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Open Access Open Badges Research article

The importance of active learning and practice on the students' mastery of pharmacokinetic calculations for the intermittent intravenous infusion dosing of antibiotics

Reza Mehvar

Author Affiliations

Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, 1300 S. Coulter, Amarillo, TX, 79106, USA

BMC Medical Education 2012, 12:116  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-12-116

Published: 22 November 2012



Estimation of pharmacokinetic parameters after intermittent intravenous infusion (III) of antibiotics, such as aminoglycosides or vancomycin, has traditionally been a difficult subject for students in clinical pharmacology or pharmacokinetic courses. Additionally, samples taken at different intervals during repeated dose therapy require manipulation of sampling times before accurate calculation of the patient-specific pharmacokinetic parameters. The main goal of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of active learning tools and practice opportunities on the ability of students to estimate pharmacokinetic parameters from the plasma samples obtained at different intervals following intermittent intravenous infusion.


An extensive reading note, with examples, and a problem case, based on a patient’s chart data, were created and made available to students before the class session. Students were required to work through the case before attending the class. The class session was devoted to the discussion of the case requiring active participation of the students using a random participation program. After the class, students were given additional opportunities to practice the calculations, using online modules developed by the instructor, before submitting an online assignment.


The performance of students significantly (P < 0.001) improved from a baseline of 11.3% (pretest) to 60.3% (posttest) after the class discussion. The grades of students further improved (P < 0.001) to 89.3% on the take-home assignment after they had a chance to study on their own and work on the online practices. Finally, students scored 82.6% in a formal mid-term examination, suggesting significant retention of the materials.


Despite being a difficult subject, students achieve mastery of pharmacokinetic calculations for the topic of intermittent intravenous infusion when appropriate active learning strategies and practice opportunities are employed.

Active learning; Practice opportunities; Evaluation of performance; Pharmacokinetics; Elimination rate constant; Half life; Volume of distribution