Students as partners in education: Experiences from the Undergraduate Certificate in Veterinary Medical Education

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UCVME students receiving their Certificates at the Vet School prize-giving Summer 2018. Photo credit: Vet School

In this post, a clinical veterinary student, Vikky Park, and veterinary teacher, Neil Hudson, from Edinburgh’s Vet School, share their thoughts on working together on the Undergraduate Certificate in Veterinary Medical Education…

Vikky, Final Year Vet Student:

I signed up for the Undergraduate Certificate in Veterinary Medical Education (UCVME) in hopes of gaining more experience teaching and to get more comfortable with it in different settings.

Neil, Senior Lecturer and Director of the UCVME:

Teaching is a key skill that many health professions use on a day-to-day basis. We introduced the UCVME in 2014 as we wanted to formally recognise the important role our students play in our teaching and learning processes.

We have had over 140 students enrol on the programme and, so far, 22 have completed the programme in 2017, and 35 in 2018. A sub-set of 8 students have also successfully taken this a step further and, under staff mentorship, have achieved Associate Fellowship of the HEA. Activities include outreach workshops with local schools, like Liberton High School, to foster the link with young people aspiring to enter higher education.

Vikky writes:

The Liberton trip was my first experience with creating a lesson plan, planning a lesson as a group, and practising dialogue. I was most nervous about having to deliver a lesson within time. To get around my fears, I realised that using a more interactive lesson meant more freedom in what I was saying and kept students engaged. I was really surprised how much I enjoyed the trip.

Neil adds:

The work with schools has really been embraced by our students. For me personally, this has been incredibly humbling and rewarding. Seeing our students in action with school pupils, inspiring them and reaching out with their developing skill set has been fantastic. I have also learnt so much in terms of my own teaching, learning from my students and from the school teachers. Plus my dog, Juno, who accompanies us, has really enjoyed herself, being the centre of attention as we teach pupils how to care for their pets.

Juno helping with student learning. Photo credit: Vet School

We have organised for many of our students to take part in peer assisted learning (PAL)*. Vikky used this springboard to set up a new PAL opportunity.

Vikky writes:

The new graduate entry vet students have an anatomy course during summer break which I saw as an opportunity for clinical students to gain teaching experience. I also thought this would ease the introduction to veterinary school by providing new students with a student they can ask questions to about their vet school experience. After coordinating this with staff, I ended up helping the staff members with all of the anatomy practical and revision classes. These classes included histology, dissection and live anatomy. These classes were very relaxed with students asking questions as they arose lending itself well to PAL. I was pleased by how positive the feedback was from staff and students, and thrilled that the staff planned to continue this in future years!

Peer assisted learning. Photo credit: Vet School

Neil adds and concludes:

Vikky’s initiative was so successful that the School introduced the teaching intern programme this summer; this year, 4 students are following in Vikky’s footsteps and, like Vikky, they are doing a great job!

This Certificate has broken down any perceived barriers between staff and students, and now we are very happy to share tips and learn from each other. The Certificate has really provided the backdrop to allow this. It has been a real two-way process and that is what partnerships are all about.

Vikky concludes:

With the Certificate, I have seen an opportunity to push myself out of my comfort zone and to use this as a platform for the creation of new activities. By attending this year’s Learning and Teaching Conference (with staff ‘colleagues/partners’ from the Vet School!), I have realised that it’s time for me to think more about how I am teaching rather than what I am teaching. The opportunities arising from the UCVME allows staff and students to collaborate, closing that gap that I had felt in my previous degree.

*Read more about PAL across the university here.

Vikky Park

Vikky Park is from Massachusetts, and has a BSc in Behavioral Neuroscience and Environmental Science from Northeastern University in Boston, MA. While at the Dick Vet, Vikky has enjoyed spending time with the university’s archery club and doing activities for the education certificate. Through her work with the GEP students, Vikky received an R(D)SVS Outstanding Student Leadership Award, was nominated for two Impact Awards, and is excited to see the program continue each year with new students. This year, Vikky will be applying for Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. Her main areas of interest in veterinary medicine are wildlife, exotics, and teaching.

Neil Hudson

Dr Neil Hudson MA VetMB PhD DEIM DipVetClinStud SFHEA FRCVS is a Senior Veterinary Clinical Lecturer at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. An RCVS Diplomate in Equine Internal Medicine, Neil teaches throughout the BVM&S Programme, and introduced and leads the Undergraduate Certificate in Veterinary Medical Education at the Vet School. His research interests include veterinary education, students as teachers, admissions and equine gastroenterology and welfare. In 2018 Neil was awarded the Fellowship of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons for his research thesis on veterinary admissions.

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