Questions) and the students submit responses through TurningPoint. TBL instructors gather immediate feedback as to whether or not the students answered the questions correctly. The students then do the same test again as a team, called tRAT, where they gather to discuss the questions. Simon explains, “Whilst they’re going through the tRAT, we look through the graphs in TurningPoint to see how the students got on. Based on the results, we can identify which concepts may need further discussion and clarification by instructors.” He continues, “It can be difficult for instructors to gage the level of student understanding when using traditional methods such as the lecture. TurningPoint is a really useful tool that provides us with real time data to quantify the degree of student understanding.” Instructors then dedicate considerable class time helping students learn how to use this new knowledge through completing team application exercises involving authentic problem solving and class discussion. By utilizing the Blackboard integration, the School of Pharmacy is able to take the data collected in real-time and upload it into the VLE straight away.

The School uses the ResponseCard NXT devices with all three areas of TurningPoint – PowerPoint, Anywhere and Self-Paced polling. “The self-paced functionality, providing the ability for students to work at their own pace and the graphical feedback that we can provide to students so they can see how they as a cohort have performed in the test is extremely beneficial,” said Simon. To assist the 40 to 50 faculty members with this programme implementation, the School of Pharmacy has appointed a Team-Based Learning Associate whose primary role is to support TBL and the technology around it.

Conclusion

The University’s Centre for Educational Development had been following the progress of Pharmacy’s new curriculum and has used it as an inspiring example of what could happen if a Programme Team took a developmental and evidence-informed approach to curriculum development. The University of Bradford has developed a new Curriculum Framework that also encourages programme teams to follow an evidence-based approach to curriculum design. Simon was recently received a National Teaching Fellowship award from the Higher Education Academy which is supporting his work in promoting the use of Team-Based Learning nationally and internationally. Simon was also the first accredited TBL consultant-trainer from Europe and regularly helps others implement TBL in the UK and in Europe and in doing so demonstrates how TurningPoint and the NXTs can be used to support TBL.

The consensus from the academic staff within the School of Pharmacy is that the implementation of the new pharmacy programme has been successful with increased engagement of and interactions with students. Students prepare for classes as never before allowing discussion and debate at a whole new level. TBL has also been introduced to two courses in the final stages of the outgoing programme. This has enabled comparative data to be collected. Both quantitative analysis and qualitative focus groups were conducted. Qualitative results showed a preference for TBL and quantitative results showed a 7% rise in assessment results in one course and a 13% rise in another, when compared to similar pre-TBL assessments.