The School develops curricula and best educational practice to ensure that our students receive a high quality of education, and that student learning adapts to the changing needs of society.
Many School staff are engaged in education development projects under the direction of Associate Professor Suzanne Donnelly, Associate Dean for Programmes & Educational Innovation.
These investigative projects are designed to evaluate new methodologies, to build the evidence base for change and to manage the introduction of new features in a controlled evolution.
Content within all programmes is reviewed on an annual basis to ensure that our educational approach remains fit-for-purpose. Feedback is collated from students, academic and clinical staff and from external examiners and accreditation groups at a module level and programme level.
Successful innovations within one programme inform the development of other programmes. Over the past ten years, the School has managed three major curricular reforms including modularisation, introduction of systems approaches and adaptation of programmes to compliance with the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS).
We expect that this curricular development will continue, just as the body of medical and scientific knowledge will change throughout our students’ careers.
Our programmes comprise a series of finely tuned, carefully balanced modules which combine to yield a coherent curriculum that delivers specified graduate attributes. As individual education components evolve, it is important that the School can map where and how our graduate attributes are taught and assessed.
Periodically, the School undertakes a formal programme mapping exercise. This programme mapping also ensures that formative and summative student assessment is balanced across the programme as well as within individual modules.
The School has mapped our Radiography programme during 2011 and is undertaking a formal education mapping exercise in Medicine in 2012 to inform future curricular reforms. The process in its broadest form will extend to all programmes over the next three years.
Although all programme durations are available in Ireland, UCD offers 4-, 5- and 6-year medicine degree programmes for graduate and school-leaver entry. As Ireland’s largest medical school and the first in Ireland to introduce a four year graduate entry medicine pathway, we are acutely aware of our responsibility to ensure the widest possible access to careers in medicine.
The main purpose of the first year of the current six-year programme is to ensure strength of understanding in the scientific principles underpinning medicine. Many of our school leavers recognise that our six year programme also facilitates the transition to university learning and university life. A longer programme also allows us to offer students elective opportunities from the full array of educational opportunities which Ireland’s largest and most diverse university has to offer.
The School is currently undertaking a detailed assessment of the merits of continuing to provide three medicine degree options and how to differentiate each to the needs of individual student cohorts.
The School and the University are committed to providing formative and summative assessment methods which support effective student learning. Continuous assessment has been introduced throughout our programmes to support our self-directed learning objective.
Several years ago with the introduction of modularisation, the School replaced the traditionally daunting high stakes final medicine examination with a progressive approach to assessment. Our capstone Professional Completion Module has been acclaimed by students and educational experts.Following an assessment review recently completed for the radiography programme the School is currently undertaking a formal audit of student assessment in its medicine programmes to ensure that the balance of our assessm ents is consistent with the highest educational standards whilst ensuring that our students are not constantly anxious over impending examinations.
Information technology developments have transformed the educational process within UCD and within the School. The School is determined to use e-learning technologies where they can enhance the educational experience.
Technology enabled learning and e-Learning has allowed specialist expertise that perhaps may be available at only one clinical site to be accessed by students rotating through other locations. Students can re-engage with educational materials outside of the class room enhancing their understanding and retention of knowledge.
The University has a sophisticated virtual learning environment which provides a student-centred presentation of educational materials appropriate to their progression within their particular programme.The School currently has e-learning projects under development within anatomy, dermatology, psychiatry, radiography and our clinical intern training.
Another educational innovation which the School has introduced is a partnership with patients as teaching assistants within our medicine degree programme.
This was launched in 2008 when patient/ patient advocates were invited to give a small number of presentations with the Schools Understanding Disability module. Students have also begun partnering with voluntary organisations to conduct research during their summers. More recently, with the introduction of the Graduate Entry to Medicine programme, we have developed a Patient Educator programme.
Patients, particularly those suffering with chronic disease, typically encounter many doctors during the course of their healthcare experience. As a result, they develop a strong sense of what makes an effective doctor from the patient’s perspective. Our patient educators, trained in giving feedback to students, participate in our clinical skills education modules as subjects for students developing their history-taking and examination skills. At the end of the student-led consult, the patient reflects back to the would-be doctor on those aspects of the consultation which worked well and those areas which require attention.
Our students have reported high satisfaction with this approach and are very appreciative of the patient volunteers. Similarly, our patient educators appreciate the opportunity to help shape the health system by influencing the communication and consultation skills of young doctors in training.Our Primary Care group have led the way in introducing early patient contact for students within our medicine programmes. Consistent with the philosophy of treating the patient and not the condition, the primary care group encourage students to understand the patient experience. The first encounter takes place in a community setting rather than the traditional acute hospital setting. Our students gain a strong and immediate sense of the medical vocation and develop an understanding of their role within the continuum of healthcare. The current Patient Educator initiative aims to expand the opportunities to meet and learn from patients in the early years.
With student enrolment from across a variety of educational systems and the number of applicants greatly exceeding the number of places available, our entry requirements must be appropriately set to ensure that access is balanced with excellent student progression rates. The School routinely examines the performance of different student cohorts to guarantee that their educational needs are being addressed. Similarly, any proposed changes to entry requirements (e.g. number of science subjects, English language proficiency, etc) are carefully considered by examining the predictive power of individual criteria on student progression.