by Madison Gray, PharmD, PGY1 Pharmacy Practice Resident, University of Mississippi Medical Center
Some colleges of pharmacy and other professional schools have programs in place to identify students early who are underperforming so that they can provide additional help and coaching before they fail a course.1 Many of these strategies focus on tutoring and supplemental academic assistance to address underperformance and, ultimately, prevent failure.1,2 Course failure is not only associated with a significant financial burden but also psychological and social consequences.1 So, what is the most appropriate approach to remediation? Should remediation programs focus on course/content review or strategies for success? Several remediation approaches have been described in the literature for various professional schools and range from course repetition to developing individual remediation plans.2 Individualized remediation that focuses on helping students become self-regulated learners is, in my opinion, a more effective approach to ensuring a student’s long-term success.1-3
Years of research have identified self-regulated learning to be a differentiating factor separating high and low-performing students.3 Three key factors underly the success of self-regulated learning including preparation, performance, and self-reflection.3 Self-regulated learning requires the identification of barriers, appropriate time management skills, motivation, and strategic study habits.3
Many factors affect student performance and individual barriers often exist that impact each student’s ability to develop a self-regulated learning behavior.1,3 Sansgiry and colleagues evaluated the effect of these factors on both high and low-performing students. They found that test competence (which includes test anxiety) was one differentiating factor between the two groups.1 They defined test competence as a “student’s ability to manage and cope with the amount of study material for examinations and/or tests.”1 Many students (69.3%) reported feeling some type of anxiety during testing and some students even report experiencing physical symptoms.1 Some other barriers affecting student performance include access to learning materials and technological barriers.1 Identifying barriers for students is the first step in addressing issues that may hinder their success. Strategies to identify and address these barriers should be a routine part of the remediation process and could include interviews, surveys, and student self-reflection.
Self-regulated learning is a behavior that requires well-developed time management skills.3 Students who try to learn course material in a short amount of time tend not to perform as well as those who develop study plans whereby the learning effort is distributed over an extended period of time.3,4 Appropriate time management skills that allow for more time for studying may also help decrease test anxiety and increase the student’s confidence in their preparation.3,4 A study by Hartwig and colleagues assessed the study habits of college students in correlation with their grade point averages (GPAs).5 Students who reported scheduling study times over an extended period rather than cramming the day (or two) before an exam trended toward higher GPAs although the results were not statistically significant5. Remediation programs that encourage students to set goals, create tasks, and use schedules will help teach time-management skills that can be used in and out of the classroom.4 Effective time-management skills are necessary for both academic and career success.4 Once a student has good time management skills, learning how to use other study strategies may be helpful.4,5
Students who use a variety of strategies to study, such as re-reading material, summarizing, note-taking, flashcards, and self-testing, are more likely to be successful.5 These different strategies have been studied and some of these strategies are used by high performing students more often when compared to low performing students.3,5 In the study by Hartwig and colleagues, a survey administered to college students included questions about study strategies, self-testing, and study schedules.5 Self-testing correlated with higher GPAs versus other study strategies.5 The majority of students who reported using self-testing as a study strategy also reported that they did so to test themselves on how well they learned the material.5 Notably, re-reading was also associated with higher GPAs among the surveyed students; however, other studies have not found this association.5 These are just a few positive study strategies that can be utilized by college students to promote self-regulated learning.3,5 Having students reflect back on their study habits to determine what works and what doesn’t work is one strategy that can be utilized during remediation programs.3,5 Some students are not accustomed to having to study and this creates a challenge when they get to college.1 They may go from previously not having to study (at all!) to learning how to study.1,2 An individualized remediation program is an opportunity to address some of these challenges.1,2
Course repetition is used by many schools and colleges of pharmacy.2 This approach to remediation focuses on academic competence by requiring students to simply repeat the course they have failed.1,2 Course repetition aims to re-expose students to the same course material in the hopes they achieve higher performance.1,2 Some programs allow students to continue in the program and repeat the course once it is offered again while other programs require that the course be successfully passed prior to moving forward within the program.1,2 The later strategy often involves students sitting out for a year and this obviously has significant financial implications.1,2 Course repetition is not individualized and often does not address the underlying issues that contributed to the failure. This approach to remediation fails to address the non-cognitive barriers to students’ success.
Programs that focus on individualized remediation allow students to actively participate in the remediation process and help set them up for success both in the classroom and their careers. In an individualized remediation program, students must identify their barriers (with guidance) and engage in self-reflection. Such programs help students develop plans to address their identified barriers. Additionally, individualized programs should aim to promote self-regulated learning behaviors by giving students experience creating goals, formulating learning tasks, and developing time-management skills. Individualized programs should also focus on helping students develop new study strategies such as self-testing and summarizing. By identifying and addressing the non-cognitive barriers that often cause students to fail, remediation programs can foster the development of self-directed behaviors that enable students to be successful in subsequent coursework … and life.
- David M, Fuller S, Hritcko P, et al. A Review of Remediation Programs in Pharmacy and Other Health Professions. Am J Pharm Educ [Internet]. 2010;74(2): Article 25.
- Sansgiry S, Bhosle M, Sail K. Factors That Affect Academic Performance Among Pharmacy Students. Am J Pharm Educ [Internet]. 2006;70(5): Article 105.
- McKeirnan K, Colorafi K, Kim A, et al. Study Behaviors Associated with Student Pharmacists’ Academic Success in an Active Classroom Pharmacy Curriculum. Am J Pharm Educ [Internet]. 2020;84(7):Article 7695
- Britton B, Tesser A. Effects of Time-Management Practices on College Grades. J Educ Psychol [Internet]. 1991 [cited 2021 Jan 10];83(3):401-10.
- Hartwig M, Dunlosky. Study strategies of college students: Are self-testing and scheduling related to achievement? Psychon Bull Rev [Internet]. 2012;19:126-34.
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