August 2, 2009, by Teaching at Nottingham

The role of practicals in an integrated curriculum

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Sarah Freeman:  “The way that the curriculum is organised, we have a small number of lectures, they will have three cases that they’ll work through during the week, and then we try and theme the week and the skills and the practicals and the lectures, everything around that.

“So the cases illustrate again why they need to do it but they also make them go back to the lectures and say “What we were taught this morning, I need that to be able to understand what’s going on with this case, I need to be able to remember this anatomy to be able to work out what’s been injured.” So, again, they bring it to life, they make them see why they’re being taught it.”

Lab session

Video playing:

“To perform an effective ultrasound examination you must correctly set up and use the ultrasound machine. Review the notes and teaching on this. You must also have a good knowledge and understanding of the three dimensional anatomy of the limb.”

Sarah:  “Okay. So the model limbs that you’ve got are really helpful for trying to work out your views and what you’re actually trying to see. So what you’re going to do…”

Observer:  “So how do you feel the practical fits in with the lectures? ”
Student:  “It makes it easier to understand. You see it on the computer screen, read it in books, then you can feel it in live animals, then you can come and feel it on a model… ”
Student: “It kind of makes you remember it, rather than just reading it on a piece of paper, this is here, this is there, this is somewhere else, when you actually have a look at it, it’s like ‘Oh yes’.”


Sarah: “It’s about having skills. We can’t teach them skills in a lecture, but hopefully, it will also make them think “that was really important” or “I thought I knew that but I can’t remember it” and to go back and have a look at the lectures.

“My role is just go around and give them some help so they all know what they’re supposed to be doing, so most of it’s just actually going around and going “Yes, you’ve got it, basically”. And just sorting out any problems or any queries as they go round.”

Lab session 

Sarah with students in the lab: “Is it significantly further up to get the next joint, or just a little bit?
Just a little bit. You’re definitely in the right place, what will happen is sometimes the fluid is quite difficult to get out again anyway and it doesn’t matter if you can’t get it back out again. Sometimes your needle will be stuck on cartilage and whatever else, so you can just pull it back out a little bit and twiddle it round, just ease it back out a touch.”

Student to Sarah in the lab: “I don’t think that’s in the right place, but it went straight in.”

Sarah: “That’s in your palmar pouch. So there’s the back of the cannon, running down here, there’s your suspensory ligament there, so you’re going to be in there. This fetlock actually comes all the way up then has a pouch round there.”

Students: “So you can go anywhere in the pouch.
That springy stuff, that’s synovial fluid!”


Sarah: “There’s a very clear trend that if they’ve applied something, used it in a practical, done a problem base, then they will perform much, much better because they’ve actually understood it and applied it rather than just listened to it.”

Sarah Freeman, Isabel Jaye, Tamsin Martin
School of Veterinary Medicine & Science

Sarah is teaching second year students in an anatomy practical. Produced August 2009. This video was originally published as part of PESL’s Teaching at Nottingham collection.

Posted in Practicals and labs