Summary: In his latest Blog Professor Harden discusses the recent storm surrounding a question in a UK GCSE maths paper, the lurking student and a recent change to Medical School admittance in South Korea. Description:  I referred in my last blog to my interesting recent visit to Korea.  Talking with teachers in their own setting I find it is an opportunity to gain information which is not published.  In response to a government requirement, all medical schools in Korea had changed to a 4 + 4 model where students were expected to have a degree before entering medical school, rather than being admitted straight from school.  I was interested to note that when this government requirement was relaxed well over half of the 41 schools changed back to a system where they admitted students directly from school.  They had found no benefit from the change to a 4 + 4 approach and indeed some teachers told me that, contrary to a common belief, they found the younger students more motivated and creative.

I often struggle with advising PhD students or assessing a PhD thesis.  In her blog of 8th June Pat Thomson encourages the PhD student to ‘exorcise the inner student’ from their writing.  She advocates an exorcism where the student lurking within a thesis is exorcised.  She argues that too often the writer is risk averse and too hesitant in their conclusions.  Nor should the student be afraid to say things in their own words.  Too often they hide behind the words of others.  The lurking student often writes difficult and complex sentences with too many ideas jammed together.  The lurking student, she suggests, sees writing as a chore or worse, something to be endured.  They are not prepared to practice the craft of writing.

A question in the recent GCSE UK maths paper caused something of a storm – “There are n sweets in a bag. 6 of the sweets are orange.  The rest are yellow.  Hannah takes at random a sweet from the bag.  She eats the sweet.  Hannah then takes at random another sweet from the bag.  She eats the sweet.  The probability that Hannah eats two orange sweets is ⅓.  (a) Show that n2 – n – 90 = 0.”  In his as usual insightful blog Donald Clark lists seven reasons why the question is unfair.  
Stephen Downes too makes an interesting comment in his blog of 8th June.  He suggests that the point of a question like this is to test whether you think like a mathematician.  He asks when you look at the world what frame do you see it through?  ‘The entrepreneur will ‘see’ spreadsheets of sweets and profit margins.  The chemist will ‘see’ chemical processes and reactions.  The explorer will ‘see’ possibilities and discoveries.  And the mathematician will ‘see’ everything in equations (yes, even probabilities).’  I was interested in a question we had in an OSCE.  Students were asked to advise a patient about to be discharged from hospital following admission with a myocardial infarction.  Some students saw this strictly from a biomedical perspective with an emphasis on the diagnosis, the pathology, the investigations and the drug regime to be followed on discharge.  Others saw it from a perspective of behaviour and health promotion and used the five minute session with the patient very differently.

I have dictated this blog just prior to leaving for the meeting of the International Association of Medical Science Educators (IAMSE) Conference in San Diego.  We are running the ESME course and also have an AMEE exhibit.  There are always interesting papers at IAMSE conferences and I look forward to hearing more in conference sessions on threshold concepts and the flipped classroom.  More in my next blog.