Nicholas Denton, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor- Clinical
College of Pharmacy

Course Taught: 

  • PHR2367, Drug Use in America 
  • PHR4600, Pharmaceutical Sciences Laboratory

Nicholas Denton, Ph.D., is an Assistant Teaching Professor at The Ohio State University’s College of Pharmacy, Division of Undergraduate Education. He focuses on teaching laboratory skills to aspiring researchers and health care professionals while improving education accessibility. Denton has implemented a variety of evidence-based instructional practices in his undergraduate courses to encourage student learning in a STEM environment. 

Denton introduced a strategy of “flipping” lab teams designed to encourage engagement in PHR4600 Pharmaceutical Sciences Laboratory. He provided a variety of tools to orient students to the lab activities. After completing the experiments individually learners discuss results with a team before writing individual reports. He presents these strategies in the accompanying featured video. 

Increasing student demand for PHR2367, a course on drug use in the U.S., prompted him to organize a team to focus on redesigning lab instruction to best support student success. This effort comprised Denton’s IR project, which is outlined below.

In addition to developing a six-week version of the course and updating content, Denton and his team targeted a student writing learning outcome for intervention. Specifically, instructors wanted to see students develop their ability to anticipate counterarguments in research papers. 

Denton and his team worked with the college’s educational technologist Ross Tamburo, who introduced them to branch chain activities to encourage students to write counterarguments. While attending Meaningful Inquiry teaching endorsement sessions, Denton and his team developed a branch chain activity specifically for students in PHR2367. 

Instructors for PHR2367 now assign a “choose your own adventure” debate assignment as part of a scaffolded approach to teaching students the skills necessary to write a successful research papers. Students submit a three-paragraph short writing assignment to counter their own stance on recreational marijuana legalization. The assignment is integrated in the Carmen course site, and students complete the assignment asynchronously. 

When comparing pre- and post-implementation research papers, Denton and his team observed a dramatic increase in students presenting counterarguments (36.63% vs 13.87%). This increased presence of acknowledged counterarguments was also seen analytical final research papers (21.2% vs 4.9%). 

A comparison of the course exit survey with previous semesters also revealed a greater understanding of the complexity of the issues around drug regulation and legalization. In response to the question “What will you remember about this course 5 years from now?” students that completed the branch activity were 40-fold more likely to mention an understanding of the complexity of drug legalization and regulation (29.0% vs 0.7%, p<0.005). A similar trend was found with increased attention to the importance of literacy research for students who completed the branch-chain activity (12.8% vs 7.6%, p=0.08).

Read more about Dr. Denton’s work through his submitted IR portfolio.