Director update: Autumn 2016

steve (2)Welcome to the first ERDP newsletter of the new academic year.  As you receive this our new cohorts of students are already with us and the academic year is well underway.  This newsletter is both looking back and looking forwards.  So, we have a number of reports from meetings that we have attended over the summer telling our colleagues from outside Newcastle about the interesting and innovative work going on in Newcastle.  The newsletter also contains details of our programme of events throughout the year.  In addition to our regular Journal Club and seminar programmes we add two new series of events this year.  Jane Stewart is running both of these.  Her series “What do I mean when I say” is designed to stimulate debate about contested issues in learning and teaching.  Two of these sessions have taken place so far, both have been well-attended and both have given rise to some lively discussion.  Her lunchtime workshops are designed to support you in your teaching.   Our seminar programme this year will start with two speakers from outside the Faculty.  In November Pauline Kneale PVC(T) in Plymouth will be visiting and talking to us about pedagogic research.  In December the new Head of School in ECLS, Caroline Walker-Gleaves will talk to us about her recent work on pedagogic caring within HE.  Both seminars will stimulate and challenge our thinking so do come along.  I still have dates free for seminars later in the year so if there is anybody you would like us to invite then please let me k now.  Organisation of the Journal Club has now been taken over by Luisa Wakeling and the programme for the year has now been arranged.   Our events programmes are consistently well-attended so to those who have been regular attendees welcome back and if you have not been able to attend many, or any, of our events do come and join us.
Our ERDP small grants programme continues this year and we are announcing the submission dates for the full year so that people can are better to plan should they have a project that they would like us to support.  Remember too that support can be requested for short Study Visits to other institutions.  We are keen to encourage applications for this purpose.  If you have an idea for a Study Visit but would like to discuss it first then please get in touch.  Our small grants programme has been running for 18months so our Learning and Teaching forum in November will focus on our projects.  We will be contacting previous grant awardees to invite them to speak at this event but if you have preliminary outcomes that you would like to disseminate then do contact either myself or Sarah Harvey.
I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible at our events during the course of the year and to sharing ideas about learning and teaching. If you have articles for the next issue due in December just send them through to

Prof Steve McHanwell, Director, FMS Unit for ERDP

Summer meeting of the Anatomical Society (AS) and the British Association of Clinical Anatomists (BACA): The Anatomy of Learning

steve (2)The Anatomical Society, as have many professional bodies in recent years, has developed an active education focus that runs alongside its scientific activities to promote teaching of the discipline and support the increasing number of its members who are taking a major role in teaching.  The Education Committee of the Anatomical Society has been in existence for more than fifteen years and has been playing an ever more active role in Society affairs.  An important part of the activities of the Education Committee has been the organising of education events at all Society meetings together with periodic meetings solely focussed on education.  The Society meeting in Brighton, held jointly with BACA, had a predominantly education focus with Symposia on the anatomy of learning, ultrasound in anatomy education, near peer teaching, digital learning and an education symposium organised by BACA.  Alongside this were scientific sessions on topographical anatomy and a symposium on structural and functional changes occurring in the brain during learning.

Newcastle well represented

The summer meeting of the AS and BACA was held at Brighton and Sussex Medical School between the 19th-21st July 2016. Newcastle was well represented. Debra Patten and Steve McHanwell presented the results of some of their recent work on spatial learning of anatomy in dental students while Iain Keenan presented more findings from his work on improvements in anatomy knowledge using a novel cyclical artistic learning process.  Iain, who has also been recently elected to serve on the Council of the Anatomical Society, also ran a workshop with colleagues from Southampton and Brighton and Sussex Medical Schools on use of social media in teaching.

The importance of ultrasound as a teaching tool

Other highlights of the meeting included an excellent overview by Richard Drake (lead author of Gray’s Anatomy for Students) on ultrasound as a teaching tool in anatomy.  In his talk Richard described to the meeting how important this new technique was becoming and how vital it was that students were introduced to the methodology at an early stage not least because of the new perspectives it can give in anatomy.  These points were then reinforced by the other speakers in the symposium.  Near peer teaching is also attracting a great deal of interest and its potential for developing anatomy teaching was the subject of another workshop.

