Learning from each other: Adventures in student engagement with learning and teaching

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Vet students work with a model of a dog’s head [Paul Dodds].
Following on from her colleague Neil Hudson and vet student Vikky Park’s blog, Kirsty Hughes, Research Assistant in Veterinary Medical Education, shares a little of her experience working with some of the veterinary students as they work towards applying for Associate Fellowship of the HEA (AFHEA)…

At the vet school, the students who go for AFHEA are a subset of those working towards the Undergraduate Certificate in Veterinary Medical Education1, a modular programme based on the UKPSF, the framework on which fellowship of the HEA is based. We offer up to 6 spaces within each cohort, and the students selected are ones who show a keen interest in working in Higher Education in the future. As well as their Peer Assisted Learning activities, the students attend and present at staff educational journal clubs. These student-led staff journal clubs have been some of the most interesting; the students give their perspective on educational methods and interventions, which often sparks a lot of discussion and debate. Some of the students also attend staff talks on educational topics, which they find helpful for their own teaching. Student-led journal clubs on education allow them to present and discuss educational papers between themselves, and some do research projects on an education topic and have presented at conferences on their research or teaching experience.

The UCVME and AFHEA process was established by colleagues Neil Hudson and Catriona Bell (R(D)SVS) and Miesbeth Knottenbelt (IAD). I came into this programme as a mentor, along with Julie Dickson from the R(D)SVS, when the first cohort of UCVME students were nearing completion of their degrees (and their UCVME certificates) and were writing their AFHEA submissions. Of the 8 students who have so far applied for the AFHEA across 2017 and 2018, all have been successful in achieving Associate Fellow status. In fact, the first of the 2017 cohort to achieve AFHEA, Lauren Krueger (pictured second from the left in the photo below), was to the best of our knowledge, the 1st veterinary student in the UK and the 1st undergraduate in any discipline in Scotland to be awarded this qualification.

Three of the 2017 cohort receiving their AFHEA certificates from Professor Susan Rhind at a pre-graduation awards ceremony. Photo attribution: vet school.

I am consistently inspired by what happens when we allow our students to take the reins in teaching. The students involved in the AFHEA process are enthusiastic, passionate and full of great ideas. Two of our AFHEA students from the 2018 cohort presented on their own approaches to teaching at the vet school’s Celebrating Teaching event (see picture below). Both presentations were professional and thought-provoking, and sat comfortably alongside talks by members of teaching staff. It was fantastic that they were included in the event and celebrated just as much as staff who teach; this sort of thing I feel makes us feel more like partners in learning and teaching rather than separate entities of teachers and students.

Of the current cohorts, as she explained in her blog, Vikky attended the Learning and Teaching conference, and two other students have organised their own conferences for fellow students on topics of interest.

Staff and student teachers from the 2018 cohort receiving recognition for their commitment to learning and teaching at the vet school. Photo attribution: vet school.

One of the first cohort (Sarah Chinnery, pictured left in the first photo) has even come back to work with us on a number of research and teaching projects alongside working in practice due to her keen interest in teaching in HE, which she gained through the UCVME and AFHEA programmes. This shows the potential for inspiring the educators of the future through giving students the opportunity to develop their interest in and gain first-hand experience of teaching during their degrees. It has been great to be able to give them recognition for this through both the UCVME and AFHEA programmes.

We are still developing the process, and will be working on informing students about the career options within HE and providing more support for their teaching, just as we would offer staff as part of their professional development, and our aim is to have the students involved in these decision processes where possible. Seeing the students develop in their understanding and experience in teaching over time has been both exciting and humbling. I find I learn from hearing their perspectives and input as much, if not more, than they learn from us. This is a lesson to step out into the adventure that is student engagement and partnership – you never know where it may lead!


1. Hudson, N., Stansbie, N., Rhind, S., Brown, G., Handel, I., Mellanby, R. and Bell, C. (2016). Recognising and developing students as teachers: introduction of a novel Undergraduate Certificate in Veterinary Medical Education. Medical Teacher 38, 208-210.

Read more about the AFHEA route through IAD’s IntroAP.

Kirsty Hughes

Kirsty Hughes is a Researcher in Veterinary Medical Education at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies (R(D)SVS), University of Edinburgh. Her research interests include assessment and feedback, educational research methods, the student experience, student and staff wellbeing and development. She is a mentor on the IAD and R(D)SVS EdTA programmes as well as on the R(D)SVS student AFHEA scheme.

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