Open dialogue in medical education

The latest edition of Medical Education includes an editorial from Kevin Eva ‘Dialogue in Medical Education: enabling the academic voyeur that lurks inside us all’.  Alan Cann posted this quote from the piece on Google+  and posed the question, ‘Good idea?’.

In this issue of Medical Education, we publish the first article in a new series entitled ‘Dialogue’. In this series we will identify pairs of people who do not regularly publish together and ask them to engage in e-mail correspondence over the course of a month. They will be encouraged not to type lengthy opuses, but, rather, to engage in a pithy dialogue in which the pair share their current perspectives on a timely topic of mutual interest.

My response to Alan’s question was wouldn’t it be better if one of them blogged on a topic and it was open and anyone could pitch in!  Duncan Greenhill added

Agreed. Why have a conversation of two when there are so many others who could contribute – including the non-experts who may very well ask the one question that either cuts to the heart of the matter or destroys it completely 🙂

Medical Education does have a blog and I wonder whether they considered introducing the dialogue feature there.  It would seem like a good place to post these dialogue features particularly given the blog runs under the name of  ‘Conversations in medical education’ and it’s open access, unlike the journal.  I’ve not really engaged with the blog, but I don’t seem to be alone as there’s not much of a conversation going on.  There are a few comments around the posts put up during the ASME annual scientific meeting last month but there was a much richer dialogue and conversation happening on Twitter around the conference hashtag #asme2012.  That conversation has continued post conference and it’s been great to see a few more individuals involved in medical education starting to blog such as Clare Morris over on Medical Education Matters.  What about some of the medical education journal editors or former editors doing the same and starting to blog out in the open like like Richard Smith, former editor of the BMJ.  Or how about these journals look at what others are doing like the Annals of Botany with their blog and Google+ page.  I hear from Alan Cann that this is approach is attracting a growing online audience.

So back to Alan’s original question is this dialogue feature in Medical Education a good idea, or should it be out in the open?  What do you think?

A final thought to close.  When I read the Medical Education editorial I was reminded of a conversation between Jim Groom and Gardner Campbel about Edupunk, two parts  were recorded and part 1 is below.  I like this approach because I get to see them discussing it and hear their voices, I hear the conversation, I’m eavesdropping, but I can embed it in my blog, post it to Google+, Tumblr etc and have my own conversation with others around it … out in the open.

Image Credit: From Flickr by Ann Arbor District Library CC BY-NC 2.0


  1. Really pleased to read your blog (and thanks for the mention) – it has been an interesting voyage of discovery for me, engaging in an open discussion, free of academic /professional hierarchies and positioning. It has been liberating to engage in a dialogue, outside of the classroom too. I have two immediate thoughts, which I would be interested to play through.

    Firstly, in the world of academia, much importance is placed on ‘original contributions to the field’ – elevation to higher positions based on a (masculine) identity of heroic individualism /endeavour. To share fledging ideas, to open them up to debate and criticism may challenge that?

    Secondly, I wonder if there is a reluctance to put thoughts into print, when still in fledgling form, particularly in the field of medical education, where, in my view at list, medics are engaging in a discourse that is outwith their area of (primary, professional) specialism i.e. in a social science discipline? I know that many medics and dentists on our PgCerts (which involve blending learning) are initially anxious about using blogs, wikis, discussion boards, even within the ‘safety’ of their own cohort and a closed VLE. They share anxieties about writing something foolish, or being judged by peers etc This lessens as the course progresses, and they begin to trust each other (and themselves) when they come to express ideas.

    I look forward to reading more on this blog 🙂

    1. Thanks for the comments Clare 🙂
      I agree with you about the reluctance about putting thoughts into print. I know that when I started my blog I thought who on earth would want to read it! I’ve drafted posts and held back publishing and then I’ve kicked myself as I’ve seen others publish posts saying something similar and wished I’d just gone ahead and posted. Now I wish I had more time to post, I don’t post stuff as much as I’d like to. I can understand the anxiety your students might have about even sharing their thoughts within the confines of a VLE. I guess a key is how do we encourage them to increase their confidence and consider publishing out in the open and nurture the development of community of learners that can continue well after they’ve finished the course.

  2. Re tweet – open dialogue or behind a pay wall (new term for me). I think the answer is, it depends. We use a VLE to support our PgCerts/MA. the course is explicitly blended, with learning events happening on-line that don’t go on in the classroom e.g. construction of an educational big thinker /literature wiki, moderated reading groups on discussion boards. They have clear learning /curriculum purpose and I think having these as closed groups is important. It allows tutors to moderate /mediate i.e. support, shape and develop thinking. It is where I have one to one conversations with learners too. My students tend to be quite experienced medics, dentists, HCP – unused to e-learning , anxious and suspicious in some cases. We need to build trust in and out of the classroom before they really engage, lay bare thoughts and ideas.

    I can only comment on my own use of Facebook (always personal for me), twitter (increasingly professional dialogue) and now my blog. For me, they are about opening up a wider dialogue – inviting comment, seeking connections with like minded individuals, engaging in a broader debate with peers. I find myself talking to new people, taking risks with my writing (and argumentation) which i hope will develop my thinking for ‘old school’ academic writing.


    1. I think what I’d really like to see are some of the big names in medical education engaging in the open. I like the idea of reading a conversation between Kevin Eva and Brian Hodges and others in medical education, but if it’s just a conversation it would be great to see it on the Medical Education blog or on their own blogs rather than published as an article in a pay for view journal and that’s what I mean by behind a pay wall. Ronald Harden has a blog in MedEd World, this was behind a paywall but you can now read his blog without logging in but you can’t comment. It would be great to see some conversation develop around what’s he’s writing about. I’ve learned so much and picked up lots of ideas from reading blogs and conversations on Twitter, it would be great to see more people involved across the whole spectrum of medical education joining us.

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