Reflecting Your PCOA Results with Mirror Image Remediation
More than two years after the PCOA has become mandatory, colleges and schools of pharmacy still struggle with whether and how to prepare their students for this exam. In many cases, student PCOA results have been less than stellar, opening up concern by educators as to the meaning and consequences of poor PCOA outcomes for their program. The stakes are likely to gain in importance, and pharmacy educators are having to respond. We are supporting schools and colleges of pharmacy with a special PCOA preparation and remediation program.
Starting in 2016 the Pharmacy Curriculum Outcomes Assessment become mandatory for all schools and colleges of Pharmacy in the United States. For the last two years, pharmacy educators have expressed concern to us about this exam, including initial concerns about students not taking the exam seriously, as well as concerns that the stakes for this exam will only increase over time. This begs the question should pharmacy educators be preparing their students for the exam beyond what is already in their curriculum, and after the results, is remediation for their lower-performing students necessary or achievable?
In response to the changing landscape around PCOA, we developed a special resource to help pharmacy programs on both the front side and back side of the exam. Some pharmacy educators tell us that because of the timing of when their students take the exam and because of variability in the sequencing of the curriculum among pharmacy programs generally, it makes sense to provide their students with at least some preparation beforehand. Formative preparation, helping students identify their strengths and weaknesses, has been one approach. Likewise, getting a baseline assessment prior to students taking the PCOA can help identify any gaps or weaknesses in the curriculum including in such PCOA sub-topics as immunology, biochemistry, and pharmaceutics. We have developed a special 225-item PCOA pre-assessment, mapped similarly to the actual exam test plan, to help pharmacy schools benchmark their students.
For those schools needing a resource after the PCOA exam, we have a question bank available which contains hundreds of questions mapped to the 28 sub-topic areas found on the PCOA. With this resource, one of our approaches is to help the pharmacy program build a formative remediation review that mirrors structurally the PCOA results of their cohort. In short, more questions are proportionally included in the formative assessment for the sub-topics where the students performed the weakest. These can be organized granularly across all 28 sub-topic areas or weighted across the four main PCOA content domains. This way, students are focusing on where they are weakest, and precious time is saved by minimizing review of material they already know. If time permits, this mirrored approach can be achieved on the student level by constructing a remediation review based on individual student results when available. With our electronic testing platform and content management module this is easily achievable.
The consensus is that the PCOA is not going away, and its importance might only increase over time. More than two years later, pharmacy educators are taking this exam seriously, and impressing upon their students to do the same. Early adopters of the PCOA, before the mandatory period, may be in a bit better shape, but uniformly, there is enough variability in student performance that resources are needed to help. Check in with us to learn more.