Scholarly Teaching Series Part 4: Conduct Systematic Observation

This is the fourth post in the Scholarly Teaching Series. Building off the work of Richlin (2001), we will highlight various projects at the MN-COP to illustrate each step in the Scholarly Teaching process.

ST Figure Step 4

Conducting Systematic Observation

Let’s quickly review the first three steps in the Scholarly Teaching process:

Step 1: Observe a Problem or Opportunity and Document the Baseline

Step 2: Consult Literature

Step 3: Choose and Apply an Intervention

This brings us to Step 4, Conduct Systematic Observation. Conducting observations is needed to determine if your intervention was successful. It is good practice to make a plan for what evidence you will collect and how you will collect it.

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Keri Hager, Project Lead

Peer Teaching of Pharmaceutical Care

In the Pharm.D. curriculum, first and second year students participate in a peer teaching event in which the second years teach the first years about the practice of Pharmaceutical Care. In order to get ready for their teaching role, the second year students participate in a preparation session, led by Dr. Keri Hager. Dr. Hager and her team first thought about what information they would need to collect from students to determine if the preparation session was successful.  She states:

One of the objectives of the preparation session was for students to organize and solidify the concepts of Pharmaceutical Care. They did this using a concept map, which they would also use as a teaching tool.  This provided one form of evidence.  However, we also wanted students to tell us about their learning over the past year and think critically about how Pharmaceutical Care is connected to other parts of the curriculum. We were hesitant to create another written assignment and felt large-group sharing is often like pulling teeth, plus we wanted their insights captured. So we ended up asking pairs of students to provide audio recordings in response to one of three questions about their experience with Pharmaceutical Care:

What key connection between pharmaceutical care and the curriculum did you choose to add to your teaching tool? Why?

How did the spring semester and/or IPPEs build on what you learned in Foundations of Pharm Care?

How has the curriculum prepared you for the practice of pharmaceutical care so far? What more is needed?

Dr. Hager and her team felt having students record their own audio clip added something to the session that had been missing the previous year. She states:

We were really hoping to hear students explain the connections they saw in the curriculum in their own words, however we were unsure if the technology needed to record an audio clip would provide too many challenges. We provided little guidance, only telling them to answer their assigned question in a 30 second clip (using a computer, tablet, or phone) and upload it to Moodle (our course management site). We did not need to worry. The students figured out the technology quickly and with success.

In listening to the recordings, we were able to see glimpses of the curriculum as students experienced it, through their own voices. We heard specific examples of how they had applied their learning, including communication, documentation, and patient-centeredness.  Their recordings elaborated on the written work they had done during the session and created a more complete picture of their learning for us as instructors. Listening to student voices provided a glimpse into their experience utilizing accessible technology in a clearly defined way.

The Connection to Your Work

Many of us want evidence about a teaching intervention. Luckily there are many things to consider as sources for of data:

  • Student Work Products including in-class or out of class assignments
  • Observations of Learning by students, peers, instructors or guest evaluators
  • Evaluation of Technique, Method or Approach using a poll of students, interview of instructors, or peer review of course materials

Read more about sources for observation data here (Table 1).  Thinking creatively about “observations” and collecting evidence can lead you to discover new methods to gather the information you seek.

For more information:

Project Lead: Keri Hager, Pharm.D.

Additional Team Members: Claire Kolar, Pharm.D. and Kristin Janke, Ph.D.


Richlin, L. (2001). Scholarly Teaching and the Scholarship of Teaching. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2001(86), 57–68.

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