An innovative method of data analysis: Using art as a lens through which to view pharmacy undergraduate students' learning and assessment practices

Ruth M Edwards, John I'Anson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: It has been argued in the literature that pharmacy is a unique integration of art and science. This paper addresses the art aspect of this and draws on the existence of multiple philosophies, theories and belief systems and describes the methodological process of use fine art (paintings) as a lens through which to view thematic data about a ‘scientific’ concept; a method which appears to be unique in the literature. Objectives: To explore pharmacy students' assessment practices and any influence on their learning practices. To explore how feedback influences pharmacy students’ learning practices. To determine whether the affective dimension impacts on pharmacy students’ learning. To evaluate whether fine can art be used as a lens to make sense of thematic data. Methods: Data collection took the form of individual semi-structured interviews and was underpinned by an interpretivist qualitative approach. Analysis of data involved exploring the themes relating to assessment. Initially, thematic analysis of the data was carried out using an inductive approach and mind-mapping then Pierre Bonnard's art was used as a ‘lens’ through which to view the themes. Results: Eighteen pharmacy students in one UK School of Pharmacy were interviewed. Themes relating to assessment practices which are discussed in this paper and compared to Pierre Bonnard's paintings are: conceptions of assessment (compared with Coffee), the impact of the nature of assessment on learning practices (compared with Dining Room in the Country), feedback (compared with Nude in a Mirror), strategies used in assessment practices (compared with The French Window), the affective dimension of assessment (compared with Red Roos at Le Cannet) and assessment constrains free-thinking (compared with The White Interior). Conclusions: Using Bonnard's art in analysis has provided an additional way of extending the analysis of participant's assessment practices. Aligning with Bonnard's technique of foregrounding the unexpected or diverting attention away from the obvious has allowed illumination of these practices and previously un-noticed aspects of pharmacy students' learning practices. There were a number of new insights gained from using this approach as well limitations. By attending to a different perspective that art brings, we have been able to see how assessment practices link to learning as pharmacy students.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2213-2221
Number of pages9
JournalResearch in social and administrative pharmacy
Issue number1
Early online date23 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

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  • Art
  • Assessment
  • Education
  • Pharmacy student


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