Working with Pakistani colleagues to improve learning and teaching: the Masters in Health Professionals Education group

In October, Janet Strivens and Ian Willis from the University of Liverpool’s Centre for Lifelong Learning returned to the University of Health Sciences in Lahore, Pakistan as part of the ongoing British Council funded INSPIRE project that aims to ‘enhance learning and teaching in medical education in the Punjab’.

We had two real gains as part of the project; two programmes were approved by UHS’s Board of Advanced Studies.  The first is the Certificate in Medical Teaching.  This course is designed to support relatively new lecturers in medial education. It is based on programmes in Centre for Lifelong Learning and was designed with local Pakistani staff to ensure it was suitable for the local context.

Second, the Masters in Health Professions Education was also approved.  This is intended for more experienced staff and again was based on University of Liverpool programmes with local input, in this case also influenced by University of Maastricht experience in medical education.

As the Inspire project is entering its final year, sustainability and local ownership was central to our efforts on this visit.  We are very fortunate to be working with skilled and enthusiastic local staff.  For the Certificate in Medical Teaching two local staff played a big part in delivering the programme whilst six more staff observed with a view to facilitating the programme in the future.

We hope that our final visits will be taken up with supporting these colleagues and putting in place quality systems rather than ‘just’ teaching.  Similarly, the Masters in Health Professions Education now has Professor Majeed Chaudhry as programme director with two other local staff contributing. Whilst these developments represent real progress, there are always challenges!  Supporting structures at UHS, namely the Department of Medical Education, is seriously understaffed and recruiting suitably qualified staff is really difficult.  There are few people in Pakistan trained to Masters level in Medical Education and very, very few at PhD level.  We are also looking to enhance the use of technology to support learning.

The technical infrastructure is good and UHS has a Moodle VLE platform.  However, the role of educational technologist is unknown and so again difficult to get authorisation to recruit (a national not local process) and harder to find suitable applicants. We also started a ‘Researchers Group’ with the intention of supporting teaching staff to research and evaluate their practice. Early days but ten enthusiastic teachers and some good ideas, many centred on getting student feedback, which is not part of the teaching culture and seen as a threat by some staff. So not only are there issues of supporting this kind of small scale research at a distance but also of getting it accepted in some of the colleges.

As always, it has been great working with the staff and good to feel that we are contributing to locally owned developments.

Ian Willis & Janet Strivens