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Role Play in Drug Discovery and Development: Biosciences student performance and perspectives when role play experiential learning activities are integrated into learning

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Objectives: Science education should not be viewed as absolute and unchanging. Instead of teaching a multitude of facts that might change tomorrow, there should be an emphasis on supporting learners to develop adaptability and ability to connect prior knowledge with future utility. Experiential learning in the form of role play offers accelerated learning experience and connect students to the real world setting. Role play activities deploy a student-centered approach that empowers students to take learning into their own hands and apply it in an engaging context. This paper describes the design and implementation of role play simulation activities for the module principles of drug discovery and development for Biomedical Science and Biotechnology students in the School of Biosciences at Taylor’s University, Malaysia.

Methods: Students were taught about the principles of drug discovery and development; at the end of the semester, a role play experiential activity was introduced. Students' performance between different cohorts was compared before and after the implementation of the role play and qualitative responses using open ended questionnaire were collected. Alongside the questionnaire an evaluation was also completed by the students for the module-based responses.

Results: Student evaluation of the role play experiential activity was positive. Applying knowledge in real life scenarios, interactive, and cooperation as a team emerged as the main themes of biosciences students to the activity. Students indicated that the role play activity helped with the application drug discovery and development concepts and enabled them to collaborate as a team in the activity. In addition, evaluation have shown that it enhances their ability to relate subject matter to real world examples, connecting the relationship of lesson activities to learning objectives and outcomes as well as improving their communication skills. The overall performance results for the module have also improved upon introduction of the activity compared to the last offered semester.

Conclusion: Students had better performance and expressed favorable responses after the introduction of the role play activity. Role play represents a beneficial tool in terms of understanding and application of complex concepts in the area of drug discovery and development.

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