Duncan Ferguson

Poster Abstract

Encouraging Active Learning and Critical Clinical Thinking Early in the Veterinary Curriculum? Yes, We “Khan”

D.C. Ferguson (University of Illinois, Urbana, IL), D.Tollon (Vetmedteam LLC, St Petersburg, FL), E.M. Mills (Rick Mills Consulting LLC, Ames, IA), J.E.Ehlers (Hannover University of Veterinary Medicine, Germany)

Traditional lecture-based veterinary curricula result in a decline in critical thinking skills during pre-clinical years (Herron et al, 1992). Decades later, despite information available via the Internet, the instructional focus often remains on content and not on development of problem-solving skills (i.e. critical clinical thinking).

A proposed “new” role of faculty should be to coach students while they practice applying information. “Flipping” the class is only one approach. A 2010 Dept. of Education meta-analysis of 90 higher education studies showed that such “blended” learning results in greater learning outcomes (http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/tech/evidence-based-practices/finalreport.pdf), and similar findings have been observed in veterinary education (Neel and Grindem, 2010).

The technology exists for sharing of content modules to support using more classroom time for student engagement. An active learning culture must be nurtured, and cannot easily be organized by one academic institution. A call for such an approach has recently come within human medicine (Prober and Khan, 2013). European veterinary schools initiated the sharing of learning materials through WikiVet (http://en.wikivet.net) and NOVICE (www.noviceproject.eu/). Veterinary technician schools employ learning modules shared via VetMedTeam (http://www.vetmedteam.com/classes-free.aspx). Veterinary Internet Content Exchange (VetICE; http://www.vetice.net) is being reconfigured as a repository of learning materials with linked relevant learning objectives.

A database of 5-15 minute video modules is being proposed, modeled after those on Khan Academy (http://www.khanacademy.org) or TED Ed (http://ed.ted.com), and of related classroom exercises such as those developed with web-based tools at https://whenknowingmatters.com/.

Interested content experts are being sought to develop and/or review materials supporting self-driven learning, leading to greater long-term retention, hopefully the goal of every educator.

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Poster abstract


Ferguson DC, McNeil LK (University of Illinois CVM, Urbana, IL 61802), Mills EM (Rick Mills Consulting LLC, Ames, IA), Ehlers JE (Hannover University of Veterinary Medicine (TiHo), Germany)

First year “foundation” course instructors seek to leverage earlier clinical experience at Illinois with a weekly discussion session called “Clinical Correlations.” The need for more gradual introduction to CCT became apparent. A study was designed to evaluate the efficacy of paired individual and small group exercises on CCT development. Before and after instruction, the Cornell Critical Thinking Test (Level Z) was administered. Hypothesizing that students with stronger skills would help coach colleagues, groups of 6-7 with equal mean scores were created.

After introduction to principles of CCT and EBM, students completed 14 individual and paired group exercises over 6 months. Seven of the exercises were cases using the “EBA” [Applied Learning Platform] at https://whenknowingmatters.com. Exercises were designed to increase in complexity and decline in scaffolding. Student analyses were scored according to a 6-category critical thinking rubric using a 5-point scale from Novice to Expert. Full credit was given for a reasonable effort.

Consistent with our hypothesis, rubric scores increased, but contrary to our hypothesis, mean overall Cornell scores did not change. Subcategory analysis is planned. Student attitudes were mixed. Negative comments reflected upon preparation time needed to conduct research on bridging clinical concepts, and on lack of explicit correlation with subsequent examinations. Positive comments focused on the reinforcement of prior didactic instruction.

Scoring was time-consuming and precluded timely individualized feedback, but a trial of peer-evaluation showed significant correlation with instructor scores, but with a positive bias. As part of a Fulbright fellowship at the TiHo, the first author is currently co-teaching with colleagues and conducting a similar study of German veterinary students.

Click to view and/or download VECPosterFergusonInternationalEfforts