The Journey of Learning to Learn on My Own

by: Eric Gregory, PharmD

Many colleges and schools of pharmacy are shifting curriculum delivery towards flipped or hybrid models, but students, like myself just a couple of years ago, may not be prepared for the changes to come. One method for faculty to overcome this challenge is to guide students toward the adoption of different self-education and study strategies. We can mirror self-guided lifelong learning, or the idea of self-authorship1 which is crucial for student success in the classroom and beyond. For many learners, this can be a tall task, and I was no different. As student pharmacists develop their skills while critically and independently constructing their knowledge base, they will adapt to changing environments while gathering information and forming their own conclusions.2 Now, as a resident reflecting back to my time as a student pharmacist, I understand the need for students to undergo their own transition towards self-authorship to grow while advancing pharmacy practice; however, they cannot do it alone.

Changing Student Behavior
By purposefully designing courses to increase students’ self-authorship abilities, faculty are the first step in the evolution of student learning practices. Strategies that faculty can include to initiate this change include:

  1. Assess knowledge via low-stakes quizzes, audience response systems, group discussions, and similar methods to focus on pertinent material from in-class active-learning experiences
  2. Incorporate real world scenarios for students to apply learning to future careers
  3. Inspire adequate student preparation by building on pre-class assignments during large or small group discussions

Just as it is necessary for faculty to transform educational practices to implement these models, students need to make modifications3 of their own to improve studying and preparation strategies. If professors encourage these behaviors, students will be more apt to make certain changes:

  1. Recognize how faculty will coordinate and grade the course
  2. Understand the faculty’s objective for student takeaways in each class session
  3. Prepare adequately to complete assignments and discuss complex scenarios during in-class activities

For example, if low-stakes quizzes over pre-class readings are offered, students should focus out-of-class activities by completing assignments with goals of learning and knowledge retention. These ideas should result in passing grades and student growth, rather than simple ingestion and regurgitation of exam material. Overall, class design reforms encourage students to pursue optimal self-authorship methodologies to prepare for their futures.

The Beginning of My Self-Authorship Journey
My own evolution started during a pharmacy law and policy course built on the hybrid classroom model. Self-learning via online modules and research of current events in pharmacy law and policy were the primary teaching formats. It was my first exposure to a hybrid course, and at first, I was hesitant to believe I could effectively learn the material in this course, which required self-motivation. A lack of prior experience in this class design initially led to challenges that required adjustments and I was worried an unnecessarily large percentage of time would be required for this class. However, as previous research indicates,4 the overall out-of-class time required to prepare and follow up on learning material did not significantly increase in comparison to traditional courses. While I was not fully prepared to start learning on my own, I knew a high level of effort and efficiency would be necessary to adjust.

Once I understood the requirements to learn and apply the course material differed compared to traditional classes, I realized I needed to begin my self-authorship journey. This meant changes in study habits:

  1. I transcribed only the most important information, rather than retyping the lecture verbatim
  2. I altered the speed of the audio recordings depending on the complexity of topics
  3. I allotted more time to appreciate vital concepts

Reflecting on changes I made to achieve success, I realized learning how to study the material and understanding the content itself were equally important. Student pharmacists and faculty must work with each other to induce these habitual changes to increase self-authorship behavior.

How These Adjustments Benefit Me After School
Now, nearing the end of residency, I can see my exposure to this learning model was instrumental in my ability to grow and transition to the next stage in my learning development. As a resident, I:

  1. Took the initiative to research areas of pharmacy via scientific studies and review articles, rather than pharmacy school lectures
  2. Retained more information because I learned the material using initiative, then applied it in practice with the help of preceptors

It is essential for all educators and students to understand why and how to adjust their own approach to teaching and learning. The next unanswered question is, what else can we do for student pharmacists on their self-authorship journey?


  1. Magolda MBB. Three elements of self-authorship. J Coll Stud Dev. 2008; 49 (4): 269-284.
  2. Johnson JL. Self-authorship in pharmacy education. Am J Pharm Educ. 2013; 77 (4): Article 69.
  3. Rotellar C, Cain J. Research, perspectives, and recommendations on implementing the flipped classroom. Am J Pharm Educ. 2016; 80 (2): Article 34.
  4. He W, Holton A, Farkas G, Warschauer M. The effects of flipped instruction on out-of-class study time, exam performance, and student perceptions. Learn Instr. 2016; 45: 61-71.


Eric Gregory is a PGY2 Infectious Diseases Pharmacy Resident at the University of Kentucky HealthCare. Educational scholarship interests include pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics, mechanisms of bacterial resistance, and teaching methodologies. In his free time, Eric enjoys spending time with his wife, family, and friends as well as exploring the outdoors.

Pulses is a scholarly blog supported by Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning

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