Research Day tackles transformation in Health Sciences Education

27 Aug 2015 - 13:15

“Rhodes Has Fallen, Now What?”

Hosted by the newly established Department of Health Sciences Education, this year’s 7th Annual Health Research Day was an historic event.  A space to engage with both innovative practice and research being done in the Faculty, the Day tapped in to the on-going discussion spurred by the Rhodes Must Fall movement.

Based on the theme “Rhodes Has Fallen, Now What?” the day-long programme began with a welcome from Deputy Dean Professor Gonda Perez and a keynote address titled Transformation: Issues in Health Sciences Education by Associate Professor Collet Dandara, of the Division of Human Genetics.

Prof Dandara presenting on the state of health sciences education

“This research day provides an opportunity to develop and refine some thoughts framing the future of education and training in Health Sciences and hopefully, its critical relationship to the delivery of inclusive healthcare in South Africa” said Prof Dandara.

During his presentation he spoke about the challenges facing health educators, students and patients. Prof Dandara went on to say that the values Rhodes stood for continue to plague the institution and that several changes need to occur in order to improve teaching and learning - addressing the hostile institutional climate, situating teaching in an African context and not as a bridge to Europe, and transforming the curricula to include the once silent African perspective and value system. He spoke highly of the new department but cautioned that its good efforts to promote Health and Science Education research will remain fruitless if its programs are on a voluntary basis. He suggested a minimum-level of educator training, which included making the Education Department’s teaching and assessment courses compulsory for staff.  

After a post plenary discussion presentations commenced showcasing passion for teaching, learning and assessment, through a variety of papers addressing issues related to transformation. Prize-winners were announced at the end of the day with judges remarking that it was a difficult choice as all the presentations were captivating and of a very high standard.

Dr Chivaugn Gordon presenting her paper on using popular culture to teach about gender based violence 

The first prize was awarded to Dr Chivaugn Gordon from the Dept. of Obstetrics & Gynaecology for her innovative educational design in the Obstetrics Block in the complex area of inter-personal violence. Using popular culture as displayed in multimedia she was able to engage students in debate around the normalisation of abusive behaviours, a difficult theme in a multi-cultural society with varying norm referents.

The second prize was also awarded for innovation in course design where multi- and inter-disciplinary content and methods were used for a Special Studies Module (SSM) in second year MBChB, that enabled students to use self-created or self-selected images to engage in the visible signs of oppression, and to combine text, image and peer discussion in deconstructing sources and symbols of oppression in their contexts. Dr Carla Tsampiras and Ms Sarah Crawford Browne from the Primary Health Care Directorate, and Dr Alexandra Muller a Senior Research Officer in the Gender, Health & Justice Unit conducted the research for this project.

The third prize was presented for exemplary educational practice in which, judges said, Associate Professor Romy Parker from the Division of Physiotherapy assumed responsibility for the academic and clinical performance of her students, and did not ‘blame them’ for under-performing in the final year of the Physiotherapy Management of Chronic Pain.  Having developed a spiral of learning and training in the Management of Chronic Pain in earlier years, and observed students’ grasp of the content, their under-performance in the final exam was a puzzle.  She consequently modified her approach to assessment by introducing formative assessment prior to summative examinations and shifted from norm to criterion-referenced assessment.

Winners (left to right) Assoc Prof Romy Parker, Dr Chivaugn Gordon and Ms Sarah Crawford Browne

A huge success, the day left many feeling inspired to try new ideas that will contribute to teaching and assessment in the Faculty. It also marked a promising and exciting beginning for the new Department of Health Sciences Education.