The Birmingham Conference

What Makes Undergraduate Training Effective?

Thursday 16th May 2019

The Birmingham Conference is a free annual meeting focused on research into the education of health professionals. One of the biggest events of its kind in the UK, it is hosted jointly by Health Education West Midlands, The Medical School and the Health Professional Education and Research Unit (HPERU), University of Birmingham.

In addition to keynote presentations, the conference provides an opportunity for delegates to seriously engage in other’s work through paper presentations, poster sessions and workshops.

Venue: School of Education, University of Birmingham.

Keynote Speakers

Professor Suzanne Chamberlain, Head of Medical School Liaison for the MLA, GMC - international perspectives on licensing exams.

Professor Chris McManus - Medical school excellence, teaching and outcomes (Provisional title).

Presentation of prizes

Professor Russell Smith, Postgraduate Dean, Health Education England (West Midlands).

There is no conference fee, but to attend you must complete the online registration form by Friday 5th April 2019.  Places are limited and will be issued on a first come, first served basis.

Call for Presentations/ Posters/ Workshops 

The conference committee is seeking submissions of outlines for Presentations, Posters, Workshops and Debates.  All aspects of education of health professionals will be considered; this may be formal research, reflections upon novel teaching methods, etc.  

If you would like to be considered for a presentation, poster or workshop, please complete and return the Expression of Interest Form by Friday 5th April 2019.  All presenters must first have registered on-line to attend. 

This annual conference on health professional education is hosted jointly by Health Education England working across the West Midlands, the Medical School and the Health Professionals Education and Research Unit, University of Birmingham. If you would like any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me. 

We look forward to welcoming you to the Conference!

The Birmingham Conference 2018

Thursday 17th May 2018

Keynote Speakers

Professor Olwyn Westwood - competence and work-place-based assessment.

Dr Nicola Cooper - teaching clinical reasoning.

The Birmingham Conference 2017

Thursday 18th May 2017

Keynote Speakers

Keynote 1: Professor Trudie Roberts, Director, Leeds Institute of Medical Education

Clinical Skills for the 21st Century 

Although we continue to test students, both undergraduate and postgraduate, in performing clinical examination skills which have been around for centuries; the way we will practice medicine in the future will be very different than how we have done this in the past. In this talk I will highlight the revolutionary influence that technology is having on healthcare delivery and why we need a similar revolution in what teach students to equip them to provide the best medical care in the future. Given these changes and the advances in cognitive computing together with advent of intelligent mentoring systems I will discuss new research developments that are going on at the Leeds Institute of Medical Education to help educators understand how technology can support the students in acquisition of these new skills

Keynote 2: Professor John Sandars, Edge Hill University 

Authenticity - the challenge for future medical education 

The concept of authenticity recognises both the intended change in the learner and the learning environment to achieve this change. It is essential that medical education can transform learners from becoming a doctor to being a doctor, with the capacity to respond to the complexity of the post-modern world.  This transformation requires a process of learners experiencing the complexity of the real-life world. The challenge for the future of medical education is how to ensure that authentic future doctors can be developed through authentic learning experiences. There are no easy answers but an important first step is to have the vision and to slowly transform the micro-systems within which educators practice. 

The Birmingham Conference 2016

Thursday 19th May 2016

Keynote presentations

Professor John McLachlan, Durham University

Done to death: the use of the living body in anatomy teaching

The preserved cadaver is the canonical text we expect medical students to read anatomy from.  It represents a rite of passage, invested with cultural meaning far beyond its information content. But in real clinical contexts, doctors encounter the living body itself. 

The project Professor McLachlan described, promotes the iconoclastic view that anatomy learning should be through the living body, using peer examination and living models, medical imaging and art.  It can be argued that this both brings benefits and avoids some kinds of harms. The implications of such experiences are wider, however, than across medical teaching, or even across health professional teaching.  Many innovative teachers may find themselves in the uncomfortable position of challenging the cultural norms of their subject, and our experiences may illustrate both the pitfalls and rewards of such teaching. 

Professor Jim Parle Director of the Physician Associate (PA) programme and Karen Reynolds from the Interactive Studies Unit    

Who are the ACEs and what can they do?

