ERDP Seminar: The impact of the Anthropocene on human health, and what to do about it.

In September Susanne Karr presented a seminar on ‘The impact of the Anthropocene on human health, and what to do about it.’ Here Jan Deckers writes about what Susanne presented.

Susanne Karr ( expressed her concern about the so-called “Anthropocene”, the era in which everything on earth is subjected to human exploitation and altered profoundly by it, justified on the basis of the premise that human beings are wholly exceptional beings in the animal kingdom. Rather than isolating ourselves from other beings, we should open our minds also to the exceptional capacities of others, where she provided the example of the arctic tern’s remarkable capacity to fly and navigate great distances, amongst others.

Drawing on the philosophies of Spinoza and Leibniz, she defined our essence in terms of our capacity to affect and to be affected by others, providing the example of children demonstrating ‘entangled empathy’ when they share in the joys of other animals, for example the energy displayed by birds.

In the age of the Anthropocene, our ability to experience these moments of joy in the lives of others and to be summoned to care for each other is in jeopardy as habitats and species are lost due to human exploitation, resulting in impoverished living environments. Her view of the earth is primarily that of the maker and destroyer, rather than of a resource to be exploited.

The image of the earth that is prevailing in the Anthropocene and the associated maltreatment of other living beings, however, is undermining human health as our isolation fosters loneliness and depression. Our culture, she thought, socialises us to question the natural state of empathy, curiosity, and creativity that would be possessed by children. It would be interesting to examine how this occurs, and to explore whether children possess important capacities of connection and empathy that are lost along the way into adulthood, which was just one issue that was brought up in the ensuing discussion.

Susanne focused in particular on the role that nonhuman animals might play in our ability to reconnect with the nonhuman world, referring to the work of the psychiatrist Ivan Dimitrijević who developed a number of animal-assisted therapies, showing that they can result in educational, motivational, and communicational benefits. It would be interesting to explore how these benefits are provided, whether they could be provided by other means, and what kinds of interactions are of importance here. An important question in relation to this, also touched on in the discussion, is whether these kinds of interactions depend on the human domestication of animals (where she referred to Paul Checkley’s self-reported psychiatric benefits associated with the adoption of hens who had been kept in batteries) or whether interactions with wild animals might fulfil a similar role and be preferable. In terms of the ongoing debate over rewilding [note: see also the work ‘Feral’ by George Monbiot in relation to this; or this review:], she also referred to the work of Peter Wohlleben, a forester who has questioned normalised hierarchies and human domination.

Susanne’s talk ended with a plea for greater humility and the injunction to interfere as little as possible. Whilst there is little doubt that the former is an important virtue, the question to what extent human interference is justifiable remains difficult for me to resolve. I thank Susanne for a very stimulating talk that I hope will contribute to curriculum reform in the interest of promoting better human health.

The themes of her work are developed further in her book “Verbundenheit” (Connectedness), which was published in 2015 (

HEA Fellow status for Dr Bana Abdulmohsen

Dr Bana Abdulmohsen of the School of Dental Sciences 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 the assessment development field which promotes the reviewing and developing process in the assessment elements for the Bachelor of Dental Surgery-stage 1 programme. Congratulations Bana.

FMS Education Journal Club Semester 2 Summer Term

In the lovely month of May, as the air was warm, birds were singing and that carefree feeling was apparent, Laura Woodhouse (SME) house brought us funnel plots! While these challenged us a little, we all secretly liked getting our teeth into the data of Woolf K, Potts HWW, McManus IC (2011) Ethnicity and academic performance in UK trained doctors and medical students: systematic review and meta-analysis, BMJ 2011;342:d901. Laura asked us to consider why we thought differences existed between performances of different student groups and what mechanisms we have to support (academically or pastorally) the different groupings of students we have. After much discussion as to the reasons why some students may underperform and what we could do to help, we hoped to focus on the individual student and their needs in higher education rather than grouping students.

Early June, Beth Lawry (BMS), brought to us Wilson, L, Ho, S & Brookes, RH (2017) Student perceptions of teamwork within assessment tasks in undergraduate science degrees, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2017.1409334. The group discussed student perceptions of developing teamwork skills during their degrees. There may always be the problems of unequal contribution and difficulty in scheduling meetings in group work but to produce a piece of work under those pressures is certainly a life lesson.

