AMEE 2017

The AMEE conference, which is an International Medical Education conference held annually was attended by almost four thousand people and held in Helsinki, Finland this August. Three members of the Medical Education research team attended and presented their research at the conference.

I was there to present work on ‘identified factors that either facilitate or hinder medical specialties progressing through their annual review of competence of progression (ARCP’s)’. The findings of which have been informing Health Education England’s national ARCP review.

My colleague Prof Jan Illing presented a Department of Health funded study on ‘Evidence for assuring the continuing fitness to practise of Health and Care Professions Council registrants, based on its Continuing Professional Development’ and my colleague Dr Amelia Kehoe presented work on ‘Exploring how interventions support the successful transition of overseas doctors to the NHS’.

The conference was a good mixture of plenaries, workshops, parallel and poster sessions on current topics of interest and debate in medical education from around the world. It also lent itself to good opportunities for networking with colleagues from the UK and further afield.

For more information download the conference programme.

Charlotte Rothwell, School of Medical Education



EuroPLAT 2017 symposium

In September Patrick Rosenkranz presented a paper as part of a symposium on Psychological literacy at EuroPLAT 2017.

Paper Title:

Enterprise challenges in Psychology: enhancing psychological literacy through entrepreneurial learning.

Patrick Rosenkranz, Psychology, Alecia Dunn, formerly Careers Service – Rise Up, Newcastle University, Amy Fielden, Psychology, Trevor James, Psychology, Charlotte Warin, Careers Service – Rise Up


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 mind-set and attitude are pivotal for a fully psychologically literate graduate: this mind set 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.

For more information contact



ADEE conference 2017

Rachel Green, Ashleigh Stamp, Charlotte Currie and Simon Stone presented a series of presentations as part of the Pre-Clinical Skills Special Interest Group workshop at the ADEE conference 2017 in Vilnius, Lithuania on “Bridging the Gap Between Preclinical and Clinical Training” in dental education.

As the main speaker, Simon discussed the challenges of transitioning into the clinics focussing on student welfare and resilience.  Following this Rachel presented the Newcastle University undergraduate extraction experience, focussing on the competency based assessment used for forceps and surgical exodontia.

Ashleigh discussed the teaching of dental extractions under sedation with Dental Hygiene and Therapy students, including the practical and psychological challenges our students encounter, and Charlotte presented the various practical local anaesthetic teaching models available, and the approach and rationale taken at Newcastle.

The Newcastle University team then facilitated a series of small group discussions on the European-wide challenges and experiences of bridging the gap between preclinical and clinical education with the workshop attendees, this will lead to further work within the Special Interest Group and ADEE.

Charlotte Currie, School of Dental Sciences

Higher Education Symposium Series 2017 presentation

bana-abdulmohsenExploring active learning approaches to increasing student engagement through assessment and feedback

I was pleased to have the opportunity to present a case study at the Higher Education Academy event: Transforming Assessment in Higher Education Symposium Series 2017- Enhancing student engagement through assessment, in York last month.

At this event, we presented the results of a case study on the teaching of tooth morphology to BDS and BSC undergraduate students in the Dental School. The aim of the study was to increase student engagement with the learning of this important but difficult topic through the introduction of a novel approach involving the use of tooth carving. An active learning approach was developed employing the principles of transformative assessment using the Framework developed by the Higher Education Academy.

In our pilot study, we were aiming to foster an increase in student interest in the subject content through the more active engagement that is generated by getting student to both carve their own models of a tooth and then assess the accuracy of those models through self-, peer and tutor assessment.

The presentation was well received and followed by a useful discussion about the outcome.

Many thanks for the ERDP grant (to fund my training), Newcastle Dental Staff and Students who helped/ participated in this project.

Bana Abdulmohsen, School of Dental Sciences

EBMA Assessment in Medical Education Conference

laura-woodhouseIn October I attended the first annual conference that the European Board of Medical Assessors (EBMA) has opened up to the wider academic community. The conference was hosted by the University of Exeter and was very well attended by delegates from Europe and beyond, who have expertise in assessment in medical education.
I have a particular interest in standard setting of examinations and was pleased to present a poster titled “Comparison of Cohen and Angoff methods of standard setting: is Angoff worth it?”. I presented my research comparing pass marks set using Angoff and Cohen methods when applied to historical MBBS examinations data. The conclusion that Angoff and Cohen methods produce comparable pass marks generated interesting discussions with delegates from other Universities in the UK who are also interested in an alternative to the Angoff method. This experience has been invaluable and has opened up the possibility of collaborations to examine standard setting methods on large combined data sets.

