Summary: In the latest of Professor Harden’s blog, he updates us on his recent attendance of the annual IAMSE Conference where he discusses three key messages he took away from the conference. Description: I returned last week from the conference of the International Association of Medical Science Educators where we were running an ESME course.  I always like to come away from a meeting with three key messages.  The first from IAMSE 2015 was from a great final plenary presentation by Paul Worley, Dean at Flinders, Australia.  He told some moving stories about the impact on students after they graduated from the rural longitudinal clerkships.  For me the most telling point he made related to what he described as the ‘democratisation’ of knowledge, where he provocatively argued that students should have the freedom in the first two years to study online wherever they wished - from the best basic scientists and clinicians in the world rather than being stuck with those in one school.  This reminded me of my meeting several years ago in Boston with students from six different medical schools in the USA.  They noted that in each of the schools there were on average three outstanding teachers and if they looked across the six schools different subjects were represented by these teachers.  They argued that they should have the benefit of learning from these outstanding teachers in all of the schools, rather than being restricted to the teachers in their own school.  

The second message was from the focus session by Stephen Loftus on Threshold Concepts and Transformational Learning.  Stephen had previously completed the ESME course and written about threshold concepts.  Threshold concepts are concepts that are central to the mastery of a subject.  This idea I think is key to thinking about content and the curriculum.  I believe that a curriculum should be built on clinical presentations, learning outcomes and threshold concepts.  He cited the work by Meyer and Land published in 2003, 2005 and 2006, and the work by Glynis Cousin in 2006.  In our ESME course when we reviewed the day’s programme in the light of the ESME content, threshold concepts came under much discussion.  

My third message was from the plenary presentation by Leslie Fall.  She argued that a powerful way of integrating basic sciences and clinical medicine was through the use of virtual patients.  She is a co-Director of MedU.  Each year more than 40,000 students around the world complete over one million virtual cases.  

At the conference, Suzanne Stensaas, who had founded the ‘Slice-of-Life’ technology initiative many years ago gave the opening plenary on Integrating Technology in the Curriculum.  She gave mainly a historical perspective rather than how technology can help us to deal with the modern challenges in education.  Curriculum mapping was described by Suzanne Stensaas as ‘boring’ but Ann Pozanski and co-workers gave a useful description in a focused session Design It and Map It.  Ann has also taken our ESME course.  Curriculum mapping will be explored further at AMEE 2015 in Glasgow.  I went to a workshop by David Dickter, John Tegzas and Sheree Aston on the use of a sophisticated inter-professional education station in an OSCE.  Team-based learning and the flipped classroom were very much on the agenda at the conference and there were a number of workshops and posters on the topic.  Self-directed learning was the theme for another workshop I attended.  The emphasis, however, was very much on self-directed learning as a process rather than as the product and learning outcome of the training programme.  Graduates should have the ability to assess and direct their own learning.  

The meeting was also an opportunity to catch up with some old friends including Adi Haramati with whom we ran the ESME course.  San Diego is an excellent venue for a meeting but June is not the best month.  I had not appreciated that June is the worst month weather wise in San Diego with overcast skies for much of the time resulting in the description ‘June gloom.’