Dental School presents 3 research projects in San Francisco






The 95th Annual Meeting of the IADR took place in San Francisco in March 2017.

Professors Mark Thomason, Janice Ellis and Dr Richard Holmes from the School of Dental Sciences all presented their educational research to this international audience.

Professor Thomason gave an oral presentation relating to the challenges and opportunities of working with a large cohort of part-time teachers. His presentation generated must discussion and was of value to many of the audience who face similar situations.

Professor Ellis presented a poster which described a novel method of collecting patient feedback on Newcastle University Dental undergraduate’s performance – Just One Thing. The poster was well received with many interested colleagues taking the time to talk about the work and how it could be applied to their own institutions and programmes.

Dr Holmes gave an excellent presentation on a joint student exchange initiative with Indiana dental school. Once gain there was much discussion with an enthusiastic audience who seemed to want to be able to duplicate a similar opportunity in their own programmes.

The conference also offered multiple networking opportunities, not least of which was the opportunity to host a UK dental education research symposium. This will take place on the 16rth June and we look forward to reporting back on that later this year.

Psychology Enterprise Challenge

Stage 1 Psychology students recently took part in an Enterprise Challenge, the initiative aimed to develop psychological literacy and enterprising skills.  The event was supported by Rise Up from the Careers Service and One Voice, a nationwide charity who support communication aid users and their friends and families.   Students were tasked with creating practical solutions to the challenges faced by individuals (and their families) supported by One Voice.  Students worked in their mentor groups to develop their ideas and were encouraged to think about their knowledge of developmental and social psychology to inform their ideas. They then filmed their pitches many of which focussed on the link between an individual’s voice, their expression of self.  Feedback from the event showed that the majority of students felt they had enhanced their experience of applying psychology in real world contexts.  In addition the students felt they had developed their team work and problem solving skills.  Charity representatives judging the pitches commented on how well all the students had engaged with the topic and really thought about what would be useful.  The winning pitch, an idea called ‘Your Voice’ allowed users to tailor the voice produced by their communication to help reflect the individual’s personality. It was commended for offering something really unique that would be appropriate and adaptable across the lifespan.

Amy Fielden , Patrick Rosenkranz, School of Psychology

Charlotte Warin, Careers Service

Developing Interactive Learning in Dental Anatomy

bana-abdulmohsenI am delighted to have two ERDP funds this year as an essential step for developing interactive learning in dental anatomy at Newcastle University.

The first ERDP fund was to do a study visit to some Dental Schools in London in order to gather information about the methodology for developing software application to enhance the learning of tooth morphology for dental students. I went to Queen Mary University of London and Kings College London- Guy’s Hospital, met with staff who teach and assess the tooth morphology course for UG dental students, shared experience, talked about the challenges and saw their online resources. It was a very useful visit to explore the existing resources at another University as a preparation for developing this software. Currently, I am going to explore the possibility of using the new 3D imaging facility, in the Anatomy and Clinical Skills Centre at Newcastle University.

The second ERDP fund was to do a study visit to the Dental School in Madrid, aiming to develop teaching tooth carving to enhance the learning of tooth morphology for dental students. I have developed a professional networking by meeting staff in Madrid, got the opportunity to share experience and have a dialogue around the challenges and I have observed and taken part in carving sessions. I enjoyed drawing and carving teeth, and believe that this is an effective approach to make our students active learners and enhance their 2D and 3D understanding of tooth morphology. A pilot tooth carving workshop has been approved to be conducted next month (voluntary workshop for all BDS & BSc Undergraduate students) & the outcome will be evaluated.

Many thanks for the ERDP funds which help me to scope the feasibility for my projects.

Bana Abdulmohsen, School of Dental Sciences

ERDP grant: Students on Student Induction – A Cross-Disciplinary Case Study

ruth valentineThe members of this research team, Alina Schartner Luisa Wakeling Lindsey Ferrie Clare Guilding and I came together as part of an institution-wide initiative aimed at fostering cross-discipline collaboration in educational research (EquATE).

