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 (

FMS Education Journal Club Semester 1

It has been a great start to the year for the journal club. We have heard from our very own Steve McHanwell presenting Elwick, A & Cannizzaro, S (2017) Happiness in Higher Education. Higher Education Quarterly 71:2, 204–219.  This sparked much discussion on the definition of happiness in higher education and in life! We asked the questions “Are our students happy being in higher education and what do they get from it that would make them ‘happy’?”, “What can we do as an institution to support a student to be happy?” and “Can we even achieve this?”

Sue Thorpe gave us a good amount of thought provoking material to see us through November delivering Fox, C (2016) ‘I Find That Offensive’. Biteback Publishing Ltd, London prologue ix-xxii & part one 3-53. An account explaining the complexity of free speech and how many students, these days, are perhaps too easily offended to allow them to engage in proper debate.

Ellen Tullo then brought us into the world of Peer Teaching as seen by Ten Cate, O & Durning, S (2007). Dimensions and psychology of peer teaching in medical education. Medical Teacher 29(6):546-52. We discussed our own experiences of peer teaching within our courses and the possible benefits and disadvantages that could crop up. An interesting aspect of this is to consider advising students to review their learning material as if they were going to teach it!

Lastly, I would like to welcome School of Pharmacy to the group! It has been great having new input and a boost to the audience. We have our very first Pharmacy presenter after Christmas, Hamde Nazar and we will certainly look forward to discussing aspects of education from a Pharmacy perspective.

Seasons greetings,

Luisa Wakeling

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

L&T seminar: Observational drawing and the study of anatomy in education

When: 7th January 2016, 12:30 to 1:30

Where: Ridley 2, Room 1.57

Leonard Shapiro, Cape Town

Leonard is a drawing teacher currently based in Cape Town. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Art (BAFA Honours) degree from the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Michaelis School of Fine Art and a Bachelor of Social Science (BsocSc) degree from UCT, with majors in psychology and sociology.

Leonard currently runs drawing workshops for both academics and anatomy students at medical schools, in order to improve their observation and memorisation skills.  In 2014, he ran a 4 day drawing workshop for senior staff members from UCT Faculty of Health Sciences department of Human Biology, including specialists in cell biology, anatomy and neurology.  In 2015, he taught a group of anatomy students at the UCT medical school to draw. Leonard is also currently co-authoring a paper with Professor Steve Reid at the University of Cape Town on drawing, observation and memorisation as an aid to the learning of anatomy.

Leonard teaches students in the technique of observational (or ‘structural’) drawing, where the objective is the translation of a 3-dimensional form onto a 2-dimensional surface and involves multi-sensory observation and simultaneous drawing.  This method significantly increases the student’s perceptual understanding of the 3-dimensional form of the object and, in the process, the cognitive memorisation of the form of the object occurs.  After studying an object through drawing in this way, at a certain point the drawer-observer is able to retrieve this information directly from their memory without looking at the object.  The form of the object has been accurately observed in its entirety, and consequently memorised.

His website has images and video of anatomy students’ drawings:


L&T seminar: Developing an undergraduate syllabus: how much do medical students need to know and what should that be?

When: 17th March 2016, 12:30 to 1:30

Where: Ridley 1, 2.04A

Hannah Jacob, University College London

This seminar will outline the experience of developing an undergraduate syllabus for child health.  It will explore techniques for engaging key stakeholders from medical students to professors, parents to the Medical Schools Council.  We will discuss how the syllabus was developed, beginning with interviews and focus groups and culminating in a modified Delphi process.  The concept of necessary knowledge bases for medical students will be discussed as well as the role of skills and attitudes competencies.

L&T seminar: Team Based Learning: First attempts – what did we learn?

When: 18th February, 12:30 to 13:30

Where: Ridley 2, Seminar Room 1.57

Dr Alan Green, Sunderland University

The Sunderland pharmacy degree had not used the team based learning (TBL) approach prior to the 2014-2015 academic year. The degree is mainly taught by lectures, seminars, problem based learning, simulation, laboratory and placement activities. Following the 2014 TBL conference in Bradford we were keen to trial using TBL. A small number of sessions were developed (5 x 2hours) for the 1st and 2nd year students. It was important to ensure that other academics supported the teaching style and that from a student’s perspective they gained from the experience.

The initial response to the TBL style from the students measured by a ratified TBL questionnaire was positive and provides a good basis to introduce more TBL into the programme in the future. Informally, academic feedback overall was positive. There are a number of practical and logistical issues relating to the running of sessions, which we have improved upon throughout the 1st year of delivery. TBL will be of great benefit to the students as they are actively taking part and applying their knowledge to different tasks and scenarios.

