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Introduction

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Healthcare providers are faced with situations every day that require the use of effective problem solving, critical thinking, and communication skills. Therefore, providing students with knowledge alone is insufficient to equip them with the tools needed to be valuable contributors to patient care. Students should understand that it is imperative to provide more than just drug information, which is readily obtained in today’s world from smartphones, computers, and other references. They must be able to evaluate, analyze, and synthesize information and apply their knowledge to prevent and resolve drug-related problems. As clinicians, they will be required to call upon previous experiences with similar situations, ask appropriate questions, integrate information, and develop action plans.

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Students who finish their formal training in health care must also recognize that learning is a lifelong process. Scores of new drugs are approved every year, drug use practices change, and innovative research alters the way that diseases are treated. Students must be prepared to proactively expand their knowledge base and clinical skills to adapt to the changing profession.

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Warren identified several traits that prepare students for future careers: analytic thinking, polite assertiveness, tolerance, communication skills, understanding of one’s own physical well-being, and the ability to continue to teach oneself after graduation.1 To prepare students to become health care professionals who are essential members of the health care team, many health care educators are using active learning strategies in the classroom.2,3

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Active Learning Versus Traditional Teaching

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Active learning has numerous definitions, and various methods are described in the educational literature. Simply put, active learning is the process of having students engage in activities that require reflection on ideas and how students use them.3 Most proponents agree that compared with passively receiving lectures, active engagement of students promotes deeper learning, enhances critical thinking skills, provides feedback to students and instructors, and promotes social development. Learning is reinforced when students are actively engaged and apply their knowledge to new situations.3 Active learning is learner-focused and helps students take responsibility for their own learning.2

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In contrast, traditional teaching involves a teacher-centered approach. At the beginning of the course, students are given a course syllabus packet that contains “everything they need to know” for the semester. In class, the teacher lectures on a predetermined subject that does not require student preparation. Students are passive recipients of information, and the testing method is usually a written examination that employs a multiple-choice or short-answer format. With this method, students are tested primarily on their ability to recall isolated facts that the teacher has identified as being important. They do not learn to apply their knowledge to situations that they will ultimately encounter in practice. The reward is an external one (i.e., exam or course grade) that may or may not reflect a student’s actual ability to use the knowledge they have ...

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