We all work in different areas and different disciplines within the university, teaching on vocational undergraduate degrees within the medical faculty (dentistry, medicine), where the majority are UK students with a limited number of international places, non-vocational biomedical science degrees, who have a large, ever growing proportion of international students (10-25%), to postgraduate teaching in the social science and humanities, where the majority of students registered are ‘international’. We have a diverse array of responsibilities within our schools, with roles encompassing management, teaching and support at both the undergraduate and postgraduate level, but we are all involved in student induction processes. The project we have carried out, was supported by an educational development grant from ERDP, FMS, which enabled the employment of a student research assistant (Grace Peterson, PG student, HaSS).

Student induction and transition into the university lifecycle is a complex topic for HE practitioners. The bourgeoning body of research in this area is characterised by multiple perspectives on which format is most appropriate. Theoretical models are conflicting; on whether induction should focus on distinct areas such as academic, social, cultural or psychological transition into HE, or indeed if it should cover them all. It is proposed that although most models have an ethos of support, few are student-led and many lack student engagement because the relevance and timeliness of the induction approach may not yet be clear to the students. In a time of increased student diversity the need to involve students more centrally in the design and purpose of induction events is more critical than ever.

In response, our project aimed to evaluate current induction processes at Newcastle University, across subject areas and levels of study, through an investigation of students’ opinions about current provision. A secondary aim was to identify implications for practice from a student perspective. Our enquiry was driven by two overarching questions: Do current induction processes meet student needs? What can different disciplines learn from each other and how might this shape future practice?

The preliminary findings from the present study indicate that students’ experiences of university induction are, by and large, positive. Current induction provision was experienced by most students as valuable and helped alleviate anxieties. Induction week not only seemed to provide crucial academic and practical information, but also provided opportunities for forming social ties early on.

As the landscape of HE changes and the diversity of students widens, the focus of our induction processes has to evolve to allow a low-cost, time effective mechanism that engages this diverse group of students fully with a higher education environment.  It is therefore imperative that our university engages students early through initiatives that create a sense of belonging and provide opportunities for students to establish peer networks and form social ties.

We are currently writing up the findings for publication.

Ruth Valentine, School of Dental Sciences

“Just a GP”: Active denigration (badmouthing) of General Practice as a career choice

The problem
There is currently a national General Practitioner (GP) recruitment crisis with only half of GP trainee places in some areas being taken.  Many influences are known to affect students’ and young doctors’ career choice; one such influence is their clinical teachers.  It has been suggested and there is anecdotal evidence that negative comments may be made to students and young teachers towards a career choice of General Practice but little robust evidence exists.
We conducted an explorative, qualitative study asking groups of GP trainees about comments made to them, both positive and negative, by all clinical teachers, towards their stated choice of General Practice as a career.  New GP trainees from the two largest training programmes in the Northern region (HENE), where the recruitment crisis is particularly acute, were invited to participate. Six focus groups were undertaken within the trainees current study groups using a semi-structured question format.  Full transcripts of the focus groups were thematically analysed by the research team.
Active denigration of General Practice as a career is evident though not consistent to all participants and is seen as a generic, ‘cultural’ issue in the hospital setting.  A recurring theme was the notion of trainees becoming “just a GP” and interestingly some participants found themselves also using this phrase.  A GP career was noted by some hospital clinicians to be a “cop out” for the “easy life” and trainees were told they were “wasted as a GP” or “too good to be a GP”.  Conversely, some participants noted positive comments centring around it being a good choice for those wanting a family and a good work/life balance. Other participants perceived their hospital clinical teachers to be promoting their own specialities rather than demoting General Practice.  Comments from General Practitioners were mixed with some being notable encouraging role models but others making negative comments about the current workload and stress involved.  Participants broadly perceived that the negative comments they heard had not influenced their own career choice but may have led to their colleagues not following a career in General Practice.
Our findings disturbingly support the anecdotal evidence that active denigration of General Practice as a career choice does exist in the hospital setting in our region.  We would strongly recommend that further explorative work and quantitative surveys are undertaken to explore the extent to which these findings are confirmed and to what extent they are discouraging students and trainees from following a career in GP.  Badmouthing of General Practice as a career must be addressed urgently as a discriminatory issue.

