Teaching, Learning and Assessment

Candidates should demonstrate their understanding of and engagement with teaching, learning and assessment processes. ‘Engagement’ may include using understanding to inform the development, adaptation or application of technology.
This should include evidence of:

  1. an understanding of teaching, learning and/or assessment processes
  2. an understanding of your target learners


An understanding of teaching, learning and/or assessment processes

Note the content in italic within this section has been taken from my teaching award application in 2014:

The undergraduate medical curriculum presents several challenges to teaching and learning and whilst years one and two make significant use of Queen’s Online (QOL) for teaching support, it is not a good fit for years three to five for the following reasons:

  • Significant number of non-QUB teaching staff, the majority located in the NHS (access issues)
  • A 40% increase in student numbers in 2007 (leading to increased placement dispersal and limited lecture theatres with sufficient capacity)
  • Students on attachment in teaching hospitals for the majority of their timetable
  • Limited internet access in hospitals
  • Much of the curriculum does not match the standard university module format

Supporting electronic learning resources and online information have been available to medical students for many years, however, the locations of these were disparate and often difficult to find. So in 2011 I consolidated all online content, outwith QOL, into a single Medical Education Portal.

The portal is constructed around the five year curriculum and provides the following advantages to students and staff:

  • A single web address to access all areas: www.med.qub.ac.uk/portal
  • Cross linking teaching content
  • Easy access for non-QUB teaching staff
  • Consistent navigation and design across all areas
  • Single instances of information to avoid multiple versions in multiple locations
  • Access to content across the years so students can look forward as well as back
  • Staff can view the whole curriculum, providing a realistic expectation of student knowledge, avoiding duplication or contradictions and facilitating quality control
  • The portal’s flexible structure allows non-modular and generic teaching materials / information to be presented across the curriculum
  • Improved aesthetic appearance and usability

Stimulating and inspiring learners

I have facilitated the incorporation of many types of learning components throughout the portal. These include electronic lectures, self-assessments, demonstration videos, interactive tutorials, virtual patients and graphics which are tailored to specific learning requirements.

Within constructivist learning theory, the concept of situated learning is a key element. In medicine, situated learning most often takes place in bedside teaching encounters. However, practical difficulties such as large student numbers, patient fatigue, widespread geographical locations and safety issues form significant barriers to this. One solution that is employed within the portal is Virtual Patients. These are a blend of clinical data, teaching and assessment within a multimedia setting. Here videos of the patient (acted by simulated patients) are used to provide a real world feel and give the case a vibrancy that would be impossible to portray in a text only document. Teaching elements guide the student through the case and questions posed throughout give the student an opportunity to test their knowledge as they go along. At the end of the case the student can print out a record of this activity. This structured and interactive case based learning allows students to maintain their participation in a community of medical practice and helps consolidate ward-based learning.

In the period since I wrote the above in my application I have continued to build on my understanding of the underlying educational theories. I have been involved in projects involving telling a story to take a single lecture into a cross semester experience, lecture flipping within a clinical module and bringing the human into an online space for third years.

I have also attended a two day course for Mobile Education at Imperial College London and embarked on the MSc in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh to deepen my understanding and application of educational research. All of which I cover within this portfolio.

After completing the MOOC eLearning and Digital Cultures I was inspired from the discussions and learning around storytelling so this together with a Digital Story Telling worktop by Chris Thomson (Jisc). So when approached by a lecturer who was wanting to expand on a Patient Safety lecture I immediately proposed a story. This is was put forward as a student project. Over the summer a student and the lecturer wrote a five episode story that was put into WordPress and then each episode was released across the semester with polls and questions. The lecturer then provided generic feedback as the next episode was made available. After seeing the project in motion I helped write the project proposal, supported the student with regards to WordPress and image use etc, liaised with the IT manager to get WordPress installed on our server, ensured the settings were correct to allow for anonymous comments from students and creating the new blank version at the start of the new year. This has now run for two years and the engagement is extremely high with nearly the whole year group (year 1) consistently contributing. Feedback has also been very positive.

