Educational methods and technologies in undergraduate veterinary medicine: a case study of veterinary teaching and learning at Glasgow, 1949-2006

Dale, Vicki H.M. (2008) Educational methods and technologies in undergraduate veterinary medicine: a case study of veterinary teaching and learning at Glasgow, 1949-2006. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This case study, of veterinary education at Glasgow between 1949 and 2006, was undertaken to provide an illustrative account of learning and teaching practices over time. Ultimately the aim was to inform discussions on curriculum reshaping in undergraduate veterinary education at Glasgow.

A questionnaire was distributed to 2360 alumni, 513 students and 50 teachers, to obtain quantitative data on the availability and perceived usefulness of different educational methods and technologies, analysed using SPSS. Qualitative data were sought principally through ten student focus groups and interviews with over thirty current and former staff, theoretically coded using NVivo.

Questionnaire responses (from 11.5% of alumni, 23.8% of students and 72% of teachers invited to participate) revealed that lectures, printed notes, tutorials, practical classes and clinical training were used consistently over time and rated highly by stakeholders, confirming the importance of didactic teaching methods coupled with discussion and practical hands-on experience.

The focus groups with students highlighted their strong desire for earlier clinical training, with the recognition that a case-based approach resulted in more meaningful learning. The interviews with staff revealed that whilst all staff welcomed the opportunity for increased vertical integration, problem-based learning was rejected as a wholesale solution.

Highlights of the school’s curricular innovations to date include the clinico-pathological integrated sessions, the lecture-free final year, and the introduction of a veterinary biomolecular sciences course that allowed for a seamless vertical integration in years
1 to 4. However, recent efforts to implement self-directed learning and assessment strategies have been hampered by the fact that these were isolated innovations set within a traditional teacher-centred paradigm.

There was little support among stakeholders for undergraduate specialisation. There is still a perceived need for veterinarians to have omni-potential – if not to be omnicompetent. However, it is recommended that the current system of tracking be replaced with a more streamlined core-elective system, to allow students to pursue specific topics of interest in the later years of the course.

Teachers and students cited attributes of ‘good’ teachers. These generally did not change over time, although technologies did change. Good communication appears to be central to good teaching, with an in-borne desire to enthuse and motivate students to learn for the pleasure of learning rather than the need to hurdle-jump examinations. Both teachers and students cited good teaching characteristics in terms of the teacher as authority and motivator, rather than as a facilitator of independent learning, reflecting the nature of the traditional, didactic course.

There was little evidence of pedagogical change resulting from technological innovations. If anything, newer technologies compounded surface learning approaches and low level cognitive processing, rather than promoting deep learning and higher order thinking skills.

Identified barriers to teaching innovations included lack of time, reward and support (for teachers and students). Future curricular innovation will require a substantial investment in the scholarship of teaching – rewarding staff for excellence in teaching, putting it on a par with research excellence, and ensuring the necessary support mechanisms and infrastructure are in place to ensure the success of a self-directed learning curriculum.
A guided discovery learning curriculum is recommended, a compromise between traditional teaching and a fully problem-based curriculum.

The study did not specifically focus on assessment, but it is recommended that learning, teaching and assessment practices should be constructively aligned.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: veterinary education, educational technologies, teaching methods, learning, cognitive development, learning approaches, history of veterinary education
Subjects: R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
L Education > LF Individual institutions (Europe)
L Education > LC Special aspects of education > LC5201 Education extension. Adult education. Continuing education
L Education > L Education (General)
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
L Education > LA History of education
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Veterinary Medicine
Supervisor's Name: Sullivan, Professor Martin
Date of Award: 2008
Depositing User: Dr Vicki HM Dale
Unique ID: glathesis:2008-339
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 27 Aug 2008
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:17

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