Joanna Hall
Kym Merritt
Hugh Alberti
Newcastle Medical School
Presented at SPAC national conference, July 2016

Self-affirmation to boost student resilience?

amyFieldenStudent resilience plays a pivotal role in both student satisfaction and academic performance (Mahmoud, et al., 2012).  Educators are increasingly met with students who seem to be poorly equipped to deal with setbacks, and see feedback as a personal critique, not a critique of the work they have produced (Gray, 2015).  This seems to create a barrier for students to take on board the feedback given.


ERiP plans

The School of Psychology’s Educational Research in Psychology (ERiP) group is launching a number of projects looking at addressing this issue, one project will explore the potential of self-affirmation as a means to boost resilience when receiving feedback.

Self-affirmation theory

Students’ academic capabilities are a key component of their self-concept (Baumeister, 1999), even more so for the large proportion of our undergraduates who arrive as straight A students.  Therefore, when students’ marks and feedback at university deviate from this, a central aspect of their self-concept is threatened.

Self-affirmation theory (Steele, 1988) proposes that people are attentive to threats to their sense of competence and process information defensively when they experience a threat to that personal value (Cohen & Sherman, 2014).  This may explain why some students down play the accuracy of the feedback they receive.  However, affirming an important, unrelated aspect of the self has been shown to reduce resistance and enhance the uptake of subsequent recommendations.

Self-affirmation has been shown to increase the performance of women in male dominated disciplines such as physics (Miyake, et al., 2010). It has reduced the racial achievement gap amongst Black and White students by 40% (Cohen et al., 2006). Koole, et al., (1999) also demonstrated that self-affirmation can reduce ruminative thoughts following failure feedback.

For more information please contact

ASME Small Grant Success

hugh albertiWe have been funded by ASME through the Small Grant Award Scheme to undertake a multi-centre qualitative study to explore the motivations of General Practitioners teaching undergraduate medical students in primary care.

General Practitioners have become a fundamental aspect of teaching in modern medical school curricula with the average amount of teaching in primary care in UK medical schools now at 13-14%.  There are calls for this to increase with the move of more patient care into the community.  Capacity for undergraduate General Practice (GP) placements is now a serious challenge for many medical schools with practices facing competing demands from service, and expansion of postgraduate training activity, alongside a reported GP recruitment crisis.

The study will be a qualitative, explorative, study involving semi-structured interviews with 6-8 GP teachers from each of five medical schools (Brighton&Sussex, Keele, Lancaster, Newcastle and UCL) led by myself and our clinical teaching fellows.   The aim is to identify the barriers and facilitators to GPs teaching medical students in the UK, in order to increase the recruitment of GPs teaching in current and future medical school curricula.  The results will be available by early next year in time to inform the new Newcastle MBBS curriculum which is expected to include a significant increase of teaching in primary care.

Dr Hugh Alberti, School of Medical Education

Clinical teaching styles and student satisfaction

JamesFieldThis project led by James Field (SDS) and Paul Miller (ECLS) was funded in the October 2015 round of ERDP Development Grants.  Recent work at Newcastle has shown that there are significant correlations between the ways in which clinical teachers interact verbally with their students, and the subsequent levels of satisfaction that the students report. This project aimed to both further investigate these relationships and to develop a means of providing clear, concise and immediate visual feedback to the educator.  The project team has now finished developing a blurred video-enhanced observation tool which is allowing us to collect data about verbal interaction and student satisfaction within the clinical environment. We have already analysed over 100 clinical interactions since the start of term and whilst we will wait until the end before drawing any conclusions, it is reassuring that the vast majority of our students (well over 95%) are highly satisfied with the support they receive within the clinical environment. The tool is due to be presented and discussed by Paul and James at both ADEE in Barcelona (August 2016) and IADR in Seoul (June 2016).