L&T seminar: Enhancing teaching and learning (and careers) in the sciences through scholarly activity

When: 21st January, 2016, 12:30 to 13:30

Where: Ridley 2, Seminar Room 1.55

David Read, University of Southampton

In the ever-changing world of UK higher education, the enhancement of teaching and learning has never been more important.  University teachers face a range of challenges which include the communication of difficult concepts, and how best to deliver the sheer volume of content covered in a typical degree course.  While developments in learning technology bring opportunities, they also present further challenges in terms of both physical and pedagogical implementation.  Fortunately, there is a huge body of evidence in the form of scholarly publications and pedagogic research which provides support for those striving to provide the best possible learning experience for their students.  Those who innovate in their own teaching can then contribute to the body of evidence by evaluating the impact of their work and sharing it with the wider community via conference presentations and publications of their own.

This talk will outline the role of scholarly activity in the enhancement of teaching and learning in chemistry at the University of Southampton in the context of the career journey of the presenter, who has moved from educational innovator, to evaluative practitioner and now, potentially, to pedagogic researcher.  The talk will also showcase the teaching innovations behind the story, illustrating the role of the literature in informing their design and implementation, and the evaluation and dissemination that followed.

L&T seminar: Ethics

When: 13th October 2015, 12:30 to 13:30

Where: MED L2.3, Leech

Lois Neal, Assistant Registrar for Research Strategy will be presenting a session specifically for teaching staff on the topic of ethics. This session will concentrate on how to best design any proposed research and deal with the preliminary ethical approval stage.

To reserve a place please contact

L&T seminar: A manifesto for teaching online

When: 17th December 2015, 12:30 to 13:30

Where: Ridley 2, Seminar Room 1.55

Dr Hamish Macleod, Senior Lecturer in the School of Education and member of the teaching team of the MSc in Digital Education, University of Edinburgh.

The MSc in Digital Education (previously known as eLearning) at the University of Edinburgh is ten years old this year. The programme was in the vanguard of a major development of postgraduate online distance education at the University. We presently have over 60 programmes on offer, with about 2,500 students enrolled, and the development plan is that by 2025 we want to see around 10,000 students participating on over 100 programmes.

This seminar will focus on the experiences from the MSc in Digital Education, and the understanding of rigorous and supportive online education that we are developing with the help of our students. The programme teaching team have set out to reject the idea that online distance education should be considered as in any way deficient as compared with the ‘gold standard’ of the face-to-face campus learning experience. In order to stimulate debate about some of the important issues that we have faced we have formulated our ‘manifesto for teaching online’, which we are currently in the process of revising and updating.

Conceived to provoke controversy, the manifesto can form a focus of our discussion. We can also stray into the territory of MOOCs (massive open online courses) and the contributions which this novel and exploratory form of online educational offering can contribute to an institutions mainstream teaching and learning agenda.

To reserve a place please contact

L&T seminar: Promoting Learning through Work

When: 19th November 2015, 12.30-2:00pm

Where: MED.L2.3, Leech Building

This seminar will be presented by Professor Stephen Billett, Education and Professional Studies, Griffith University, Australia.

Promoting learning through work is important to improve the quality and efficacy of the services provided and/or goods produced. Making workplace learning experiences more effective can assist workers’ initial occupational preparation and their on-going development across lengthening working lives. It can also support workplace continuity and efficacies in responses to changing practices and work requirements. Certainly, much, and perhaps the majority of learning required across working life, arises through the everyday process of work activities and interactions in the circumstances where occupations are practised. This is because work settings provide many of the contributions required to secure the learning necessary to optimise those experiences. This learning is also central to working lifelong employability and developing capacities required for effective occupational practice.

Building on two decades of empirical studies of learning through work activities and interactions, over the past three years, I have engaged in an inquiry to assist understanding of how learning in practice settings can progress effectively. It is concluded that to effectively support and promote that learning, requires: i) a practice curriculum; ii) practice pedagogies and iii) the promotion of workers’ personal epistemologies of practice. The aim of this talk is to discuss these three elements and appraise their usefulness and applicability of those findings to different kinds of occupations and workplaces, through a process of informing participants and capturing their evaluations.

To reserve a place please contact

L&T Seminar: The pedagogy of the Operating Theatre – teaching and learning in the surgical workplace

When: 7th July, 1-2:30pm

Where: Ridley Building 2, Seminar room 1.59

This seminar will be presented by Dr Alexandra Cope, NIHR ACL in Medical Education at University of Leeds.  It will explore the operating theatre as a teaching and learning environment examining both some of the affordances as well as some of the difficulties posed by using a high stakes workplace environment as a venue for learning.

Empirical data from interviews and video ethnography in the workplace will be presented to illustrate some of the content and process of teaching and learning. One of the key findings of the research was that post-graduate trainees in surgery must learn to ‘interpret visual and haptic cues’ in other words – learn to ‘make sense’ of what they are seeing or feeling. This holds relevance for many clinical disciplines in which learners need to discern and make sense of ‘signs’.

Whilst the focus of the seminar will be upon post-graduate learners, examples of undergraduate participation will also be used to illustrate key findings. Ethics, methodology and practicalities of data collection in the clinical workplace will be explored, including the use of case-study method and grounded theory. The key findings from the empirical work will be related to educational theory and it is hoped will stimulate useful discussion around teaching and learning in clinical environments.

To reserve a place please contact