gms | German Medical Science

4th InVeST – International Veterinary Simulation in Teaching Conference

14.09. - 16.09.2015, Hannover

vetPAL: A student led peer-assisted learning initiative

Meeting Abstract

Search Medline for

InVeST 2015: International Veterinary Simulation in Teaching Conference. Hannover, 14.-16.09.2015. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2015. Doc15invest14

doi: 10.3205/15invest14, urn:nbn:de:0183-15invest142

Published: September 10, 2015

© 2015 Bates et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. See license information at



A student-led peer-assisted learning (PAL) programme has been introduced at Bristol Vet School by final (fifth) year students who acted as tutors to fourth year students. The tutors taught skills in the Clinical Skills Lab and led revision sessions for small animal, equine and farm animal clinical science. The vetPAL programme was advertised to fifth and fourth year students via email, and tutors and tutees were selected on a first come, first served basis.

All tutors received training and attended workshops with activities including how to structure a teaching session and set objectives, George and Doto’s five-step method for teaching clinical skills, and leading interactive student-centred revision sessions. The tutors worked in pairs or threes and produced a session plan including aims and a timeline and listed supporting resources. The plan was checked and signed off by a member of staff. Tutors were also supplied with a ‘what-if’ flow chart, a decision-making tree for any eventualities from misconceptions in knowledge (to be reported to lecturers) to accidents or student issues that required referral to tutors or other staff.

Each session lasted approximately one hour and took place in the evening. As vetPAL was being delivered for the first time a member of staff was present but was not involved. The clinical skills sessions involved three stations lasting twenty minutes each, which fourth year tutees rotated around. The stations were:

Clinical examination of dogs – using models and live dogs
Small animal suturing – on silicon pads and checked T-towels
Bovine intramuscular (im) injection – on a home-made model mounted on a bench at cow height, and collecting jugular blood sample using a vacutainer – on a wall mounted bovine head and neck model.

The revision-based sessions involved tutees choosing to attend one of a number of topics for an hour. Topics included subjects fifth years deemed important but commonly misunderstood and covered a broad range of subjects including bovine fertility, common problems of the equine hindlimb, ocular lesions, the atopic dog, feline lower urinary tract disease, and cat flu.

Questionnaires were distributed at the end of each session to tutors and tutees. 80% of tutees at the clinical skills sessions and 95% at the revision sessions marked the sessions as extremely beneficial. Common themes in success include informal atmosphere, not being afraid to ask questions, small group sizes and the tutors being able to easily relate to the position of the tutees. Tutors described development of communication and teaching skills, increased ability to summarise a subject and greater self-confidence as personal benefits.

Following the success of the initiative, final year students are in the process of handing vetPAL on to the fourth years who will become next year’s tutors.