Evolution of a course in veterinary clinical pathology: the application of case-based writing assignments to focus on skill development and facilitation of learning

Leslie Sharkey, Jed Overmann, Pamela Flash
Journal of Veterinary Medical Education 2007, 34 (4): 423-30

RATIONALE FOR STUDY: To encourage application and critical thinking, case-based writing assignments and grading rubrics were developed for use in a second-year core clinical pathology course. Objectives were to describe how this teaching technique was adapted to a large-class setting and how student perceptions of the learning experience guided modifications of this teaching technique over two presentations of the course and plans for a third presentation. Our goal was to enhance learning by encouraging application of course material to clinical situations and thereby improve students' ability to organize and communicate information. Furthermore, we evaluated the influence of instructor feedback on the learning process.

METHODS: With assistance from the University of Minnesota Center for Writing, assignments and grading rubrics were developed. Students completed course evaluation surveys designed to elicit feedback on the impact of the assignments.

RESULTS: Increased learner confidence was reflected in larger self-reported increases in understanding of the material and ability to apply information and in increased feelings of preparedness for class and examinations. A large majority of students advocated the use of such assignments in the course in future years, and modifications to make grading and evaluation of assignments more efficient are underway.

CONCLUSIONS: Investment of faculty and student time in case-based writing assignments in the veterinary clinical pathology curriculum appears to increase student engagement with material and learner confidence. Future studies should address the impact of this type of assignment more specifically on clinical reasoning and communication skills and on long-term retention of material.

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