The academic developmental learning journey in using a competency graduated descriptors tool for student self-assessment and feedback

S. M. Owen, I. Stupans, L. M. McKauge, L. Pont

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aim: Academic skill building is a significant issue for lecturers involved in preparatory health programs. This study examines various university academics from pharmacy schools and their approaches to introducing a generic competency tool for student self-assessment and feedback within experiential placement processes. Background: Competency standards used in determining that entrants to professions have the required skills, knowledge and attributes are essentially focused on 'end points' and assessment processes which indicate a competent/non-competent categorisation. An Australian Learning and Teaching Council pharmacy project developed a graduated descriptors tool for competencies relevant to student self-assessment and feedback which acknowledged the progressive development of skills by students. The tool was progressively amended in response to feedback by students. Method: Academics at two pharmacy schools implemented a graduated descriptors competency tool which they had amended in varying ways, including providing students with online access to some preparatory materials and using small tutorial groups to revisit competencies. Student surveys, trial school academic reflective writing and student and academic interviews were used to gather data about the tool's usefulness and the effectiveness of various implementation approaches. Manual collation and analysis were used. Results: A generally positive response was indicated to the amended tool for self-assessment, improving feedback and student learning. Academic reflective writing and interviews indicated the importance of appropriately contextualising the tool, including appropriate scaffolding in pre-placement approaches as relevant to the particular pharmacy program context. Discussion: While wider scale trialling is required, the research highlights the value of student feedback in developing and implementing new materials, with reflection by academics supporting their learning journey.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-80
Number of pages13
JournalFocus on Health Professional Education: A Multi-Disciplinary Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • academic development
  • pharmacy education
  • self-reflection


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