Pharmacology education must focus on 25 core concepts, finds study

Monash University

A new study involving 200 educators from 22 countries will pave the way for improvements in pharmacology education globally.

The paper, published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, identified 25 core concepts that all students around the world who have taken a pharmacology course or unit should be able to understand and apply.

Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences Deputy Dean Professor Paul White co-led the study alongside Professor Clare Guilding from the University of Newcastle, with Parkville colleagues Dr Betty Exintaris, Dr Nilushi Karunaratne and Associate Professor Jen Short also contributing.

Professor White said the study, conducted under the banner of the International Union of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology, would have great significance for the international pharmacology community.

“It’s the first time to our knowledge that a truly international initiative has produced a consensus list of discipline-focused core concepts,” he said.

“This will allow medical, pharmacy, nursing, science and other educators to focus on the knowledge that matters for their future graduates.”

Professor White said core concepts are “big, important, fundamental ideas, which experts agree are critical for all students in their discipline to learn, remember, understand and apply – in other words, to learn deeply”.

Core concepts in other disciplines include ideas such as gravity in physics or homeostasis in physiology.

In recent decades, a focus on the most critical and fundamental concepts has proven highly advantageous to students and educators in many science disciplines, the study found.

“However pharmacology, unlike microbiology, biochemistry or physiology, lacks a consensus list of such core concepts,” Professor White said.

Pharmacology is taught across the breadth of health professional, biomedical and basic science contexts, but the enormous volume of pharmacology content is often given limited time.

“In recent years, the creation of integrated courses and the merging of physiology and pharmacology departments has contributed to a further decrease in the time available to teach this important information,” Professor White said.

He said this study helped address perceived gaps in pharmacy knowledge among health professional graduates, such as the ability to link theory with practice.

Other benefits of defining such core concepts include making it easier for students or educators to measure their progress, and test different teaching methods, Professor White said.

The majority of the 25 core concepts identified in the study are relevant to drugs of all categories, including small molecule drugs, biologics, nucleic acid medicines and merging modalities.

Professor White said the next steps include defining and ‘unpacking’ each core concept and developing resources to help pharmacology educators globally teach and assess the concepts.

To read the study and all 25 core concepts in full, click here.

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