Mechanism-based diagnostic reasoning: thoughts on teaching introductory clinical pathology

Vet Clin Pathol. 2000;29(3):77-83. doi: 10.1111/j.1939-165x.2000.tb00407.x.


Teaching introductory clinical pathology to veterinary students is a challenging endeavor that requires a shift in learning strategies from rote memorization to diagnostic reasoning. Educational research has identified discrete cognitive stages required to achieve the automated, unconscious thinking process used by experts. Building on this knowledge, we developed a case-based approach to clinical pathology instruction that actively engages students in the learning process and links performance with positive reward. Simulated cases provide context and create a structure, or "schema", which enhances the learning process by enabling students to synthesize facts and link them with their causal mechanism to reach a defensible diagnostic conclusion. Web-based tools, including the "Problem List Generator" and tutorials, have been developed to facilitate this process. Through the collaborative Biomedical Informatics Research Group, we are working to further develop and evaluate Web-based instructional tools and new educational methods, to clarify the diagnostic reasoning processes used by experienced clinical pathologists, and, ultimately, to better educate our future students to be effective diagnosticians.