As we move into summer and hopefully are able to devote some time to developing our practice (and squeeze in a trip to somewhere with warm sand), we have Michael Atkinson (SME) presenting 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. I hope this will set us in good stead to work at a nice pace over the summer and ready us to handle the speed of September. Please come along on Thursday 5th July, Ridley 2, 1.52.

If you want to start thought provoking, highly informative and inspirational discussions around education research and practice, please contact me at to present a paper. Do not forget, you also get your lunch!

Many thanks to everyone who has contributed this year, in presenting and taking part in discussion.

Luisa Wakeling, School of Dental Sciences

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




The pedagogic issues we face as anatomists are shared international problems

The 52nd Annual Meeting of the Portuguese Anatomical Society was held jointly with the 5th Annual Meeting of the Portuguese Anatomical Association in Braga, Portugal on 26th May 2018. This was an education-focussed meeting with an over-arching theme of “identifying new approaches to engage students in learning anatomy”.  I had been invited to join the meeting as a keynote speaker.  My brief was critically to review some of these new approaches from an international perspective.  The meeting was in three parts with a series of short communications, a poster session and was concluded by my keynote presentation.  The language of the meeting was, naturally, Portuguese, though speakers were encouraged, as in common in many meetings in Southern Europe particularly to present their slides in English.  I have some limited knowledge of Portuguese, which was sufficient, especially being familiar with the contexts being discussed, to follow the meeting in sufficient detail.  As the meeting progressed it became apparent that many of the issues we are familiar with teaching anatomy in the UK are also being encountered in Portugal and indeed would be recognised in many countries in the world and can properly be regarded as being shared, international issues of anatomy pedagogy.

Communications on the effectiveness of special study projects in anatomy, engaging students to produce pedagogic resources for learning anatomy and provision of extracurricular opportunities to engage in dissection projects were key amongst the approaches that were found to be effective in engaging Portuguese students. Many of these would be methods familiar to us in the UK.  While the use of computer-assisted technologies to support spatial learning, 3D printing and a neuroanatomical atlas produced with thin (5mm) plastinated sections of brain are also methods that have been employed variously in anatomy units across the UK.  Alongside these similarities there were some very obvious differences in approach and emphasis to be observed.  Students undertaking special study projects had ready access to funding support from a Portuguese Funding Council (GAPIC).  The students were engaged actively in gross anatomical research in collaboration with staff and with a clear expectation of eventual publication.  This same Funding Council was also prepared to fund students engaged in pedagogic resource development and again dissemination locally but also nationally was the expectation.  The ready availability of funding for undergraduate students to undertake projects for both anatomical research and education activities appeared to be an important factor in the success of these projects.  Evidence was also presented to demonstrate longer-term benefits on student learning.  Validated instruments measuring self-efficacy were used, to show the positive impacts for students of undertaking such activities as they continued their studies.

In my keynote lecture, I elected to focus on topics that were not being discussed elsewhere in the sessions and I structured my presentation around the three topics of the place of knowledge in curriculum design in anatomy, the reward and recognition for teachers of anatomy and the need for a properly evidence-based approach to anatomy pedagogy. In recent years as anatomists, we know that the subject of how much anatomy should be taught within medical and other healthcare professions programmes has been a matter of vigorous debate.  One response has been the initiation by the Anatomical Society and by IFAA of a series of Delphi studies that have set out to answer these questions using a recognised research process to generate a consensus discussion.  I argued in my talk as I have elsewhere, based upon the work of Young and others advocating a social realist approach, that knowledge matters in a curriculum. Delphi methodologies represent one route to developing coherent syllabuses, which by equipping students with what Young has termed powerful knowledge both encourage deep learning and the capacity to for predictive knowledge.  In many schools and departments of anatomy education-focussed, staff are increasingly undertaking the teaching of the subject.  In a paper in Clinical Anatomy in 2014 Bergman et al identified this trend arguing that the quality of teaching anatomy would be increasingly be dependent on their being adequate reward structures for anatomy teachers.  I presented some of the work being done in this area on rewarding and recognising teaching intending to stimulate debate.  Finally, I discussed the increasing importance being attached to evidence-based pedagogy as in other disciplines.  As Tight in a recent paper in 2017 has shown, there has been an explosion in Higher Education research being reported.  Anatomy has probably one of the best-developed discipline-specific pedagogic research communities in the world.  In common with a lot of HE research, many of these studies are small scale, often based upon work in one institution and so have limited generalisability yet many of the studies reach similar conclusions.  Drawing upon early work by Chickering and Gamson (1987) on the seven principles for effective learning, I made a case that anatomy teaching as it is enacted in many places in the world follows nearly all of those principles.  I went on to argue that grounding pedagogic research in the wider HE literature in this way is one means by which our work can rest on a firmer theoretical foundation.  A lively discussion ensued especially around the subject of the AS core syllabus and considerable interest was shown in the use of the syllabus as a means to provide a coherent framework for the teaching of anatomy in case and scenario-based courses.  In the discussion outside the meeting, it was also that that issue of reward and recognition of teaching was as much an issue in Portugal as it is in the UK and elsewhere and that research dominates the agenda in Portugal.


