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Educate-it

Educational innovation is helping laboratory animals - Benedikte Sam

As the faculty contact for Educate-it at Veterinary Medicine, I get to work with a colleague from the Chair of Quality Promotion at my faculty to organise an Education Sandwich meeting each month. We aim to inform and inspire teachers with recent developments in the fields of education and educational science. These meetings draw a crowd.

Three recently developed e-modules were presented at the most recent meeting, whose common thread was that they each contributed to a reduction in animal testing (a priority at our faculty). All three also enabled our students to prepare thoroughly for their practicals: an essential element of becoming a vet.

The first module was developed by colleagues involved with the 3R-center, a group dedicated to Replacing, Reducing and Refining testing on animals. The module is available to externals as well as our own students and is directed at improving awareness and knowledge of humane termination in people who work with laboratory animals professionally.

The end of this presentation transitioned smoothly into a discussion of the ‘Behaviour and Handling’ self-study module, which helps students prepare for practicals on various species of animals. Students get to see ahead of time what kinds of behaviours they should expect, what procedure they will learn and how to perform that procedure properly. This frees up time in the practical for students to actually practice.

A module that ties into that nicely is ‘Clinical Diagnostics, Cat’.
The behaviour of cats makes using them as (educational) laboratory animals fairly complex, not least because they are especially susceptible to stress. To allow students to still practice what they need while using as few cats as possible, three measures were implemented:

  1. Students can prepare for clinical teaching sessions involving cats at home, using the new e-learning module on clinical diagnostics. That module contains theory, practice, and many videos and exercises.
  2. During practicals, the more distressing procedures will no longer be performed on live cats, but on dummy animals (called ‘fluffy cats’), so that students can practice basic procedures under the auspices of the teacher.
  3. These fluffy cats are also used for the so-called station exams in the bachelor’s degree programme. Students can prove they possess the required skills and expertise to pass their exam using the dummy.

It is inspiring to see how actively teachers are innovating their teaching. And our students share that excitement, since the modules allow them to review and practice as often as they like.

I make myself useful to teachers by helping them procure funds and whatever (educational, technical or practical) support they require. I also connect teachers interested in starting similar projects. Obviously, my ‘Education Sandwich’ meetings also provide teachers a platform for sharing their educational accomplishments and developments.

Future editions have already been scheduled and will address very different subjects:

  • January 22nd: Chantal Duijn will talk about her doctoral research into EPA’s in veterinary education.
  • February 5th: Ruurd Jorritsma will address sideways entry into the Farm Animals and Veterinary Public Health master’s degree programme.

In closing, I would like to share that our students are also developing courses, such as our didactics elective. A teacher had asked them for help: How do I get students to show up for practicals properly prepared? Here’s what they came up with:

Enjoy!

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