Proceedings of The Physiological Society

University of Cambridge (2008) Proc Physiol Soc 11, PC54

Poster Communications

An alternative to ‘traditional’ practical class teaching: debates

B. Exintaris1, J. Short1

1. Pharmaceutical Biology, Monash University, Parkville, Victoria, Australia.


Debates were introduced to 4th year Pharmacy students with an aim to discuss and critically analyse topics that were current and aligned with the lecture content. Students chose their own groups via ‘sign-up’ sheets which were made available on-line. The groups were then informed of their debate topic (but not their position in the debate), to allow adequate time for research (over a 3 week period). On the day of the debate, team positions were decided (affirmative or negative, debating or reserve), with time given for students to finalise their arguments before commencing the debate. The debates were peer-assessed based on the following criteria: believability/credibility of the argument, scientific value, strength of rebuttal, presentation. Following the debates, students were asked to submit an on-line ‘contribution sheet’ detailing the participation of the group members. An on-line survey revealed that intended outcomes such as acknowledgment of diverse viewpoints, critical analysis of the topic areas, and self-perceived improvements in communication skills were reached. Student feedback revealed three major concerns; the equity of the debate topics, the equity of the team positions (1st speaker vs. reserve, affirmative vs. negative) and the allocation of marks (peer-assessment and contribution sheets). Overall, the debates appeared to be a positive teaching and learning approach, providing an alternative, yet relevant and effective manner with which to examine pharmacological issues.

Where applicable, experiments conform with Society ethical requirements