Just who or what am I evaluating? Learning from #SMACCGold

Many thanks to the St.Emlyn’s team for the idea for blogging on the background to SMACCGold talks..

Very rarely do I get an e-mail that makes me instantly smile but receiving a request from Chris Nickson to speak at #SMACCGold was one of those occasions. I felt in someways like an imposter but also, if I am honest, some degree of validation. The input and impact of the smacc team into the #FOAMed community is something I am hugely respectful of. Surely, whatever the reasons for my invite, it must have meant some of the things I had been blogging/publishing on were being well received? (If I lack insight in this regard please be kind with feedback….!)

Regardless of my initial surprise though, how to go about constructing a SMACCesque talk that could possibly come even close to Victoria Brazil’s or Cliff Reid’s? I’d like to share a mistake I made early in the development of my talk. I do this firstly because I try to be a reflective learner but also because it has had quite a profound effect on me. The big mistake was that I spent far too long thinking the talk was about me rather than a talk about evaluating education. Obviously the talk wasn’t about ‘me‘ but I had noticed from the previous SMACC that people talked about Levitan’s “airway” or Weingart’s “resuscitation”. What could I bring to the talk that would encapsulate the essence of me? I was partly relieved to hear both Victoria Brail and Simon Carley say they had had weeks of sleepless nights before their talks due to their own internal pressures to perform well. This I suspect was a measure of anxiety to maintain high standards not because they were interested in showing off prowess of their subject. Ultimately once I realised the material could speak for itself, and I just needed to be an effective conduit, things started falling into shape.

To be clear that I don’t think I only made one mistake (!) other errors I made were embarrassingly predictable:

Changing material at the eleventh hour – don’t do this. None of the last minute changes I made in the conference centre lobby on the day of may talk added anything useful. In fact they just resulted in me forgetting to say things that would have been beneficial information!

Not practicing what you preach – specifically to practice, practice and practice and then practice again (preferably in front of someone else)

The talk itself was based on my PhD work and my experiences with trying to bridge the chasm between educational theory and the clinician with an interest but no such background. I am a firm believer in the power of face validity – therefore educational models need creating which are well researched but also easy to explain to those not interested in complex theorem. Given one of my research interests is validity in medical education this all starts to get a bit ‘meta’. I wrestled for some time with putting a run of slides in explaining different types of validity. I went for this in the end, also choosing to deliberately include a ‘bad slide’. I had been emboldened to do this  after trying the same in the education workshop (particularly Chris Nickson mouthing ‘so glad he said that!’ when I explained that the slide I was showing was intentionally dreadful)

One of the challenges in medical education is the interplay between the educator and the subject of the ‘education’. What is the impact of a great speaker in terms of knowledge acquisition? Knowing the importance of this effect weighed heavily on me. Reflections after the event have resulted in a very critical evaluation of myself as a speaker but if I have learnt anything from the experience it is this self-evaluation is a useful process. Fascinating this didn’t occur to me at the time…


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