150 years of the Journal of Anatomy

At this meeting the Society also celebrated the 150th Anniversary of the first publication of the Journal of Anatomy, the first Journal of the Society.  This issue (volume 229 No. 1) contains two fascinating articles by Gillian Morris-Kay from Oxford and a former editor of the journal on its history and from Susan Standing Editor in Chief of Gray’s Anatomy, on a history of the development of topographical anatomy.  Both are strongly recommended.

Further details of the meeting and the full programme can be viewed at: Abstracts 2016.pdf

Steve McHanwell, School of Medical Education

BERA: presenting the best independent and critical educational research

2laura delgaty2Earlier this month I had the pleasure of attending the BERA (British Educational Research Association) Annual Conference in Leeds.  I was fortunate enough to have a presentation accepted: “Digital Capabilities and Expectations of Prospective Students:  Preparing Higher Education for Learning and Teaching of the Future”, and received a teacher bursary award from BERA to attend.

Several Newcastle University ECLS colleagues attended as did FMS’s Jo Matthan who presented “Developing the learning and teaching of practical clinical skills using video playback technology to enhance the student experience and incorporate self-assessment into the feedback process”.

It was a three-day conference including three keynote presentations: “Education in Conflict: Redefining the Contours of Change”, “Education for ‘Political Generosity’:  The role of schools in supporting young people’s understanding of politically complex societies” and “Teacherbot: Interventions in Automated Teaching”.  Reflecting on these speakers and reading through the abstracts, it became clear the role of the school, teachers and education as an agent of social change is paramount.

It is always interesting to attend non-medical/clinical conferences.  Delegates came from all over Europe and from secondary/primary schools FE and F/E.  BERA’s vision is to promote the development of a world-class education system based on high quality educational research.  It seeks to counter-balance the politicisation of education by carefully presenting the findings of the best independent and critical research, through its projects and publications.  This was clear by the varied presentations, posters and special interest group meetings.  Lots of sponsors and exhibitors were present and with over 1000 delegates, it was a stimulating and active environment.

I have the abstract book and links to the keynote speakers if anybody is interested.  Next year, the conference will be in Sussex.  If any FMS staff are interested in evaluating the effectiveness of current policies and practices, and also generating fresh thinking and bringing a humanising influence to bear on proposals for reform, it is a fantastic opportunity to look at education at a slightly different angle than traditional medical/clinical education.

Dr Laura Delgaty, School of Medical Education

Being Paul Hubbard

paul hubbard lecturingWhat route has your career taken to get you where you are today?

My career pathway started on a fairly standard scientific academic route; completing a BSc in Neuroscience at Sheffield University and a PhD in Glial cell biology in spinal cord injury from King’s College, London, followed by a short period as a post-doc at Birmingham University researching dementia.  I discovered an interest in teaching fairly early on in my career, demonstrating for practicals and giving small group tutorials at King’s and then Birmingham.  I further developed my teaching at Birmingham completing an accredited teaching qualification that allowed me to gain, what was then, associate membership of the HEA.  After finishing my post-doc I moved into education more permanently, gaining a lecturer post in biology at Loughborough college.  I consider this period almost as an apprenticeship in education.  Teaching GCSE’s, A-levels, BTEC, Foundation and Access to HE courses I gained a lot of experience in education and learning theories.  I also started working as an associate lecturer for the Open University during this time, a position that has given me vast experience of online and distance teaching techniques.  It was during my time at Loughborough that I gained my second teaching qualification – Professional Graduate Diploma in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector (PGDTLLS).  After four years at Loughborough College….and one OFSTED visit….I thought it was about time for a change and wondered about a return to HE.  I saw the job advert for my current role in the medical school at Newcastle advertised over Christmas 2012, quickly put an application together (having noticed the advert the day before application deadline) and got an interview in February 2013.  Luckily I got the role and started in June 2013 once the college academic year had finished.
What do you find most challenging about working in HE learning and teaching?

