Summary: In his latest blog Professor Harden responds to personal criticisms following his previous blog as well as discussing the AMEE Conference in China, the upcoming AMEE 2017 Conference in Helsinki, student transcripts, assessment videos and two depressing conversations in medical education Description: Competency-based education
In my last blog I commented on an article Faith-based medical education, by Cynthia Whitehead and Ayelet Kuper in Advances in Health Sciences Education. My comments attracted activity on Twitter and I was accused of sexism when I used the phrase “an emotional tirade”. No sexism was intended. I was merely indicating surprise at the strength of feeling in the article. Males too can be emotional, as can be seen all too frequently in speeches by politicians. While I understand Cynthia Whitehead and Ayelet Kuper’s attack on competency-based education there are, as I mentioned in my blog, some valuable principles which we should not lose sight of and which merit discussion. These are that we do need to consider what we expect our students to learn, that the education programme needs to take this into account and that teachers have a responsibility to support the student in achieving what is expected of them. Whether we like it or not, competency-based education is on today’s agenda in all phases of education. We need a balanced discussion about competency-based education and its implementation in medicine. The paper by Cynthia Whitehead and Ayelet Kuper contributes to this discussion. The June issue of Medical Teacher is devoted to a series of articles on the topic which may inform us further.

AMEE Conference in China
Unfortunately I was unable to participate in the AMEE Conference in China hosted in March by the First Affiliated Hospital and Sun Yat Sen University in Guangzhou. The theme of the conference was training tomorrow’s doctors and a report by Debra Nestel is included in this newsletter along with photographs. Trevor Gibbs worked with Professor Haipeng Xiao and the staff in Guangzhou in organising the conference. An AMEE office is now being set up in Guangzhou.

A Helsinki agenda
I commented in my last blog on the short communication abstracts submitted for AMEE 2017 in Helsinki. This week my focus for attention has been the workshops, posters and Points of View sessions. The sixty seven conference workshops had to be selected from more than 230 submissions. This proved a very difficult task as almost all would have made valuable contributions to the programme. I think we have an excellent set of workshops covering a range of topics with some intended for those new to an area and others for more advanced participants.

I was particularly interested in the themes addressed in the Points of View submissions. This type of session was introduced successfully last year for the first time. Again, we had more submissions than we could include in the programme. Issues addressed by contributors included Can critical thinking really be taught?, Is the OSCE outdated?, How can students be engaged in staff appointments?, Is some measure of difficulty desirable to enhance learning?, To what extent should we disclose information about graduating students to the health services?, Should we reinstate the apprenticeship model?, How do we teach hope to end of life carers?, The cruelty of Mindfulness, Science and pseudoscience and many others. I believe that Points of View sessions will generate much debate and discussion. One reviewer of the submissions wrote “Topical and deliciously controversial issue that is sure to spark good discussion”. I was interested to see this year that, as last year, there were proportionately fewer North American submissions for the Points of View sessions compared to the short communications and workshops.

Rachel Ellaway, again is organising the ever-popular Fringe session. She found that there were many fascinating and interesting papers submitted this year and indeed could have organised more than the two allocated sessions.

One recent note about the Helsinki Conference commented – “Stories make us human. AMEE should incorporate storytelling into the conferences. This year’s conference is launched by a master storyteller – Peter Wardell.” (Peter Wardell is a magician and the opening speaker on the Sunday evening).

Students make important contributions to the AMEE Conference, both serving as members of a task force for the conference and contributing to the academic sessions. This year IFMSA and ESMA had 1242 applications for the 39 places on the Student Task Force. It is very encouraging to see students’ engage with medical education in this way.

A college transcript of the future
Brian Peddle, founder and CEO of Motivis Learning, writing in EdScoop ( suggested that the academic transcript could be much more than just a superficial overview of the educational milestones. Reference is made to initiatives experimenting with blockchain technology to meet the demand for a more flexible and meaningful transcript. Writing in EDUCAUSEreview ( Don and Alex Tapscott suggest that the most important technology to change higher education is not big data, the social web, MOOCs, virtual reality, or even artificial intelligence. They see these as components of something new, all enabled and transformed by an emerging technology called the blockchain. They suggest that the blockchain provides a rich, secure, and transparent platform on which to create a global network for higher learning. This Internet of value can help to reinvent higher education in a way the Internet of information alone could not.

Steve Downes suggested that Peddle’s “modernized transcript” is similar to what he has been calling a “personal learning record” as he described at the Glasgow AMEE Conference in 2015. I think the work is also closely related to developments in curriculum mapping.

Assessment video tapes
The video tapes of the plenary and symposia sessions presented at the Ottawa Conference on Assessment of Competence in Perth last year are now available to view here (

Finally two depressing conversations
Increasingly, contributions made by staff to medical education are being recognised by universities in terms of appointments and promotions. Much remains to be done, however. I had two depressing conversations recently. The first was with a very senior professor of physiology who had included, among his long list of distinguished research publications in physiology, one paper he had written on medical education. He had been advised to remove it from his list of publications as it detracted from his work as an academic. The second was with a more junior member of staff at a university who had applied for promotion. He had made major contributions to research and had attracted significant research funding. At the same time he had also made important contributions to medical education and had achieved a reputation for scholarship in the area. His application for promotion, however, was turned down on the grounds that he could not do both research and education and should concentrate in the future on one. This seems very much the wrong message to send out.