Assessing writing perceptions and practices of pharmacy students

Paul L. Ranelli, Jane V. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


This study aims to assess the writing perceptions and practices of pharmacy students. In fall 1996, an anonymous survey of writing self-assessment was administered to 45 second-year pharmacy students in a public health course. Students rated their confidence to communicate successfully for nine specific tasks and to perform 21 writing mechanic skills using a 0-100 scale, where 0 = no chance and 100 = completely certain. Students also indicated the importance of writing in pharmacy practice using a 0-100 scale, where 0 = not important at all and 100 = extremely important. To assess improvement in ability to write position papers, the first and third essays of each student were assessed by a panel of six readers using a holistic scoring procedure, where 1 = weakest and 6 = strongest. Writing ability was the mean of each student's scores on the two position papers. Composite communication confidence and mechanics confidence scores were calculated as the overall mean of all items in the respective categories; simple regression models were tested using these variables individually as predictors of students' writing ability. The composite communication confidence score was 73.2 percent, and the composite mechanics confidence score was 79.0 percent. Students rated writing skills in pharmacy practice as important (75.4 percent). Communication confidence and mechanics confidence were significantly correlated with writing ability (r = 0.334 and 0.419, respectively) and with each other (r = 0.847). Communication confidence explained 11 percent of the variance in writing ability, and mechanics confidence explained 18 percent. Writing scores significantly improved by a mean of 0.60 (SD = 1.13) on the second paper. These findings suggest some strategies for teachers to use in writing-intensive courses. A self-confidence survey given at the beginning of a course can be a productive diagnostic and learning tool. In their responses to student writing, teachers can focus less on correcting surface errors and more on issues of critical thinking, use of evidence, and the nature of disciplinary conventions. Finally, teachers can be confident that a writing-intensive course does make a positive difference in students' ability to improve their writing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)426-432
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican journal of pharmaceutical education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1998


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