Associate Clinical Educators (ACEs) are essentially non-medical people who have been trained in the medical examination systems and know how those examinations should feel ‘on the receiving end’. They are able to support the clinical teaching the students receive and the students get to practice the examinations on them, receiving real time feedback.

The ACEs are also able to layer these skills with simulation and so a scenario can be created where the ACE is able to simulate appropriate signs and the student can examine the ACE as well as take a history. ACEs are also familiar with the ‘errors’ that both patients and students make and can both simulate the former and correct the latter, again using instant feedback e.g. ‘Press a bit harder and you will be able to feel the colon’.

ACEs work in both teaching and assessment, primarily with our PA students. They also work in Year 4 with our MBChB students at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital, Birmingham. For this work the ACEs received extra training in orthopaedic conditions from Professor Edward Davis. ACES cover all areas of the clinical examination, including neurology, respiratory, cardiovascular and GI examination as well as intimate examinations such as male rectal, female breast, male genitalia. Lastly we have other female ACEs who are Gynaecological Teaching Associates (GTAs) who have been trained by gynaecologist Miss Shirin Irani; they work with both our MBChB Year 3 students and the PA students.

This session explained a little more about the work of the ACEs and how they are trained. They also demonstrate a ‘hands-on’ simulated clinical scenario.        


The Birmingham Conference 2015: Technology Enhanced Learning

Thursday 21st May 2015

Keynote presentations

Professor Giles Perryer, Academic lead for e-learning at the College of Medical and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham

Technology enhanced dental education: a whistle-stop tour of  9 developments

The School of Dentistry has long been in the forefront of Technology Enhanced Education, and is embracing the opportunities offered by the brand new Dental School and Hospital being built at the old Pebble Mill site.

In this presentation Giles introduced the new building, and covered some of the key technologies being used to underpin teaching and assessment. These include cloud based mobile assessment and self evaluation apps, a range of hi-tech devices used in simulation training, Massive Open Online Courses (Giles is the University’s Academic Lead for MOOCs), and an online distance-learning Masters Degree in Dentistry.

Mike Sharples, Professor of Educational Technology, Mike Sharples, Professor of Educational Technology

The changing Landscape of Technology Enhanced Learning

Mike discussed the following:

  • Drivers for change: new technology, finance, globalisation, innovative pedagogy
  • New landscape: Massive open social learning, blended learning, personal learning technologies, assessment for learning, mobile and contextual learning, connecting formal and informal education, global marketplace
  • How can we predict, and design, the future of education? Distinguish hype from reality. Identify ‘weak signals’ of systemic change. Support design-based research. Scale best practice.
  • Pedagogy-led innovation: educational transformations based on deep knowledge of how people learn mediated by innovative technologies. Agile design-based research and development.
  • Example: massive open social learning for FutureLearn.
  • Blended learning: blending campus and online. Blending free and paid-for
  • Navigating the future of education: don’t evaluate how technology makes traditional learning slightly more efficient. Explore effective and transformative forms of learning enabled by technology. 

The Parallel sessions included a number poster presentations  and workshops on topics such as ePortfolios - developments and Technology Enhanced Learning for healthcare providers.

Conference workshop


The Birmingham Conference 2014: The Shape of Training

The 2014 conference, took place in the School of Education, University of Birmingham.

Keynote presentations

  • Professor Hywel Thomas, University of Birmingham: Virtues and Values in the Medical Profession
  • Professor Malcolm Lewis, OBE, Director of Postgraduate Education for General Practice, Wales Postgraduate Deanery: The Shape of Training - from proposals to practice 

Keynote speakers: Professor Hywel Thomas and Professor Malcolm Lewis

Hywel ThomasMalcolm Lewis




The foundation Year 1 prizes were followed by presentations from the winners

Joint Winners: Drs Neeral Patel and Samaresh Mazumdar 'Should diabetic patients be routinely screened for obstructive sleep apnoea?'

Highly Commended: Dr Timothy Robbins 'Innovation - what can trainees achieve?'

Jamie Coleman collects her prize


Poster Competition Prizes: Jamie Coleman presents the prize for 'A novel approach to case based discussions'