In 2001, there were 3 Colleges of Pharmacy in the State of Florida, each using their own grading system, student and preceptor assessment tools. In the year 2004, there are 4 Colleges and together we are embarking upon collaboration unprecedented among Colleges of Pharmacy around the world. In 2001, representatives from University of Florida, Florida A and M and Nova Southeastern University attended the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy spring training institute to collaborate and develop an online assessment of student performance on advanced practice experience courses (rotations). In 2004, that assessment tool is being beta tested among preceptors from 2 of the 4 Colleges.
The Directors of Experiential Education had long heard from preceptors that they wished the Colleges of Pharmacy would get together and coordintate the rotation dates, assessment and other things together. That is a process easier said than done when dealing with a combination of state and private schools. But after discussion and shared training programs among the group, it was decided that this was a worthwhile goal and an opportunity came that provided a week of “basic” training allowing us to meet and lay out a plan.
There are several reasons for developing an online assessment tool for evaluation of students during their advanced practice year and sharing among the Colleges. (Table 1) The foremost reasons are that there is a limited quantity of preceptors in the State. Many take students from all of the Colleges. An assessment tool that would be shared by all seemed appropriate. There is difficulty in being objective when assessing the learning by a student, because as faculty, it is difficult to get inside the brain. Students believe that if they show up, they should receive a high score (an A) for the course. As preceptors it is hard not to feel pressured by the student and to be objective about what they have really learned. Often students are given the benefit of the doubt, and grades are higher than what the student earned. This grade “inflation” is not unique in experiential education, but the process lends itself to the opportunity in ways that do not occur in didactic courses. There are ways to assess the knowledge, skills and attitudes of students and provide them with a grade that is commensurate with their performance. Think of this assessment tool as an opportunity to reflect with students on their learning, rather than an evaluation.