Shadi Doroudgar, Pharm.D., APh, BCPS, BCGP, BCPP
One of the most challenging and yet most rewarding parts of teaching the next generation of pharmacists is instilling a sense of intellectual curiosity and innovative thinking. Integrating students into scholarly interests and pursuits allows students to explore ideas, think innovatively, and grow as researchers in the field. But how can you engage your students in scholarship? Here are five tips on how to effectively involve students in scholarly activities such as research.
1. Identify your student’s goals: The first step to engaging students in scholarly activities is to identify your student’s short and long term goals. If the student is unsure of their goals or has not yet set goals, guiding and motivating them to do so is essential. Having achievable goals in mind sets the tone for the student’s involvement in the scholarly endeavor. Sometimes the process of completing a research project from beginning to end can take months. Knowing the extent your student would like to be involved helps to set realistic expectations on both ends. For example, when starting to mentor a student on a Research Elective Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience (APPE) rotation, it is important to gauge the student’s planned involvement during and after the rotation, long term plans for dissemination of research results, and even long term career goals. Being aware of these goals will help you guide the student. Additionally, it is important to encourage students to identify strengths and areas for growth early on through self-reflection. This will allow them the opportunity to work with you to improve their skills and will give you an idea of where to start with mentorship.
2. Establish a timeline: Working on a timeline with the student from the early stages of research planning is a great way to set expectations and to make the work more manageable over a period of time. Developing a timeline can be done as part of goal setting. Involvement in scholarly activity, such as research, can require extensive time commitment. Setting deadlines and following timelines will allow your student to stay on track.
3. Set high standards: Discuss how your student’s contributions to scholarly activity can be impactful. Often times, sharing the prior scholarly work and accomplishments of former students under your mentorship can be an excellent way to provide realistic examples of what is possible and to motivate new students in the early stages of research planning. If interested, students can be involved in many stages of scholarship. Students can help with conducting literatures searches, developing a research question, planning research design, working on writing Institutional Review Board (IRB) proposals, recruiting research subjects, performing data analysis, and presenting their findings locally, statewide, nationally and internationally through posters. Additionally, students can contribute to manuscript preparation with the goal of publication in a peer reviewed journal. Awareness of these possibilities for involvement are important for student engagement in scholarly work.
4. Give your student space to explore their own ideas: Fostering independent thinking and confidence in decision making in your student is key. Ask your student to pursue areas that interest them, if feasible. Encourage them to evaluate the literature in those areas to identify existing gaps and formulate research questions that need further investigation. This activity may propel your student into their research project. Usually, when students choose to conduct research about a topic that interests them, their long term participation in research is more likely and they are more content with their work.
5. Provide consistent feedback: When collaborating on a scholarly project with a student, providing constructive and timely feedback will assure that the student is on the right track. This step is especially important if your student is engaging in research under your mentorship for the first time. The way feedback is delivered may vary based on preference; it can be verbal or written using tools such as track changes on documents.
Incorporating students in scholarly work will help them build a valuable skillset and encourage innovative thinking. Under your mentorship and with dedication to an area of interest, your student may be able to successfully take part in scholarly work.