President's Teaching Scholars Program

2014 Research Projects


Shaun Ellen Gleason, PharmD, MGS

Director, Distance Degrees and Programs and Assistant Professor

University of Colorado

Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

Department of Clinical Pharmacy

12850 E. Montview Blvd. Room V20-1116R

Mailstop C-238

Aurora, CO 80045


Implementation of Faculty-Guided Self-Directed Learning (SDL) Using Innovative Technology as a Single Lesson Within a Multi-Instructor Traditional-Delivery Course

a. What is the central question, issue, or problem you plan to explore in your proposed work?   

What is the impact on student learning and reaction to learning when faculty-guided self-directed learning (SDL) is implemented in a single lecture of a multi-instructor, traditionally-delivered course?   In particular, how do specific SDL implementation factors, such as technology, and student and instructor involvement impact outcomes when SDL is implemented in this setting, where it is an outlier in educational methodology used throughout the remainder of the course?

b. Why is your central question, issue, or problem important to you and to others who might benefit from or build on your findings? 

Many educational programs, including those within our school, may need to redesign their educational methodology for various reasons, such as reduced budgets leading to reduced classroom time, and the growing need to implement new technology to meet the expectation of today’s students.   Additionally, many healthcare professions, including pharmacy, are expecting practitioners to direct their own continuing professional development.3 One method of addressing these needs is through SDL, with expert guidance of the faculty member when used within a curriculum.  A concern when implementing new methodologies, such as SDL, within a curriculum, is the effect on students when a different or unexpected method is used, especially as the sole offering within a course where all other lectures are delivered in a traditional or expected manner. 

By providing evidence on the impact to student learning and reaction to learning with varying methods of SDL implementation, ranging from complete SDL to traditional delivery, my proposal will provide my school and other educators with information on factors to consider when implementing SDL and if it is reasonable to do so within a traditionally delivered course. 

c. How do you plan to conduct your investigation? What sources of evidence do you plan to examine? What methods might you employ to gather and make sense of this evidence? What literature have you reviewed on your topic?:    

I will assess the varying implementation methods of faculty-guided SDL in a single lecture of a traditionally-delivered course, ranging from complete SDL with low technology to traditional delivery.  The methods of SDL delivery have varied across the years, with each year providing components of the methodology, or none at all, to contrast and compare.  Four of the varying methods of SDL delivery have already taken place (2009 – 2012), on an annual basis over the past four years of the same class.  The fifth variation is upcoming this fall 2013 semester, in the same class, on the same content.   The constants throughout these varying methods of SDL delivery have been that 1) this lecture has been the only lecture taught by the investigator, 2) this lecture has been the only lecture delivered in a manner unlike the remaining 34 lectures taught in a traditional manner (slide-based live lectures) by nine other lecturers, and 3) the content has remained largely unchanged.  Details of the methods of SDL delivery for each year are:


2009: SDL required, low-technology:  MS Word document as learning guide. Self-assessment questions.  No classroom time of instructor.


2010: SDL required, high-technology:  Interactive, multi-media, web-based authoring tool (SoftChalk™).  Self-assessment questions.  Live classroom introductory information. Live Q&A and case review.  Live session captured via PanOpto.


2011: SDL optional, high-technology:  SoftChalk™ as optional replacement or as supplement to a live lecture using web-based tool.  Live Q&A and case-review.  Live session captured via PanOpto.


2012: No SDL. Low-technology: Traditional, slide-delivered lecture. Live Q&A and case-review.  Live session captured via PanOpto.


Planned 2013:  SDL required, high-technology:  SoftChalk™  Live introductory session regarding: SoftChalk™ and SDL as methodology, introduction to an optional, anonymous survey regarding student choices in: 1) method of formative feedback (pre/post self-assessment questions, or skills activities in SoftChalk™ lesson requiring/not requiring mastery before progression, or post-lesson case-based questions with answers), and 2) percent coverage of learning outcome categories, with guidance on applicability of each.  Live Q&A and case-review will be provided in a post-lesson review period.


