Project Profile: Threshold Concepts and the Pharmacists’ Patient Care Process

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Claire Kolar

Dr. Claire Kolar is a graduate student in the Social and Administrative Pharmacy (SAPh) at the MN-COP. She is embarking on her dissertation research in the area of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL). The aims of Dr. Kolar’s research are:

  1. The first aim is to identify Threshold Concepts associated with pharmacy students learning the Pharmacists’ Patient Care Process.
  2. The second aim is to create, validate and test a tool based on the previously identified Threshold Concepts to evaluate to what extent the Pharmacists’ Patient Care Process is taught across pharmacy curriculum.
Why did you choose to focus your research on the Pharmacists’ Patient Care Process (PPCP)?

Students at the MN-COP have been learning the Patient Care Process for many years and I have been directly involved in teaching this content in my time as a graduate student. In addition, the Joint Commission of Pharmacy Practitioners (JCPP) published the official Pharmacists’ Patient Care Process (PPCP) in 2014, which is essentially the same process we have been teaching our students. So while we are continually seeking ways to improve our own teaching of the Patient Care Process, now there is an opportunity to contribute to a larger conversation about teaching the PPCP as schools across the country look to adopt or refine a method for teaching patient-centered care.

I am interested in discovering if we are teaching and assessing the PPCP in the best way possible and in a way that really prepares our students for a future of providing patient-centered care, regardless of the practice setting.

What do you hope to learn about the PPCP from studying Threshold Concepts?

Threshold Concepts have not been studied or utilized in pharmacy education, but I think they have the potential to teach us a lot about student learning. A Threshold Concept is an idea or piece of information which transforms the learner’s way of thinking about a certain topic or discipline and is necessary for a student to progress in his or her learning (Meyer & Land, 2003).

I am most excited to see if Threshold Concepts can illuminate concepts related to student learning and ultimately impact decisions we make as educators. I think we will continue to get better at teaching students the steps of the PPCP and skills related to performing those steps. However, I believe there is more to discover about developing pharmacy students into practitioners, utilizing the PPCP.

What’s next for your project?

My research has two phases. I am working on the first phase now and it involves gathering information on learning the Patient Care Process from a series of focus groups (preceptors, faculty and students) and convening an expert panel designed to reach consensus around the Threshold Concepts. The second phase will take the identified Threshold Concepts and create an evaluation tool to be administered to pharmacy students and faculty.

I will continue to work closely with my dissertation committee members [Dr. Kristin Janke, Dr. Ron Hadsall, Dr. Don Uden, and Dr. Jane Miller] to complete my research over the next year. Feel free to contact me ( if you would like more information on this work.  

Dr. Kolar is one of multiple SAPh graduate students doing research in the SOTL area. We will continue to post on her research as it progresses and profile the work of other students as they move through the program. Stay tuned!


Joint Commission of Pharmacy Practitioners. Pharmacists ’ Patient Care Process.; 2014.

Meyer JHF, Land R. Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge: Linkages to ways of thinking and practising within the disciplines. Improv Student Learn – Ten Years On. 2003;4:1-16.

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