Approaches to learning and the influence of raising metacognitive awareness of deep learning among undergraduate pharmacy students at a public university in Zambia.

Thumbnail Image
Kalungia, Aubrey,Chichonyi
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
The University of Zambia
This study investigated the approaches to learning and influence of a metacognitive educational intervention on deep learning among undergraduate pharmacy students. The study was necessitated by contextually relevant recurring concerns about attrition rates due to poor academic performance that remained relatively high over the years among the preclinical (Year 1 and 2) undergraduate pharmacy students at the University of Zambia (UNZA). This study utilised a sequential multiple mixed-methods design. Firstly, a descriptive cross-sectional survey was conducted to determine the predominant approach to learning among the 2017 to 2018 undergraduate pharmacy students at UNZA. A modified Approaches and Study Skills Inventory for Students (ASSIST) questionnaire was employed to determine approaches to learning and teaching style preference. Secondly, qualitative focus groups were utilised to explore contextual factors affecting preclinical pharmacy students’ learning efficacy. Lastly, a quasi-experiment was conducted to assess effects of a novel metacognitive educational intervention - a five-day elective module dubbed ‘Orientation and Approaches to Deep Learning and Study Skills (OADLSS)’ on preclinical pharmacy students’ approaches to learning and academic performance. A modified short-version of the ASSIST was used to measure approaches to learning before and 4-weeks after the OADLSS intervention compared to a control group. Descriptive and inferential statistical methods were used to analyse quantitative data whereas deductive thematic analysis was used for qualitative data. A strategic approach to learning was predominant among the majority (67%) of the undergraduate pharmacy students surveyed (n = 147). Only 25% adopted a deep approach to their learning whereas 7% were surface learners. Learning approach was statistically significantly associated with course load (p = 0.028) and programme stage (p = 0.010). Compared to pharmacy students in Year 1 level of study, those in Year 4 were 90% less likely to adopt strategic approach to learning (AOR = 0.1, 95% CI: 0.01 – 0.7, p = 0.023) on the B. Pharm. programme at UNZA. The majority (67%) of participants preferred teaching styles that transmitted information. Thematic analysis of qualitative focus groups yielded 4 themes, 8 subthemes and 22 categories. Managing notional time, the high course load, methods of teaching and assessment modalities, achievement motive, and the learning environment were among key contextual factors that affected pharmacy students’ learning efficacy at UNZA. All the participants (100%, n = 25) exposed to the OADLSS elective module found it relevant and useful for enhancing their learning. Although there was not a corresponding significant increase in their deep learning scores, mean scores for strategic learning significantly reduced after the OADLSS intervention compared to the control group. When academic performance in summative assessments was compared, the Grade Point Average (GPA) scores were not significantly different between participants exposed to the OADLSS (2.51 ± 0.53, 95% CI: 2.29 – 2.74) versus controls (2.47 ± 0.39, 95% CI: 2.28 – 2.66; p = 0.771). The predominance of a strategic approach to learning was largely influenced by the inadvertently high educational demands placed on undergraduate pharmacy students. The learning environment, educational strategies, and student-related factors were affecting learning efficacy at the university. Immediate influence of a metacognitive intervention aimed at promoting deep learning in pharmacy education was minimal. Educators and institutional policymakers can enhance interventions further by accompanying changes to the learning environment, educational strategies, and assessment methods employed in pharmacy education. Remodelling these aspects in future research can potentially improve the quality of pharmacy education outcomes at UNZA. Key words: Approaches to Learning, Deep learning, Educational intervention, Metacognitive awareness, Pharmacy students, University of Zambia
PhD thesis
Metacognitive awareness--Zambia