Original Research

The impact of practical experience on theoretical knowledge at different cognitive levels

Rhoda Leask, Tanita Cronje, Dietmar E. Holm, Linda van Ryneveld
Journal of the South African Veterinary Association | Vol 91 | a2042 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jsava.v91i0.2042 | © 2020 Rhoda Leask, Tanita Cronje, Dietmar E. Holm, Linda van Ryneveld | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 December 2019 | Published: 29 July 2020

About the author(s)

Rhoda Leask, Department of Production Animal Studies, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Tanita Cronje, Department of Statistics, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Dietmar E. Holm, Department of Production Animal Studies, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Linda van Ryneveld, Department of Comprehensive Online Education Services, Faculty of Education, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

Although theoretical training of veterinary students is uncomplicated even for larger groups, practical training remains a challenge. Much has been said about the value of practical training in curriculum design. Yet, the impact of practical training on theoretical knowledge needs further research. A cohort of 89 students with very limited clinical practical experience completed an assessment at the end of their theoretical training in small ruminants. The scores obtained by the students were compared with those obtained by a group of 35 veterinarians who volunteered to participate in the study. In addition to comparing the scores between students and practitioners, the cognitive level of each of the questions was considered. Overall, veterinarians achieved higher test scores than did the students. The veterinarians outperformed the students in all cognitive levels except for ‘applying’ type questions where there was no difference. Different levels of experience, namely young veterinarians (n = 11), established veterinarians (n = 13) and veterinarians approaching retirement (n = 11), were evaluated against the revised Bloom’s cognitive levels. When modelling congress attendance frequency, years’ experience, proportion of time spent with ruminants and revised Bloom’s levels, congress attendance was not a significant variable, and thus, only the other three variables remained. This investigation found that practical experience has a positive effect on theoretical knowledge. The type of practical experience and where such practical experience is included in a curriculum need further research. Working for a number of years in a specific discipline will provide the best support for theoretical knowledge.

Keywords

education; small ruminants; veterinary graduates; curriculum design; practical experience; theoretical education; assessment

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