For me I think it is the number of students. Working in the FE sector teaching groups of between 15-25 on a daily basis allowed me to get to know and understand the students and thus tailor my teaching to more adequately meet the needs of those students.  Every student is an individual that learns in their own unique way.  In HE students are more anonymous because of the large numbers and it is difficult to teach in a way that is broad enough to meet all of their learning needs.  This is why teaching students the skills to learn themselves is probably more important than teaching the content itself.

What’s the best  thing you’ve been involved in since you started working with Newcastle University?

The best thing I’ve been involved in so far is probably the most unexpected thing that has happened to me at Newcastle to date.  Towards the end of 2015 I received an offer to go to our NUMed campus in January 2016 to set-up the Foundation Certificate in Biological and Biomedical Science.  My past experience of working in FE and teaching at foundation level was catching up with me!

Heading out there at such short notice was tricky, seeing I’d just made an offer to buy a house!  As it happened I just managed to complete the purchase and move in a week before locking everything up and moving out again and heading off to Malaysia for what became a five month placement.  It was great to have the freedom to plan and prepare a new curriculum for a new course in a new country, meeting new and different staff and students along the way.  I enjoyed the challenge of living in a different culture, but also the opportunity it gave me both academically and personally.  As well as having the chance to travel to and explore different parts of south-east Asia we did manage to get the foundation programme up and running, building a great team of teaching staff for the opening cohort of 45 students from across Malaysia.

What’s the wisest piece of advice you’ve received from a mentor or colleague?

Keep a note/journal of everything I have done/achieved in my current role.  It’s amazing how many things you forget you have done and having a record makes it a lot easier to prepare for PDR meetings or promotion applications.

What’s your top educational research interest

Being a neuroscientist, neuroeducation is of particular interest.  This relatively new and interesting field of applying neuroscientific knowledge to develop new, evidence based, teaching and learning tools could have a great impact on the way we approach teaching in the future.  Utilising knowledge and understanding of the way the brain learns could be particularly useful in developing ideas and methods to aid student’s own study skills techniques.

If you could have dinner with 3 famous people from history who would they be?

Charles Darwin – I’m a Darwinist so it would be interesting to discuss the development of the theory of evolution, and the voyage of the Beagle.

Caratacus – (Chief of the Catuvellauni, a pre-roman British tribe, who fought the Roman invaders for many years before being captured and paraded in Rome).  I like my history and the Roman invasion of Britain is particularly fascinating.  They say history is written by the victors so it would be great to hear the story of the Roman invasion from the other side.

Brian Clough – As a Nottingham Forest football supporter there can be no other option!

Dr Paul Hubbard, School of Medical Education

Making connections within Dental Educational Research globally

IADR 2016A number of academics from Newcastle Dental School recently attended the International  Association for Dental Research (IADR) conference in Seoul, Korea, giving us the opportunity to  network with dental academics from around the world.  A particularly inspiring part of the conference was our engagement with the Education Research Group of IADR, who are leading dental education research globally.  Attendance at their lectures was both inspiring, but also encouraging to see how advanced we are in this field.  James Field, Richard Holmes and myself attended their business meeting and are likely to become engaged with the organisation of next years meeting in San Francisco.  It was fantastic to see Newcastle so well represented at this meeting and our ideas and enthusiasm for dental education so welcomed and encouraged by peers across the globe.

Dr Sarah Rolland

Photo L-R: James Field, Sarah Rolland, Angus Walls, Rebecca Wassell,Richard Homes

“Just a GP”: Active denigration (badmouthing) of General Practice as a career choice