In addition, Newcastle University was well represented at the conference. Professor Brian Lunn also presented data on standard setting (“Predictive abilities of standard setters using the Angoff method”) as well as student feedback (“Candidate use of a feedback site and how that relates to examination performance”). Dr David Kennedy presented data on professionalism monitoring (“Lessons from assessing Professionalism through monitoring Professional attitudes and behaviours”) which generated a lot of interest from other institutions looking to incorporate assessment of professionalism into their programmes.

The conference spanned 2 days and included an excellent range of keynote speakers, workshops and oral and poster presentation sessions. With lots of sessions and some running in parallel, the conference was hugely diverse and covered all aspects of assessment in medical education. I would highly recommend this conference to anyone with a particular interest in assessment and standard setting. I would be happy to discuss further details of the conference with colleagues and the full programme can also be found at:

Dr Laura Woodhouse, School of Medical Education

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

FMS L&T Forum May 2016

160511 FLT FORUM FlyerThe Faculty of Medical Sciences Learning and Teaching forum was held at the beginning of May in the new Herschel Learning Lab, coinciding with the space’s official opening. Jane Stewart’s original design was brought to life by the power of three, with Luisa Wakeling and Alecia Dunn. The session stimulated discussion about common, faculty-related challenges in learning and teaching while showcasing the Learning Lab’s conspicuous potential with a speak-easy vibe. In response to the recent EDRP Development Grant and ULTSEC Innovation Funding calls, it was hoped that participants may seed new ideas that ultimately would bloom into potential bids.

Facilitators Sarah Jayne Boulton, Sonia Bussey, Carlos Echevarria and Sarah Lockey worked alongside cross-faculty, interdisciplinary groups to explore a chosen educational conundrum. Participants were encouraged to creatively consider practical and realistic solutions to the problems selected for discussion. These discussions were frequently subverted by Luisa, Jane and Alecia through their introduction of troublemaking cards which flashed up on the groups’ screens and demanded immediate attention.

The disruptive cards were a new concept to most of the participants, including us facilitators, and were borne out of the Oblique Strategies designed by Brian Eno and Pete Schmidt. The cards we were exposed to during the session did not ask us to switch instruments or give way to our worst impulses, but instead questioned us to consider what would be different if money was no object or if we had infinite space. As soon as the card appeared, its idea was immediately considered within our discussions.

The 4 challenges independently chosen by the groups were:

  • Student disengagement with lectures (and compulsory attendance isn’t the answer)
  • Challenging strategic learning and embracing learning for learning sake
  • Developing autonomous learners – moving away from the ‘how high do you want me to jump’ mentality
  • Making diverse ability amongst students work within the classroom

It was interesting to see that the topics rooted very closely together, and it was refreshing to see that the changing cards resulted in unexpected changes not only in perspective, but in group dynamic too. During each groups concluding remarks it was evident that there was a lot of overlap in the room, reinforcing the prevalent notion that the same issues are present in every discipline and that collaboration and practice sharing may well bring about real change in all areas.

Sarah Lockey found that the removal of financial constraints suggested by one card enthused participants to really think outside of the piggy bank. Although this resulted in realistically unlikely strategies such as ‘give every student their own simulated clinic and don’t let them out until they can do everything’ and ‘mandatory 1:1 tutor to student ratio’ and the even more radical ‘link lecturers’ pay to their EvaSys scores’ there were equally many occasions where such blown-out thoughts collapsed and condensed themselves into previously unseen workable strategies.

The Learning Lab itself was a practical yet pliant venue, designed to envelope its occupants in a physically and digitally accessible flat floor interactive space with shared access to all screens and tools. The central console manned by Jane, Luisa and Alecia permitted screensharing by groups during the plenary discussion, facilitating the dissemination of generated ideas. There are a number of columns in the relatively low ceilinged room, meaning there were a few noise issues during individual discussions. We alleviated this with some creative whiteboard MacGyvery, however it seemed that certain positions (those closest to the edges of the room) were more affected than others. The Learning Lab also features what we have termed the ‘Jumpy Microphone’, a chuckable foam-protected microphone in a block that makes hearing your colleagues at the other end of the room much easier.

Although it was difficult at times to see how some of the more outré suggestions could be wound in, getting so many diversely invested people in a room together to share unabashed perspective and practise was an inspiring thing. Getting to know some new faces, including our new colleagues from Sport and Exercise Sciences was a real accent to the event. We all hope that the bridges built during the session will lead to greater future interdisciplinary collaboration on all levels.

In all the workshop proved to be an eye-opening and refreshing event for all, except perhaps for Prof Calvert who was most disappointed that she couldn’t write on the whiteboard resembling tabletops; maybe something to bear in mind for future learning space designs!

