Encouraging critical clinical thinking (CCT) skills in first-year veterinary students

Duncan C. Ferguson, Leslie Klis McNeil, David J. Schaeffer, Eric M. Mills

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

First-year didactic course instructors at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine leverage earlier clinical rotation experiences with weekly ''Clinical Correlations'' exercises to provide early exposure to critical clinical thinking (CCT). This study evaluated the efficacy of individual and paired group exercises on CCT development. Before and after instruction, the Cornell Critical Thinking Test (Level Z) (CCTTZ) was administered. Based on the hypothesis that students with higher scores would coach lower-scoring colleagues during group exercises, heterogeneous groups with similar mean scores were established for the year. Students completed 14 individual and paired group exercises over 6 months. Exercises were designed to increase in complexity and decline in scaffolding. Seven of the exercises were cases using the Applied Learning Platform (ALP) at http://www.whenknowingmatters.com. Student analyses were scored according to a six-category critical-thinking rubric using a 5-point scale. Consistent with our hypothesis, individual and group rubric scores increased significantly, plateauing near the end of the year. Contrary to our hypothesis, mean overall CCTTZ scores did not change, but there was a small statistically significant increase in the ability to assess the validity of an argument. Student attitudes were mixed. Positive comments focused on reinforcement of prior didactic instruction, while negative comments focused on preparation time needed to conduct research on clinical concepts, and on a lack of explicit evaluation by summative examinations. Nonetheless, end-of-year GPAs correlated linearly with cumulative individual rubric scores. In summary, the value of early curriculum CCT training was confirmed when discipline-specific criteria were applied.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)531-541
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Veterinary Medical Education
Volume44
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017

Keywords

  • Critical clinical thinking
  • Critical thinking
  • Evidence-based medicine
  • Problem solving

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • veterinary(all)

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