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College of Pharmacy, Allied Health Professions faculty present at SDSU’s first SoTL Symposium

South Dakota State University hosted the inaugural Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Symposium on Nov. 1.

The symposium saw 25 different presentations and posters from 35 faculty from across SDSU, as well as a keynote from Peter Felten, professor of history, executive director of the Center for Engaged Learning, and assistant provost for teaching and learning at Elon University.

Four presentations were given by faculty from SDSU’s College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions, including Brittney Meyer, Hemachand Tummala, Kassandra Erickson and Alex Middendorf, representing the departments of pharmacy practice and pharmaceutical science and the medical laboratory science program. 

Their presentations and experience at SDSU’s first SoTL Symposium included: 


Brittney Meyer and Alyssa Zweifel: Approaches to simulation learning 

Brittney Meyer
Brittney Meyer

Meyer is a professor of pharmacy practice and the college’s interprofessional education coordinator. She teaches labs and courses in the first two years of the professional pharmacy program, precepts fourth-year students and is the primary faculty adviser for the college’s Student Collaboration for the Advancement and Promotion of Pharmacy student organization. Her research is centered around the scholarship of teaching and learning, with her areas of interest including interprofessional education and innovative teaching methods. 

Meyer presented alongside Zweifel, assistant professor in the College of Nursing and director of the Healthcare Simulation Center. 

Alyssa Zweifel
Alyssa Zweifel

Meyer’s and Zweifel’s presentation, “Evaluating the Impact of a Change to a Virtual Interprofessional Poverty Simulation,” detailed research comparing the effectiveness of two different approaches to interprofessional poverty simulations for pharmacy and nursing students. An initial in-person poverty simulation was completed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and feedback was positive. During COVID restrictions, a virtual simulation was developed. After COVID restrictions ended, Meyer and Zweifel compared results of both simulations and found both were effective in improving student understanding of poverty. In response, the virtual poverty simulation was adopted for regular utilization in student learning, due to it being more effective in time, cost and resources. 

Meyer added that in attending the SoTL symposium, “it was interesting to learn about different projects being completed across campus and how students are benefiting. I hope additional collaborations among different departments will result in learning more about what others are doing from this symposium.” 


Hemachand Tummala: Teaching problem-solving 

Hemachand Tummala
Hemachand Tummala

Tummala is a professor and the head of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. He teaches pharmaceutics/compounding pharmacy courses to professional pharmacy students and graduate students. He has been a research mentor for several undergraduate students, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. 

He is also a past recipient of the Students’ Association Teacher of the Year Award, as well as the college’s Excellence in Teaching award. 

Tummala’s presentation, “A Student-Driven Laboratory Teaching Model Focusing on Problem-Solving Skills Using Patient Case Studies,” detailed a new approach to student learning, namely one that teaches problem-solving skills alongside key concepts. Tummala noted that past pharmaceutics research is product-based, where students are given instructions that lead them to a known desired outcome. Tummala’s new approach instead poses a problem to the students, and students must use their acquired knowledge to determine how to solve the problem. 

Tummala noted that this new approach, dubbed POPSICL (Patient-Oriented, Problem-Solving, Inquiring, Cooperative Learning) changes laboratory training from recipe-cook book style to an open-ended, problem-solving model using patient-case studies that more closely resembles a professional environment. 

Overall, feedback to the new approach was overwhelmingly positive across a variety of metrics including student confidence, understanding and innovation. Tummala noted that “this project is the first initiative in the nation to incorporate patient-oriented, problem-solving and co-operative learning in pharmaceutics laboratory teaching." 


Kassandra Erickson: ‘Ungrading’ 

Kassi Erickson
Kassandra Erickson

Erickson is an instructor in the medical laboratory science program and teaches courses in hematology, management, education, phlebotomy, laboratory methods and the medical laboratory science freshman seminar. Erickson is also the faculty adviser for the medical laboratory science club. 

Erickson presented her poster, “Ungrading: Competency-Based Manual Differentials for Individualized Learning,” which detailed her development of a new approach to completing as essential competency for medical laboratory scientists, called manual differentials. Following student feedback and her own experiences as an instructor, Erickson determined the approach to teaching this key competency was ineffective and had students more focused on grades than on learning key concepts. 

In response, Erickson developed a new approach. Instead of the previous method where students were assigned three to five differentials every week, students were given the entire semester to complete 45 differentials. In addition to allowing students to work at their own pace, Erickson also allowed students to “retake” an unsuccessfully completed a differential. 

Student feedback was positive. One student noted, “I felt that I was learning how to identify cells better as opposed to doing diffs in lab every week and then never checking back on what I had gotten wrong. I felt more prepared for exams by doing this project.” 

While student learning improved overall, Erickson noted one weakness of the new approach was time required for the instructor, and she is exploring ways to improve that. 

For Erickson, the SoTL Symposium was valuable for her as an instructor. “Ultimately, I want to provide my students with the best learning experience I can, and I think SoTL will help me do that. I get inspired by what others have done, and it often leads to me developing new approaches for my own classroom.” 


Alex Middendorf: Participation through reflection vs. attendance 

Alex Middendorf
Alex Middendorf

Middendorf is an assistant professor and the Community Pharmacy Care Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience coordinator. Middendorf teaches courses in all years of the professional pharmacy program, with emphasis on community pharmacy practices including patient counseling, self-care and medication therapy management. 

Middendorf’s presentation, “Promoting Student Engagement through Routine Brief Reflection Replacing Participation Points in an Integrated Pharmacy Lab Series,” detailed an effort to determine a more effective evaluation of student engagement in lab-based courses. The previous model saw students in lab-based courses receiving participation points for attendance. 

Middendorf explained that one drawback of this participation-based system is that it was structured more around students losing points for not attending rather than being rewarded for engagement. The new model instead utilized “professionalism and student engagement reflections,” where students would write reflections and earn points at the end of each weekly lab period on topics related to lab-course learnings from the week. 

After the first semester of implementing this new model, response rate to the professionalism and student engagement reflections was 97.6%, indicating the effectiveness of the new model. An optional survey regarding the new model was made available to the students, and responses were positive overall. As of the fall 2023 semester, this new model is being utilized in P1, P2, and P3 lab-based courses. 

For Middendorf, the SoTL Symposium was an opportunity to learn as well as to share what he has learned in the classroom. “While some components differ across disciplines, there are more similarities than differences as it relates to SoTL in higher education. … Don’t just keep it to yourself, so we get better faster together, and the SoTL Symposium was a great forum to do that.”