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Healthcare practitioners face situations that require the use of effective problem solving, critical thinking, and communication skills on a daily basis. Therefore, providing students with knowledge alone is insufficient to equip them with the tools needed to be valuable contributors to patient care. Students must understand that it is imperative to provide more than just drug information, which is readily obtained in today’s world from internet sites, smartphone apps, and online reference texts. 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 contribute their expertise to team discussions about patient care, ask appropriate questions, integrate information, and develop action plans.
Professional students 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.
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 healthcare professionals who are essential members of the healthcare team, many healthcare educators are using active learning strategies in the classroom.2,3
ACTIVE LEARNING VERSUS TRADITIONAL TEACHING
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 of active learning strategies 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
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 topic that does not require student preparation and allows students to be passive recipients of information. The testing method is usually a written examination that employs a multiple-choice or short-answer format, which focuses on the student’s 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 ...