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Learning from each other: adventures in student engagement with learning and teaching

15 Jan 2019 | Dr Kirsty Hughes The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh has been running a certificate to recognise undergraduates who teach since 2014.  

The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies (R(D)SVS) at the University of Edinburgh (UoE) has been running a certificate to recognise undergraduates who teach since 2014.  The Undergraduate Certificate in Veterinary Medical Education1 is a modular programme based on the UKPSF, the framework on which Advance HE's HEA Fellowship is based. For those working towards the certificate, there is also the opportunity for a small number of students to work towards applying for HEA Associate Fellow (AFHEA). We offer up to six spaces within each cohort and the students selected are ones who show a keen interest in working in Higher Education in the future. As well as Peer Assisted Learning activities, this includes attending and presenting at staff educational journal clubs. These student-led staff journal clubs have been some of the most interesting; students give their perspective on educational methods and interventions, which often sparks a lot of discussion and debate. Some of the students also attend staff talks on educational topics, which they find helpful for their own teaching. Student-only journal clubs on education allow them to present and discuss educational papers between themselves and some also do research projects on an education topic and have presented at conferences on their research or teaching experience.

The UCVME and AFHEA process was established by my colleagues Dr Neil Hudson and Dr Catriona Bell (R(D)SVS) and Dr Miesbeth Knottenbelt (Institute for Academic Development, (UoE) and I joined as a mentor along with Julie Dickson from the R(D)SVS as the first cohort of UCVME students neared completion of their degrees (and their UCVME certificates) and were writing their AFHEA submissions. Of the 8 students who have so far applied for the AFHEA over the past two years, all have been successful in achieving Associate Fellow status. In fact, the first of the 2017 cohort to achieve AFHEA, Lauren Krueger (pictured centre in the photo below), was to the best of our knowledge, the 1st veterinary student in the UK and the 1st undergraduate in any discipline in Scotland to be awarded this qualification.


Three of the 2017 cohort receiving their AFHEA certificates from Professor Susan Rhind at a pre-graduation awards ceremony at the R(D)SVS. Attribution: UoE R(D)SVS.

I am consistently inspired by what happens when we allow our students to take the reins in teaching. The students involved in the AFHEA process are enthusiastic, passionate and full of great ideas. Two of our AFHEA students from the 2018 cohort presented on their own approaches to teaching at the vet school’s Celebrating Teaching event in June 2018 (see picture below). Both presentations were professional and thought-provoking, and sat comfortably alongside talks by members of teaching staff. It was fantastic that they were included in the event and celebrated just as much as staff who teach; this sort of thing I feel makes us feel more like partners in learning and teaching rather than separate entities of teachers and students.

Of the current cohorts, one student has attended the university’s Learning & Teaching conference, and two other students have organised their own conferences for fellow students on topics of interest.


Staff and student teachers from the 2018 cohort receiving recognition for their commitment to learning and teaching at the vet school. Attribution: UoE R(D)SVS.

One of the original cohort (Sarah Chinnery, pictured left in the first photo) has even come back to work with us on a number of research and teaching projects alongside working in practice due to her keen interest in teaching in HE, which she gained through the UCVME and AFHEA programmes. This shows the potential for inspiring the educators of the future through giving students the opportunity to develop their interest in and gain first-hand experience of teaching during their degrees. It has been great to be able to give them recognition for this through both the UCVME and AFHEA programmes.

Kirsty Hughes qualified as a veterinary surgeon from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in 2007 with an Intercalated BSc (Hons) in Microbiology and Infection (2004-2005). She then worked in private practice prior to returning to the R(D)SVS in 2008 to pursue a Master of Science by Research in Veterinary Education. Her Masters research was focussed on veterinary students’ expectations and experience of academic feedback. Following her PhD Kirsty returned to work at the R(D)SVS in her current role as a Research Assistant in Veterinary Medical Education.

She is based within the Veterinary Medical Education Division (VMED) research group. The group has a wide remit looking at many aspects of veterinary education including assessment and feedback, learning and teaching and student support and wellbeing.

This article was first published in the University's Teaching Matters blog.

  1. Hudson, N., Stansbie, N., Rhind, S., Brown, G., Handel, I., Mellanby, R. and Bell, C. (2016). Recognising and developing students as teachers: introduction of a novel Undergraduate Certificate in Veterinary Medical Education. Medical Teacher 38, 208-210.

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