A constructivist method for teaching concentration calculations to pharmacy students


  • Hannah Batchelor Medicines Research Unit, School of Life and Health Sciences, Aston University, Birmingham B4 7ET, UK


Concentration, constructivism, converting units, mathematics, medication errors


Concentration calculations are recognised as a general weakness in pharmacy undergraduate students, yet this is a crucial skill for a practising pharmacist. A constructivist environment encourages students to use their prior knowledge for better understanding of theories including mathematical concepts. This study compares the use of a constructivist environment to teach concentration calculations to a traditional, lecture-based course. The constructivist method used team work to develop competence and understanding of a series of relevant questions and measured individual and group understanding. Student competence following this constructivist course was similar to competence following a traditional lecture-based course. However, students indicated that they preferred learning within the constructivist environment compared to traditional lectures.


Batchelor, H. K. (2004). The importance of a mathematics diagnostic test for incoming pharmacy undergraduates. Phar- macy Education, 4(2), 69–74.

Blum, K. V., Abel, S. R., Urbanski, C. J., & Pierce, J. M. (1988). Medication error prevention by pharmacists. American Journal of Hospital Pharmacy, 45, 1902–1903.

Brooks, M., & Brooks, M. (1993). The case for the constructivist classroom. Alexandria, Virginia: Association for supervision and curriculum development.

Folli, H. L., Poole, R. L., Benitz, W. E., & Russo, J. C. (1987). Medication error prevention by clinical pharmacists in two children’s hospitals. Pediatrics, 718, 718–722.

Fortescue, E. B., Kaushal, R., Landrigan, C. P., McKenna, K. J., Clapp, M. D., Federico, F., Goldmann, D. A., & Bates, D. W. (2003). Prioritizing strategies for preventing medication errors and adverse drug events in pediatric inpatients. Pediatrics, 111, 722 – 729.

General Medical Council. (2003). Tomorrow’s doctors. In Recommendations on undergraduate medical education. London: General Medical Council.

Gredler, M. E. (2001). Learning and instruction: theory into practice. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Merrill Prentice Hall.

Greeno, J., & Hall, R. (1997). Practising representation. Phi Delta Kappa, 17, 361–367.

Hilton, D. F. (1999). Considering academic qualification in mathematics as an entry requirement for a diploma in nursing. Nurse Education Today, 19, 543–547.

Hutton, M. (1998). Nursing mathematics: the importance application. Nursing Standard, 13(11), 35–38.

Kapborg, I. (1994). Calculation and administration of drug dosage by Swedish nurses, student nurses and physicians international. Journal for Quality in Health Care, 6(4), 389–395.

Kelly, L. E., & Colby, N. (2003). Teaching medication calculation for conceptual understanding. Journal of Nursing Education, 42(10), 468–471.

Kelly, N., & Glaspole, S. E. (2006). Formative assessment as a learning aid for pharmacy calculations—a theory based design. Pharmacy Education, 6(1), 27–31.

Leape, L. L., Bates, D. W., Cullen, D. J., Cooper, J., Demonaco, H. J., Gallivan, T., Hallisey, R., Ives, J., Laird, N., & Laffel, G. (1995). Systems analysis of adverse drug events. JAMA, 274, 35–43.

Lesar, T. S., Briceland, L., & Stein, D. S. (1997). Factors related to errors in medication prescribing. JAMA, 277, 312–317.

Miami Museum of Science. (2001). Constructivism and the Five E’s, http://www.miamisci.org/ph/lpintro5e.html (accessed 16- 03-06

Phillips, D. P., Christenfeld, N., & Glynn, L. M. (1998). Increase in US medication-error deaths between 1983 and 1993. Lancet, 351, 643.

Pirie, S. (1987). Deficiencies in basic mathematical skills among nurses. Development and evaluation of methods of detection and treatment. In Nurses and mathematics. London: Royal College of Nursing.

Rees, J. A., Smith, I., & Smith, B. (2001). Introduction to pharmaceutical calculations. London: Pharmaceutical Press.

Rolfe, S., & Harper, N. J. N. (1995). Ability of hospital doctors to calculate drug doses. British Medical Journal, 310, 1173–1174.

Runciman, W. B., Roughhead, E. E., Semple, S. J., & Adams, R. J. (2003). Adverse drug events and medication errors in Australia. International Journal of Quality Healthcare, 15(Suppl), 49–59.

Shuell, T. (1996). Teaching and learning in a classroom context. In D. Berliner, & R. Calfee (Eds.), Handbook of educational psychology (pp. 416–433). New York: Macmillan.

Smith, J. (2004). Building a safer NHS for patients: Improving medication safety, A report by the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer Taylor, K. M. G., Bates, I. P., & Harding, G. (2004). The implications of increasing student numbers for pharmacy education. Pharmacy Education, 4(1), 33–39.

Weeks, K., Lyne, P., & Torrance, C. (2000). Written drug dosage errors made by students: the threat to clinical effectiveness and the need for a new approach. Clinical Effectiveness in Nursing, 4, 20–29.

Wheeler, D. W., Whittlestone, K. D., Salvador, R., Wood, D. F., Johnston, A. J., Smith, H. L., & Menon, D. K. (2006). Influence of improved teaching on medical students’ acquisition and retention of drug administration skills. British Journal of Anaethesia, 96(1), 48–52.

Wilson, B. G. (Ed.) (1996). Constructivist learning environments: case studies in instructional design. Englewood Cliffs NJ: Educational technology Publications.


How to Cite

Batchelor, H. (2018). A constructivist method for teaching concentration calculations to pharmacy students. Pharmacy Education, 7(1). Retrieved from https://pharmacyeducation.fip.org/pharmacyeducation/article/view/137



Research Article