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Education @ Pharmacology 2016

Published: 29 May 2017
By Steven Tucker, Anna Zecharia, mj Wallace

The morning of 14 December 2016 saw the official launch of the new Pharmacology Core Curriculum by Dr Lisa Wallace and Professor Ian McFadzean, new and outgoing Vice Presidents Academic Development of the Society and Chairs of the Education and Training Committee, respectively. The launch was the culmination of over a year of work by the Committee. It was the result of two education community workshops that book-ended an online Delphi survey process - where a broad group of experts drilled pharmacology learning outcomes down to a set of core consensus statements. The Committee has always seen the development of the core curriculum as the backbone of building our pharmacology education community. Through our workshop discussions it has become clear that there is both a need and appetite for the Society to do more to support our educators, specifically in bringing people together to share experiences and expertise. Propelled by the enthusiasm of all involved, we decided to jump right in and pair the curriculum launch with both a boot-camp on education careers pathways and an interactive demonstration workshop to kick-start both of these priorities.

Despite the 8am start, the room was full of energy for the boot-camp, deftly chaired by Ian McFadzean. Professor Jamie Coleman, Dr Christine Edmead, Dr Clare Guilding and Professor Simon Maxwell discussed their routes into pharmacology education and gave some top tips to the audience (see box below). It was clear that those in the room also had questions about pharmacology education in its broadest sense, with the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and the need for education to be embedded within hiring matrices emerging as key discussion topics. The Committee and the Education & Skills Affinity Group are listening, and are looking into the Society’s role in these issues.
Top tips for a career in pharmacology education
  • Lecture outside your comfort zone
  • Take external opportunities
  • Communicate your work
  • Look at the promotion criteria in your institution and work to that framework
  • Don’t be afraid to try new things
  • Engage with your peers and find a mentor
  • Make sure that you engage students in resource development
  • Find and develop your niche

There followed a new and interactive focus on innovative teaching strategies by a group of demonstrators with exciting new practices to share with the community. The Education Workshop gathered Pharmacology educators from across the Society to share their interactive, innovative and interesting approaches to delivering elements of the aforementioned Pharmacology Core Curriculum. Set out as a series of eight stations to demonstrate exciting new educational approaches, the session was aimed at developing networks and collaborations centred around delivering pharmacology teaching and training to the highest level. This practice-sharing event aimed to raise the profile of activities taking place across the Society, driving the dissemination of ideas and initiatives more broadly. It also served as a precursor for the renovation of a Pharmacology Compendium of teaching and learning approaches currently being planned by the Committee. The workshop attracted a large number of delegates who were offered the opportunity to test run and participate in the teaching innovations arranged around the room. The enthusiasm emanating from the demonstrators was matched by the engagement of the participants, creating a collegiate, collaborative and lively atmosphere throughout the two-hour session, resulting in considerable email address and idea sharing between Society members. The afternoon saw education oral and poster sessions, with everyone coming together at the end of the day for some well-earned refreshments.

The positive vibe was palpable during the whole day. Delegates said that they were really impressed by the extent of education activities at the annual meeting and that for them this had made it ‘the best meeting so far’. The Society has been working hard to bring people together, to listen to the challenges they face as educators and to understand where it can best support this part of the pharmacology community. We’ve heard that better links between educators and industry and support for key topic areas like in vivo sciences would be highly valued. The latter is something that the Society is already working on, and we look forward to updating you as this progresses. We’ve also heard the call for more networking (within the community itself and with industry) and more support for professional development, which we are looking forward to exploring. During the workshops of 2016, a strong message was that educators also want an online hub where they can share teaching resources and learn from each other. This was echoed by feedback from the workshop, and is something that the Education and Training Committee will be moving forwards with enthusiasm in 2017. Watch this space!

If you’d like to get involved in developing our online resources hub, by telling us what you think or attending focus groups, get in touch with the Society at If you’d like to get more involved in Education at the Society, join our Education & Skills affinity group via your member profile.

Below are brief outlines of the demonstrations along with the contact details of the demonstrators involved to continue and enrich the impact of this session and its ideas.

