debate, therapeutics, active learning, recommendations, clinical controversy


Objectives: To evaluate student perspectives of a clinical controversy debate activity designed to improve their skills to effectively approach and communicate complex therapeutic dilemmas.

Design: A clinical controversy debate activity was implemented in the fall semester of the third year pharmaceutical care laboratory curriculum. Topics were chosen based on controversies encountered in practice. Students were assigned to groups of 5-6 and subdivided to the pro or con of the topic. Each debate lasted 25 minutes. Students completed a self-assessment asking them to rate eight skills (e.g. selecting appropriate references, analysis of literature, defending and predicting arguments, composing and delivering the presentation, and persuading the audience) before and after the debate as: novice, developing, skilled, facilitating/leading, or educating. Results were analyzed descriptively and the pre-post ratings were compared using a Wilcoxon Signed Rank Test.

Results: 140 (84.8%) students responded to the self-assessment survey. The skill that students rated most highly prior to the debate was selecting appropriate resources and primary literature, with only 7.1% rating themselves as novice. After completing the debate, the skill rated with the greatest improvement was predicting opposing arguments with 47.1% rating as developing and 40% rating as skilled. All eight skills had statistically significant improvements pre- and post- assignment (p < 0.001).

Implications: Preparing arguments for and against treatment options is an important clinical skill, used regularly by pharmacists. A clinical controversy debate activity resulted in reports of improvement on eight measures of evidence based medicine-related skills.