Summary: In his latest blog Professor Harden reflects on his recent trip to Russia, the teacher as a key element in the education programme, Wrong journal, the teacher as a connoisseur and artisan, and more Description: From Russia with Love
Just back from the annual Russia Medical Education Conference in St Petersburg, attended by about 670 delegates. Pat Lilley introduced participants to AMEE in the opening plenary and there was considerable interest shown at the AMEE stand in the exhibit hall. With the establishment of an AMEE office in Moscow by Trevor Gibbs working with Zalim Balkizov, AMEE has an increasing presence in Russia and we can expect to see a strong representation at AMEE 2020 in Glasgow. In my plenary presentation I challenged participants to think what changes they would like to see in the future medical school in Russia. Simulation featured highly in the exhibition area with both simple and highly sophisticated tools. I tried out a new dental simulator with feedback and learned how to give dental local anaesthesia. I was impressed with a Russian simulator to teach a wide range of cardiac procedures including insertion of stents and the ablation of nodes. The meeting was extremely well organised by Zalim Balkizov, who is a member of the AMEE Executive Committee and we were well looked after. Everything about the visit impressed me, including the food and the palaces and museums with their fascinating history.

The teacher as a key element in the education programme
Larry Cuban, in his blog on school reform and classroom practice (ref), reaffirms his views expressed over the years that the teacher is critical to a student and the school’s success. The years he spent as a teacher, as a classroom administrator, and as an educational researcher studying classroom teaching has strengthened his belief in the power teachers have in influencing students’ minds and hearts. He is concerned that this is not always appreciated and that condescension is often shown to teachers and to the value they bring. He believes that this eats away at the respect teachers have accrued. Unfortunately, we still see this bias against teaching in terms of promotion and recognition in some medical schools, although the situation is changing.

Wrong journal
The Transplantation Society newsletter Tribune Pulse, September 18th, discussed preparing a manuscript for publication. The first question asked was “What are the most common mistakes that authors make when submitting their manuscripts to Transplantation”. Their answer was “Failing to correct your submission letter and addressing it to the editor of the journal that has just rejected your paper and not the one you are now submitting to.” We occasionally find the same problem with manuscripts submitted to Medical Teacher. Submitting a manuscript with the references in an incorrect format for the journal is another problem.

The teacher as a connoisseur and artisan
In her Patter blog of 23rd September, Pat Thomson offers advice to PhD candidates “Grow your own writing practice”. She suggests that they need to be both connoisseurs and artisans. What struck me was that the same advice could apply more generally to Medical Teachers and reflect the aim of our Essential Skills for Medical Education (ESME) courses. Paraphrasing her recommendations, “To be a connoisseur of teaching means having a deep, and always growing, critical understanding of teaching, tools and techniques, principles and traditions. A connoisseur builds a working knowledge of what they consider to be good/bad teaching. They can explain to themselves and to others the criteria they use to make such judgements. A connoisseur of teaching is able to use their understandings to evaluate their own teaching, to diagnose problems, and to develop strategies that will help them to teach ‘better’...Becoming a teaching artisan takes continued practice. A teaching artisan develops a rich repertoire of strategies for producing and refining teaching. They build their teaching muscles, and their flexibility, adaptability, dexterity and stamina. They equip themselves for the long research and teaching journey ahead.”

Internationalisation of higher education is on the agenda
Each year, I am impressed at the collaboration in the field of health professions education of workers from different countries around the world. More than half of the preconference workshops had contributors from different countries, often individuals who first met at an AMEE Conference and found they had a shared interest. The EU parliament have published a definition of internationalisation of higher education, “Internationalisation of higher education is the intentional process of integrating an international, intercultural or global dimension into the purpose, functions and delivery of post-secondary education, in order to enhance the quality of education and research for all students and staff, and to make a meaningful contribution to society.” University world news recently featured on 14th September an article, Enhancing teaching in the international classroom. It reports how a growing majority of universities have included internationalisation in admission and strategy. The article talks about developing students at global international and inter-cultural competencies.

De Wit, H., Hunter, F., Howard, L., Egron-Polak, E. (Eds). 2015. Internationalisation of Higher Education. European Parliament, Brussels. Accessed on 15/09/19 at

Lauridsen, K.M., Gregersen-Hermans, J. 2019. Enhancing teaching in the international classroom. University World News. Accessed on 15/09/19 at

What are the hallmarks of an excellent medical student?
Gerard Flaherty, Professor of medical education and Director of undergraduate medical education programme at the School of Medicine – University of Ireland, Galway, in an orientation talk to new first year medical students included these twelve hallmarks of an excellent medical student:

Compassion, Empathy, Respect, Enthusiasm, Discipline, Focus, Integrity, Responsibility, Flexibility, Balance, Innovation, and Sense of humour

Would these be your twelve hallmarks of an excellent medical student?

A challenging read
Occasionally I find a paper published which challenges my thoughts on a subject and makes me rethink some of the related issues. This was the case with regard to Knowledge-rich teaching: a model of curriculum design coherence by Elizabeth Rata from New Zealand, published in the British Educational Research Journal (2019). While on first sight this may seem just an account of another model – curriculum design coherence (CDC) the issues raised are important. The aim of the model is to assist teachers to design courses that can accommodate the complex and interdependent relationship between concepts and content, and between knowledge and skills. Rata suggests “the CDC model integrates concepts, content and competencies in a coherent way, thereby avoiding several tendencies which have affected curriculum studies in recent decades. These are: a “skills” versus “concepts” bifurcation; an over-emphasis on fragmented content without conceptual integration; and a similar over-emphasis on pedagogy (the “how”) at the expense of what is taught.” – all issues for medical education.

Rata, E. 2019. Knowledge-rich teaching: a model of curriculum design coherence. BERJ. 45(4), 681-697.