Director Update: Winter 2015

steve (2)The FMS Education, Research, Development and Practice Unit has now been in existence for over a year and we continue to run a full programme of events. Attendance at our Journal Club continues to be strong and so far this year we have had stimulating presentations from Jo Matthan and Lindsay Ferrie. These meetings provide us with opportunities to look at papers on a wide range of teaching issues and discussions are always lively and thoughtful. If you have not been able so far to attend then please do come or if you want to present a paper on a learning and teaching topic that you have found interesting then your contribution will be warmly welcomed. Our learning and teaching seminar programme this semester has included talks from Concha Martinez from the Dental School in Madrid talking about dental education in Spain, Stephen Billett from Queensland talking about workplace learning and Hamish McLeod from Edinburgh talking about e-learning. The seminar programme continues in the New Year and the programme will be found elsewhere in this newsletter. Can I remind you that we are always seeking seminar speakers so if there is somebody that you would like to invite or if you wish to give a seminar yourself then, again, we would be pleased to hear from you. Finally, our first Faculty learning and teaching forum was held in December when we heard about a wide range of work-in-progress projects from across the Faculty reflecting our diverse interests in learning and teaching. This range of interests was also very much to be seen in the applications made to our small projects fund and I congratulate the successful applicants and wish them well in their projects. Finally, the next cycle of EQUATE is well under way with strong representation from FMS staff.

There are important outputs from this range of activity. The first, of course, is the enhancements of the teaching we deliver to our students while at the same time engaging in development of our own practice. It is also important, however, that we take opportunities to disseminate the results of our work. This includes, of course, our colleagues in the Faculty and University but we also need to disseminate the results more widely both to our specialised educational communities and where appropriate, to a more general education audience. This will include presentations at educational conferences whether of your relevant professional bodies or communities or more wide-ranging educational meetings but it also should include, where appropriate, publication in refereed journals. The FMS Unit will be running a series of events to help and encourage you to take the plunge and write up your work for submission to a relevant Journal. The seminar by David Reed on January 19th is going to focus on dissemination through publication. David is a Professorial Teaching Fellow in Southampton University and will be talking about his transition from being a basic scientist to developing educational projects and publishing the results. The Centre for Learning and Teaching (CfLAT) in Education, Communication and Language Sciences runs a very successful paper writing group. Members of the Centre are able to take papers in preparation to the group for supportive discussion and comment. They have offered us two slots in the New Year for us to take any papers we have in preparation to the group for discussion. Dates will be announced in the New Year but if anybody has a paper that they would like to take to this group please let me know now. I see this very much as a prelude to starting up our own paper writing group in FMS. EQUATE has a specific focus on writing up outputs from the projects of this group and has organised a writing retreat which will help us to build our collective skills in writing for education publications. Finally, in the New Year I will be placing on the Unit site a list of education journals that you might want to consider when thinking about publication or simply as a resource for reading.

I would also like draw your attention to the BERA Conference being held in September. The British Educational Research Association annual meeting is one of the top education conferences along with ECER, the conference of the European Educational Research Association. There is a Higher Education SIG within BERA and so given that and the fact that the meeting is in Leeds this year and so readily accessible could I encourage as many of you as possible to attend and, where appropriate present. Details of the BERA conference are to be found elsewhere in this newsletter.

In the meantime I would like to thank everybody whose has contributed to the work of the Unit this year whether as a presenter at one of our events, helping with organisation or simply through attending and contributing as a participant. I wish you all a restful and peaceful break over the Christmas holiday.

Prof Steve McHanwell, Director, FMS Unit for ERDP

Two articles in the Journal of Anatomy

Smith CF, Finn GM, Stewart J and McHanwell S. (2016).  Anatomical Society core regional anatomy syllabus for undergraduate medicine: the Delphi process. Journal of Anatomy 228, 2-14.  doi:  10.1111/joa. 12402

Smith CF, Finn GM, Stewart J, Atkinson MA, Davies DC, Dyball R, Morris J, Ockleford C, Parkin I, Standring S, Whiten S, Wilton J and McHanwell S. (2016). The Anatomical Society core regional anatomy syllabus for undergraduate medicine. Journal of Anatomy 228, 15-23.  doi:  10.1111/joa. 12405.

These two articles describe the results of a multi-centre project the aim of which was to undertake a revision of the Anatomical Society syllabus for the teaching of gross anatomy in undergraduate medicine.