Further to an internal workshop facilitated by Simon Lancaster, University of East Anglia, on Lecture Flipping I embarked on a project to redesign the online provision of the Paediatric module in year 4. The online material was good and relevant but it was disjointed from the face to face element of the six week module. So over a four month period I worked closely with a junior doctor (who was doing an education placement) and the module lead to completely redo the design. Initially there were a dozen etalks on a single page.

Now these talks have been augmented to 15 talks specifically linked to the face-to-face teaching week and then another twenty four to be watched during the weeks on the ward. The timetable states which talks have to be watched prior to an in class discussion session. All of talks are then put into context as the curriculum (and the portal area) is split into topics and the student can navigate either by going to the talks page or by working through the topics which also have interactive cases, and supporting material such as x-rays. Feedback has been very positive over the two years that this has been running and at the end of the first year a tutor workshop took place to get their feedback. Both students and staff are now clearer as to the big picture of the taught curriculum and the increased guidance and context has benefited the students. I recorded the majority of the new talks, carried out all of the audio editing and worked up the audio and video into an etalk using Articulate Presenter and designed and built the new portal web pages.

Where possible I have co-authored papers relating to all the projects that I have been involved with in order to wider disseminate our experiences whether positive or less so. This is a valuable exercise which allows a further examination of the what and the why that during projects sometimes there is insufficient time to allow for this.

An understanding of your target learners

This is a crucial aspect of my job and since the beginning I have analysed feedback and taken comments and suggestions on board, implementing change where appropriate and possible.

Each of the different type of learning materials were planned and designed to suit the particular problem presented and its learning outcomes. For example, third year feedback called for supporting ENT materials as there were no scheduled tutorial or lectures within the clinical placement. Individual learning experiences tended to be varied as a consequence with little direction to the background learning which should be taking place. Subsequently, I worked with a summer student and the clinical expert to develop a series of short audio tutorials on essential ENT topics. This was a very successful experience of engaging students in teaching and learning as, in addition to working flexibly to fit around the clinician’s tight schedule to record the narration for the tutorials, the student used their illustration expertise to bring the clinician’s sketches to life resulting in tailored, copyright cleared content. I also incorporated previously recorded demonstration videos into the tutorials to make best use of existing learning resources.

Each year I try to add new methods within the portal to increase the ease by which you can find information/resources whilst encouraging where possible staff to be more ‘present’ in the online environment.

All five years completed a survey for the portal in 2014 and I plan to reissue this in November 2016 to gain some insight as to whether the steps I have taken since my award have had success in engaging the students and providing them with a good supporting environment following the relaunch of the device friendly iteration of the portal.

This spring I was asked to join a committee to review the current provision of General Medicine. The students were, year on year, requesting a suite of videos to mirror those provided by General Surgery (29 in year 3 and 29 in year 5). The medical team had resisted this feedback by reiterating that General Medicine does not educationally lend itself to making a suite of videos. It was at this point of stalemate that I joined the group.

I proposed that the learners did not actually want videos of each topic but guidance, as it was so complex and interconnected, a neat list would be impossible. The Medicine page in the portal contained nothing except a study guide and a single document of 27 cases. I suggested that it was this void that the students were lost with and they were simply articulating this by asking for videos. Therefore, I proposed that we make a video to bring both presence and an explanation of this complexity. A timelines was discussed of over a year with thought of budget and resources.

I managed to convince them that a big impact could be achieved in a few months with minimal resources. So the empty page has just been relaunched with the following:

  • a welcome video explaining what it means to be a medical physician and how to navigate the complexity and how to approach patients
  • a narrated video of ‘What to expect on the Ward’ (made with PowerPoint)
  • the 27 cases split up into specialties
  • a map of how specialties and symptoms interconnect (Coogle)
  • a list of symptoms

The next year can now focus on making the cases more in depth and interactive. These will then be linked from the map.

I describe and reflect on my connections with students in more detail within my Specialist Option section, but it is equally important and relevant to this section also.


With such a dynamic field it is crucial that I continually keep up with innovations both with regards to technology itself and technology with respect to pedagogical research. On a day to day basis my number one CPD go to is Twitter which is such a quick and effective tool to keep up to date with education and technology. I have also undertaken a MOOC in Social Media Analytics (University of Queensland), attended a short Mobile Education course in Imperial College London, attended AMEE 2015 and ASME 2016 in person and virtually attended ILTA 2016 and ALT 2016. Where possible I try to incorporate appropriate elements from these events within my work and I have given several specific examples of this throughout this portfolio.