Tight (2017) has suggested that given the explosion in HE publishing we may know all we need to know. This may or may not be true for anatomy or for any discipline.  However, we can perhaps all agree with Tight’s thesis that there is an urgent need to synthesise our understandings of what constitutes effective pedagogy through meta-analyses and systematic reviews and I suggest, through multi-centre studies.  This meeting served to reinforce that view not least through identifying some potential collaborative work that could be undertaken.


What was gained?

Attending this meeting provide further reinforcement of a view I am increasingly being persuaded to which is that many of the pedagogic issues we face as anatomists are shared international problems. The routes to more effective pedagogic anatomy research lies in strengthening its grounding more firmly in education theory but also in multi-centre and international studies and through meta-analyses of the kind undertaken by Hattie and through systematic reviews.  Collaboration with colleagues in Portugal is already being explored.

I am now already actively exploring opportunities for collaboration with colleagues in the University of Minho and also Lisbon where their pedagogic research interests are closely aligned with our own. We did invite Portuguese colleagues to join our AS-funded seminar in Newcastle in July though at this short notice none were able to attend.  However, this has led to the agreement that a separate exchange visit will be organised sometime in the new academic year.  As a member of the AS Meetings Committee, I will be proposing that we explore a joint meeting with the Portuguese Society possibly to include the Spanish Society where the Portuguese already have good links.  The major international meeting of International Federation of Anatomical Associations being held in London in 2019 does mean that this joint meeting will have to wait until 202 at the earliest.

Prof Steve McHanwell, Director ERDP



Director Update: Summer 2018

Welcome to this our last newsletter of this academic year.

As we approach the end of another academic year this newsletter documents the extensive range of learning and teaching activities that we have been engaged, in or are about to undertake. Thus, we have reports on a range of projects being undertaken by our colleagues in FMS, we have reports back from meetings we have been at in the last few months, papers we have published and other events that we have attended or led.

Also in this newsletter, we are able to announce to results of the most recent round of ERDP. I would like to congratulate the successful recipients and we look forward to receiving reports on how those projects have developed.  I would remind everybody that the deadline for last round of funding for this year is July 6th and would like to encourage everybody with an idea to try to find time to make an application.  I also want to remind you that you can also apply for short periods of study leave to visit a colleague or Department whether that is to look at a curriculum or other teaching innovation, set up a project or develop a collaboration.  We would welcome all such applications.

Our events programme is coming to end this year so a thank you to everybody who has contributed to the Journal Club whether presenting a paper or simply joining in the discussion. A thank you too to Luisa for continuing to organise this popular event.  The last seminar of the year was given by Danny McLaughlin, and news of his very interesting work on tem-based learning can be read in our newsletter.  His seminar allowed us to experience TBL in action for ourselves.  I am now assembling the seminar programme for next academic year and will be approaching colleagues for ideas for speakers but if you have ideas already please do not hesitate to contact me.

We like to celebrate individual successes in the newsletter and in this newsletter you will find who from the Faculty were successful in the TEAs alongside awards from Nutela, the Tonge bequests and success in HEA recognition. Congratulations to all those who have won awards and prizes throughout this year.

Finally, we like to list all L&T publications that have appeared since the last newsletter was published. We do our best to capture everything published.  It is in the nature of educational publication that some publications might escape the usual search procedures so if we have missed something that you have published please let us know.

All that remains for me to say is to wish you some time for relaxation over the summer (though our summers become ever busier) so that we can all come back refreshed to start a new academic year.

