Summary: Having recently returned from a trip to Perth, Australia for the Ottawa Conference 2016, Professor Harden gives us an insight of the events and activities that happened. Description: 1022-OTTAWA-ANZAPHE.jpg

I have just returned from the Ottawa 2016 Conference held in conjunction with the Australian and New Zealand Association for Health Professional Educators (ANZAHPE) 2016 Conference in Perth Australia.  There was an exciting social and academic programme.  Following the opening ceremony with Dr Kim Hames, Minister for Health, and local singing and dancing which captured the spirit of Australia, we were entertained outside for a barbecue with the opportunity to meet some local animals.  The photograph shows me with a snake around my neck.  The other photograph is of me with Dr Hames, Monica Moran, President of ANZAHPE, and Alison Petrie who headed up the marvellous EECW conference management team in Perth. 
Janke Cohen-Schotanus got the meeting off to a great start on Monday morning and challenged us, given that we know that assessment drives learning, how we can better use assessment programmes to stimulate learning.  Assessment programmes determine not only what students study but also when students study. 
AndrĂ© De Champlain who was scheduled as our Ottawa plenary speaker on Tuesday had one of the nightmare journeys that we always dread.  His flight was initially delayed from Philadelphia because of storms.  Having missed his connection in Los Angeles the following flight was diverted to Honolulu because of a medical emergency.  Leaving Honolulu the next day the aircraft had technical problems and had to return to Honolulu.  At this stage with the next available flight arriving too late for his keynote, he had no alternative but to return to the USA.  With the miracles of technology however he was able to give an excellent presentation by Skype having sent on separately his PowerPoint presentation.  Among other things he introduced us to was the concept of programmatic assessment, a new paradigm which integrates both learning and assessment and which requires the collection of evidence from a variety of sources about a student’s performance over time and the aggregation of the evidence in order to make a final decision about a student’s competence.  There was an excellent symposium on the topic of programmatic assessment where Lambert Schuwirth described the concept in more detail and elaborated further on his thinking in his paper in Medical Teacher some time ago.  Just as with problem-based learning, there is some confusion as to what constitutes programmatic assessment.  Some of the case studies presented at the meeting I do not think met the criteria.  In my recent email on the topic to Cees van der Vleuten, there was a typo when I referred to “problematic assessment” rather than “programmatic assessment”!  As Cees said, perhaps a Freudian slip.
In the second plenary Victoria Brazil gave a great presentation on how emergency physicians can engage with simulation and improve their performance and health outcomes as a result.
The OSCE featured throughout the meeting in oral presentations, workshops and a symposium which I chaired.  I am always impressed at the ways in which the approach has continued to evolve.  We heard of competencies such as cultural competence and interprofessional skills being assessed in an OSCE and different ways of implementing the approach in practice.  Sequential testing, with papers from Richard Fuller and the Leeds team, attracted a lot of attention. 
An interesting symposium had as its theme national licensing examinations with the case presented for and against a national licensing examination.  A vote at the beginning showed the audience very much in favour of a licensing examination.  By the end of the symposium however the decision significantly shifted in the other direction.  I hope we might rehearse some of the arguments for and against the approach in MedEdPublish which is to be re-launched as an AMEE e-journal later this month.  A problem is that many of the plans for national licensing examinations are contrary to current principles as to what is good assessment practice.  Programmatic assessment is just one example.  Another is the move from seeing assessment as simply assessment of learning to see assessment as assessment for learning or even assessment as learning.  Clearly we need some quality control over licensing examinations.  Whether this is best done through a national licensing examination is however debatable. 
The conference ended on a high note with two plenary presentations.  The first was by Professor David Boud who challenged us to think again about feedback.  He described the problems we have with feedback and how these can be overcome by reconceptualising feedback, with learners positioned as active feedback seekers and a feedback enabled curriculum with feedback positioned as part of learning.  The presentation aroused a lot of interest in the audience.  It was followed by Suzanne Pitama from the University of Otago, Christchurch, with a moving presentation on cultural competence in a medical curriculum.  I was particularly interested in her presentation as I will be talking on the subject at the International Medical Education Conference in Kuala Lumpur (IMEC) later this month. 
Before the Conference started I had an opportunity to visit the Titanic Exhibition which happened to be in the Conference Centre.  On entering the exhibition everyone was given their boarding pass for Titanic.  I was Harry Markland Molson, a first class passenger and a rich playboy and yachtsman who was used to accidents at sea.  He had previously survived other shipwrecks.  At the end of the exhibition one could see what happened to the different passengers.  Unfortunately I did not survive.  In contrast Pat Lilley, who was a seamstress travelling in 3rd class, was confused with a 1st class passenger as she was wearing a fur coat, and did survive.
In the closing presentation we announced the venue and dates for the next Ottawa Conference in Abu Dhabi, 10th – 14th March, 2018 with the theme “East meets West”.
We are in the final stages of selecting from more than 3,300 abstracts submitted for the AMEE 2016 Conference in Barcelona.  All will have been rated by 2 referees.  Looking at the abstracts gives a marvellous perspective of what’s happening in medical education and who is doing what and where.  There appear to be some clear trends.  We see more papers this year on empathy, on transition between different phases of education, on interprofessional education, on simulation, on faculty development, clinical reasoning and on prescribing.   There is an interesting group of papers on identity development and another on different approaches to determination of content for a curriculum.  We also see new insights into curriculum approaches such as task based learning and integration.  This year continuing professional development and postgraduate education feature prominently in the abstracts submitted.
This week saw the start of our spring 12 week online Essential Skills in Medical Education (ESME) course.  We have 128 participants registered from around the world working in groups, with Trevor Gibbs, John Dent, Cate Kennedy, Arnoldo Riquelme, Philippa Moore and Thomas Fassier as facilitators.  Julien Aron is also supporting the group in Cambodia.  I was impressed by the enthusiasm and responses from the participants in my first interactive webinar on Monday.
I leave this week for a meeting in Miami but will be back at the weekend in time to prepare for IMEC later in the month.  I always look forward to my visits to Malaysia.