Sarah Jayne Boulton (BMS), Sonia Bussey (SME), Carlos Echevarria (SME) and Sarah Lockey (SME)

Newcastle University L&T Conference: eye opening and inspiring

sarah jayne boultonI know some of you might disagree, but I think that this is a really exciting time to be a Teaching Fellow in Newcastle University. Yes it’s also terrifying; for one there’s the impending TEF that us newcomers to Teaching and Scholarship are grappling to comprehend, and secondly the NSS is about to undergoing changes in terms of focus and scope. These are the big scary things that I, as a brand new Teaching Fellow, can do nothing about besides being forewarned and thus fore-armed to respond to the challenges as they arrive. Is it not just a little bit exciting though, that all these changes may serve to make a little room for new ideas to be hunted out and explored? I think so.

The Newcastle University Teaching and Learning Conference on the 14th March 2016 was the first pedagogic meeting I’ve had the pleasure of attending, let alone presenting at. The breadth and depth of teaching innovation going on within our University is astounding, maybe even a little overwhelming for a relative toe‑dipper like me.

It was grounding to hear Suzanne Chollerton set the context for all the endeavours discussed over the next few hours. Hearing Suzanne talk through the reasoning behind the planned 2017 NSS changes made a lot of sense, and allowed me for the first time to clearly consider what I could do as an individual to help raise the bar with regards to student experience.

Somehow the changes Suzanne highlighted seemed that little bit more manageable and less daunting as they were contextualised alongside the projects presented that day. Hearing TT Arvind from Law and Andrea Wilczynski from Modern Languages speak (sans PowerPoint!) about how simply revising a feedback form in response to student suggestions can have huge impact on the quality of student work was eye-opening and inspiring. Seeing two colleagues from very different backgrounds working so synergistically together was encouraging; both seemed to have learned so much from the practices of the other.

Another highlight for me was hearing Patrick Rosenkranz’s take on peer mentoring in Psychology with the aim of developing psychologically literate students by using student mentor groups to facilitate the transition from college to university environments. It seems so logical and natural with hindsight that students that have had such recent experience of the transition themselves would be the ideal candidates to support new learners make those same necessary adjustments. Patrick’s formal yet personal approach of assigning each new student to a mentor group is something that all disciplines could look toward implementing to instil a sense of belonging and accountability in students before they even arrive on campus.

My presentation was a short one based on some new digital blogging techniques I’ve been piloting to promote increased conation in Stage 3 students by encouraging peer to peer shared feedback. I felt supported and comfortably reassured by the audience I was presenting to, and was not at all made to feel like the pedagogic greenhorn I actually am. I was so incredibly grateful to have had the positive and reinforcing experience that I did at the Teaching and Learning conference, and I’m looking forward to following up with all my colleagues that were interested in my small but developing research niche.

At the very end of the day Lindsey Ferrie talked us through her vision for her Feedback Foghorn project. It was clear how unique approach toward collecting all student feedback into one dynamically mapped and accessible online tool would facilitate student reflection and assist in the feeding forward of comments and suggestions to future work. Furthermore, Lindsey’s presentation for me demonstrated how I might go about aligning my practice with the changes Suzanne eloquently outlined only hours prior.

It’s through events like this that the challenges of a changing student interaction dynamic and a move towards a more holistic learning environment will be addressed. I’m stoked to be right at the beginning of my own pedagogic adventure with so many brilliant avenues for engagement, reflection, digital learning and feedback being opened up and explored. Reflecting on the day as a whole I am enthused and emboldened towards really delving into own practice and finding out what works. I look forward to building a host of new tools and techniques with my similarly passionate colleague to address the inevitable challenges that are coming our way.

What’s not exciting about that?

Dr Sarah Jayne Boulton, School of Biomedical Sciences


Faculty Learning and Teaching Forum

eimear faganI attended the 2nd FMS Learning and Teaching Forum on 2nd December 2015. As someone who hasn’t found their “pedagogic niche” it was very interesting to see what kind of research is happening in the faculty. It was quite nice to see these work in progress studies rather than the finished product as it made for some interesting discussion following each talk. I will not summarise all of the talks as I know a number of these are summarised in a previous ERDP newsletter but will talk through my highlights and the themes I felt ran through the session. One of the talks that I thoroughly enjoyed was that of the “Context café”, this is a very interesting idea that I would like to incorporate into my teaching.

