Quick starting your development as a PharmEd Scholar

By:  Kristin Janke, PhD and Simon Albon, PhD

This post is part of our Educational Scholarship “Quick Start” series.  In this series, the editorial boards of Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning and Innovations in Pharmacy are joining together to provide advice that helps authors avoid common problems in education-related inquiry. A “Quick Start” is not only about being efficient – it’s about enhancing the impact and effectiveness of our scholarly contributions. This post is the second in the series.

Joining a scholarly conversation can seem daunting. There are new journals to identify, articles to read and findings to evaluate. Understanding the landscape (i.e. what has been done and by whom?) is only part of the challenge. When moving from clinical or discipline-based research, there can also be transitions in approaches, methods, language and reporting. How does one begin their entry into educational scholarship in pharmacy?

Glassick has argued that strong educational scholarship involves six standards (1), including: 

  • clear goals, 
  • adequate preparation, 
  • appropriate methods, 
  • significant results, 
  • effective presentation and 
  • reflective critique.

However, research indicates that pharmacy faculty perceptions of self-efficacy in these areas, including research design, analytical skills and research management and dissemination, may be lacking.(2)  

Proactive Skill and Career Development
Many of us dream of attending an institute or conference, hunkering down for some intensive learning and coming home as stronger scholars. Others may desire advanced training in education, or local workshops aimed at scholarship. However, in a survey of medical school faculty interested in educational scholarship, only 40% had enrolled in formal training.(3)  Formal options may not be available or fit, given your preferences or workload.  Even with an intensive, front-loaded professional development program, self-directed, continual development is always necessary to improve one’s knowledge and skills as a PharmEd Scholar.  

For most of us, a personalized professional development plan is needed – one that fits our schedule, reflects who we are and our research goals, and sets us up for success. This plan should include building familiarity with existing scholarship in the field, partnerships with seasoned scholars, and acquiring the necessary scholarly skills for our projects. But, we also feel the pressure of time. As busy academics with significant performance expectations, we want professional development to happen efficiently.  However, quick starting our development as a scholar in education can seem like driving across the country without a map. Where do we start and where are we going? There is plenty of ground to cover and dozens of different ways to our destination.

The good news is that our daily activities and actions are contributing to our development. The following prompts are offered to help maximize skill acquisition from informal, workplace-based learning.

Questions to Guide Self-Development as a PharmEd Scholar 

What journals am I reading and why? What can I do to better support my reading and understanding?

What skills am I actively building? How will they help me in my work as a scholar?

What opportunities are available to help build my knowledge of educational scholarship?

What projects am I working on? How are they challenging my skills?

What academics are shaping the field in the scholarly areas I’m interested in? How can I connect with them?*

Who am I actively partnering with?  How are they an asset to the scholarship? What am I learning from them?

How am I getting formative, critical feedback on my scholarship?*
*Watch for future posts addressing this issue

As we seek to learn from each successive project, the habits of mind of a scholar are important. While habits, such as persisting and thinking flexibly, are often thought of as necessary for our students, they also apply to our own work and growth as scholars. It’s not difficult to see that striving for accuracy, thinking independently, or any number of other habits, are assets to a scholar in education.

Maximizing Workplace-based Learning
Before going too far in your planning, be clear about why you want to engage in educational scholarship. How eager are you to actively disseminate your work? Lead educational scholarship? Collaborate nationally or internationally? Is educational scholarship a major focus or a secondary one? Understanding your motivations helps in starting on solid footing, as well as keeping you focused, if you get stuck. 

In addition, know your context. Read and internalize role descriptions and expectations for research in collective-contractual agreements (if appropriate). Know the criteria for career advancement decisions and talk regularly with your Dean, Associate Deans and/or Head about the path you want to and can take. You’ll need their support for your on-going development and when your contributions are reviewed. Finding an experienced faculty mentor/advocate (locally or from another school) can also help navigate this process. 

And finally, track your contributions and find ways to share the impact of your work formally and informally at the department, college and national levels. As you talk more about your work, you will naturally find collaborators, identify new approaches and evolve your scholarly questions.  These conversations will assist you in finding your direction.

A quick start doesn’t just mean getting skills faster; it means getting the right skills at the right time by intentionally maximizing your workplace-based learning. What actions can you take to support your quick start today?  

Kristin Janke is Executive Associate Editor for Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning, an Editor and Peer Coach for CPTL Pulses, and an Editor for Innovations in Pharmacy where she is responsible for the education section.  Simon Albon is an Editorial Board Member at Innovations in Pharmacy.


  1. Glassick CE. Boyerʼs expanded definitions of scholarship, the standards for assessing scholarship, and the elusiveness of the scholarship of teaching.  Acad Med. 2000;75(9):877-880.
  2. 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.
  3. Goldszmidt MA, Zibrowski E, Weston WW. Education scholarship: It’s not just a question of “degree.” Med Teach. 2008;30(1):34-39.

Author bio(s)

Kristin Janke is a Professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Care & Health Systems and Director of the Wulling Center for Innovation & Scholarship in Pharmacy Education at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy. Her scholarly interests include: unique methods for student leadership development, enhancing assessment practices in colleges/schools of pharmacy, and broadening publication options for the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Simon Albon is a Professor of Teaching in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of British Columbia. Educational scholarship interests include scholarly teaching and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. He currently leads the development of the Faculty’s Pharmacy Education Research and Leadership (PERL) research stream. In his free time, Simon is an avid fly fisherman.

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

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