Dr James Field, School of Dental Sciences

New MSc in Forensic Psychology

gavin oxburghIn September 2015, the School of Psychology opened up a new MSc in Forensic Psychology which offers comprehensive professional training in forensic psychology. To ensure maximum potential, the course has two different routes. The first route (5270F/5270P) is fully accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS), thereby fulfilling Stage 1 of the Qualification in Forensic Psychology. Students enrolling on this route must have a first degree in psychology providing Graduate Basis for Chartership (GBC) with the BPS. The second route (5285F/5285P) is not accredited by the BPS and therefore does not fulfil Stage 1 of the BPS qualification in Forensic Psychology. This route is aimed primarily at those students who do not possess a first degree in psychology providing GBC with the BPS (e.g., joint or combined honours which includes psychology, or an International psychology degree that does not confer GBC with the BPS).


Students will develop their understanding of forensic psychology in a multi-disciplinary and professional context and we promote collaborative teaching and research through our strong links with UK forensic psychology practitioners, including Her Majesty’s Prison Service, the National Health Service (NHS) and Police.


Further details on this exciting new course can be found here or you can contact the Programme Director Dr Gavin Oxburgh, a Forensic Psychologist.


An investigation into the value of PeerWise as an educational and development tool for medical students

eimear faganHere Eimear Fagan updates us on an ERDP Development Grant project that was funded in 2015.

PeerWise is a free online quizzing platform that allows students to author and answer multiple choice questions (MCQs), rate the quality of other students’ contributions and discuss content. It provides an opportunity for self- and peer-assessment and incorporates aspects of active learning. Research indicates that PeerWise may improve academic performance but there is little research into the benefits for medical students. PeerWise was introduced to MBBS students in the first semester of the 2014/2015 academic year and was highly utilised. There was particularly high usage by Stage 4 students, who produced a bank of 188 high quality questions over Semester 1, which were collectively answered a total of 34,569 times. End of year feedback suggests that some students feel that the use of PeerWise has impacted upon their academic performance, however this and any other learning benefits of engagement remain to be explored.

The aim of this study is to gain insight into the value of PeerWise as an educational and development tool. We have 3 specific research questions:

  1. To determine whether PeerWise positively enhances the academic performance of Stage 4 MBBS students.
  2. To determine what specific aspects of PeerWise (e.g. authoring, answering questions, commenting) most impacts academic performance.
  3. To assess which elements of PeerWise students feel most contribute to their learning.

PeerWise records a vast array of data such as the number of questions authored, the number of questions answered and the proportion of questions answered correctly. Data automatically generated by the PeerWise website, along with academic performance data from the Stage 4 exam is currently being analysed to yield insights into any effects of PeerWise on academic performance. An online questionnaire aimed to investigate diversity of viewpoint on the benefits of PeerWise has been completed by 174 respondents (56% response rate of those students that used PeerWise). This data has informed the selection of a sample of participants to be interviewed in a semi-structured group interview which will take place this April. This interview will capture information on the barriers and facilitators to engagement with educational tools. Data will be transcribed and thematic analysis undertaken.

Quantitative data capture is complete and analysis is underway. We hope that this study will provide us with the necessary information to confidently promote use of PeerWise to cultivate deeper learning in MBBS students. This resource has the potential to be integrated into curriculum design in a wide range of subjects. Qualitative data generation and analysis will be complete by June 2016. The knowledge attained regarding engagement with this online tool will be applicable to a range of educational tools (including online tools) used both within medical education and in the Higher Education learning sector in general.

Project Team: Clare Guilding, Eimear Fagan, Michael Atkinson,

Stephanie Butler, Jane Stewart