The Test of Time

The outline for a TBL session.

I wrote about how difficult vet school is about a month ago, after my first round of block testing. Since then, I’ve had two more exams and I’ve begun to settle into a routine for studying and preparing for progress exams. We’ve had three different types of exams so far: block exams, which I’ve discussed previously, Team-Based Learning (TBL) labs for histology, and anatomy practicals.

An example of the IF-AT card used in the GRAT.

One of LMU-CVM’s focuses is to work with LMU-DCOM to further the concept of One Health. In order to achieve this goal, we take some classes with DCOM students, such as Histology. Instead of having a traditional lab where we view slides under the microscope, we have Team-Based Learning labs. The TBL format is really interesting, and very conducive to learning. The lab starts with each of us taking an Individual Readiness Assurance Test (IRAT) consisting of ten multiple choice questions based on the lecture objectives for that lab. The IRAT is designed, as stated in the name, to gauge each person’s preparation for the lab. Once everyone is finished with the IRAT, we get into our assigned groups and complete the Group Readiness Assurance Test, where we discuss the same ten questions from the IRAT and answer them on an Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique (IF-AT) card by scratching off our chosen answer, similar to the back of a gift card that has a redemption code; if there’s a star underneath the exposed area, then we’ve chosen the correct answer. If there isn’t a star, then we discuss the question and possible answers again and determine if there’s another answer that we can agree on. Each successive wrong answer causes a percentage loss of points, as shown in the picture.

Histology can be beautiful.

After all of the groups are finished with their GRAT, we move into the group application exercise. The professor puts up a question and we have several minutes to come up with the correct answer, supported by evidence that can be presented in order to defend their answer. Normally the majority of groups agree on the same answer, but sometimes there will be two or three different answers amongst the teams. The professor  chooses teams with conflicting answers to present their evidence and guides us to the correct answer using thought-provoking questions. I find a lot of value in these labs because I enjoy being challenged and explaining my viewpoint to others. I also like the camaraderie that I’ve found with my DCOM teammates; we are all facing the same struggles and obstacles even though they’re studying humans and I’m studying animals. It’s neat to compare our curriculums and talk about how we differ.

Memorizing all the bones is just the first step!

Anatomy practicals are the same week as our block tests on either Tuesday or Thursday, depending on the need to coordinate with other classes. Each practical has approximately forty questions, plus three to four bonus questions that are more detailed or in depth than the other questions. Also, because anatomy is cumulative over both semesters, we have about one-third of the questions over previous exam material. Questions range from identifying a bone in a sock by palpation to recognizing which nerve innervates the muscle that attaches at a specific point on the bone, which requires three stages of thinking. First, I have to identify the prominence marked on the bone; then, I have to recognize which muscle attaches to that prominence. Finally, I have to determine which nerve innervates that muscle. This is one of the ways that our professor utilizes to make our exams cumulative. We have one minute per station, then fifteen to twenty minutes after everyone has completed all of the stations to go back and revisit stations we may have had questions about or wanted to double check. After everyone has taken the practical, he goes through each station and reviews the answers so that we can learn and do better on the next exam.

There’s no doubt that exams can be stressful, but I combat some of the stress by spending some time with my dog, Jake, before test days. He’s always willing to cuddle so I can rub his belly, which he enjoys and helps me relax. I also make sure that I get a good night’s sleep the night before the exams so that I can think clearly. Pulling an all-nighter isn’t conducive to learning and has been shown to be detrimental to grades and health, especially over the long run. There’s no “cramming” in vet school simply because there’s too much information presented. As my One Health professor stated, “You can’t steal from Larry to give to Jim”; I can’t focus all of my efforts on one subject to pass a test and expect to be able to catch up in my other subjects. I’m still working on my balancing act, but I’m getting better all the time.

Do you have any questions about the TBL format or anatomy practicals? Leave a comment or email me!


Posted on November 1, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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