Summary: Professor Harden discusses his recent trip to Oman and his forthcoming book on the OSCE. Description: I wrote my last blog just before leaving for Muscat, Oman, where I was running, along with Madalena Patricio, a workshop on evidence-informed teaching. Professor-Harden-in-Oman.jpgThe number of those participating had grown to 195! Samiya, who did a marvellous job as the local organiser, had arranged the participants in groups of 10 around 20 tables. I also distributed to each of the participants an envelope with five coloured cards. During the workshop sessions we were able to introduce a topic and raise an issue for the group to discuss. We were then able to ask either for an answer from each individual holding up a card where we had a multiple choice question on the screen or for the group to come to a consensus and for someone within the group to hold up a card. Alternatively, we had roving microphones and sampled reviews at different tables. Although it lacked some of the intimacy of a smaller workshop, I thought as a workshop it still worked well with everyone getting involved. I would be happy to try the approach again. The participants were mainly from the different healthcare professions in Oman, but a few were from other locations. Professor-Harden-in-Oman-participant.jpgOne participant from Saudi Arabia had heard about the workshop through MedEdWorld. Although our time was limited, there is much to see in Oman and everyone was very friendly. The photograph shows me signing the 195 participant certificates. The workshop with photographs also featured prominently in the local newspaper.

Dairshini Sithambaram, an IMU student who transferred from Malaysia to Dundee three months ago to complete her medical training, came to see me. It is now three months since she arrived in Dundee and she appears to be coping well with the course and the weather. Last weekend she had a visit to the Scottish Highlands with a group and for the first time saw snow. Dairshini, as a student, completed our ESME Online Course and a photo of her being presented with the certificate is shown. We are considering running an ESME Online Course specifically aimed at medical students and it was interesting to get her perspective of the course and how, if at all, it would need to be adapted for students to participate. I think we would be looking for a number of students from different schools to participate so that students at a school could have their own group discussions relating to the course activities as well as the online discussions.

Together with Madalena Patricio and Pat Lilley I am working on a book on the OSCE. Much has happened since I first described the OSCE in 1975 and we will try to capture some of the trends and developments in the text. The aim is to give both a theoretical underpinning along with practical guidance and advice in implementing an OSCE. An important part of the book will be a series of case studies illustrating the use of the OSCE in different subjects, for different purposes, and in different contexts. Please do let me know if you are aware of a good example of an OSCE which we might include as a case study.

Although it is aimed at an audience of school teachers in North America over the years I have found Educational Leadership interesting.  It was through some of the early writings on outcome-based education in Educational Leadership that I became interested in the topic. Also published were some very interesting articles at the time portfolios were being introduced into medical education. The November 2013 issue of Educational Leadership had tackling informational text as a theme. Heavy exposure to digital technology apparently alters how learners think and read. According to Greenfield “every medium develops some cognitive skills at the expense of others”. Goodwin suggests (p. 78) that exposure to digital media might rewire our brains in some subtle, yet profound way. He quotes Nicholas Carr, “The difference between surfing the web and reading print is the difference between the visual rush of jet skiing and the immersive experience of scuba diving”. Sunday Cummins (p. 69-72) suggests how students can be helped to independently read printed text more closely. Cummins suggests that after students read a chunk of text they should code with comments their thinking using the following symbols:

*    This information is already familiar
+    This is new information
?    I am not sure I understand this information
A "tick" symbol    I tried to problem solve by ______________

Universities Australia, the association of 39 Australian universities, has produced A Smarter Australia: An Agenda for Higher Education 2013-2016. Among the trends seen as driving change in Australian Higher Education are the emergence of the digital economy and new technology and increasing globalisation. Proposed actions are described under four themes. One is to increase Australian’s university participation; second is to develop Australia’s globally-engaged university sector; third is a powerful research and innovation system that drives economic and social progress; and the fourth is efficiency, investment, and regulation. I don’t see much in the report about research in education or a drive to excellence in teaching with appropriate rewards.

Adi Haramati sent to me the link to the Georgetown University Medical Center Update in which the Fall Convocation and my participation was featured. I was in distinguished company with Nobel Laureate James Watson, who won the 1962 Nobel Prize for having co-discovered the structure of DNA along with Francis Crick, also visiting Georgetown to mark the 60th anniversary of the legendary discovery.

I was impressed by the MedEdWorld webinar by Dwight Harley on Wednesday 27 November - Pass-fail decisions – how do we make them fairly?  He provided a very clear and helpful account of the ANGOFF method for standard setting and recommended using simple ‘Yes/No’ decisions and iteration.  The webinar will be available to access on the MedEdWorld website.  He hopes to discuss other standard setting approaches in later webinars.

Leaving this week for WHO meetings in Geneva and Copenhagen – hopefully my last trip before Christmas.