Newcastle University Learning and Teaching Conference, 2018

I’ve been to many previous of Newcastle University’s Leaning Teaching and Teaching Conferences – this was amongst the best so far, in my opinion. There were c.230 delegates, with the Boiler House filled to capacity for registration and the keynotes. The parallel sessions and lunch were in the nearby Barbara Strang Teaching Centre. The L&T conference was well organised and the whole LTDS team contributed to its smooth running.

Welcome & Educational Strategy
The event was opened by Chris Day, who (again) mentioned becoming VC at possibly one of the most turbulent times for HE, with the changes related to the Office for Students (OfS), a hostile media, funding pressures, Brexit, pensions dispute etc. But he still managed to say all that in an upbeat way, tying it in to the University Strategy. Suzanne Cholerton gave a Keynote about the University Education Strategy, which is now in its final stages of consultation. In term “Education” is back in favour, covering the current terminology of “Learning, Teaching and Student Experience” (what goes around comes around!). On a more substantive note the 4 key themes of the Education Strategy were discussed; actively engaging students in their learning, L&T in a research-intensive environment, L&T enhanced and supported by technology, and developing the whole person – the latter to help students develop the skills needed for a rapidly changing environment, where many graduates will do jobs that don’t even exist yet. They need to out-compete the new wave of automation and AI. A new Graduates attributes framework is to be developed.

Celebrating partnership
This year the event benefitted from a significant presence of delegates and presenters from the international campuses in Singapore and Malaysia, and also from NU London & INTO. Sometimes things can feel distant and disjointed if you aren’t directly involved in these collaborations, so the conference gave a real feeling of togetherness as part of a joined-up institution. The student voice was also prominent with a whole-conference workshop reflecting on partnership and academic representation delivered by 4 of the student officers from NUSU.

I came away from the conference with a much better appreciation of NU Singapore and the partnership delivering joint engineering-related degrees with Singapore Institute of Technology (useful to me as occasionally co-deliver workshops remotely to PGR students in Singapore). There is a marked contrast between the institutions (and a key reason for the partnership), with our traditional academic institution and the more industry focussed SIT, which brought together several technical polytechnics, in order to massively increase the proportion of young people in Singapore going into HE, but still focussed on meeting the needs of industry. The University year is organised by three 12 week trimesters and there are just 2 weeks between academic years; peer mentoring is well established.

Many in FMS have first-hand experience of the challenges of teaching in different cultures, through NUMed. However, it was Matt Bentley’s presentation on the Integrated Work Study Programme at Singapore, which drew my attention. Interviews for University places are conducted by employers and all students do an industrial placement of 6 months, or more. Remarkably, 93% of graduates take up their first jobs with their placement provider. With increasing pressures on UK Universities to offer placements and degree apprenticeships there is no doubt lessons NU can learn from the partnership with Singapore (and MBBS and a few other programmes at NU which already have embedded placements for experiential learning). Of course, our cultural and economic context is very different, and leaning is valued in its own right, rather than just providing employability. There was also a point made from the audience about education preparing for life-long transferable skills, not just a short-term focus on getting the skills needed for that first job.

Learning Gain
The final Keynote was from Camille Kandiko Howson from King’s College London, who is leading HEFCE funded projects investigating “Learning Gain”. The back-drop to this was the simplistic requirements for league-tables and a comparison app (described by some as a  “ approach to HE”) being hinted at from then new Minister / Office for Students – potentially covering cost, drop-out rates, graduate salaries and other attributes, without any regard for socio-economic context. Camille gave an inspiring walk through the work of Learning Gain and the emerging and diverse approaches to measuring this. A simple definition of Learning Gain is:

“an attempt measure the improvement in knowledge, skills, work-readiness and personal development made by students during their time spent in higher education.”

Policy makers tend to have a very narrow perception of what Learning Gain is, but it can (should) include measuring broad dimensions; affective (e.g. self-efficacy, resilience etc), behaviours & cognitive abilities. There are a number of reports on the HEFCE Website from Learning Gain projects:  Get in there quick, as HEFCE is being replaced by the OfS from April 2018. The HE sector is very poor at retaining its outputs, outside of academic journals – remember the CETLS? only a sub-set of their outputs made it onto the HEA Website (sorry for the rant!).

Could the conference be more?
If I had to be critical, whilst c.230 participants is a reasonable number, I still think the University T&L should be bigger and aim to reach more people – given that learning and teaching is one of NU’s main activities. Likewise, ideally there should be more slots for presenters – there were 20 presenting slots in the parallel sessions, many of the nine 3 minute ‘lightning slots’ warranted more detailed presentations. Of course, there are costs to consider for a larger event, and the sad reality that not that many people submit proposals for presentations because of time pressures and other commitments. That said, FMS was well represented, with 9 of the 20 parallel presentations having contributions from staff in the faculty. Perhaps an online element to the conference would extend the reach of the event, enabling those too busy to commit to the whole event, to ‘dip in’ and participate in parts; on the other hand, the networking opportunities are better F2F (at least for most of our generations!).

Overall, this years L&T conference was a great event in my opinion.

Simon Cotterill,

“Assessment drives learning” or “One can recover from bad teaching but not bad assessment.”

Aphorisms abound in medical education, not least in assessment:

“Assessment drives learning” or “One can recover from bad teaching but not bad assessment.”

Whilst there is common acceptance of these saws it doesn’t always translate into practice. Often assessment in curricula is added at the end in response to the question of how what has been taught should be assessed. There is frequently little focus on how assessment impacts on learning. Even looking at resource allocation, assessment is often seen as subsidiary to teaching rather than being of equal, or arguably greater, importance.

There are also common misperceptions about what can be gleaned from assessment data. The pendulum has begun to be a swing back away from ‘hard’ data from psychometric analysis to valuing judgment. The Scottish philosopher David Hume identified in the 1700s that data does not equate with reality yet psychometrics are often seen to be the true measure of the quality of examinations. As our clinical assessments currently stand we tend to focus on spotting divergent practice, Heidegger’s vorhanden. At the same time we miss zuhanden type errors where what is common is misperceived as correct. An example being the use of “subjective” and “objective” in describing mood.
So if we as an institution are serious about our courses what can we do to address this? As a first step we need to raise the profile of assessment. Currently there is no specific module on assessment in the Certificate of Medical Education, this is going to change as a new module is introduced next year. Next, whilst two courses on assessment of medical students have been delivered in NUMed we will start delivering these and other focussed courses in the medical school.

These steps alone are insufficient. If one has an interest in assessment there are no structures that currently would support personal development beyond this. Whilst some local sharing takes place, where shared interests are known, there is no way to make this routine. We could take this forward by setting up an FMS special interest group in assessment but innovation in assessment is not restricted to our faculty and what is being done in the other faculties or beyond the bounds of the University could drive our practice forward. As an academic institution the philosophy of assessment should be considered; why we do it and why we do it the way we do.

I’d like to suggest that we start such a group. Perhaps first by working within FMS but with an intention to broaden out to the whole University. If you might be interested in this drop me an email at and I’ll look to get a first meeting set up.

Brian Lunn, Strategic Teaching Fellow, SME

Learning about ageing through collaboration with students and older members of the public- invitation to Impact of Teaching Excellence ANTF and HEA Excellence Awards Symposium.

We have developed a multidisciplinary module, Newcastle Universities Ageing Generations Education, in active collaboration with student interns and older members of the public. A major aim of the module is to challenge the de facto association of ageing with frailty and ensure learning is grounded in the realities of ageing in the community rather than solely reflecting research priorities of the university.

In December 2017, the HEA contacted the NUAGE team to present at the Impact of Teaching Excellence ANTF and HEA Excellence Awards Symposium, Manchester, jointly run with the Association of National Teaching Fellows. We were invited because we had been previous CATE finalists and we were asked to display the impact of the award on the institution, the community and us.

On the 21st March 2018, Luisa attended the symposium to present. This was a great opportunity to present our work and network within a community of other CATE finalists and National Teaching Fellows. We were fortunate in that a few clips of a video we were making of the NUAGE module had been shot and this allowed us to ‘take a couple of our older members of the public with us’ (albeit in video form) to share their thoughts on the module.

To finish the evening, Luisa headed back to Newcastle to join Ellen to host an LTHE Tweetchat #LTHEchat 108 where some delegates from the conference joined in further discussion about involving members of the public in teaching.

Another recent success of the NUAGE team comes from our student intern, Safiah Fardin, who has just recently had an abstract accepted to the BERA conference 2018 on ‘The value of student engagement in an innovative module about ageing – an undergraduate student’s perspective.’

We will attend a few more conferences this year and will hopefully be able to show our video in full so watch this space!

Luisa Wakeling, Ellen Tullo and Laura Greaves


ERDP Development Grant. Anatomy Symposium: Technology enhanced learning in Anatomy

The Anatomy and Clinical Skills (ACS) Facility is one of the few facilities at Newcastle which offers teaching for students in all three faculties. The University has recently invested over one million pounds to update ACS.  The new design has increased the available teaching space and incorporates the highest specification of audio-visual equipment, solutions and specialist imaging equipment.   We now have a SECTRA Visualisation Table (currently the only one in England used for undergraduate anatomy teaching) and a glasses-free 3D Alioscopy Screen in order to provide a modern facility which offers cadaveric teaching alongside the most current technology for both anatomy and clinical teaching.

On Thursday 19th July the ACS team will be hosting a regional one-day Anatomy Symposium to showcase our facility and the investments we have made to enrich the student experience and to embed the use of the latest available technology into our teaching practises.  This event will be the official opening of the Facility and we have invited Professor Wojciech Pawlina, an esteemed Anatomy Educator and Researcher to give the keynote address.  Presenters from around the region will help us explore the use of technology to enhance the student learning experience. A full programme for the day will be circulated in early May.

This event is ‘part’ funded by an ERDP Development Grant.  For more information please contact Dr Debra Patten,


TEA nominations 2018

The TEAs are a chance for students to nominate members of staff who they think have been outstanding and helped improve their student experience here at Newcastle.

Congratulations to all that were nominated (list below provided by Students’ Union).  The results will be announced at the TEA ceremony on the 3rd May.  Keep an eye on the TEA website to find out who gets shortlisted and the eventual winner.

2018 Nominees

Outstanding Contribution to Equality and Diversity in Teaching
Daniel Nettle ( IoN)
Fae Hodgson ( SME)
Kenneth McKeegan ( SME)
Elizabeth Evans ( Psy)

Outstanding Contribution to Feedback
Emma Cockburn ( BMS)
Joanna Matthan ( SME)
Laura Delgaty ( SME)
Luisa Wakeling ( SDS)

Outstanding Contribution to Pastoral Support
Brook Galna ( BMS)
Clara Chivers ( Psy)
Joanna Matthan ( SME)
Trevor James ( Psy)
Sarah Jayne Boulton ( BMS)

Outstanding Contribution to Student Employability
Beth Lawry ( BMS)
Helen St-Clair-Thompson ( Psy)
Michelle Smith ( SDS)
Stephen McHanwell ( SME)

Outstanding Contribution to Teaching  – FMS Faculty
Daniel Nettle ( IoN)
Deborah Henderson ( IGM)
Simon Wilkinson ( ICM)
Sinead Mullally ( IoN)
Claire McGee ( SDS)
Janet Robinson ( SME)
Paul Hubbard ( SME)
Andrew Chaytor ( SME)
Beverley English ( SDS)
Chris Eggett ( BMS)
Colin Brown ( ICaMB)
David Norton ( SME)
Debbie Bevitt ( BMS)
Elizabeth Evans ( Psy)
Faye Horsley ( Psy)
Gabriele Jordan ( Psy)
Gavin Oxburgh ( Psy)
Iain Keenan ( SME)
Jeremy Lakey ( ICaMB)
John Noblett ( SME)
Kenneth McKeegan ( SME)
Luisa Wakeling ( SDS)
Ralf Kist ( SDS)
Richard Holmes ( SDS)
Sarah Jayne Boulton ( BMS)
Stephen McHanwell ( SME)
Tim Cheek ( ICaMB)
Tom Clifford ( BMS)
Vsevolod Telezhkin ( SDS)
Yoav Tadmor ( Psy)
Brook Galna ( BMS)

Research Supervisor of the Year
Ben Millar ( ICM)
Farhad Kamali ( ICM)
Laura Delgaty ( SME)
Luke Vale ( IHS)
Ruth Valentine ( SDS)

Taught Supervisor of the Year
Andrew Mellon ( SME)
Helen Stanclifee ( SDS)
Luisa Wakeling ( SDS)
Pauline  Prabahar    ( SME)
Laura Delgaty ( SME)


Director Update: Spring 2018

Dear Colleagues

This introduction to our March newsletter sees me in a more reflective frame of mind than usual as I read Barnett’s most recent book Understanding the University. We have all been aware of the focus that there has been on Higher Education in the last few years but in recent months that focus has intensified.  The questions about value for money, grade inflation and learning gain have all, in separate and distinct ways, raised questions about what a degree is worth and whether that worth is changing in the era of raised tuition fees.

A review of Higher Education is under way which might result in a more differentiated fee structure.  Universities are likely to be asked as part of the new TEF arrangements to justify their rates of awarding degrees of different classes though the metric(s) for this are still unclear.  Subject-level TEF is being piloted this year.  Then, most recently, the universities minister announced yet another way of ranking universities, a consumer-style value for money rating university-supermarket .com approach.  All these developments raise important questions about what the purpose of a university education is in society today.  They lead us to ask the wider question what universities exist to do.  We are caught, as Barnett would articulate it, between bureaucratic and entrepreneurial models of how universities should behave.  Both, in their different ways, represent challenges to older views we might have of universities as places of liberal reason and lead through different routes to a culture of targets and measurement.

Against this background it is easy to lose hold of where we are and where we should be but unless we can retain a sense of core values we risk responding simply to the latest trends and meeting the newest targets. We must not forget what we are doing to educate the next generation is important work whether we are producing biomedical scientists, dentists, doctors, medical educators, oral hygienists and therapists, pharmacists, physician associates, psychologists, sports scientists, or the next generation of young researchers.  It applies equally to whether we are delivering an introductory Stage 1 UG course, teaching PG(T) students or supervising a PhD student.  Without wishing to sound complacent from all the evidence we have in front of us we take our role as educators at whatever level very seriously and deliver high-quality teaching.  As I survey the contents of this newsletter as educators in higher education we engage in an impressive range of other tasks in support of our roles including a commitment to our own development through attendance at EDRP events within the Faculty, events at university level as well as national and international conferences.  In the current debates it is all too easy to lose our sense of centre.  To return to Barnett we need be clear about our values and purposes to understand the possibilities of a university and perhaps to glimpse what Barnett calls feasible utopias.

Prof Steve McHanwell, Director, FMS Unit for ERDP

FMS Education Journal Club Semester 2 Spring term

Straight into the second semester, a very interesting article (Twenge, J. M. (2009), Generational changes and their impact in the classroom: teaching Generation Me. Medical Education, 43: 398–405) was presented by Hamde Nazar, School of Pharmacy. This sparked discussion on the generational changes we may be seeing in our students and how this has perhaps led to a generation of students who have high expectations, not only from us but also increasingly of themselves.

To get us talking about feedback, Chris Eggett, School of Biomedical Sciences, presented ‘Pitt, E & Norton, L (2017), ‘Now that’s the feedback I want!’ Students’ reactions to feedback on graded work and what they do with it. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 42:4, 499-516.’ In the paper, the authors had stated that there could be de-motivational negative feedback but they did not acknowledge positive feedback that could be de-motivating! This got us discussing! I guess we could think a bit more about how we word positive-only feedback reports to allow students to maximise their potential in further assessments.

I would like to say that by March the warmer weather had kicked in but the trip down to the Ridley building was a cold, Siberian-like one. Nonetheless, there was an article that I was very much looking forward to discussing with the usual crowd (who showed up despite the heavy snow!). Richard Holmes, School of Dental Sciences, delivered to us ‘Chen, V, Foster Page, L, McMillan, J, Lyons, K & Gibson, B (2016) Measuring the attitudes of dental students towards social accountability following dental education – Qualitative findings, Medical Teacher, 38:6, 599-606.’ We explored the term ‘social accountability’ and discussed the comments from students documented in the paper. We concluded that it was very important in all disciplines to allow students to explore social accountability and it was discussed that this could be explored when we are interviewing prospective students for medicine and dentistry.

A big thank you to all our speakers of the Spring term. As always, these sessions are extremely informative and I am certain elements are captured by our Faculty teachers and used in their everyday practice. To kick off the summer term, Laura Woodhouse, School of Medical Education will be presenting on the 4th May. Title to follow.

Here’s to a well-deserved Easter!

Luisa Wakeling

All links to articles and up and coming speakers can be found at the Journal Club webpage

Spaced Learning: A Neuroscience Driven Education Technique

Neuroeducation is an emerging educational discipline where a neuroscientific understanding of how the brain learns is used to drive forward current teaching methods or to develop new and innovative methods of teaching and learning. Whilst neuroeducation does not claim to be a complete solution, it is hoped that an increasing knowledge of the biology behind the process of forming memories in the brain will make teaching methods more efficient. 

Unfortunately there are also a number of ‘neuromyths’ prevalent in education and these have ‘muddied the water’ and tarnished the image of neuroeducation. Examples of neuromyths include the ‘right brain creative/left brain logical’ idea as well as the concept of distinct ‘learning styles’.  Current research in the field therefore aims to utilise real scientific evidence to help debunk neuromyths but also to provide an evidenced-based approach to develop techniques that tap into the brains’ own method of forming memories in order to enhance learning.