Context café: Challenging the basic sciences ‘learn and forget’ culture

This idea was generated to try and combat the “why do I need to know this?” culture that is seen in the clinical sciences. The idea involves running a group style café in the first week of term. Each table has a facilitator and a number of students. The facilitator presents the students with a question and an outline of the modules of the dentistry course. The first group to the table has to choose which modules they think they will gain the necessary knowledge to answer the question posed. E.g. “You are completing oral surgery and your patient begins bleeding profusely. Where will you get the knowledge required to deal with this situation as a practising dentist?” This forces the students to think about what knowledge they will need to acquire in both the pre-clinical and clinical years of their dentistry degree. The students then rotate around all the different tables and by the end of the session should have figured out that they actually need all of the modules in order obtain enough knowledge to deal with that clinical scenario. This process should hopefully give the students the context to explain why they need to study certain content.

A number of the MBBS students complain of losing motivation in Phase 1 of our course (pre-clinical years). Their usual complaints include “not knowing why we need to know this stuff” and “I just want to skip to the clinical years”. The context café may be an ideal way to try and combat this issue.  

Common theme: Student use of technology

I think the use of technology by our students is a common theme that ran throughout the forum. This came up in a number of different instances, the first in using digital storytelling as a method to teach our medical students about core conditions they may not encounter in Medical School. A separate study investigated the use of social media by our students. Specifically, to look at the self-awareness of our students in relation to their social media use and the impact this could have on their concentration. This research really brings home the idea that although social media/technology can be used in effective ways to help students learn but in certain situations it can be detrimental to learning. Following the presentation of data on the reading habits of psychology students, there was some discussion as to what constituted “reading”. Would this include online resources, social media and other types of reading that deviate from physical text books? Even when we think we can assess something as simple as reading, technology needs to be considered!

Taken together, I think this shows how important technology is to our students now but also how important technology will become to our students. Assessing the role of technology in student learning is of the utmost importance. This applies to both our current students but also our prospective students. This is the subject of Dr Laura Delgaty’s project on “Investigating the digital capabilities and expectations of prospective students”. This study involved asking schoolgoing children about their experiences of technology in their learning. Initial data from this study has shown there are considerable differences in the opinions of these prospective students on their use of technology and their best learning environments. Specifically this difference in opinion seems to be dependent on their gender and socioeconomic background. I think this project will generate some very interesting data that we need to consider when planning our future teaching and when choosing if we will use technology to supplement that teaching.

Dr Eimear Fagan, School of Medical Education


Bioscience Education Summit

Lindsey FerrieDr Damian Parry and I recently attended the OUP (Oxford University Press) Bioscience Education Summit which this year took place in Ulster University, Belfast. After an entertaining “bucket list” icebreaker session ran by Dr Parry himself the conference broke out into the first of two key discussion forums. Jonathan Crowe from OUP led an interesting session on the role of publishers in higher education and what, if any, additional support they could be offering to enhance student learning. Most attendees suggested that if publishers could increase the number and breadth of case study style questions then this would be a benefit. However the more thought provoking conversations in this session focused on the responsibility of publishers to support students developing critical thinking skills by placing greater emphasis on the range of research evidence used to establish a scientific theory. One compelling comment from a delegate has lingered in my mind “it is too hard for a student to even comprehend that one bullet point in your lecture slides might be the result of 5-10 years of research”. I thought this was a very interesting point and wondered how much of this is truly covered in our research-led and research-informed teaching?

The final discussion forum of the summit explored the different forms of teaching observations being performed within Higher Education Institutions. The session posed the pertinent question “why and who for”? This led to an interesting debate on whether such observations should be purely for sharing best teaching practice or as a quality control measure or in fact if both could, and should, be examined in just one observation. This raised further questions on how and if dissemination of such observations occurs, the balance between senior and junior staff and their roles within the observation as well as the frequency of the schemes. As you would expect the potential use of teaching observations in the reported Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) was also the subject of many conversations. But what this session really highlighted was the vast differences in schemes across the sector and again to provoke thought and further discussion ended by asking delegates to design their ideal, TEF usable observation scheme.

The conference had 10 short swap shop sessions for attendees to share their teaching practices and current pedagogic research projects. Dr Parry presented his collaborative project with Northumbria and Teesside University on undergraduate’s perceptions of scientists and I presented my work on the Feedback Foghorn (funded by the UTLSEC Innovation fund) which is being piloted with SBMS students this academic year. As the Higher Education Academy has disbanded its subject centres, this summit was an excellent opportunity to network with Bioscience colleagues from across the UK and Ireland and I would encourage anyone to consider presenting work at such a friendly and informative event in the future.

On a final note I would like to pose the same key questions to the ERDP newsletter readers:

  • Should publishers take greater responsibility for supporting critical thinking skills?
  • Do students understand the timeline and range of research required to establish a scientific theory?
  • What would be your ideal version of a teaching observation for the TEF?

Dr Lindsey Ferrie, School of Biomedical Sciences