Due to restrictions on both time and budget I try to be really careful about choosing the most appropriate events/courses each year. For example one of the largest Medical Education courses takes place during the week that the new version of the portal needs to launch so I have instead only attended the years that there is a specific weekend eLearning Symposium element to it (2010 and 2015 to date). I am unable to attend the annual ALT conference for the same reason but ensure that I watch as many recorded sessions as I can afterwards and follow the discussions taking places on Twitter.

These benefits of technology which allows me to share and converse with colleagues across the world is so crucial to my work and professional development. The role of educational technologist in my experience remains a bit of a mystery to others and one of the biggest challenges I face is being perceived as IT support. Reading the Really Useful Edtech Book by David Hopkins allowed me to see that this is a wider issue but I am unsure as to how to go about changing perceptions. This was one of the reasons that I decided to enrol on the Digital Education masters, I don’t attend teaching committees and struggle with the concept of ‘getting into the room’.

In the General Medicine scenario above the Director of Medical Education asked me to join the review committee for General Medicine. Once I went to my first meeting and explained what I meant by the lack of human presence in their area of the portal and just how little it would take to address it the group finally engaged with me. For years they had rejected the concept of technology in their teaching because they were seeing just the technology. By focusing solely on the human I was able to make action on behalf of the students.

A crucially important aspect of my CPD is for the underlying learner experience. I endeavour to ensure that my practice is evidence based. For example, in the above example, I was able to make my case successfully partially based on all that I had learnt about the concept of presence from my Masters. Even though I was aware of it before I wasn’t able to articulate it sufficiently. In this scenario I also had to fully understand both learners, that is the students and the teachers and the curriculum administrators.

The example of the flipping of the Paediatric course highlighted that whilst getting the module lead enthused and committed (they had also attended Simon’s workshop) in order to see the project through to completion it is absolutely crucial to have dedicated staff time. In this case the junior doctor, acting in essence as a student, did a huge amount of work getting staff pinned down to a filming time, ensuring their talk contents were aimed at the correct level for the students and working on writing and editing the interactive cases. Both the junior doctor and myself then took on all of the recording of the new lectures. This was an immense task to achieve in a very short time, which also coincided with my busiest time of year. In the end I had all of the new pages completed by the start of the new term and then I worked round the clock to get the last few talks completed prior to it being required during the first week of teaching. I will talk in more detail about student engagement in my Specialist section but for so many projects that I have been involved in they quite literally would not even make it to live delivery without the input of students. I have seen so many times instances where staff are enthusiastic and keen to do a project but when it comes to the crunch they simply don’t have the time to see it through. Due to this whenever I suspect that this might be the case when I am approached by staff to start a new project I suggest that the starting point would be writing a proposal for a summer studentship project. Over the years this has proved effective time and time again.

The year 2016 has been really significant in how I see my role and how I wish to evolve in the future and the steps above together with CMALT status and hopefully HEA fellowship in 2017 will see the educationalist balance out the technologist of my split role. Participating in the #LTHEchat has also been instrumental in getting me to think differently about learning and teaching and by taking the scary step of joining in rather than observing I have realised that speaking out is ok.

My focus for the coming year is going to be on student and staff support. There is no foreseeable major change required for the portal so this should allow me to spend more time preparing materials for online and workshop sessions regarding technology enhanced learning. The new Digital Student Group (name to be decided) will be a key part of this focus, as I will be guided by the actual issues that they have in their day to day studies.



Image taken from my Pure Profile

E-learning and Digital Cultures: Assignment artefact | Peer feedback

Queen’s University Belfast Teaching Award 2014: Application | Podcast

CED eAffect poster 2014

AMEE 2015 certificate | ASME 2016 certificate

#LTHEchat participation eg Storify #58 Distance Learning

CED conference poster 2016

Paediatrics Flipped Project: Talk given at staff workshop | Screenshot of new module home page

Imperial College London: Creating Mobile Medical Education – Successful Implementation in Practice Course screenshot below:



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