University of Calgary

Practice makes perfect

UToday HomeNovember 14, 2011

By Michelle Woodard

Emma Read, instructor in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and graduate of several Teaching & Learning Centre programs, was recently awarded the 2011 Killam Innovation in Teaching Award recognizing innovative course design and teaching methods. Emma Read, instructor in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and graduate of several Teaching & Learning Centre programs, was recently awarded the 2011 Killam Innovation in Teaching Award recognizing innovative course design and teaching methods. Photo by Michelle Woodard Blocks of Jell-O, stuffed animals and movie props might not be traditional teaching tools, but Emma Read isn’t afraid to try new things when it comes to her teaching. Read and her colleagues in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine’s clinical skills program have become experts at veterinary simulation, dreaming up unusual ways to replicate real-life veterinary situations. Some are simple—using a toy dog with an onion under its “skin” to practice aspirating a lymph node—while others, such as the faculty’s full-sized pregnant cow simulator, are more complex.

A recipient of the 2011 Killam Innovation in Teaching Award, Read is always looking for ways to actively involve students. Sometimes that means students practice skills before learning the theory behind them, but she says acquiring hands-on skills starting on day one of the program is an approach that works. When students anaesthetize their first live animal and perform surgery on it in their third year, the only new element is that their patient is alive.

Her advice? “Don’t be afraid to take a risk and try new things. Lots of times we put new simulations together and when we let the turkey out of the box, it doesn’t fly. Students have always been understanding and share feedback on what we could do to make it work better next time.”

Continually evaluating and taking a structured approach to teaching are ideas that Read found most valuable in the Teaching & Learning Centre’s workshops. “You can always look at what and how you’re teaching and find ways to make it better. Just because something is working doesn’t mean there isn’t a more effective way to do it. Every time I teach something I think about what worked and how I will do it differently next time. I don’t think it will ever get boring.”

Get more information on the Teaching & Learning Centre’s programs.