Prof Steve McHanwell, Director ERDP

ERDP Development Grant. BARDES: British Alliance for Dental Educational Research and Scholarship Symposium, June 2018

In June 2017, Newcastle Dental School held the inaugural Dental Education Research Symposium. Cardiff and Glasgow Dental Educators came together with Newcastle to share practice around education research and scholarship and an alliance formed with a passion to continue this collaboration.

Following on from the success of this symposium last June, the newly named British Alliance for Dental Educational Research and Scholarship (BARDES) hosted another day where we got together to discuss our education research, this time also with Liverpool and Sheffield.

One of the major themes that arose from last year’s discussion is that we, mainly with scientific background, are entering the arena of education research for the first time or would like to know more. We therefore asked Professor Rachel Lofthouse of Leeds Beckett, previously of Newcastle, to come and run a workshop to cover basic pedagogic research principles and design and discussion around approaching this type of research with a background in Dentistry. Rachel is an expert in practitioner enquiry and professional learning. You can read more about Rachel here Rachel hosted the workshop with Professor of Curriculum Innovation, David Leat, Newcastle. Both academics have expertise in coaching and mentoring staff in education research.

Rachel and David conveyed many ideas that made us stop and think about our practice as teachers. We discussed tools we can use to frame our enquiry and spoke about the ‘black box’ that is the teaching session; even when we think we have a consistent input, the teaching session presents itself with an entirely different experience as to the one before and therefore our outputs can be very different. This is particularly important in sharing practice across other dental schools. We sometimes, as Rachel put it, just have to conclude, “It is complicated isn’t it!” Accepting that can help us write up our work effectively and we discussed case studies as one of the ways in which to do this.

In the afternoon, we heard from our very own Zoe Freeman, who spoke about a project around obtaining patient feedback for quality assurance (Zoe will present this work at the up and coming IADR). Alison Cairns, Glasgow took us on their journey of building a community of dental educational research and Luke Dawson, Liverpool discussed a project looking into competencies and sophisticated ways to look at student performance and progression. We rounded off the presentations with Ilona Johnson, Cardiff, who told us of the wealth of education research projects Cardiff have been involved in and future work.

The round up, led by Janice Ellis, saw people get together from the different schools and discuss potential collaborations, we then finished the day in the knowledge that we will keep this alliance going and importantly, keep it growing.

We would like to thank the ERDP grant scheme and the School of Dental Sciences for support for the day.

Luisa Wakeling, School of Dental Sciences

Approaches to integrated assessment: School of Pharmacy perspective

Dr Hamde Nazar is the MPharm Programme Director in the School of Pharmacy.  She recently presented at the Faculty Learning and Teaching Forum on the topic of integrated assessment.  Here she outlines how the School of Pharmacy is tackling this challenge.

As a School, we are committed to providing an educational experience that will equip our graduates to develop the knowledge, skills and behaviours to apply in their careers as healthcare professionals. An integrated curriculum has been recommended to facilitate this application of knowledge to real world problems, but there is little in the way of direction and evidence to inform the appropriate curriculum design and assessment.

The Newcastle MPharm Pharmacy programme has been constructed in year long modules that integrate the specific disciplines which make up the knowledge base required for pharmacists: medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, pharmaceutics and pharmacy practice. Teaching and learning is anchored to diseases and conditions contained within the biological systems, and concepts of science and practice are contextualised therein. The curriculum is of a spiral nature, so that these concepts are revisited and built upon through the programme within contexts of increasing complexity, e.g. comorbidities. The programme level outcomes have been developed in such a way that they are discipline-neutral, and refer to skill, behaviour and competence development towards solving problems.

Many in-year assessments have been mapped to the programme level outcomes, and as such, assess students’ ability to draw upon knowledge across the disciplines, integrating it, to answer the problem posed by the assessment. Summative end-of-year exams are a combination of a single-best answer MCQ section and longer style questions compiled around patient scenarios that assess across all disciplines in one question. These assessments are challenging to devise, manage and assess, and require academic teams to work closely together to orchestrate. Some of our assessments are more successful than others in assessing true integrated thinking. However, as a team, we are adopting an approach to investigate the student learning experience through the programme and as they tackle these specific assessments, towards understanding how learning is happening and whether integrative thinking is really being nurtured and properly assessed.

