An Academic Service Learning (AS-L) Activity within an Undergraduate Course in Pharmacology
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Academic service learning (AS-L) is a type of active learning in which a student demonstrates knowledge and understanding through service to the community and reflection. The present report describes an activity in which AS-L was implemented as part of an undergraduate pharmacology course. The course is common to the curricula of the Doctor of Pharmacy, Physician Assistant and Toxicology programs at St. John’s University. In the AS-L project, students were charged to develop a presentation which they would then give to members of the community who were unfamiliar with the presentation topics. Students worked in teams and formed their presentations around discussion topics such as drugs versus natural substances, the medical benefits of drugs, the possible toxicities of drugs both legal and illegal, or the mechanisms by which drugs enter or leave our bodies. The student teams then traveled to various service sites throughout the greater university community with the goal of community outreach through education. In the present report, strengths and limitations of the AS-L project have been noted. The major strength of the project, as indicated from student reflection papers, was that each student in the team became an active learner and the otherwise “passive learning” environment of the classroom became an active one at the service site. All students in the team presented and answered questions. A major limitation of the activity was finding a suitable instrument for the assessment of student learning. Future AS-L courses of this type are anticipated to include pre and post surveys.
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