The MPharm is an undergraduate degree qualification

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The MPharm is an undergraduate degree qualification awarded to all pharmacy undergraduates following four years of academic study in pharmacy at an accredited university in the UK. The four year programme superseded the three year bachelor degree (BPharm) in 1997 as part of harmonisation with the European Union. [1] The MPharm degree is a platform which leads to professional qualification as a pharmacist in the UK. Students follow a one year preregistration programme after attaining the MPharm degree before being allowed to practice as pharmacists in the UK.

The government white paper 'building on strengths delivering the future' (2008) recommended that the Pre-registration training year be integrated into the four year MPharm course and all UK pharmacy schools are now in the process of updating their curriculum and the transition is taking place at the time of writing this paper. [2]

The MPharm degree at the University of Manchester like all other schools of pharmacy is accredited by the new regulator the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), having previously been regulated by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB). The transition of regulatory affairs was completed September 2010.

The University must fulfil the criteria as set out by the GPhC in order to achieve and retain accreditation. [3] Criteria number 33 states that the degree course should seek to develop students' skills of self‐management, team working and peer assessment.

The GPhC has published standards for education and training, conduct, ethics and performance for registered pharmacists which are based on seven key principles which undergraduates working towards registration must abide by in order to practice safely and effectively as pharmacists in the future [4]. Some of these standards are;

6 'Be honest and trustworthy'

6.8 'Respond honestly, openly and politely to complaints and critics'

7.3 'contribute to the development, education and training of colleagues and students, and share your knowledge, skills and expertise.'

All are important in peer assessment and self-assessment. It is often the case that students face criticism from their peers during an assessment and must abide by standard 6.8. During self-assessment students need to be honest and be as professionally as possible and take responsibility for their own learning and working practices.

The University of Manchester employs a variety of assessment methods in order to assess students' knowledge, clinical skills and competence, in order to ensure that the accreditation standards set out by the regulator are continuingly being met.

These include; essays, multiple choice questions, practical classes, tutorials, workshops oral presentations and research assignments. [5] Peer assessment has also been employed in some modules during the course such as in social pharmacy and in disease management and a first year module called enquiry based learning.

Peer assessment at university is productive, gives students' encouragement to take responsibility for their own learning and helps them understand what is expected from them from the standards set. It gives students a sense of respect as they make judgements and their views are taken on board. It gives students a chance to reflect critically on their work [6]

Peer assessment is where an individual receives feedback relating to their performance when carrying out a particular task from work colleagues. The work colleagues could be persons of authority such as the leadership team of a company or organisation. [7]

Peer assessment is not only used in higher education but also in organizations such as the NHS and multinational companies.

According to the American nurse association peer assessment is a process by which professionals assess, monitor, make judgments and provide feedback to colleagues by comparing the way they practice to set standards [8]

Initially the concept was developed in the west largely driven by market forces and economic principles. It was a blueprint in order to improve leadership qualities of managers and directors of companies. [7]

What is the rationale for self and peer assessment?

The purpose of self-assessment and peer assessment is to allow students to evaluate themselves and others in a critical manner. It improves quality of learning and empowers students. (Rationale paper) 8

Peer assessment and Self-assessment skills are transferable to the workplace and almost all aspects of life and encouraging students to develop evaluation skills. Self-assessment allows students to reflect and gives them self-awareness and can be used as a sustainable assessment method at university

Brown, rust and Gibbs (reference) have described some advantages of peer assessment for students stating that it motivates students, allows them to take responsibility for their own learning, gives them transferable skills and prepares them for lifelong learning.

Self and peer assessment "promote lifelong learning, by helping students to evaluate their own and their peers achievements realistically, not just encouraging them to rely on tutor evaluation" Brown 1996 (9) (Yvonne)

Previous Work

Hodson and Young carried out a study on the peer assisted learning (PAL) which was an integrated component of an undergraduate biology module. Students carried out research in small groups and presented weekly cases to the rest of the class. The rest of the class provided peer assessment feedback to the group presenting the case and members within the presenting group also peer assessed each other and completed a self-assessment exercise. All peer and self-assessments were performed according to a set of criteria provided to the students. The peer and self-assessment marks were analysed and a survey was used to determine student's experience of this exercise. 1210 case based tutorials were completed and the average PAL marks provided by the class to the presenting group correlated well with that provided by staff but the study could not perform any statistical analysis as only a few members of staff were present. For the group work there was little difference between self-assessment marks and peer assessment marks. In 52% of the cases students gave themselves a slightly lower mark then their peers gave them. For the remaining 48% of cases the self-assessment mark was the same as or slightly higher than the mark provided by their peers (Yvonne number it). The results from the study also found that peer assessment also caused students to listen more attentively and students thought that peer assessment was valuable and gave them a sense of involvement and responsibility

Papinczak et al conducted a study at the University of Queensland. 125 first year medical students and 20 tutors were part of this study which took place over a 6 month period. The aim of this study was to investigate self, peer and tutor assessment of performance in problem based learning tutorials.(8)11 The participants conducted a test which involved measuring self-efficacy. The test consisted of a series of questions related to their learning which they had to rate on a scale of 1-5 and they also filled in a peer assessment tool which generated qualitative and quantitative data. The marks obtained from the self-assessment correlated poorly with the tutor assessment marks (r=0.31 to 0.41). This was because students repeatedly under marked their own work. However the marks from the peer assessment correlated quite well with the tutor's marks; initially (r=0.40) and improving to (r=0.60). During peer assessment, students over marked their peers. The study demonstrated that 'self-assessment is a less accurate means of assessing student performance than peer assessment'. (8)11 This was because student's under-marking of their own work differed from that of the tutor's marks significantly more than the peer assessment's marks. From the above study Students with higher self-efficacy marked their PBL performance higher compared to those with low self-efficacy indicating that student ability has an effect on the outcome of peer assessment.(8)11 Not all students are sure on how to carry out peer assessment and some don't know how to self-reflect.