Dr Hamde Nazar, Senior Lecturer, School of Pharmacy



New ERDP Development Grants

Action to Feedback

Janice Ellis, Sarah Rolland, Richard Holmes, Zoe Freeman

Educating Dental Educators to do Education Research

Luisa Wakeling and Janice Ellis

What are student’s perceptions of General Practice/Family Medicine as an intellectually stimulating career?

Kiran Sahota, Hugh Alberti & team

Understanding the background to the GDC learning outcomes for undergraduate dental programmes

Helen Mather, Janice Ellis, Giles McCracken and Chris Vernazza

Think Tank: How can education and training of the healthcare team involve, reach and benefit patients?’

Jan Illing & team

DART-P (Division of Academics, Researchers and Teachers in Psychology – BPS Division) conference

Amy Fielden and Patrick Rosenkranz recently presented their paper: Enterprise challenges in Psychology: enhancing psychological literacy through entrepreneurial learning at the DART-P (Division of Academics, Researchers and Teachers in Psychology – BPS Division) conference in Birmingham.

Here’s the abstract and if you want more information about this work please contact or


Psychology as a discipline and profession is not readily associated with what is commonly known as entrepreneurship, the process of designing, launching and running new business ventures. However, developing aspects of an entrepreneurial mindset and attitude are pivotal for a fully psychologically literate graduate: this mindset includes the ability to draw upon resources such as psychological knowledge and skills, and then use these to realize psychological ideas in the real world, i.e. benefiting themselves, their community or society as a whole. Entrepreneurial learning processes provide an opportunity for students in psychology to apply their growing knowledge to a real-world setting, and for enhancing and advancing their psychological literacy and employability. We created a teaching and learning model called an ‘Enterprise Challenge’ in collaboration with a number of mental health charities and embedded these at various stages of the undergraduate degree programme.  Students are presented with a brief, which constitutes the main task of the challenge and then work in groups to develop their ideas. Tasks and brief are designed to represent real-life problems or issues and the challenge for the students is to develop a product, service or initiative that addresses these issues. In the process of developing the idea, students need to consider practical, financial and ethical constraints. The challenge culminates in a pitch given by the students to a panel of judges who evaluate the feasibility, and creativity of the idea. In this talk we will present the rationale of these challenges and how embedding entrepreneurial processes in the psychology curriculum can aid the development of psychological literacy.

A masterclass on Facilitation and Peer Evaluation in Team-Based Learning from Prof Danny McLaughlin

Danny McLaughlin (SME), together with Geeta Hitch (University of Sussex) and Shihab Khogali (University of Dundee) recently presented a pre-conference masterclass on Facilitation and Peer Evaluation in Team-Based Learning ahead of the Active Learning Conference at the University of Sussex.  Here Danny tells us more about TBL and what the masterclasses have to offer.

Team-Based Learning (TBL) is a special form of active and collaborative learning that uses a special sequence of individual work, group work and immediate feedback to create a motivational framework in which students increasingly hold each other accountable for coming to class prepared and contributing to discussion.  The method was originally devised by Larry Michaelsen in the late 1970s/early 80s and has been adopted by hundreds of teachers worldwide, across an enormous range of disciplines.  TBL is most visible in colleges and universities in the USA and Canada, but does have several exponents in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.  It was this growing interest from European educators that prompted Dr Simon Tweddell from the School of Pharmacy at Bradford to establish the European Team-Based Learning Community (ETBLC) in 2016, a subgroup of the Team-Based Learning Collaborative (TBLC;

The ETBLC Board currently has representatives from eleven UK HEIs and two in the Netherlands.  Its vision is to disseminate TBL to educators and educational institutions across Europe, creating a continental TBL network made up of local communities of practice.  The recent ETBLC Masterclasses that took place at the University of Sussex on 4th June 2018 were the ETBLC’s first full foray into providing training for TBL practitioners, whether they are complete newbies or more experienced practitioners.  The masterclasses, which had approximately 30 participants, covered the basics of TBL (TBL 101), methods for facilitating TBL sessions and student peer evaluation processes, and more advanced TBL hints and tips, and were run by seven members of the ETBLC Board.

If you are interested in TBL, please visit the TBLC website, email the ETBLC on, or email me directly on for more information.  Beware – I will try to convince you to introduce TBL to your programmes of study!

Prof Danny McLaughlin, SME