Summary: In his first Blog of 2013 Professor Harden welcomes readers into the New Year with a Scottish drinking song and reveals and recommends what he was gifted for Christmas. Description: This is my first blog for 2013.  Best wishes to all readers for a enjoyably rewarding and successful year ahead.  The short break over Christmas provided me with an opportunity to spend some time with the family and I was also able to catch up with some reading.  

I mentioned in my last blog my participation in Portugal as a member of a PhD jury.  The gold standard of academic achievement and the usual form of final product for the PhD is a dissertation.  This is usually a sustained and systematic piece of research that incorporates a logical line of argument and involves a high level of theoretical conceptualisation.  I picked up over the break a paper by Maxwell and Kupczyk-Romanczuk published in Innovations in Education and Teaching International (2009; 46: 135-145).  In it they outline as a legitimate alternative to the dissertation the potential of portfolio as a product of doctoral work.  I was not familiar with the use of portfolios for this purpose and must do a Google search to see what experience has been documented.

I always enjoy and find of interest the blog by Pat Thomson.  In her New Year’s blog she reports a personal decision which very much resonates with me.  She has decided for the coming year to put less effort into writing papers for peer reviewed journals and to concentrate instead on writing books and blogging.  She believes that books offer a number of advantages.  They foster cross disciplinary learning, maximise external impact, attract serious citations and importantly have a long tail effect, that is their impact endures.  I have been impressed by the reception given to my recent book with Jennifer Laidlaw ‘Essential Skills for a Medical Teacher’ and have plans for a number of other texts to work on in 2013.  More of that later.

I leave on Sunday 13th January for Singapore where I am participating in the Asia Pacific Medical Education Conference.  This will be the 10th conference and it has been my honour to speak alongside distinguished contributors’ at all ten conferences.  I have been working on my theme for this APMEC – ‘A new wave’ in education.  While I am in Singapore I have been invited to visit the Duke Singapore Medical School where I will be talking on writing for publication.  I have a full programme in Singapore.  We have an ESME course which is fully subscribed, an AMEE exhibit and ASPIRE and BEME Board meetings.  From Singapore I go on to Kuala Lumpur where I am running a workshop at the International Medical University on the ‘Flipped Classroom.’  Preparing for this has also been an interesting experience.

Since first created in 1999 the BEME Collaboration has had as a major focus of its activities the production of systematic reviews covering a range of topics.  At the same time as continuing this work it is planned in the coming period also to look at how the results of research in medical education can be used to inform teaching practice.  Another 2009 paper I came across was by Porter and McMaken ‘Making Connections between Research and Practice’ which was published in Phi Delta Kappan, September 2009 (V91 N1 pp61-64).  It had the following conclusions:
1.    A reform must have been demonstrated to be both effective and useable before it is adopted into practice.
2.    Charismatic individuals can have an enormous influence on the extent to which education research finds its way into education practice.
3.    A well-educated and hungry field of practitioners will put relevant research knowledge into practice in a hurry.
4.    Potential education reforms that require teachers to invent fundamental new ways of doing their work require sufficient motivation for them to invest in the change
5.    Through formal and informal networks reform ideas can quickly pass through word of mouth and onto implementation.
Writing in Educational Researcher (2012, 41; 283-293) in the Presidential Address, Arnetha Ball chose as the theme – how to take what we know from research in education and put it into practice use.

In the ASPIRE to excellence in medical education initiative one of the three categories is Student Engagement and in that category one of the criteria is student engagement with the research of the institution.  This was misinterpreted by some of the pilot schools as students learning about research methods.  A project at the University of Lincoln, funded by the Higher Education Academy has been looking at the ‘Student as Producer.’  This emphasises the role of the student as collaborator in the production of knowledge.  It represents at the University a move in policy from research-informed teaching to research-engaged teaching with research like activities at the core of the undergraduate curriculum.  A conference on the topic is being held at the University in June.

My youngest daughter Jennifer who is senior lecturer in social sciences in the Medical School at Edinburgh gave me three books by Atul Gawande as a Christmas present  – ‘Better, a surgeon’s note on performance’, ‘Complications, a surgeon’s notes on an imperfect science’ and ‘The Checklist Manifesto, how to get things right.’  The author is a general surgeon in Boston and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School.  The books offer a riveting and instructive account of medical practice and in many ways are more compelling than any TV medical drama.  They should be read by all medical students.

First-Year Residents Outperform Third-Year Residents After Simulation-Based Education in Critical Care Medicine was the conclusion of a study reported by Singer and co-workers in Simulation in Healthcare (DOI:10.1097/SIH.0b013e3182774412).  Both groups were evaluated at the end of their medical intensive care unit rotation using a 20-item clinical skills assessment at the bedside of a patient receiving mechanical ventilation.  The authors concluded that critical care competency cannot be assumed after clinical intensive care unit rotations and that simulation-based curricula can help ensure residents are proficient to care for critically ill patients.

As this is the first blog of the year, I thought I might end with the Scottish Karaoke Drinking Song sent to me by Bill McGaghie from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, at the same time as he drew my attention to the above simulation paper.