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Open Access Research article

Using Audience Response Technology to provide formative feedback on pharmacology performance for non-medical prescribing students - a preliminary evaluation

Alison Mostyn1, Oonagh Meade2 and Joanne S Lymn2*

Author Affiliations

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

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

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BMC Medical Education 2012, 12:113  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-12-113

Published: 13 November 2012

Abstract

Background

The use of anonymous audience response technology (ART) to actively engage students in classroom learning has been evaluated positively across multiple settings. To date, however, there has been no empirical evaluation of the use of individualised ART handsets and formative feedback of ART scores. The present study investigates student perceptions of such a system and the relationship between formative feedback results and exam performance.

Methods

Four successive cohorts of Non-Medical Prescribing students (n=107) had access to the individualised ART system and three of these groups (n=72) completed a questionnaire about their perceptions of using ART. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with a purposive sample of seven students who achieved a range of scores on the formative feedback. Using data from all four cohorts of students, the relationship between mean ART scores and summative pharmacology exam score was examined using a non-parametric correlation.

Results

Questionnaire and interview data suggested that the use of ART enhanced the classroom environment, motivated students and promoted learning. Questionnaire data demonstrated that students found the formative feedback helpful for identifying their learning needs (95.6%), guiding their independent study (86.8%), and as a revision tool (88.3%). Interviewees particularly valued the objectivity of the individualised feedback which helped them to self-manage their learning. Interviewees’ initial anxiety about revealing their level of pharmacology knowledge to the lecturer and to themselves reduced over time as students focused on the learning benefits associated with the feedback.

A significant positive correlation was found between students’ formative feedback scores and their summative pharmacology exam scores (Spearman’s rho = 0.71, N=107, p<.01).

Conclusions

Despite initial anxiety about the use of individualised ART units, students rated the helpfulness of the individualised handsets and personalised formative feedback highly. The significant correlation between ART response scores and student exam scores suggests that formative feedback can provide students with a useful reference point in terms of their level of exam-readiness.

Keywords:
Audience response technology; Teaching; Pharmacology; Non-medical prescribing