Teaching Innovations at the CVM
The research efforts put forward by the faculty at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) are well recognized both inside and outside of the College. Unfortunately, much less is known about the many innovative teaching techniques our faculty uses to convey information to veterinary students both in class or on clinics.
We would like to highlight some of our teaching faculty and the unique methods they use to enhance the learning experience of the CVM’s veterinary student body.
Flipping the classroom
In the fall semester, during the swine section of the Large Animal III course, Perle Zhitnitskiy, DVM, MS, assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Population Medicine uses the flipped classroom teaching method. Her goal with this project is to enhance class participation and engagement with the material. Instead of giving nine two-hour-long lectures, Zhitnitskiy reformatted the course so it is now divided into nine hours of at-home studying and nine hours of face-to-face interaction. Students are given access to a chapter from an e-book written by the instructor, as well as to a summary video of the content they need to review. Optional publications are at the students’ disposal if they wish to dig deeper in the content. When in class, students take a short quiz to assess if they have studied the material that was given to them. After that, discussion regarding a clinical case is lead by the instructor to reinforce the concepts studied at home. At the end of the semester, students are given a survey to explain how they prepare for class, share whether they thought the one hour class time provided is enough, and describe what type of content they prefer.
Case-based approaches, from the start
“When I was a veterinary student I remember sitting in lecture after lecture dying to get to clinics and join the ‘big kids,’” says Erin Burton, DVM, MS, assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences. “When it came to laboratories, having been a CVT for many years prior to vet school, I would often think, ‘No one does this’ and ‘Why can't we practice real life things?’ The answer to this question, was often ‘Well you do not have the background to do the real things so we have to do the basics.’” Burton says she has made it her mission to break the mold. “I have the distinct pleasure or working with some of the smartest the future of veterinary medicine has to offer, so we start day one in diagnostics lab going through case-based approaches to common point of care testing.” Burton tells them it is going to be hard, but that they are going to be better doctors for it. Since the future is digital microscopy, the students practice taking pictures of various microscopic features using their cell phones or professional microscope cameras in ASVM 104. “This allows them to practice getting quality images that they can pass on to a specialist,” Burton says, “and it allows me to navigate strengths and weaknesses in the course objectives in real time.”
Resetting the timer
John Collister, DVM, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, has implemented well known research findings to enhance physiology teaching in his classroom. “A long time ago, a professor I had as a mentor said we are stuck with the theme of a 50 minute lecture model, even though we know most attention spans are on the order of approximately eight, 10, or 20 minutes depending who you cite,” he says, “Therefore, you need to do something to ‘re-set’ this timer of attention.” Collister startedincorporating small breaks, topic changes, or telling a story about something mildly relevant to the topic he is presenting. “In my own experience, these include telling a story about a charging elephant when I'm teaching keratinized stratified squamous epithelium, a clicker question, or a joke, etc. I may take up to 15 minutes away from the actual lecture material over the course of an hour, but this strategy really helps me retain more attention for the time I'm giving students the material they really need to know.”