Introduction: Pharmacy educators are designing integrated curricula to implement teaching that supports integrative learning. How students experience an integrated curriculum, and the extent a curriculum supports the development of integrative learners, has not been well explored. This study investigates students’ experiences, and meanings of, an integrated Master of Pharmacy (MPharm) curriculum.
Methods: Focus groups were conducted with students from the MPharm programme, at a single study site. The research explored the following questions; what pedagogic strategies do students recognize as examples of integration and how does an integrated curriculum shape learning?
Results: Fifty-one participants took part over eight focus groups. Meta-themes identified mirrored the research questions. Findings suggest that integrative learning is experienced when teaching is purposively designed to be horizontally integrated between disciplines, when integration is made explicit, and when content is applied to pharmacy practice. Integrated assessments were considered to be cognitively difficult.
Discussion: Learners identify experiences of integration, valuing its role in higher-order, applied thinking, suggesting that integration is a positive pedagogic strategy. However, the curriculum is underpinned by structures and processes that perpetuate disciplinary boundaries, and assessment methods hindered in-depth integrative thinking, suggesting the intentions of the curriculum were not being experienced as anticipated.
Conclusion: Learners perceive horizontal integration as useful for promoting context, and understanding how to apply science to practice. However, findings suggest the need for assessments to be better aligned with teaching to support the development of higher-order thinking skills.