Summary: In this edition of Harden’s Blog, Professor Harden lets us know his upcoming travel commitments and recent activities involving the Essential Skills in Medical Education (ESME) face to face and online courses. Description: I am working on my presentation for the International Conference in Medical Education in Istanbul in October. The organisers have put together an interesting programme and I look forward to attending as a participant. This is one way I find of keeping up to date with what’s happening in medical education around the world. I have two contributions – one to a symposium on 21st century teaching and learning where I will be talking about adaptive learning. The other is a plenary presentation on Scholarship and Innovation in Medical Education – The Next Big Idea.

I always spend some time thinking about the opening of a presentation and how to capture the attention of the audience. This will be particularly important in Islamabad as my presentation is the opening one on the first evening of the conference. It has been suggested that the first few minutes of a presentation are the most important. How to capture the interest and attention of the audience is the challenge. One can go for some dramatic start. One example was the lecturer in Queensland, Australia who commenced a lecture on patient safety with a model helicopter flying over the students in the lecture theatre at the beginning of her presentation. Occasionally I have tried similar stunts which I have referred to in previous blogs. Another option I have used is to tell a story with a message relating to the theme of the presentation. On a number of occasions I have used a short piece of music which reflects the message of the presentation and this can be effective. At an Asia-Pacific Medical Education Conference in Singapore on the theme of collaboration I started my presentation with an orchestral piece from Toronto which was made up of simultaneous contributions from around the world.

The GoToMeeting at identified Five powerfully different ways to open your next presentation by Maurice DeCastro. Suggestions include:
•    Start with a relevant, meaningful and powerful quote that can help to introduce the topic.
•    Share a key learning point where there is common ground with the audience.
•    Find some way to make the audience think and interact.
•    Challenge the status quo. He describes how at one session to make his point he wheeled in thousands of paper copies of customer complaint letters on catering trollies. It certainly wasn’t what the audience was expecting.
•    Make a promise as to what the audience will gain from your presentation.
We will have an AMEE stand at ICME and I look forward to meeting you if you are in Istanbul. Pat Lilley will also be present and we will be doing a book signing for The Definitive Guide for the OSCE. Launched at the AMEE Conference in Glasgow, this attracted attention and appeared to be well received. I will be interested in comments once people have had a chance to look at it in more detail.

Yesterday saw the start of the ESME course online with 94 participants. I gave the webinar to kick off the first module on the theme of the importance of the teacher and the different roles of the teacher. I was impressed with the level of interaction with the participants online and the key issues raised by them. I think we can look forward to a lively discussion in the groups over the course of the modules and I’m sure we will see some innovative and excellent assignments. Participants will be working in six groups, two with Trevor Gibbs as a facilitator, two with John Dent and two with Catherine Kennedy. In this round of ESME courses we have groups from Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and Cambodia as well as participants from 20 countries around the world.

Following the ESME Board of Studies meeting in Glasgow, Stewart Mennin and a small group are investigating further the possibility of a Specialisation in Medical Education Certificate that will recognise participants who have completed successfully a number of ESME courses online or face-to-face. I am interested to see teachers note on their papers for promotion or job applications the award of the AMEE Certificate of Medical Education as an indication of their interest and achievements as a teacher. Some ESME participants go on to undertake further study in a Masters programme and increasingly Masters programmes are recognising ESME courses and accrediting them towards the Masters studies.
Ten uncomfortable truths about the con that is university rankings. This is the subject of the Donald Clark plan B blog of 2015/09/22. He claims that University rankings can be dismissed as irrelevant as they more or less ignore teaching. Where teaching is said to be included, as in the Times rankings, only indirect measures are used such as student-staff ratios and the number of PhDs. He suggests that the ranking is self-fulfilling with elite universities bound to rise to the top. Ratings of teaching, through surveys of the National Union of Students produce a very different ranking of universities with many of the more prestigious universities ranked poorly. He suggests that unfortunately despite the problems with rankings sadly they do influence strategy and spending at universities with funds being spent on everything but good teaching.

I always enjoy the publications by Bill McGaghie from Chicago. His latest publication on Mastery Learning: It is time for medical education to join the 21st Century in Academic Medicine, September 2015 is no exception. He argues that “Educational inertia endorsed until recently by medical school accreditation policies has maintained the clinical medical education status quo for decades. Mastery learning is a new paradigm for medical education. Basic principles of mastery learning are that educational excellence is expected and can be achieved by all learners and that little or no variation in measured outcomes will result.” Bill was a co-author of one of the original publications in 1978 by the WHO on competency-based education.