Preparation for practice by veterinary school: a comparison of the perceptions of alumni from a traditional and an innovative veterinary curriculum.J Vet Med Educ. 2008 Fall; 35(3):431-8.JV
Alumni survey research can tap users' perspectives on an educational product and thereby provide valuable information for outcomes assessment aimed at improving the quality of educational programs. The study documented here compared the perceptions of two groups of alumni from two curricula offered by the same veterinary school, where the traditional lecture-based curriculum had been gradually replaced by a reformed, more student-centered curriculum. Year 1 of the new curriculum started in 1995, while the old curriculum continued to be delivered to the entering class of 1994. The aim of our study was to determine whether the new program received more positive evaluations from the alumni and whether it was perceived as offering better preparation for veterinary practice. A questionnaire was sent to all alumni who had graduated in the period 2001--2003. Compared to alumni of the traditional program, alumni of the new curriculum reported higher perceived competence levels for clinical knowledge and skills (specific competencies) and for communication skills and academic skills (generic competencies). Alumni of both programs attributed difficulties in the transition from university to work to lack of experience with practical or technical skills and with primary-care cases. They suggested that more attention be paid to these aspects of practice and to practice/business management and communication with clients. The concrete changes in the curriculum appear to have had a noticeable positive effect, without the feared detrimental effect on knowledge acquisition. The results point to further program improvements, particularly for practice-oriented specific and generic skills.