A table indicating the investigator-assigned rankings of individual SDL components of each of the years of implementation is provided below:



Level of SDL

[1=low (not SDL), 2=medium (optional SDL), 3= high (required SDL), 4 = very high (required, with many components of SDL)]

Level of technology [1=low (traditional; MS Word or PowerPoint), 2= high(SoftChalkTM)]

Level of instructor involvement6

[1= very low (no classroom time), 2= low-moderate, 3=moderate-high 4=high(full classroom time)]

Level of student involvement6

[1=low (none), 2= moderate (some; optional SDL or not, addressing identification of resources), 3= (considerable; identification of resources and learning objectives)]





















2013 (planned)






Assessment of student learning:  Student learning will be assessed by analyzing the class mean midterm exam scores on topic –specific questions.  Acknowledging a call for information on the value of Knowles’ individual components of successful SDL implementation identified in the table above, I will evaluate exam scores by two of those components,  level of instructor as facilitator and level of student involvement (in developing learning objectives, and identifying appropriate resources).6  Likewise, I will address the call for information on how to best use technology, by assessing the impact of educational technology, with or without student involvement, on exam scores.7  A Kruskal Wallis test will be used to evaluate exam scores across the five years in relation to level of overall SDL, and to each of the investigator-assigned rankings of individual SDL implementation components shown in the table above. 

Assessment of reaction to learning:  Student reaction to learning will be assessed by analyzing the results of instructor-specific course evaluation questions regarding teaching methods and communication/presentation skills.  All questions use a Likert scale of one to five, with 1= negative to 5=to positive reactions.  A Kruskal Wallis test will be used to evaluate scores assessed across the five years in relation to the degree of overall SDL, and to each of the investigator-assigned rankings of individual SDL implementation components. 

Two voluntary student focus groups will be conducted by a faculty member unbiased and external to the project.  One will occur prior to the 2013 course to evaluate preferred methodologies in SoftChalk™ lessons (using an unrelated topic), and another post-course to provide feedback on the 2013 delivery, with questions relating to SDL as a methodology, the use of SoftChalk™, and student and instructor involvement.  These questions will occur as a survey using a Likert scale of one to five, with 1= negative to 5=to positive reactions, and as open-ended questions to elicit additional information.   The analysis of these findings will be descriptive.

d. How might you make your work available to others in ways that facilitate scholarly critique and review, and that contribute to thought and practice beyond the local?

I am actively involved in several groups who can provide scholarly critique and review:

  • I am a faculty member at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (SSPPS), where curricular renewal is underway in the on-campus and distance-based programs, leading to renewal of methodologies in many classes.  In addition to my mentor, many faculty members will be available to review and comment on my project.
  • As a member of the Colorado Extended Studies Deans and Directors group, I will be able to share my findings with colleagues across the state who will be able to provide the perspective of extended studies programs, live and online.
  • As a member of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), I will have the opportunity to submit my work for review by pharmacy faculty, including those with a special interest in curricular and technology issues.

e. Include a literature review of the theory and effective teaching practice of the subject

I conducted a literature search, with the assistance of PTLC librarian Lisa Traditi, in PubMed and ERIC using the terms “self” OR “student” AND directed learning” AND “implementation” OR “efficacy” OR “educational technology”, and “multi-instructor”, and “single lecture”.   Selected articles were placed in Google Scholar for additional findings.  Articles from prior related searches were included.

Literature on SDL notes its widespread acceptance as an effective learning methodology for adult learners for approximately forty years.4,6  In this context, it has been used largely for continuous professional development (CPD) of many professions, but due to reduced budgets and limited classroom and faculty time, it is also being explored within curricula. 6   Its use within the curricula of health professions is attractive, as it is known to lead to enhancing important future professional skills such as autonomy and accountability.4   The use of SDL within pharmacy curricula meets a recent call by the AACP for more innovation in pharmacy education.  In this report, Blouin states that pharmacy education must move beyond the use of classroom time for the transfer of education, and instead focus on the how and why of gained knowledge.2   This call fits well with the steps involved in my implementation of SDL being assessed in my proposed project.

My project is centered on my assessment of the implementation of SDL in a single lecture of a traditionally-delivered course.  Malcolm Knowles described seven key components to the successful implementation of SDL, with three being the need to involve: 1) involve the educator as a facilitator, 2) the student in developing learning objectives, and 3) the student in identifying appropriate resources.4,6     The literature, however, has not identified the importance of single components of Knowles’ seven components of successful SDL implementation.  This may be due to the fact that while introductory time and student and instructor preparation for SDL can occur with its use in the healthcare profession setting, accreditation constraints may prevent the use of a true student-driven learning contract. 4,6   The literature notes that faculty involvement may be key the key to successful SDL implementation in the healthcare setting, especially in multi-instructor courses, where factors associated with successful single lectures in a multi-instructor course were introduction / organization and student involvement.1,3   As described earlier, my report will attempt to address the importance of both faculty and student involvement in SDL coursework; it will also provide insight into the implementation of unique methodologies in a single lecture of a multi-instructor, traditional-delivery course. 