The problem
There is currently a national General Practitioner (GP) recruitment crisis with only half of GP trainee places in some areas being taken.  Many influences are known to affect students’ and young doctors’ career choice; one such influence is their clinical teachers.  It has been suggested and there is anecdotal evidence that negative comments may be made to students and young teachers towards a career choice of General Practice but little robust evidence exists.
We conducted an explorative, qualitative study asking groups of GP trainees about comments made to them, both positive and negative, by all clinical teachers, towards their stated choice of General Practice as a career.  New GP trainees from the two largest training programmes in the Northern region (HENE), where the recruitment crisis is particularly acute, were invited to participate. Six focus groups were undertaken within the trainees current study groups using a semi-structured question format.  Full transcripts of the focus groups were thematically analysed by the research team.
Active denigration of General Practice as a career is evident though not consistent to all participants and is seen as a generic, ‘cultural’ issue in the hospital setting.  A recurring theme was the notion of trainees becoming “just a GP” and interestingly some participants found themselves also using this phrase.  A GP career was noted by some hospital clinicians to be a “cop out” for the “easy life” and trainees were told they were “wasted as a GP” or “too good to be a GP”.  Conversely, some participants noted positive comments centring around it being a good choice for those wanting a family and a good work/life balance. Other participants perceived their hospital clinical teachers to be promoting their own specialities rather than demoting General Practice.  Comments from General Practitioners were mixed with some being notable encouraging role models but others making negative comments about the current workload and stress involved.  Participants broadly perceived that the negative comments they heard had not influenced their own career choice but may have led to their colleagues not following a career in General Practice.
Our findings disturbingly support the anecdotal evidence that active denigration of General Practice as a career choice does exist in the hospital setting in our region.  We would strongly recommend that further explorative work and quantitative surveys are undertaken to explore the extent to which these findings are confirmed and to what extent they are discouraging students and trainees from following a career in GP.  Badmouthing of General Practice as a career must be addressed urgently as a discriminatory issue.

Joanna Hall
Kym Merritt
Hugh Alberti
Newcastle Medical School
Presented at SPAC national conference, July 2016

School of Dental Sciences on European stage

john whitworth2Staff from the School of Dental Sciences have taken leading roles within the Association for Dental Education in Europe (ADEE), chairing three of its Special Interest Groups that bring together educators from across Europe and beyond to encourage collaboration and promote standards.

During the 2016 congress in Barcelona, 24-27 August 2016, Newcastle staff chaired the following Special Interest Groups:

  • Clinical Skills Teaching – James Field
  • General Medicine and Surgery in Dentistry – Mark Greenwood
  • Monitoring & Assessment of UG Endodontology – John Whitworth

SIG Clinical Skills Teaching

ADEE special interest2This was a very busy and productive session discussing current practice across Europe.  Newcastle Dental School was well represented by  Iad Gharib presenting on the relationship between teacher perceptions of pre-clinical dental student professionalism and patient satisfaction and Sarah Rolland, there on behalf of the British Dental Association.  Paul Miller (Newcastle School of Education) presented on the use of a Video Observation tool to enhance clinical teaching.

SIG Monitoring & Assessment in UG Endodontology

Now in its third year, this SIG, chaired by John Whitworth in collaboration with the European Society of Endodontology, continued its work to harmonise assessment in Endodontology at the point of graduation, and to begin work on the development of case-based teaching resources to support schools in delivering the Undergraduate Curriculum Guidelines for Endodontology (International Endodontic Journal 2013).

There are plans for a series of workshops and the SIG will be hosting a half-day event at the ADEE annual congress in Vilnius, August 2017.

Prof John Whitworth, School of Dental Sciences

1st year students’ perceptions of feedback

Damian ParryNSS results have a significant impact on an institution’s reputation, and this will escalate with the introduction of the TES. Although many universities are shown to give satisfaction across most categories the scores for “Feedback and Assessment” are markedly lower.  Much research has been carried out into feedback, but there is little evidence to explain this dissatisfaction. In an attempt to uncover underlying causes I am carrying out a study to investigate “First-Year Students’ Perceptions of Feedback”, to find out their expectations.

The first stage of the study was to find out what Newcastle students think feedback is, what they perceive it should be and how this relates to their previous experiences and general ‘contentment’. Enlisting the help of a student interviewer through the Newcastle Work Experience Scheme, 15 student to student interviews were conducted to build up a thematic understanding of the subject. From these themes a questionnaire of 37 questions was constructed, piloted, modified and distributed.

We got 110 responses (approximately 33% response rate). Initial analysis suggests the university feedback experience is very different to their previous experience of feedback, and although some understand the pedagogical and pragmatic reasons they are not left ‘satisfied’.

I’ve recently presented these initial findings at the Oxford University Press Bioscience Education Summit.  Although the focus to date has been students at Newcastle University, we’re set to roll out this study to include other North East institutions.

Dr Damian Parry, School of Biomedical Sciences