Papinczak et al, (2007) study showed the students with higher self-efficacy marked their PBL performance higher than those with low self-efficacy.(8)11 This indicated that student ability had an impact on the outcome of the peer assessment process. In contrast Krause, J.E. and Popovich, N.G (11)12 findings had indicated that pharmacy students who performed well during group work were modest about what they had achieved when carrying out self-assessment and peer assessment exercises.

It was reported although female students were statistically outperforming their male peers peer assessment marks did not always reflect this. Male students received more positive statements from their peers than did their female counterparts, the author hypothesises this may be due to male dominance within the group and their active contribution in group discussions. (1)13 It has been noted in self-assessment 72.7% of females were consistently underestimating their performance while 73.3% of male students were over estimating their performance. (1)13 In contrast to these findings Johanna et al reports the apparent differences between the two genders were that female students were repeatedly shown to be achieving higher peer marks than the male students. The Author hypothesises this could be due to the approach female students have in dealing with the work and delegating tasks in a more disciplined and contentious manner than male students.

According to studies by Arnold et al (16)14, Shue et al (17)15 and Arnold et al (18)16 students had different views on the advantages and disadvantages of participating in peer assessment, and participation depended on various factors surrounding the assessment process such as; who carried out the assessment, whether or not it was optional or compulsory, environmental factors i.e. relationships and whether it included assessing professionalism and if it was anonymous

Elaine Logan (17) carried out a study on the effect self-assessment and peer assessment on teaching and learning. Many of the students who participated in this study had "non-traditional academic backgrounds". The purpose of the study was to see if their academic skills could be enhanced by self-assessment and peer assessment.

The participants included a group of 11 higher education students studying for a foundation degree. Data was obtained by conducting interviews, questionnaires, self-assessment exercises and observations of peer assessment feedback. The findings from this study indicated that students became more self-reflective and critical and this improved their academic performance.

Preliminary findings indicated that students wished to remain anonymous during the peer assessment. Students had varied attitudes towards self-assessment students indicated that;

"It's difficult to take an unbiased look at your own work"

"It helps you look more critically at your own work"

When asked what the strengths of self-assessment were the vast majority stated that it made them reflect on their work, made them less complacent and more critical. From this study more students were happy with self-assessment compared to peer assessment. Students were worried that their lack of academic ability will be exposed during peer assessment and some students were worried that they did not have the experience to peer assess. One tutor stated that in his opinion students didn't want to offend their colleague's and hence gave higher marks. According to the author students became more supportive of one another and were willing to share work and comment on work in a sensitive manner. Peer assessment also had an impact on student's confidence according to the study. 9 out of the 11 students who participated in the study were worried and anxious about their lack of experience in marking peers. Students stated;

"I don't feel confident about what I should be looking for and what is particularly good about a piece of work". However students gave positive comments about being on the receiving end of a peer assessment. The following comment was reported.

"Felt happy about the response I agree with almost all of it. Will take feedback and use it"

Krause, J.E. and Popovich, N.G (1996) 18study at Purdue University during 1995 assessed student's attitudes towards self and peer assessment in order to integrate peer assessment into the pharmacy curriculum. A questionnaire was distributed to 83 fourth year undergraduate students. The questionnaire consisted of 6 items picked from an attitude survey that included 'a five-point Likert scale varying from strongly agree to strongly disagree'. They found that 80% of students said that they found the feedback from peers productive and it allowed them to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses. 64% agreed that peer assessment improved their professional development. However 47% were worried about peer assessment marks contributing towards their final mark. (11) 12

Peng 2010 20 indicated that bias during the peer assessment process can affect its reliability and is a limitation of peer assessment and therefore may not necessarily improve student performance and grades. Various studies have been carried out where Self-assessment methods have been employed and these studies have shown that bias could arise from students being too harsh on themselves or overly confident.

Elizabeth Burd et al 21carried out a study on the use of peer and self-assessment during group. Students had to rank themselves and their peers in their group. When ranking themselves the vast majority of students ranked themselves as main contributors to group work. Only 3 students had ranked themselves as contributing least to group work. They concluded that students found it hard to be objective about their contribution towards group work. When ranking peers ranked themselves in the mid position despite peers ranking that student as the highest contributor to group work. However the sample size for this study was small and this does not give a full picture of the reasons why that student had ranked themselves low.

In conclusion peer assessment and self-assessment have been used in higher education but do not form significant parts of the higher education curriculum. There is extensive literature on the use of these modes of assessment in allied health professions although very little research has been carried out in pharmacy. In order to determine the impact it may have on training pharmacy students more research needs to be carried out and this was the purpose of this study. Studies have shown that peer assessment has a positive impact on student development as professionals and gives them autonomy and boosts there confidence by enabling them to identify areas of development. The problem with peer assessment is reliability as students can often be bias. The same problem exists for self-assessments as students can often be harsh on themselves. Interpersonal relationships have an impact on peer marks. Student emotions, friendship and competency all play a key part in reliability of peer assessment and emotions and competency can have an impact on self-assessment. Implementing peer and self-assessment methods into the pharmacy curriculum will no doubt have its problems. It would be difficult to standardise these types of assessments and the reliability and validity of marks will always be questioned by students. The sole purpose is not to give or take away marks from students but to identify areas of development so students can implement into all aspects of their lives. Peer assessment and self-assessment are very important means to develop and shape oneself and to strive to improve all the time.