Straight from the Horse's Mouth: Using Vignettes to Support Student Learning in Veterinary Ethics

Magalhães-Sant'Ana, Manuel and Hanlon, Alison J. (2016) Straight from the Horse's Mouth: Using Vignettes to Support Student Learning in Veterinary Ethics. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education, 43 (3). pp. 321-330. ISSN 0748-321X


In the last few decades, the importance of imparting ethical competences to veterinary students has been increasingly acknowledged. Despite its relevance, there are few published descriptions of teaching approaches to veterinary ethics and their effect on student learning. At University College Dublin, veterinary ethics is part of a core module on animal behavior and welfare in the pre-clinical teaching program. The present study describes the implementation of a student-centered, skills-based approach to veterinary ethics teaching using vignettes (i.e., case scenarios). Vignettes were inspired by several resources, including a focus group, and designed to represent significant ethical challenges faced by veterinary professionals in Ireland in addition to cases of potential professional misconduct. In small groups, students had to identify the stakeholders and their conflicting interests and to suggest possible solutions and alternative outcomes to the case scenario. Results from qualitative material from the teaching sessions and from a quantitative post-teaching survey show that student understanding of stakeholders increased as a result of the tutorial, which helped them to clarify possible solutions to the scenario and to propose alternative outcomes to either mitigate or avoid future occurrence of the ethical challenges. These findings suggest that incorporating meaningful vignettes into the teaching of veterinary ethics can support student ethical awareness and skills, while promoting a pluralistic approach to considering ethical issues, making the best of available time and human resources.

View Item