Summary: In this latest blog, Professor Harden discusses student engagement with learning resources with reference to the ASPIRE-to-excellence programme, a supplement published by the Times Higher Education and the success of his daughter's reflections piece for MedEdWorld. Description: I have been following with some interest the topic of student multimedia content production as part of course assessment, currently being discussed in the closed list for members of the Association for Learning Technology.  This theme of students engaged in the development of learning resources is something that is gaining momentum.  There were several papers at the recent IAMSE meeting in Nashville and a number submitted for the AMEE 2014 meeting in Milan.  It is part of the broader theme of student engagement in the curriculum as defined in the ASPIRE-to-excellence criteria.  As Julian Tenney from Nottingham posted, this is perhaps ‘one of the most exciting things happening in learning technology at the moment.  Having students work in groups to produce learning materials, whether video, or multimedia, ticks so many boxes: social constructivism, critical thinking, meaningful learning and digital literacies.’

I mentioned in my last blog the ESME course run at the IAMSE meeting in Puerto Vallarta which Adi Haramati and I facilitated.  Adi has already had the first assignment returned from Patricia Miller-Canfield, Professor of the Clinical Science Department at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine.  In this she gives an excellent account of how she is applying the principles gained from the ESME experience to the further development of her own course.

A supplement to the Times Higher Education issue of 19 June 2014 published the Times Higher Education Asia University rankings.  It suggests that teaching is taken into account alongside research.  I seriously question the extent to which the criteria adopted for excellence in teaching actually measure quality teaching.  It is based on a staff student ratio which is said to be a simple proxy for teaching quality with the assumption that where there is a healthy ratio of students to staff, the former will get the personal attention they require from the institution’s faculty.  It also includes the ratio of doctoral to bachelor’s degrees.  The final teaching quality indicator is a simple measure of institutional income scaled against academic staff numbers as this is thought to give a broad sense of the infrastructure facilities available to staff and students.  The information provided in the supplement shows a very close relationship between the rating for teaching and the rating for research in the universities.  I think this simply reflects the criteria chosen to judge teaching including reputation.  I do not believe that all of the excellent research universities are also excellent in teaching.  This distorted view of teaching excellence emphasises the need for an initiative along the lines of ASPIRE-to-excellence which provides a much more meaningful indication of quality in teaching.  It is pleasing to see the ASPIRE initiative gaining momentum.  The ASPIRE Board at their meeting in Milan in August will be looking at adding a fourth and possible fifth area to the three areas already assessed for excellence – student assessment, the social responsibility of the medical school and student engagement in the curriculum and in the medical school.  

My daughter, Jennifer, is a senior lecturer in social sciences in the medical faculty at the University of Edinburgh.  She contributed a reflections piece on the teaching of social sciences in medicine in a recent MedEdWorld.  This was picked up by the Public Health in Medical Schools Group and she has been invited to give a talk on the subject to a meeting of the group in London.

Plagiarism continues to be a problem.  Recently an article published in Breathe, a journal of the European Respiratory Society, contains some text copied from Medical Teacher.  The article has now been removed from the journal website and a retraction published in the latest issue of Breathe.

The June issue of Medical Teacher contains a number of interesting articles and features.  The personal review by Anna McLeod from Dalhousie University on the hidden curriculum is an interesting read.  Rachel Ellaway with her eLearning feature on ‘panoptic, synoptic, and omnoptic surveillance’ continues her series of articles on eLearning.  Other articles look at the WFME revised standards, the design of questionnaires, student support, virtual patient simulations, workplace learning and the social role of medical schools.

I was interested to see that the University of Glasgow, my alma-mater has received ten million new funding to support research into personalised medicine.  It would be great to see similar endeavours in relation to personalised education or adaptive learning.

Not much attention has been paid in medicine to the idea of threshold concepts.  I note that there is a Conference on Threshold Concepts in Practice this month in Durham, England.  In this approach certain concepts act in a manner of a portal or learning threshold through which a new perspective opens up for the learner.  These conceptual gateways are often the points at which students experience difficulty and are often troublesome.  I think this is relevant to attempts at defining a core curriculum in medicine.

I attended meetings last week in Frankfurt to discuss the future of CPD.  The meetings were organised by Merck Serono and Pfizer.  It was interesting to see the international differences.  In South America CME is still the preferred term.  Compared to basic or undergraduate medical education or even postgraduate education, CPD has been neglected and more research is needed in the area.  This is something AMEE should encourage and support.  

This week I am in Lisbon where I am participating in a WHO Technical Working Group on the assessment of education programmes.