A pharmacokinetic teaching toolkit
Demonstrator: Dr Steven Tucker, University of Aberdeen.
Outline: The demonstration involved access to and interaction with a variety of online teaching tools to enable and enhance pharmacokinetic learning. The session involved delegates trialling these tools and demonstrated the flexibility of their applications across different curricula.
Resource availability: contact Steve Tucker

Gamification in Pharmacology and Therapeutics Demonstrators
Demonstrators: Prof. Jamie Coleman, University of Birmingham.;
Sarah Pontefract, University of Birmingham,
Outline: A number of games were demonstrated that have been designed to support and enhance learning in pharmacology and therapeutics. The session involved delegates competing against each other in a game of Pharmacology Blockbusters, and having access to other examples of games, such as Pharmacology Top Trumps and Heads Up, that can be used to supplement formal teaching.
Resource availability: contact Jamie Coleman or Sarah Pontefract

To delegate or not? Innovative ways of providing education, training and CPD in in-vivo pharmacology
Demonstrator: Dr Dave Lewis, University of Leeds.
Outline: This demonstration showcased animal and non-animal alternatives for providing education, training and Continuing Professional Development in laboratory animal sciences and in-vivo pharmacology, including ideas for undergraduate laboratory practicals, home-made models and training aids, and free online resources.  Collectively these resources cater both for colleagues working at Institutions with and without animal facilities.
Resource availability:

Excel-based simulations of classic pharmacology methods
Demonstrator: Dr Richard Prince, University of Manchester.
Outline: This demonstration was of a suite of laboratory simulations that run in Microsoft Excel. In the space of a few minutes, workshop participants found themselves conducting radioligand binding experiments, measuring functional responses in the guinea pig ileum and conducting TEVC experiments on Xenopus oocytes.
Resource availability:

So, How Do I Apply? – Interactive approaches to enhance the application of knowledge
Demonstrator: Dr Christine Edmead, University of Bath.
Outline: This demonstration showcased a range of in-class and online resources aimed at encouraging and supporting students to integrate information across related pharmacological topics, to build conceptual pictures and apply this knowledge to solve case study based scenarios. Participants observed how the use of Flipped teaching approaches and videos of laboratory techniques, for students to engage with before classes, had increased interaction in the class leading to an enhanced learning experience.
Resource availability: contact Christine Edmead

Combining interactive voting technology and high-fidelity patient simulations in the lecture theatre
Demonstrator: Dr Clare Guilding, Newcastle University.
Outline: This demonstration showcased lecture theatre based simulations of medical emergencies using SimMan, a high fidelity virtual patient. Delegates took on the role of students and had to vote on the most appropriate pharmacological intervention to save SimMan’s life! There were discussions around the best practice principles, technology and logistics surrounding set up and use of simulation combined with class voting. Alternative and affordable methods of delivery were also explored with the delegates.
Resource availability: contact Clare Guilding

Computer-aided learning software for drug-receptor pharmacology and pharmacokinetics with formative submission capability
Demonstrator: Dr Samir Ayoub, University of East London
Outline: This was a demonstration of a newly developed programme with a set of data analysis exercises that include dose-response curves, pD2, pA2, Kd and pharmacokinetic modelling. These exercises were built in such a way as to allow module tutors to formatively assess students work in a robust and time-conserving manner. Thus helping to easily identify students in need of further support and improving module outcomes.
Resource availability: contact Samir Ayoub


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About the author

Steve is a senior lecturer in Pharmacology and Medical Science at the University of Aberdeen, where he heads the undergraduate Pharmacology programmes and is deputy lead for the post-graduate Clinical Pharmacology programmes. As a current member of the Society’s Education & Training Committee and a BPS Ambassador, one of Steve’s interests is advancing teaching methods and approaches in pharmacology and in particular pharmacokinetics, which he teaches at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. By development and sharing of innovative approaches across the discipline, Steve believes pharmacology can inspire the public and the next generation of pharmacologists alike.

Anna is the Head of Education, Training & Policy at the Society. She works closely with the Education & Training Committee to support pharmacology education and educators. She also leads the Focus on Pharmacology project which aims to develop our understanding of UK pharmacology education and the impact delivered by pharmacology. Anna believes that investing in our education community is at the heart of ensuring that pharmacology education and training delivers for students, employers and society.
Lisa is an Associate Professor in medical sciences at Swansea University Medical School where she is the Programme Director for the Applied Medical Sciences BSc degree. She is currently the Society’s Vice President – Academic Development, after having served as Deputy Chair of the Education & Training Committee. Lisa is interested in finding innovative ways to integrate science curriculum design and teaching excellence. As such, she has served on the QAA Benchmarking Groups for Biosciences and Biomedical Science, the Royal Society of Biology Degree Accreditation Committee and internationally with organisations such as the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance.