Director’s update Autumn 2018

Welcome to this first newsletter of the 2018/2019 academic year.  Our undergraduate students have recently arrived back to start their studies including many joining us in Newcastle for the first whilst many of our clinical and postgraduate students have been with us for several weeks.  Meanwhile, we also welcome new staff to the Faculty.  If you are reading this newsletter for the first time, I hope you will join us in our events programme or want to submit a small grants application for a project that you would like to carry out.

Details of our event programme are included in this newsletter.  Our monthly Journal Club continues and I would like to thank Luisa Wakeling for continuing to run this programme, our contributors who present papers for us to read and for all of you who attend and contribute to the ensuing lively professional discussions.  Our seminar programme is also planned and we have speakers talking on a wide range of issues including assessment and widening participation.

One event I would like to highlight is the workshop in November from Sella Jones-Devitt on Student Voice.  This is a leadership Foundation-funded project and I attended the inaugural workshop in Sheffield earlier in the year.  I can promise this thought-provoking and stimulating session.  I am still planning the programme for after Christmas and while I have some speakers lined up there are still spaces if people have somebody in mind they would like to invite.  I am also planning to start a Writing Group as a mutual self-help group for people want support in writing for publication.  Details about this will follow soon.  Finally, our first Faculty Learning and Teaching Forum is on December 8th so please make time to join us for that event.

The ERDP Small Grants scheme continues next year.  We are publishing submission dates in advance and this year have made a small change to those dates by making them quarterly rather than three times a year.  At the same time, can I remind you that we are prepared to accept applications for support where there is an immediate need.  So, please start thinking now about projects you might want to initiate or a short period of study leave that you might wish to undertake.

Another full year of activity is ahead of us and I look forward to meeting many of you at one or more of our events during the year.

Prof Steve McHanwell, Director of the ERDP Network

ULTSEC Innovation Fund: An educational experience supported and enhanced by technology; a mixed methods exploration of students’ and staff’s perspectives

We’re delighted our strategic project application for the ULTSEC Innovation fund has been approved. The study is titled: ‘An educational experience supported and enhanced by technology; a mixed methods exploration of students’ and staff’s perspectives’.

The University’s education strategy draws a large emphasis on delivering an educational experience supported and enhanced by technology. The study is a sequential mixed methods approach to explore students’ and staff’s perspectives across the University, including NUMED, London and Singapore, on wants and needs with respect to the use of technology in teaching and learning. The study will be conducted in two phases. The first phase (qualitative) will consist of an in-depth exploration of students’ and staff’s (including professional support staff) perspectives of technology in the teaching and learning environment and focus groups will be conducted in all locations/Faculties. In the second phase (quantitative) a web-based self-completion survey will be developed and conducted. Gaining an understanding of how students and staff utilise technology and their views on how technology could be incorporated into their educational experience, is vital in order to align the teacher-learner perspective and prioritise technology use and the support thereof. We are currently recruiting student interns and hope to start data collection in the next few months. We are very grateful to the ULTSEC Committee for this opportunity and we look forward to sharing the results.

Project Team: Dr. Floor Christie, Dr. Ruth Valentine, Mr. John Moss, Ms. Bhavani Veasuvalingam.

ULTSEC Funding: Postgraduate Study in Newcastle: the inter-cultural experience (PG-Nice)

The ULTSEC has awarded strategic project funding to Karolien Jordens, Postgraduate Administrator in the Institute of Cellular Medicine, for a joint project between FMS, HaSS, SAgE and the EDI committee. This strategic project is called “Postgraduate study in Newcastle: the inter-cultural experience (PG-Nice)” and its aim is to investigate the cultural and linguistic difficulties international students across the University are faced with and how these difficulties affect their experience abroad.

Recruitment, retention and completion of international postgraduate students are indicators of a University’s research health. In addition to making important contributions academically and financially, these students are a barometer of our worldwide standing. Anecdotal experience suggests that our international students can be confronted with cultural and linguistic difficulties, and we hypothesise they affect learning gain. To provide future students with the best experience, we will investigate the linguistic and cultural challenges of our students and how they affect postgraduate academic performance so we can improve it for the benefit of the students and the institution.

ERDP Development Grant: Aligning Learner and Patient Feedback Priorities to Enhance Communication Skills and Professionalism in Dental Undergraduates

In 2017 Ashleigh Stamp and Sarah Rolland were awarded an ERDP Development Grant to fund a project to develop, pilot and assess the effectiveness of a Patient Feedback Tool (PFT) to provide dental undergraduates with formative feedback on patient-perceived communication skills and professionalism.  This report details the progress of this project to date.


The powerful influence of feedback on student learning is well documented, with it being an essential component in clinical education and professional development.1-3  Patient feedback can complement and enhance that delivered by clinical teachers and academics; this is particularly pertinent when it comes to communication skills and perception of student professionalism, providing unique insight into the actions of those training and working in caring professions and provided greatest benefit to future healthcare provision.4-6

With effective feedback being highly valued by students and benchmark of good practice within higher education, increasing the role of patients in the development of future dental professionals is crucial.  Recognising this, the General Dental Council (GDC) have stipulated the key role patient feedback must play in the quality assurance within undergraduate dental education.7   Where concerns about anonymity could influence the nature of observations provided, Simulated Patients (SPs) may offer an alternative source of ‘patient’ feedback.


  • Develop a Patient Feedback Tool (PFT) to assess communication skills and professionalism – from the ‘patient’ perspective
  • Embed this PFT within an undergraduate Bachelor of Dental Sciences (BDS) Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE)

Work undertaken so far

A draft paper-based PFT (comprising checklist and free text elements) was developed by the research team, based on a summative clinical assessment utilised by Newcastle School of Medical Education. Following initial pilot within a BDS OSCE, a series of focus groups with dental undergraduates, SPs and staff (Figure 1) explored:

  • priorities relating to PFT purpose, design and delivery
  • perception of nature, worth and dissemination of feedback (including review of anonymised PFT free-text comments)


Audio recordings of focus groups were transcribed prior to thematic analysis and used to modify the PFT prior to further pilot.  Concurrent thematic analysis of free-text comments considered ‘how’ SPs used this component of the PFT.

Preliminary Results and Discussion

Students, SPs and staff identified distinct benefits offered by a formative PFT and agreed a necessity to highlight areas of commendation and concern.  The ability to provide and receive free-text comments was highly valued by SPs and students, respectively.  Placing greater emphasis upon this aspect of the PFT is reliant upon appropriate SP training, calibration and time to formulate feedback as well as a distinct need to deliver feedback in a safe and supportive environment; recognising the means of doing so may differ between learners.  Despite staff concerns about student access to ‘raw’ individualised feedback, this was met with enthusiasm by learners; recognising the potential for unbiased and constructive comments to aid professional development and benefit healthcare provision.

Further Research to be Undertaken:

Recognising the limitations of a tool employed within scenarios designed to replicate ‘real-life’, further research will enhance PFT design and delivery whilst considering its influence upon student development.  Key to this will be increasing user-friendliness of the PFT, converting the checklist component to a series of Likert-type scales reflecting areas of commendation and concern and considering the use of digital technology.  Workshops with key stakeholders over coming months will guide PFT development and consider its ability to ‘feed-forward’ to shape undergraduate training across Newcastle SDS.


This preliminary research was presented in 2018 at the International Association for Dental Research 96th General Session and Exhibition/Pan European Regional Congress in London.


  • Ende J. Feedback in clinical medical education. JAMA 1983; 250:777-781.
  • Hattie J, Timperley H. The Power of feedback. Review of Educational Research 2007; 77:81-112.
  • Norcini J. The power of feedback. Medical Education 2010; 44:101-108.
  • Cleland J A, Abe K, Rethans J-J. The use of simulated patients in medical education: AMEE Guide No 42. Medical Teacher 2009; 31:477-486.
  • Park J H, Son J Y, Kim S, May W. Effect of feedback from standardized patients on medical students’ performance and perceptions of the neurological examination. Medical Teacher 2011; 33:1005-1010.
  • Von Fragstein M, Silverman J, Cushing A, Quilligan S, Salisbury H, Wiskin C. UK consensus statement on the content of communication curricula in undergraduate medical education. Medical Education 2008; 42:1100-1107
  • General Dental Council (2015) Standards for Education. Standards and requirements for providers. London: General Dental Council. [Online].  Available at: (Accessed: 27th March 2017).


Project team: Miss Ashleigh Stamp (Paediatric Dentistry), Dr Efstathia Tzemou (School of Psychology) Dr Richard Holmes (Dental Public Health) and Dr Sarah Rolland (Orthodontics).

Conference presentation: ASME 2018

The ASME (Association for the Study of Medical Education) Annual Scientific Meeting was held at the Sage Gateshead between 11th and 13th July.

There was a packed programme which offered a diversity of formats and content.  This enabled attendees to get exposure to a wide variety of medical education topics, but also allowed tailoring of the meeting to specific interests.  The programme included thought-provoking and inspiring Keynote presentations, parallel sessions, poster presentations, Special Interest Group sessions and Pop-up events.

I delivered an oral presentation entitled ‘Delivering to ‘that list’: The challenges of working with Learning Outcomes’.  It was a valuable and enjoyable opportunity, with an audience (a crowded room) which was both supportive and knowledgeable.

Funding from the School of Dental Science’s Helen Tonge Award supported my attendance at this conference.  Overall it was a brilliant conference, great venue and a fantastic opportunity to network!

Heidi Bateman, School of Dental Sciences

New ERDP Development Grants

We’re pleased to announce that the following projects have been funded by the ERDP.

Tackling the common issues of the Faculty’s Student Academic Representation system in a half-day event.

Luisa Wakeling and Alessio Iannetti

Student and Educator perspectives on the teaching of compassion at Newcastle Medical School

Jane Atkinson, Alison Craig and Hugh Alberti

FMS Education Journal Club Semester 2 Summer Term

July seems rather a long time ago but the discussion is still with me from Michael Atkinson’ s journal club where he presented Berg, P & Seeber, BK (2013) The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy. Transformative Dialogues: Teaching & Learning Journal, 6 (3) April 2013. This paper rang true with many of us including phrases such as “feeling guilty… and then we deny being overwhelmed even to ourselves”, “[we are] too busy to slow down” and “academic work by its very nature is never done”. Can we really go into this academic year, protect our time outside of work, and make room for our scholarship time? We spoke about a few strategies to be more productive such as leaving the email until later in the morning and then turning it off completely once we walk out of the door. Applying the ‘Is it urgent AND important?’ rule and knowing when enough is enough on developing a project/teaching were also mentioned. Overall, we need to do a bit more of looking after ourselves, as also discussed in the paper, our wellbeing “is inextricably linked with students’ learning”.

So I hope these digests have inspired you to come along to our club this new academic year and take the time out (with a spot of lunch) to discuss education with like-minded teachers from across the faculty. The programme of presenters is almost full and I only have two slots left so please do get in touch if you would like to present!

Looking forward to it!

Luisa Wakeling, School of Dental Sciences

Conference presentations: IADR

The 96th General Session of the International Association of Dental Research took place at the Excel London Convention Centre between 25-28th July.

The IADR has over 11,000 members worldwide and so represents a superb opportunity for international showcasing of dental research. Included within the IADR programme are sessions devoted to Education research and on this occasion, Newcastle University’s Dental Educational Research Group was well represented.

Luisa Wakeling presented on her work on Student Voice with our Student-Staff committee – her poster ‘Enhancing professional learning through student representation’ prompted much interest.

Heidi Bateman is currently undertaking a PhD in which she is attempting to unpick the concept of professionalism through a documentary analysis approach. Heidi and her three supervisors (Jane Stewart,  Giles McCracken & Janice Ellis) presented a triptych of posters which explored some of her fascinating findings to date;

  • Thematic Analysis of the ‘Professional’ in a Regulator’s Governance Document
  • Conceptualising Professionalism as Portrayed in a Regulators Curriculum Document
  • Documentary Analysis of Professionalism in Regulated Clinical Programmes

The final poster was presented by Ashleigh Stamp, a clinical fellow in the School, who has been working with patients to deliver feedback on dental student performance in clinical examinations; Enhancing Communication and Professionalism; aligning learner and patient feedback priorities

Finally Zoe Freeman, another of our clinical fellows,  gave an oral presentation on her work developing an instrument for gathering patient feedback on the undergraduate clinical programme. This work was supported by an ERDP grant and is now coming to fruition with the instrument being used for the first pilot at the end of last academic year (Obtaining patient feedback for quality assurance of Undergraduate Dental Teaching).

As well as having the opportunity to present research the meeting provided a superb opportunity to establish collaborations and network with colleagues from around the globe. We are now looking forward to increasing Newcastle’s representation at this annual conference as it moves to Vancouver in 2019.

Conference presentation: Dentists’ experiences of treatment and referral for patients with obesity

Andrew Geddis-Regan and Rebecca Wassall presented ‘Dentists’ experiences of treatment and referral for patients with obesity’ at the 24th International Association for Disability and Oral Health congress in August.


Objectives: The prevalence of obesity is increasing yet dental treatment provision for patients with obesity can be challenging. Obesity can prevent patients from accessing healthcare services as many treatment facilities cannot accommodate individuals of greater weight, particularly those whose weight exceeds that of a typical dental chair. Patients are sometimes referred to hospital settings or clinics with bariatric chairs yet the availability of these is variable. This study aimed to explore the perceptions and experiences of dentists involved in the care or referral of patient with obesity to highlight any barriers to optimal care provision for this patient group.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with dentists who had either referred or treated patients with obesity. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using thematic analysis and a constant comparative approach.

Results: Dentists expressed consistent challenges in treating patients with obesity. Six themes arose from the data: awareness of the challenges of obesity, difficulties broaching the topic with patients, challenges in determination of weight, safety concerns and equipment limitations, problems in provision of emergency care, and unclear referral pathways for patients with obesity. From becoming aware patients had obesity to the process of referral or treatment, a complex array of discussions and processes had to be navigated which was perceived to be uncomfortable and unnecessary complex.

Conclusions: Dentists require guidance on how to discuss obesity with patients. There needs to be a clear, patient-centred pathway by which treatment can be provided in appropriate settings for patients with obesity

Andrew R Geddis Regan, Rebecca R Wassall (School of Dental Science)

Conference presentation: Meeting the needs of patients with disabilities – how can we better prepare the new dental graduate?

Kathy Wilson presented ‘Meeting the needs of patients with disabilities – how can we better prepare the new dental graduate?’ at the 24th International Association for Disability and Oral Health congress in August.


Background: The dental profession has a social responsibility to provide equitable oral health care for all. This is recognised in the UK, General Dental Council document ‘Preparing for Practice’, which states “…registrants must be able to recognise the needs of all patients, including those with special care requirements”. This raises the question, are we adequately preparing future dental professionals to fulfil their obligations?

Aim: To explore final year dental students’ insight into issues of disability. Research Questions: What are students’ perceptions of their preparedness to meet the needs of patients with disabilities? What has influenced this sense of preparedness?

Method: Two focus groups were employed to address the research questions. Sixteen final year dental students, attending Newcastle School of Dental Sciences participated. The transcriptions were analysed using thematic analysis.

Results: Four themes were identified; ‘perceptions of disability’, ‘experience of disability’, ‘patient management’ and ‘teaching and learning’. Exploring the themes further, it became apparent that levels of preparedness and self-efficacy varied among students. This variation could be attributed to, knowledge of disability issues, previous experience with people with disabilities and how education in SCD was delivered. Students identified the need for more structure to their teaching and increased exposure to the disabled community. Conclusion: The issues identified reflect current literature and highlight the importance of addressing disability within the wider undergraduate curriculum. Responding to the ‘student  voice’ has the potential to tailor elements of the Special Care Dentistry programme, to address their educational needs.


Kathy Wilson, Richard Holmes, Kate Bird (School of Dental Science),

Laura Delgaty (School of Medical Education)