To implement and assess the effectiveness of an activity to teach pharmacy students to critically evaluate clinical literature using instructional scaffolding and a Clinical Trial Evaluation Rubric.
The literature evaluation activity centered on a single clinical research article and involved individual, small group, and large group instruction, with carefully structured, evidence-based scaffolds and support materials centered around 3 educational themes: (1) the reader's awareness of text organization, (2) contextual/background information and vocabulary, and (3) questioning, prompting, and self-monitoring (metacognition).
Students initially read the article, scored it using the rubric, and wrote an evaluation. Students then worked individually using a worksheet to identify and define 4 to 5 vocabulary/concept knowledge gaps. They then worked in small groups and as a class to further improve their skills. Finally, they assessed the same article using the rubric and writing a second evaluation. Students’ rubric scores for the article decreased significantly from a mean pre-activity score of 76.7% to a post-activity score of 61.7%, indicating that their skills in identifying weaknesses in the article's study design had improved.
Use of instructional scaffolding in the form of vocabulary supports and the Clinical Trial Evaluation Rubric improved students’ ability to critically evaluate a clinical study compared to lecture-based coursework alone.