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Open Access Research article

Audience response technology: Engaging and empowering non-medical prescribing students in pharmacology learning

Joanne S Lymn1 and Alison Mostyn2*

Author Affiliations

1 School of Nursing, Midwifery & Physiotherapy, University of Nottingham, Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham, UK

2 School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington Campus, Loughborough, UK

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BMC Medical Education 2010, 10:73  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-10-73

Published: 27 October 2010

Abstract

Background

Non-medical prescribing (NMP) is a six month course for nurses and certain allied health professionals. It is critical that these students develop a good understanding of pharmacology; however, many students are mature learners with little or no formal biological science knowledge and struggle with the pharmacology component. The implications for patient safety are profound, therefore we encourage students not just to memorise enough pharmacology to pass the exam but to be able to integrate it into clinical practice. Audience response technology (ART), such as the KeePad system (KS) has been shown to promote an active approach to learning and provide instant formative feedback. The aim of this project, therefore, was to incorporate and evaluate the use the KS in promoting pharmacology understanding in NMP students.

Methods

Questions were incorporated into eight pharmacology lectures, comprising a mix of basic and clinical pharmacology, using TurningPoint software. Student (n = 33) responses to questions were recorded using the KS software and the percentage of students getting the question incorrect and correct was made immediately available in the lecture in graphical form. Survey data collected from these students investigated student perceptions on the use of the system generally and specifically as a learning tool. More in depth discussion of the usefulness of the KS was derived from a focus group comprising 5 students.

Results

100% of students enjoyed using the KS and felt it promoted their understanding of key concepts; 92% stated that it helped identify their learning needs and 87% agreed that the technology was useful in promoting integration of concepts. The most prevalent theme within feedback was that of identifying their own learning needs. Analysis of data from the focus group generated similar themes, with the addition of improving teaching. Repeated questioning produced a significant increase (p < 0.05) in student knowledge of specific pharmacological concepts.

Conclusions

The use of ART enhanced non-medical prescribing students' experience of pharmacology teaching. Student perceptions were that this system increased their ability to identify learning needs and promoted understanding and integration of concepts. Students also reported that the technology aided exam revision and reduced associated anxiety.