In 2007 the Education Committee of Anatomical Society (McHanwell et al, European Journal of Anatomy, 11, 3-18) published a core syllabus in anatomy for undergraduate medicine.  This syllabus was subsequently included as a reference document in Tomorrow’s Doctors 2009.  After 10 years it was felt that this syllabus would benefit from a robust analysis and review using a more rigorous research process.  The method employed was a Delphi process using an expert panel of 51 participants.  The results of that study are published as two papers, the first describing the methodology and results and the second detailing the revised syllabus.

It is hoped that this revised syllabus will be helpful as a tool to develop a coherent approach to gross anatomy teaching that will support student learning.


Iain Keenan elected to the Anatomical Society Council

Iain Keenan - Medical EducationDr Iain Keenan has just been elected onto the Anatomical Society Council for a term of 3 years. The results of a ballot of Society members were announced on Tuesday 15th December 2015 at the Society AGM that was held during the Anatomical Society Winter Meeting held at Cambridge University. He will take on his new role in addition to his current responsibilities as Anatomical Society Social Media Editor and as member of the Society Membership and Website Management committees. His work for the Society so far has included setting up, developing, editing and managing the Anatomical Society Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts, YouTube channel and LinkedIn group, assisting in the decision when recruiting a new website and membership service provider for the Society, judging the Society Best Image Prize and helping with organisation and reviewing of abstracts when the Society Winter Meeting was held here in the Medical School in 2013.

L&T seminar: Observational drawing and the study of anatomy in education

When: 7th January 2016, 12:30 to 1:30

Where: Ridley 2, Room 1.57

Leonard Shapiro, Cape Town

Leonard is a drawing teacher currently based in Cape Town. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Art (BAFA Honours) degree from the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Michaelis School of Fine Art and a Bachelor of Social Science (BsocSc) degree from UCT, with majors in psychology and sociology.

Leonard currently runs drawing workshops for both academics and anatomy students at medical schools, in order to improve their observation and memorisation skills.  In 2014, he ran a 4 day drawing workshop for senior staff members from UCT Faculty of Health Sciences department of Human Biology, including specialists in cell biology, anatomy and neurology.  In 2015, he taught a group of anatomy students at the UCT medical school to draw. Leonard is also currently co-authoring a paper with Professor Steve Reid at the University of Cape Town on drawing, observation and memorisation as an aid to the learning of anatomy.

Leonard teaches students in the technique of observational (or ‘structural’) drawing, where the objective is the translation of a 3-dimensional form onto a 2-dimensional surface and involves multi-sensory observation and simultaneous drawing.  This method significantly increases the student’s perceptual understanding of the 3-dimensional form of the object and, in the process, the cognitive memorisation of the form of the object occurs.  After studying an object through drawing in this way, at a certain point the drawer-observer is able to retrieve this information directly from their memory without looking at the object.  The form of the object has been accurately observed in its entirety, and consequently memorised.

His website has images and video of anatomy students’ drawings:


MBBS Curriculum Review: Building on Success

steve jonesThe MBBS course has been hugely successful for many years and is constantly reviewed and adjusted. However it is now some years (over 15!) since there was a major review of the whole structure and content of the programme. In that time much has changed, for example when the current curriculum was designed all of our graduates undertook two 6 month House Officer posts in Medicine and Surgery and the course was designed to give them “terminal velocity” to begin their careers. Now our graduates undertake a 2 year foundation programme and their first post might be in psychiatry or paediatrics. Of course we now also have a medical school in Malaysia which follows the same outcomes. Graduates there also undertake a two year period of House Officer Training with a similarly wide range of postings. Other external drivers to change include new national assessments in the final year such as the Prescribing safety Assessment and Situational Judgement Test and more are planned in particular the UK National Licencing Assessment.

The most important driver to change however comes from within. The Board of Medical Studies has recognised for a number a years that there are issues relating to the structure of the programme that cannot be addressed without a major review. We wanted to wait until NUMed was firmly established before embarking on major changes and of course want and need input from Malaysia to make sure the course is appropriate there and in the UK.

The specific issues we wish to address in reviewing the curriculum are:

  • Improving integration between the Phases of the MBBS course and between the institutions that deliver it (Newcastle, Durham and NUMed).
  • To address the loss of momentum in relation to clinical skills that builds in Stage 3 but can drop off in Stage 4.
  • To change the timing of finals and facilitate “assistantship” that is not overshadowed by high stakes summative assessments.

