Summary: My first steps into the world of educational research began back in September last year at the University of Hong Kong... Description: My first steps into the world of educational research began back in September last year at the University of Hong Kong. I was certainly eager to start and over an enjoyable dim sum lunch spoke of how I wanted to take part in several projects and do as much as I possibly could. I thought of several ideas, sent countless emails and probably caused sleepless nights for several of my colleagues. I thought anything was possible and was possible quickly. I soon realised however that academia the world over does not exactly work this way. Research takes time as well as patience but more importantly the desire and willingness to learn from others. As a student nurtured in a PBL environment this self-directed approach is probably a bad thing in many ways. For one, I thought I was capable of undertaking these projects solely by myself. How wrong I was...

One afternoon it was suggested to showcase an idea of mine during a concept unfamiliar to me at the time, a ‘Brown Bag Seminar’, where colleagues from the faculty would be exposed to an educational hypothesis during the lunch hour, the brown paper bag carrying one’s lunch in question. At first I was reluctant and wasn’t exactly sure what to make of it – after all if I had an idea and I was convinced of its merit why would I need other people to tell me so? My naivety was however soon to be highlighted.

During the session I presented what I thought was a novel idea – never to have been done before or so I thought. But what happened next was certainly a shock to the system. Colleagues in the field critiqued my methodology, my supposed outcomes and the feasibility of undertaking such work. I initially became defensive, and internally tearful, but later realised they were right. In fact they were so right that I began to view them as some kind of higher academic gurus who were worldly wise. How could my idea be so flawed I thought? Why were they so accurate in their conclusions? – maybe the brown paper bag they were carrying gave them some supernatural powers allowing them to predict what would work and what wouldn’t? Whatever it was I realised at that point that my approach had to change. I needed them to show me the way and ensure my work in education would be productive not just for me but more importantly for the students.

My colleagues at HKU made me appreciate that working collectively could produce great results and in order to be successful in any field one must learn from each other. I hope to continue delving more into the depths of education and hope that my efforts are viewed by students as successful in the future. I guess as professionals we all strive for success in some form – and if I fail to achieve it in education, the Daily Mail informs me I have ten years to wait regardless – I guess I need to stop drinking first though!

Dr Neel Sharma
Honorary Clinical Lecturer
Centre for Medical Education
Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry
Email – [email protected]