SDL literature describes that the assessment of SDL focuses largely on its acceptance by students, and less on its impact on learning, especially in comparison to traditional methods.4,6   When SDL data on student learning are provided, they usually demonstrate matching efficacy to traditionally-delivered lessons, but rarely note use of SDL exceeding traditional methods.  Few reports in comparison to traditional methods provide negative findings on SDL implementation, but are called for to better understand best practices of SDL implementation.6,8   My project will compare factors using SDL to traditional-delivery and may identify negative findings.

The impact of technology in SDL is limited in the literature.  Authors share its use in SDL can enhance independence in learning, but for healthcare professions, live faculty time is still needed to optimize learner attitudes toward the methodology and technology. 3-5  Blouin notes that innovation in the form of technology, and in particular the use of multimedia offerings, can assist in the goal of bringing innovation to pharmacy education.2  Others go further to discuss the importance of assessing how to use technology versus assessing if it produces a significant difference in learning.7  My report describing different methods of implementing technology in SDL as a single lecture in a multi-instructor, traditional-delivery course, will contribute to this literature.

Chosen references are provided below:

  • Albanese MA.  An observational study of the lecture delivery style characteristics of high and low rated lectures.  70th Ann Meeting of the Am Educ Research Assoc, San Francisco, CA, April 16-20, 1986.
  • Blouin RA, Riffee WH, Robinson ET et al. AACP curricular change summit supplement: Roles of innovation in education delivery.  Am J Pharm Educ  2009;73(8): Article 154.
  • Brydges R, Dubrowski A and Regehr G.  A new concept of unsupervised learning: directed self-guided learing in the health professions.  Acad Med  2010; 85: S49-S55.
  • Levett-Jones TL.  Self-directed learning:  implications and limitations for undergraduate nursing education.  Nurse Educ Today  2005; 25: 363-368.
  • Manochehri NN amd Sharif K.  A model-based investigation of learner attitude towards recently introduced classroom technology.  J Information Tech Educ  2010; 9:31-52.
  • Murad HM and Varkey P.  Self-directed learning in health professions education.  Ann Adac Med Singapore 2008; 37:580-90.
  • Oblinger DG and Hawkins DL.  The myth about no significant difference: “using technology produces no significant difference”.  Educause Review  2006; 41(6):14-16.
  • Petty J.  Interactive, technology-enhanced self-regulated learning tools in healthcare: a literature review.  Nurse Educ Today 2013; 33: 53-59.


f. What is your record of innovation in teaching and/or the assessment of learning? 

I am a 2011 recipient of the President’s Teaching and Learning Collaborative, finishing my project this summer.  As director of the school’s Distance Degrees and Programs (DDP) office, I have applied innovative educational methods in both DDP and on-campus courses.  As a result, I have presented and will present the following (selected):

  • Poster presentation: Gleason SE, Nuffer M, Grogan M et al. Franson KL.  Evaluation of the innovative use of teleconferencing for problem- and team-based learning (PBL, TBL) in an online post- baccalaureate (BS) PharmD program for globally based pharmacists.  FIP World Congress, to be presented Aug. – Sept. 2013.
  • Oral presentation: Gleason SE, Nuffer M, Grogan M et al. Teleconferencing for team- and case-based learning (TBL, CBL) in online PharmD pharmacotherapy courses.  Monash Pharmacy Education Symposium; to be presented July 2013.
  • Ongoing PTLC projectBerning, SE and Nuffer, M. Evaluation of foundational team- and problem-based learning in an online post-baccalaureate Doctor of Pharmacy program; 2011 – 2013.
  • Oral presentation: Berning SE, Nuffer M, Wang S. Teleconferencing:  A bridge to addressing multiple needs; Cite 2011; April 2011; Denver, CO.
  • Poster Presentation: Berning SE, Wang S, Franson KL.  Self-directed learning (SDL) pilot in a pharmacotherapy course with and without a web-based learning tool.  AACP Annual Meeting; July 2011.


g. Are you able to attend the required meetings?

Yes, I will be able to attend the meetings.

h. Please provide the name and email address for your coach/mentor. Are you willing to set each coach/mentor meeting twice each semester?

Christopher Turner B.Pharm., Ph.D., Professor and Director of Experiential Programs, University of Colorado Skaggs School of

Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences,; yes.

If your project is selected, are you willing to serve as a coach/mentor in a future year? 

Yes, gladly.