A curriculum review group has been established including representation from Durham University, NUMed and the 4 base-units, students and junior doctors as well as Health Education North East and lay representation. To date we have agreed, and The Board of Medical Studies has approved,some important principles that include:

  • Retaining and strengthening our case based approach to teaching.
  • No longer using the term  “Phases” but having a single integrated programme.
  • Firmly embedding assessment in our plans for change and specifically
    • Completing written finals in year 4.
    • Moving clinical finals to earlier in Year 5.
    • Building in the potential for resitting within year.
  • Changing the structure of Semester two in Year4 to include core clinical rotations.
  • Strengthening and broadening assistantship in year 5.
  • Increasing time spent in primary care.

The next phase is to review in detail the outcomes of the programme  before implementation begins in 2017.

Dr Steve Jones, School of Medical Education

L&T seminar: Developing an undergraduate syllabus: how much do medical students need to know and what should that be?

When: 17th March 2016, 12:30 to 1:30

Where: Ridley 1, 2.04A

Hannah Jacob, University College London

This seminar will outline the experience of developing an undergraduate syllabus for child health.  It will explore techniques for engaging key stakeholders from medical students to professors, parents to the Medical Schools Council.  We will discuss how the syllabus was developed, beginning with interviews and focus groups and culminating in a modified Delphi process.  The concept of necessary knowledge bases for medical students will be discussed as well as the role of skills and attitudes competencies.

All change for the LTDS website!

sue gill

An improved and revised LTDS website goes live on 16 December 2015 at This replaces the old Quilt website and reflects a focussing of direction for the service and more streamlined communication of what we do and how we can help staff in learning and teaching at Newcastle University. We hope that the changes we have made will make it easier to find the things you need related to learning and teaching development and teaching quality assurance at Newcastle University.

Alongside the revision of the website, we have launched a Learning and Teaching Development blog, covering:

  • news in learning and teaching from around the University, including teaching quality assurance
  • theme based collections of case studies of good practice from academic and support staff – available at
  • reports from learning and teaching related projects including Innovation Award holders
  • changes and rapid updates to learning and teaching services supported by LTDS (Blackboard, ReCap, ePortfolio, etc)
  • hints and tips, tricks and tools covering all aspects of LTDS areas of responsibility

This blog is linked to Twitter – follow us @ncllt – and both are linked back to the LTDS website.

Both the website and the blog will highlight areas drawn from a new collection of good practice, which is actively being managed and added to regularly. If you know of areas of interest or innovation in learning and teaching please let us know by emailing a new generic email address

These redesigned and new web based support services are intended to supplement and complement current areas of support provided from the Learning and Teaching Development Service.

We have worked closely with NUIT to put automatic redirects in place, so that, as far as possible, existing links to LTDS/QuILT content will still work. We have concentrated on links likely to appear in student handbooks and the most visited sections and pages of the old website.

We appreciate feedback on the changes we have made and look forward to receiving it via – this will be monitored especially closely as the website changes are made and in the months immediately afterwards. This generic email address does not replace the individual email addresses of individual members of LTDS staff, but using it will ensure that if an individual is unavailable, someone else is able to pick up your query in a timely fashion.

Sue Gill, Learning and Teaching Development Service


L&T seminar: Team Based Learning: First attempts – what did we learn?

When: 18th February, 12:30 to 13:30

Where: Ridley 2, Seminar Room 1.57

Dr Alan Green, Sunderland University

The Sunderland pharmacy degree had not used the team based learning (TBL) approach prior to the 2014-2015 academic year. The degree is mainly taught by lectures, seminars, problem based learning, simulation, laboratory and placement activities. Following the 2014 TBL conference in Bradford we were keen to trial using TBL. A small number of sessions were developed (5 x 2hours) for the 1st and 2nd year students. It was important to ensure that other academics supported the teaching style and that from a student’s perspective they gained from the experience.

The initial response to the TBL style from the students measured by a ratified TBL questionnaire was positive and provides a good basis to introduce more TBL into the programme in the future. Informally, academic feedback overall was positive. There are a number of practical and logistical issues relating to the running of sessions, which we have improved upon throughout the 1st year of delivery. TBL will be of great benefit to the students as they are actively taking part and applying their knowledge to different tasks and scenarios.