Spacing out learning over a period of time and into ‘bite-sized’ chunks is not a new idea. It has long been known that repeated learning at intervals, following an initial learning event, aids learning progress.  Revisiting a topic shortly after teaching reduces the chances of forgetting information and increases the possibility of the brain forming long-term memories.

Spaced Learning is a technique that hopes to tap into the process of long-term memory formation by scheduling multiple short periods of teaching interspersed with breaks. In the breaks students complete activities that require little thought and are unrelated to the taught topic.  The length of time of the teaching periods, and the breaks in teaching, are designed to consolidate learning at key points in the physiological memory formation process. Spaced learning has been tested as a teaching tool by Kelley and Whatson in 2013 and has recently been included in the Open University’s 2017 ‘Innovating Pedagogy’ report that proposed ten up-and-coming innovations in teaching that have the potential to alter educational practice.

Most studies relating to neuroeducation techniques are trialled in a school environment but very rarely get trialled in higher education. It is therefore unknown whether such techniques can be adapted for use in higher education.  I therefore aim to trial a form of spaced learning during the MBBS curriculum to see if there is scope for it to be used as an educational technique in higher education.  The original study on spaced learning by Kelly and Whatson used a 90 minute teaching session that included three 20 minute teaching slots separated by two 10 minute breaks.  This is outlined on the left side of the image.  To work with the traditional 50 minute lecture based timetable it is proposed to run two 20 minute teaching sessions with a 10 minute break in between, followed by a second session later in the day (right side of the image).  Feedback will be gained from students on their experience of this style of teaching with the view that a more extensive study may be developed in future.

For further reading, please see:

Kelley, P., & Whatson, T. (2013). Making long-term memories in minutes: a spaced learning pattern from memory research in education. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience7, 589.

The Open University (2017) Innovating Pedagogy 2017 [online] available from




Martina Finetti awarded a Higher Education Academy Fellowship for research-led teaching

Dr Martina Finetti has recently been awarded a Higher Education Academy Fellowship for her commitment to professionalism in learning and teaching in higher education.  This is a great achievement and recognises the work she has put into her research-led teaching and post-graduate mentoring for Newcastle and Padua University.

Martina said of the award:

“I am pleased to receive this award at such an early stage of my career.  The recognition process helped me to reflect on my ongoing commitment to teaching with a view towards a future career as a lecturer.”

Martina is currently a Research Associate and Associate Fellow at Northern Institute for Cancer Research. She gained her Pharm.D from the University of Padua and achieved her PhD in Molecular Pediatric Oncology in 2015 at Newcastle University. Her interests include characterization of SMARCB1 dependency in Malignant Rhabdoid Tumours (MRT) and drug targets prioritisation in epigenetic driven paediatric tumours using next generation approaches.

Publications Spring 2018

Congratulations to everyone in the Faculty who has published their research this quarter. If anything is missing let us know.

Moxham BJ, McHanwell S, Berkovitz B,  The development of a core syllabus for the teaching of oral anatomy, histology, and embryology to dental students via an international ‘Delphi Panel’. Clinical Anatomy.


Anyiam O, Ware V, McKenna M, Hanley J,  Junior doctor teaching delivered by near peers. Clinical Teacher.


Wiskin C, Barrett M, Fruhstorfer B, Schmid ML,  Recommendations for undergraduate medical electives: a UK consensus statement. Medical Education.


Blaylock P, Ellis JS, McCracken GI, The transition from dental school to postgraduate dental foundation training: strengthening the interaction between stakeholders. British Dental Journal.


Gursoy M, Wilensky A, Claffey N, Herrera D, Preshaw PM, Sanz M, Schlagenhauf U, Trombelli L, Demirel K,  Periodontal education and assessment in the undergraduate dental curriculum-A questionnaire-based survey in European countries. European Journal of Dental Education.


Hester KLM, Newton J, Rapley T, Ryan V, De Soyza A,  Information and education provision in bronchiectasis: co-development and evaluation of a novel patient-driven resource in a digital era. European Respiratory Journal.


B Abdulmohsen, I Gharib, S Mchanwell (2018). How to enhance student engagement through transforming assessment? A creative pedagogic approach. Higher Education Academy STEM Conference 2018: Creativity in Teaching, Learning and Student Engagement.


Lim CP, Roberts M, Chalhoub T, Waugh J, Delgaty L.,   Cadaveric surgery in core gynaecology training: a feasibility study. Gynecological Surgery 2018, 15, 4.. .


Iain D. Keenan, J. Duncan Slater., Joanna Matthan,  Social media: Insights for medical education from instructor perceptions and usage. .