Help Wanted: Methods Support in Educational Scholarship

By: Ashley Castleberry, PharmD, MEd 

This post is part of an Anniversary Series celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning (CPTL) and the two-year anniversary of CPTL Pulses.  In this Series, editorial board members are describing and celebrating milestones in our development and advances in support of publishing in pharmacy education.


Have you ever wondered if you were designing a research study the right way? Have you ever searched the literature for ideas on initiating your educational scholarship? Have you ever wished that you could ask a methodology expert to make sure you were on the right track? 

Of course you have. We all have. 

As pharmacy educators, most of us are not formally trained in research methods, analysis, or measurement, yet the requirement still exists that we design, implement, and report studies that are methodologically sound and of high quality. Pharmacy faculty often cite research design as being an area for development.1 

To provide practical tools, highlight exceptional work and assist pharmacy academicians in their development towards becoming scholars in teaching and learning, the article type of Methodology Matters was born into the family of article types in Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning.2

Why does methodology actually matter?

Methodology is the study of techniques and procedures within methods.2 By using and describing sound methodology in manuscripts, readers (who may become future investigators in the area of interest) are able to apply similar methods to their study. Good methodology is key to advancing the pharmacy education literature. 

To elevate the level of educational research, “appropriate methods” was one of the six established standards for scholarly work proposed by Glassick in 1997 (along with clear goals, adequate preparation, significant results, effective presentation, and reflective critique).To move from scholarly, evidence-based teaching to the scholarship of teaching and learning and educational research,4 we must uphold high standards of quality reporting. One of the places where quality often breaks down is in the selection of study methods.

Common methodological flaws in pharmacy education include:5

  • Redundant manuscripts (studies that replicate work in another setting, but don’t contribute new information in the given field)
  • Lack of control groups (which often requires more complex methods and in depth discussion with an institutional review board)
  • Pre/post design as a control group (pre-assessment shouldn’t be considered a control as it cannot be determined that the intervention was different than another)
  • Student attitudes/feelings as the primary endpoint (this can be a secondary outcome, but should rarely be the primary endpoint)

Enter Methodology Matters articles onto the scene. The articles are designed to support the academy in methodology. Topics include survey tools, validation strategies, rater judgements, numbers etiquette, performing interviews and focus groups, and analyzing qualitative responses.

Who writes these reviews?

Authors for this article type are invited based on their expertise and previous publications. They are asked to critically evaluate the evidence of the specific methodology and then provide practical advice to readers.2 Topics are suggested by the editorial team to address concerns seen when providing peer review on educational manuscripts or when reading published literature.

How are the articles structured?

These review articles are written and organized in a way to allow both novice and experienced researchers to gather information about the topic quickly with practical recommendations on how to implement the method in their own research. Each Methodology Matters article contains 4 sections:2

  • The Situation (or Issue, Problem)
    • Situates the review within a particular problem, as well as includes a poignant objective for the review.
    • Notes the importance of this topic as it relates to education scholarship.
  • Methodological Literature Review
    • Reviews concepts and terminology for those not familiar with this topic. 
    • Discusses poignant literature that informs this methodology topic. 
  • Recommendations and their Application(s)
    • Provides clear, logical, and practical advice/recommendations.
    • Connects recommendations to the existing literature base and/or evidence.
  • Potential Impact
    • Discusses benefits and limitations of recommendations.
    • Describes the manner in which recommendations could potentially change/impact educational scholarship in pharmacy.

Example Articles

Readers value this article type because manuscripts in this category account for some of the Journal’s most downloaded and cited works. Check out some of the most popular pieces below.

Quantitative Research

Qualitative Research

What’s next?

The editorial team is always thinking about future topics that would advance the literature in pharmacy education research. We want these articles to be relevant and practical resources for scholars. So we would love to hear from you! 

What methodology topics would you like to see addressed in Methodology Matters?

Acknowledgements:

I would like to thank Kristin Janke for her feedback on this blog post and acknowledge those who serve with me on the Methodology Matters editorial team: Michael Peeters (Associate Editor – Methodology Matters), Spencer Harpe (Associate Editor – Author Services), Jacqui McLaughlin, and Jill Augustine. 

References:

  1. Behar-Horenstein LS, Beck DE, Su Y. Perceptions of pharmacy faculty need for development in educational research. Curr Pharm Teach Learn. 2018;10(1):34-40.
  2. Peeters MJ, Cor MK, Harpe SE, Janke KK. Announcing a new section – Methodology Matters. Curr Pharm Teach Learn. 2015;7(5):563-564.
  3. Glassick CE, Huber MT, Maeroff GI. Scholarship Assessed: Evaluation of the Professoriate. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass; 1997.
  4. Medina M, Hammer D, Rose R, et al. Demonstrating excellence in pharmacy teaching through scholarship. Curr Pharm Teach Learn. 2011;3(4):255-259. 
  5. Persky AM, Romanelli F. Insights, pearls, and guidance on successfully producing and publishing educational research. Am J Pharm Educ. 2016;80(5):Article 75.

Castleberry

Ashley Castleberry, PharmD, MAEd is a Clinical Associate Professor and Division Head in the Division of Pharmacy Practice at the University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy. Educational scholarship interests include metacognition, assessment, and qualitative research. In her free time, Ashley enjoys cooking and teaching her one-year-old son how to talk and walk.


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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s