L&T seminar: Enhancing teaching and learning (and careers) in the sciences through scholarly activity

When: 21st January, 2016, 12:30 to 13:30

Where: Ridley 2, Seminar Room 1.55

David Read, University of Southampton

In the ever-changing world of UK higher education, the enhancement of teaching and learning has never been more important.  University teachers face a range of challenges which include the communication of difficult concepts, and how best to deliver the sheer volume of content covered in a typical degree course.  While developments in learning technology bring opportunities, they also present further challenges in terms of both physical and pedagogical implementation.  Fortunately, there is a huge body of evidence in the form of scholarly publications and pedagogic research which provides support for those striving to provide the best possible learning experience for their students.  Those who innovate in their own teaching can then contribute to the body of evidence by evaluating the impact of their work and sharing it with the wider community via conference presentations and publications of their own.

This talk will outline the role of scholarly activity in the enhancement of teaching and learning in chemistry at the University of Southampton in the context of the career journey of the presenter, who has moved from educational innovator, to evaluative practitioner and now, potentially, to pedagogic researcher.  The talk will also showcase the teaching innovations behind the story, illustrating the role of the literature in informing their design and implementation, and the evaluation and dissemination that followed.

Introducing the School of Biomedical Sciences

debbie bevittThe School of Biomedical Sciences offers a range of 3 year BSc undergraduate bioscience degree programmes, with a focus on human health and disease. Currently these include Biomedical Sciences, BMS with Industrial Placement, Biochemistry, Biomedical Genetics, Physiological Science, Pharmacology, BMS with Microbiology and Exercise Biomedicine. We also offer 4 year MSci programmes in Biomedical Sciences, Biochemistry and Biomedical Genetics.  We have just over 1000 students registered in the school, approximately 20% of whom are international students.

The BSc Biomedical Sciences programme is also delivered at the NuMed campus in Malaysia; this programme was established by Nick Morris and is now being led by Chris Baldwin.  The NuMed students take Stage 1 and 2 at the Malaysia campus and then come to Newcastle for their final year.  The first Stage 3 NuMed cohort arrived in Newcastle this semester and will graduate in 2016.

The School comprises 12 members of academic staff, 10 administrative staff and 5 technical staff.  This teaching-focussed team manage the delivery of the undergraduate degree programmes and provide dedicated support to students throughout their studies.  Teaching and personal tutoring for the programmes is delivered by academic staff from both the school and the research institutes.  Research institute staff contribute significantly to our programmes delivering high quality research-led teaching, particularly in the honours years of the programme, and some are also involved as module leaders and members of the Board of Studies.  The highlight of all our degree programmes is an individual 10 week full time research project; the majority of the students undertake their projects with a research team in one of the research institutes, although some undertake alternative projects, including an Experimental Design project, delivered by academic staff in the school, and Erasmus exchange projects in Europe, co-ordinated by Carys Watts.

School staff are actively involved in Educational Research projects, some of which have been developed through participation in the CASAP and EquATE programmes. For example:

  • Damian Parry, in collaboration with Dr Helen Hooper (Northumbria University), has been investigating students’ perception of scientists and has also recently begun a study of student perceptions of feedback, with the assistance of a Newcastle Work Experience student intern.
  • Geoff Bosson has introduced a practical skills test taken by all Stage 1 students and is investigating the extent to which engagement with the test develops student confidence and the role of emotional learning in this process.
  • Lindsey Ferrie has established a network of student Employability Ambassadors, who help to prepare fellow students for graduate employment. She has also developed a “Feedback Foghorn” delivered via e-portfolio and is investigating whether this mechanism encourages students to reflect on and engage with their feedback.
  • Carys Watts is developing training sessions to help students to communicate complex scientific information, generated during summer vacation research projects, to an audience of non-scientists and is exploring how students understand the concept of the “layperson” in this context.
  • Debbie Bevitt and Nick Morris are working with two student interns, Bronte Elliott and Kate Johnson, and Dr Sue Thorpe (School of Psychology), to evaluate student use of social media during study, the extent to which they perceive this to be a distraction and how students self-manage their online activities to avoid distraction. This project is funded by a ULTSEC Innovation fund grant.

Dr Debbie Bevitt, Head of School of Biomedical Sciences