My teaching and education philosophy reflect my personal values and beliefs about meeting the learning needs of my students and my responsibility to them. With the student being of foremost priority, I seek the opportunity for exchange of information, intellectual conversations, and the creation of lifelong relationships. Because I genuinely listen to each student I encounter, I am able to gauge how their learning is improving through feedback and self-reflection. As well, I am able to assess the quality of my teaching in a continuous manner.
Since I joined the faculty at UW–Madison, I taught and co-coordinated classes in the professional pharmacy curriculum and the Social and Administrative Sciences graduate program. My goal for professional students is to make them realize that as pharmacists’ roles evolve, students have great opportunities to make a large impact on patients’ health, especially if they focus on pertinent factors that could influence patient behavior. In the Social and Behavioral Aspects of Pharmacy Practice (732-414) course I teach, (a required course for first-year PharmD students), it is important to me, as a teacher, to help students learn the influence of psychosocial and behavioral factors (e.g., self-efficacy, social support) on patient medication use and health behavior. I want students to critically think and develop problem-solving strategies for improving patient health, and gain new perspectives on ideas that may advance research and pharmacy practice. Theories are important in establishing the foundation of this learning process. I also believe in the applicability of concepts to real-world settings.
Sociobehavioral and psychology theories are at the heart and soul of the concepts discussed in class. However, understanding and using theories may be difficult for professional pharmacy students to grasp. Hence, I utilize videos, news stories, and real world examples to instruct on topics that may seem abstract. My class is the first class in the PharmD curriculum to expose the students to the application of theoretical communication concepts and principles, and they are able to test their ability to communicate medication information to potential clients in a simulated videotaped consult assignment. The assignment fits nicely with one of the educational outcomes in the pharmacy curriculum, which is to demonstrate the ability to communicate effectively in oral and written forms with patients.
To be able to achieve my teaching objectives, I focus on an active learning approach in the classroom. I use small group activities, in-class assignments, polls, and peer-to-peer discussions that test students’ knowledge about what they learned in the classroom and examine how students would apply concepts in practice. I am happy to learn that a number of students have written statements in their course evaluations that my class introduces them to what it means to actually communicate and practice as a pharmacist.
Some of the areas of immense need for increased pharmacist involvement are promoting public health and reducing health disparities. By using nationally produced case-based videos, students in my class learn how pharmacists can be culturally aware healthcare providers that deliver care to patients and perform public health activities. As pharmacists meet all types of patients in practice, they need to be able to provide patient-centered care that meets the needs and preferences of each individual. Hence, a major focus of my class is the provision of care for unique populations such as children, older adults, minorities, patients with mental illness, etc. To ensure that pharmacy students gain an overall perspective on patient-centeredness, I invite pharmacy practitioners, patients, and caregivers to provide guest lectures and share their practical experiences in meeting their patient or care recipient needs.
One of the important goals for me as a teacher is finding ways to leverage my expertise and research experience by bringing what I have discovered into the classroom. I feel very fortunate that I instruct students about the same topics that I research. This allows me to introduce my own research to the students, as well as utilize current literature that adds depth and application to the content I teach. For example, during my lecture on health literacy, I discuss some of my published work focused on improving medication information labeling for patients with limited health literacy. Through my service on the National Academy for Science, Engineering and Medicine Roundtable on Health Literacy, I am able to discuss recent information conveyed on a national platform regarding health literacy. Every year since I have taught in 732-414, I have had at least two students within the classroom cohort meet with me to learn more about the projects me and my research group are conducting. These individuals then volunteer to be part of our research team.
A major goal I have for my students is for them to develop independent thinking and learn beyond the scope of the classroom. This is best exemplified in the way I mentor my graduate students. I encourage my graduate students to think about research topics that are meaningful to them. With encouragement, they continually refine their research questions through a process of discussion, literature searching, and the articulation of their ideas in writing. I encourage my students to present their work at local, national, and international meetings where they must think on their feet and answer questions from other researchers who may not know the details of their work. In order to ensure a positive experience, I spend significant time with them practicing their presentations and role-playing potential questions for them. Yen-Ming Huang, my first graduate student who finished his dissertation in fall 2019, is an example of an individual who has grown tremendously in independent thinking and his ability as a teacher. He received the UW–Madison School of Pharmacy 2017 Teaching Assistant of the Year Award and he has consistently had the highest-rated teaching evaluations for leading class discussions. Our work together has resulted in seven peer-reviewed publications, three national and one international oral presentations, and six posters at national and international meetings (including the Best Poster Presentation at the International Social Pharmacy Workshop in Scotland). In addition, three professional pharmacy students conduct research projects with me for independent study credit.
It is important to me that I make an impact on students’ ability to achieve other life goals such as having work-life integration and dedication of time to other satisfying pursuits. I do this through relationship building, informal mentoring, and role modeling. Successful students need to know how to do their future job (whether that job is a pharmacist or researcher) and need to know how to manage their time and prioritize responsibilities. Therefore, it is important to me that I make myself available for guidance. My teaching philosophy is based on mutual respect. Hence, I let my students know the things I would have done differently if I was still in graduate school and how they could learn from my own mistakes. I also discuss my mentoring philosophy and what I learned from my mentor regarding advising students. Informally, I also discuss other common topics including decisions regarding jobs, time management, and being successful as an individual and student.
Lastly, my teaching philosophy embodies a drive for quality improvement where I seek to improve what and how I teach students in the classroom or otherwise. For example, in my first three years of teaching in the pharmacy curriculum, I received great student evaluations. However, in my fourth year, I saw a dip in my ratings. As a result, I realized that it was time to further actively seek best teaching strategies. Hence, I attended the UW–Madison Teaching Summer Institute where I learned about active learning teaching techniques. I utilized the opportunity through the institute to revamp my class to make it more practice-oriented versus the use of didactic teaching. Moving forward, the students have requested the need for more case-based discussions versus assignment discussions. Hence, I will be considering the addition of practice-based cases that allows students to learn social and behavioral theoretical concepts in a manner that seems more relatable to real pharmacy practice.