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Blog: Parisian Poems and Gallic Games

The Cambridge University Press Consortium for Bioethics Teaching is a leading event in the bioethics diary, Dr Stammers and Matt James discuss this year's.

The annual Cambridge University Press Consortium for Bioethics Teaching has now become one of the must do events in the bioethics diary. This year was the fifth event held, the third one at which Programme Director for MA in Bioethics and Medical Law at St Mary’s University, Twickenham Dr Trevor Stammers has presented and the first at which Centre for Bioethics and Emerging Technologies (CBET) Research Associate Matt James has participated and led a test drive session. They have written this blog to discuss the consortium and the discussion that arose during the day. The conference is rooted in the realities of teaching students and the sessions consist of two types: 1) 30 minute presentations when innovative methods of teaching, such as a whole bioethics programme with flipped classroom teaching and no lectures, are outlined – along with the pain of change and the challenges which inevitably accompany such bold moves. 2) “Test drive” sessions where the whole group is given a demonstration of the teaching method in action using the delegates as “students”. Dr Stammers in a session entitled Well –versed in medicine? spoke about the uses he makes of poems in his bioethics teaching. After a 5-minute introduction, the delegates were split into groups of five or six, presented with a poem which was performed whilst the text was projected on screen. They were then asked to discuss questions designed to open up possible meanings for the poem. Two poems were used – Robin Robertson’s Lithium - a heartfelt cry of a patient being treated with that “psychiatrists’ stone” and Carrie Shiper’s Medical History which begins: I wanted it; arc of red and blue strobing my skin, sirens singing my praises,…. The delegates discussed the question of “What is the ‘it’ of the opening line?” and came up with a variety of interesting answers and in the process entered into the experience of the patient conjured by the poem. Ethical issues around the care of such patients were then raised, illustrating how the bridge from poetry to bioethics can be constructed. In his test drive session, Matt James demonstrated the use of the human enhancement card game in helping students move beyond just a theoretical understanding of the ethical and social implications of enhancement, to progress to critical engagement, synthesis and evaluation of the issues. Drawing together a group of 6 of ‘student’ delegates Matt led the group through the stages of the card game illustrating how each stage contributes to the learning process with reference to Bloom’s taxonomy of learning. Commenting on the session Matt said, “The test drive session was very well received with several delegates keen to use the game in their own teaching. Many realise the need to vary the styles of learning they employ in order to equip students with more than just a head knowledge of the subject but the skills to apply theory to reality.” The feedback both at the conference and in subsequent emails shows that St Mary’s involvement in this conference spreads new ideas in teaching across the globe. The conference founder and ever- generous host, Dr Tomi Kushner, is to be congratulated once more on continuing this pioneering and effective annual feast of ideas.

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