Learning how to learn: Meta-learning strategies for the challenges of learning pharmacology

Suzanne Alton

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Nursing students have difficulty with pharmacology courses because of the complicated nomenclature and the difficulty of applying drug information to actual patient care. Objectives: As part of a new pharmacology course being created, meta-learning strategies designed to diminish the difficulties of learning this difficult content were part of the course pedagogy. Design: Strategies were demonstrated, reviewed in class, and implemented through homework assignments. Setting: The setting was an Academic Health Center's School of Nursing in the southern United States. Participants: Participants were third-year nursing students in an undergraduate nursing program. Methods: Surveys of students' opinions of learning gains were conducted at the end of the course over several semesters. In addition, pharmacology scores on a standardized exit exam were compared prior to implementing the course and after. Results: Students reported learning dry material more easily, having greater confidence, and finding substantial value in the learning strategies. Students indicated the most helpful strategies, in descending order, as follows: making charts to compare and contrast drugs and drug classes, writing out drug flash cards, making or reviewing creative projects, prioritizing information, making or using visual study aids, and using time and repetition to space learning. Implementation of the new course improved pharmacology scores on a standardized exit exam from 67.0% to 74.3%. Conclusions: Overall response to learning strategies was positive, and the increase in the pharmacology standardized exit exam scores demonstrated the effectiveness of this instructional approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2-4
Number of pages3
JournalNurse Education Today
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


  • Active learning
  • Education
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Pharmacology
  • Problem-based learning
  • Students
  • Students, nursing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing
  • Education


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