Collaborative design, delivery and evaluation of an authentic assessment: optimising professional skill development and employability
Dr Rebecca Hayley Venables
School of Pharmacy and Bioengineering, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
CDF Framework: Authentic Assessment | Employability and Civic Engagement
This project involved the design, implementation and evaluation of an “authentic assessment” for final year pharmacy undergraduate students. The assessment comprised audio-recorded answers to medicines information queries to reflect ‘real-life’ professional scenarios with a view to improving soft skills and thus employability. It replaced a time-limited written assessment paper. Assessment design was informed by professional standards and relevant pedagogical theories, optimising collaborative design, inclusivity, and equality and diversity. An evaluation tool (online questionnaire) was designed to evaluate this assessment.
Graduating pharmacy professionals should be competent and confident in completing tasks (in the stimulated environment), in preparation for their pre-registration training year (GPhC, 2011). Although it is not expected that they will be completing such tasks autonomously upon graduation, the final assessment before the workplace should be as realistic as possible. Using Miller’s competency pyramid (Wass et al. 2001), some tasks should be at the ‘shows how’ or ‘does’ levels. These can be achieved using authentic assessments, supported by Mueller (2006) who theorises that graduates should be ‘proficient at performing the tasks they encounter when they graduate’ and assessments should require them ‘to perform meaningful tasks that replicate real world challenges’. The ethos was to build confidence in pharmacy graduates' abilities and also provide further practise of effective, professional communication in order to improve employability.
The assessment evaluated mostly positively; emerging themes formed recommendations related to student confidence, key skillset developments, team-work and groupings, and case design. Through this project we were able to work collaboratively with students and staff in the school, using a co-production approach as the research was evaluated at the pilot, mock and main assessment stages. The students' and staff feedback at each stage, informed the design of the assessment and thus we were able to make positive changes as the assessment iterations continued. The intention was to also make students feel empowered during their university education.
The successful implementation and findings of this recent research will be influential at both a departmental and institutional level. At a departmental level, this research has helped to: develop students’ skills, develop staffs’ skills (e.g. MA work and supporting leadership i.e. SFHEA applications), develop ideas regarding innovative authentic assessments and also curriculum design, develop learning outcomes inline with the Pharmacy accrediting body (GPhC), and involve students as collaborators in curriculum and assessment design.
The findings of this research are transferable, thus, at an institutional level, there is interest within Keele Institute for Innovation & Teaching Excellence (KIITE) for innovative curriculum design and there may be opportunity to inform, and collaborate with educators from both across healthcare and different disciplines. It is expected that this research will be disseminated externally in educational research journals. This research is also being presented at the Advance HE conference in July 2020 (online).
The findings of this research are transferable, thus, at an institutional level, there is interest within Keele Institute for Innovation & Teaching Excellence (KIITE) for innovative curriculum design and there may be opportunity to inform, and collaborate with educators from both across healthcare (e.g. medical, nursing, midwifery, physiotherapy, radiography, social and science backgrounds etc) and different disciplines.
Although this work is discipline specific (health) in nature, principles and findings are perceived to be transferable to other disciplines. The novel and authentic nature of the research should in particular be of interest to educators aiming to improve the authenticity of teaching and assessments and thus skill development, including key soft skills (communication, leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, work ethic, flexibility and interpersonal) with an overarching aim to improve the quality of graduates, thus the attractiveness of students to potential employers.
This innovative assessment also provides example of use of the Advance HE ‘framework for transforming assessment in higher education’ (HEA 2015), supporting policy and practice in higher education.
General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) (2011) Future pharmacists: Standards for the initial education and training of pharmacists. London: General Pharmaceutical Council.
Mueller, J. (2006). Authentic assessment toolbox: What is authentic assessment? Available at http://jfmueller.faculty.noctrl.edu/toolbox/whatisit.htm [Accessed on 10/01/2019]
Wass, V., Van der Vleuten, C., Shatzer, J. and Jones, R. (2001). Assessment of clinical competence. The lancet, 357(9260), pp.945-949.