Scholarship in Veterinary Education

Chapter 37

Harold G.J. Bok1, Peter van Beukelen1 and A. Debbie C. Jaarsma2

1Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, The Netherlands

2Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Groningen, The Netherlands


Scholarship in veterinary education (SVE) can be defined as those activities that systematically advance the teaching, research, and practice of veterinary education through rigorous inquiry that is significant to the academic environment and its faculty members; can be documented; can be replicated or elaborated; and can be peer reviewed through various methods. In this chapter we will elaborate on such scholarly activities and their inferences that have successfully advanced the teaching, research, and practice of veterinary education across the globe.

One of the major responsibilities of any veterinary school is to develop training programs that support students’ development on the trajectory from novice student to veterinary professional. This requires veterinary curricula to maximally enhance student learning and to meet the requirements of the maximum robustness of high-stakes decisions. In recent decades, society and professional associations have come to place increasing importance on providing evidence for high-quality veterinary education in order to deliver graduates with sustained professional competence (AVMA, 2014; EAEVE, 2016; RCVS, 2015). Such evidence is delivered by the teaching qualifications of the academic community, by the quality of the evaluation strategies and quality assurance systems that veterinary schools have in place, and also by more profound educational research programs that some veterinary schools have set up.

Research in Veterinary Education

As a starting point for illustrating scholarly activities in the domain of veterinary education, we will focus on research. Research in veterinary education can be practice driven, theory driven, or both. In general, data is collected and analyzed in a systematic manner, multiple stakeholders with diverse backgrounds are included, and different methods are applied. The veterinary educational research domain provides an exceptionally rich field covering different subjects, resulting in a variety of applied methodologies and theoretical frameworks. This complexity is further enhanced by the fact that many variables have an impact on human behavior and affect the ability to predict educational outcomes accurately. Besides the difficulties that this creates, conducting veterinary educational research results in new perspectives on how to improve veterinary education and provide new opportunities for innovative interdisciplinary collaborations.

As Stokes (1997) described in his book Pasteur’s Quadrant, theory-based and practice-based research can best be seen as orthogonal continua, with the best research lying in Pasteur’s Quadrant. Louis Pasteur’s research is thought to exemplify this type of research, which is characterized by seeking a fundamental understanding of scientific issues, and simultaneously having practical, real-world impact. As described by Stokes, scientific research can therefore be classified in three distinct classes:

  • Pure basic research (e.g., Niels Bohr, early twentieth-century atomic physicist). Main focus on advancing knowledge by seeking a fundamental understanding of nature.
  • Pure applied research (e.g., Thomas Edison, nineteenth-century inventor). Primarily motivated by the need to solve immediate problems.
  • Use-inspired research (described here as “Pasteur’s Quadrant”). Bridging the gap between “basic” and “applied” research.

Research in veterinary education has gained popularity in the last two decades and we believe that this interest, and its research outcomes, has profoundly influenced the practice of veterinary education. An inventory of literature in the domain of veterinary education showed a steady increase of published manuscripts since 1945, while a much steeper increase is seen after the beginning of the twenty-first century (see Figure 37.1). The global increased attention on educational quality and the development of new approaches to higher education can be seen as stimulating factors.

A plot with Frequency on the vertical axis, Year 1945-2014 on the horizontal axis, and a curve plotted for Scopus search results of research publications in veterinary education.

Figure 37.1 Scopus search results of research publications in veterinary education, 1945–2014.

The predominant quadrants in veterinary educational research seem to be pure applied research and use-inspired research. Pure applied, practice-driven research is in general based on evaluations in the local context, and the acquired information can be used to answer questions about local teaching and learning strategies, policies, and programs. In order to enhance the quality of educational practice, this type of research is usually focused around effectiveness and efficiency. Questions are mostly stakeholder generated, from an evaluative perspective, and focused around issues concerning the curriculum and teaching, learning, and assessment strategies. Therefore, pure applied research is highly context specific, not focused on attaining in-depth theoretical insight, and the generalizability of the results is limited. An example is the study of Foster et al. (2015), in which the influence of gender, learning style, and pre-entry experience on student response to the implementation of a new veterinary curriculum was evaluated.

The purpose of theory-driven, pure basic research in veterinary education is to undertake work that seeks to fundamentally understand phenomena. Questions are usually curiosity driven, grounded in theory, and focused on acquiring knowledge for knowledge’s sake only (Norman and Eva, 2010). The results attained from this type of research transcend the veterinary education domain and have relevance for other research domains. Funding for pure basic research in veterinary education can be problematic, since faculties’ governance usually requires educational research to be relevant for the local context. An example of theory-driven research is a study by Ramaekers et al. (2011) in which they tried to gain in-depth insight into how combining roles affects teacher behavior, and how that, in turn, mediated veterinary students’ reasoning and problem-solving.

In recent years we noticed an increase of research with both practice-driven and theory-driven motives, so called use-inspired research (Pasteur’s quadrant). These studies are building on and aiming to advance theoretical principles, and are at the same time exploring the interaction between theory and educational practice. Since use-inspired research is aimed at advancing existing theories, the initial study design is typically based on the theoretical principles of interest; and since a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods is most suitable for clarifying complex interactions in authentic learning environments, it is typically characterized by a mixed-methods strategy (Reeves et al., 2008). An example of use-inspired research in veterinary education is a study by Mastenbroek et al. (2014) in which predictors of burnout and work engagement were identified. This study was firmly grounded in a theoretical framework on work-related psychological wellbeing (job demands–resources model). Besides providing in-depth insight and refinement of theory, the study offered some important lessons and key issues that appeared to be important for veterinary curricula in developing students’ personal resources. A specific approach to use-inspired research is design-based research (DBR). As argued by Dolmans and Tigelaar (2012, p. 2), “design-based research can help to bridge the gap between research and practice because it contributes towards theory testing and refinement on one hand and improvement of educational practice on the other hand.” Design-based educational research typically investigates the nature of learning as it takes place in authentic learning environments and moves forward in cycles of design, evaluation, and redesign (Dolmans and Tigelaar, 2012; Collins, Joseph, and Bielaczyc, 2004). Illustrating a DBR approach to research are the studies conducted by Bok (2015) with respect to his PhD thesis. He used the DBR approach to increase his understanding while implementing a theory-based, competency-based assessment program in a three-year undergraduate clinical curriculum. Evaluating the design in educational practice led to new insights, based on which educational theory could be refined and the design could be further improved. Improving workplace learning and assessment not only required the introduction of new educational strategies, but also demanded a cultural change including commitment from all participants in the clinical workplace. Design-based research turned out to be a valuable approach both to enhance the understanding of an integrative approach to learning and assessment, and to improve educational practice. As use-inspired research focuses on bridging the gap between “basic” and “applied” research, it aligns best with our definition of scholarship in veterinary education, as it systematically advances practice and theory and is significant to the academic environment; can be documented, replicated, or elaborated; and can be peer reviewed.

Considerations for Conducting Veterinary Educational Research

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Oct 15, 2017 | Posted by in GENERAL | Comments Off on Scholarship in Veterinary Education

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