The curriculum redesign will go through three phases: exploration, design, and implementation. The exploration phase has been completed and the faculty voted to move ahead to the design phase. The design phase is expected to take approximately 2 years. The last phase is implementation, which has not yet begun.
The design phase is likely to last for the rest of this academic year and then if approved, we will need another year to develop an implementation plan. Students entering in August 2021 will be the first ones to experience the new curriculum if all goes as planned.
The curriculum is determined by the faculty of the school and all faculty members involved in the DVM program will have an equal say in this matter. Curriculum Committee is the standing committee of the school that is responsible for the curriculum and it is composed of faculty selected by Faculty Council and the Dean who serve three-year terms, and a student representative from each class. The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs is also a voting member of this committee. Decisions relating to the DVM curriculum must be approved by CC and major changes are sent to Executive Faculty Board (EFB) for approval. The Dean is the chair of EFB and it is made up of faculty selected by Faculty Council and the Dean, department chairs, the medical director of the hospitals, and the associate deans. If a faculty vote is proposed by CC, it must first be approved by EFB.
A comprehensive curriculum redesign involves many other stakeholders, including current students, alumni, and employers of our new graduates. Members of the Board of Advisors for the school will also be invited to provide input. Please continue coming to forums and once we develop a draft model, we will invite input from all stakeholders.
Yes. The university is fortunate to have the Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT) based on the Medford campus and we have asked its director, Dr. Annie Soisson for help with this project. Dr. Carie Cardamone will provide general support for our educational programs one day of the week and as we proceed through curriculum redesign, she has devoted additional time to the Cummings School to help us get started. Drs. Soisson and Cardamone led 3 retreats for the CRC in the summer of 2019 to focus the first discussions of redesign.
The curriculum review is conducted to meet the requirements for accreditation determined by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Council on Education and was completed for our October 2018 site visit. Under Standard 9, it states that ‘The curriculum as a whole must be reviewed at least every seven years’ and we must describe the process used to assess curricular overlaps, redundancies, and omissions.
Although these processes are different, performing a comprehensive review of our curriculum set the stage for curriculum redesign and provided us with information for curriculum mapping during the design phase.
In our first Curriculum Conversation with faculty we asked participants to list the strengths and weaknesses of our current curriculum. There are many strengths, including the expertise of the faculty, the depth and breadth of the instruction provided to students, and the rich learning environment of the teaching hospitals. Our students also benefit from the many areas of the veterinary profession represented on campus, including basic science research, applied research, public health, laboratory animal medicine, public policy, and community medicine.
Threats include the large amounts of information that we try to teach, the negative impact of current class and exam schedules on student wellness, and the problems that students are encountering with applying and integrating information. We often think of curriculum as a term used to describe an inventory of courses, but a broader definition is ‘the totality of student experiences that occur in the educational process’. This includes how we teach, what students learn, and how they are assessed. Our curriculum requires redesign so that we can maximize student learning and wellness, enhance horizontal and vertical integration of content, and increase opportunities for application of knowledge. It may require a comprehensive curriculum redesign to accomplish all of these goals because small incremental changes are met with resistance when students are accustomed to traditional approaches to teaching. We must therefore consider shifting the entire paradigm of our curriculum to create a culture of learning through application and integration of knowledge from the first day of the first year of our curriculum.
The committee has set this as a priority and a number of options have been considered. At present, we are thinking about having a four-week externship period at the beginning of second year. Students would see clinical practice and start applying knowledge from first year. We would set learning objectives appropriate for the stage of training and ask students to practice procedures. We will also make changes to our clinical skills training and increase the use of simulators once the Multipurpose Teaching and Simulation Lab is completed.
Yes and yes. We are developing a Clinical Relevance thread throughout the preclinical curriculum so that students go through cases and relate information being covered in courses to them. This will be similar to the way that we go through cases in the Clinical Reasoning course. We have definitely been looking at other schools and some of the committee members have experience teaching in other curricula.
The mindset is shifting but the committee also recognizes that lectures are still an effective method of teaching. In the draft model we are working on, lectures will occur in the mornings, but afternoons can only be used for interactive teaching, discussions, labs, selectives, etc. This is a compromise that allows us to use multiple methods of teaching.