Clinical reasoning in pharmacy: What do eye movements and verbal protocols tell us about the processing of a case task?

Ilona Södervik*, Leena Hanski, Henny P.A. Boshuizen, Nina Katajavuori

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This study investigates pharmacy students’ reasoning while solving a case task concerning an acute patient counselling situation in a pharmacy. Participants’ (N = 34) reasoning processes were investigated with written tasks utilizing eye-tracking in combination with verbal protocols. The case was presented in three pages, each page being followed by written questions. Eye movements were recorded during case processing. Success in the task required differentiating the relevant information from the task redundant information, and initial activation of several scripts and verification of the most likely one, when additional information became available. 2nd (n = 16) and 3rd (n = 18)-year students’ and better and worse succeeding students’ processes were compared. The results showed that only a few 2nd-year students solved the case correctly, whereas almost all of the 3rd-year students were successful. Generally, the average total processing times of the case material did not differ between the groups. However, better-succeeding and 3rd-year students processed the very first task-relevant sentences longer, indicating that they were able to focus on relevant information. Differences in the written answers to the 2nd and 3rd question were significant, whereas differences regarding the first question were not. Thus, eye-tracking seems to be able to capture illness script activation during case processing, but other methods are needed to depict the script verification process. Based on the results, pedagogical suggestions for advancing pharmacy education are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-65
JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
Issue number1
Early online date5 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


  • Case task
  • Clinical reasoning
  • Eye-tracking
  • Pharmacy education
  • Script activation
  • Script theory
  • Script verification


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