Glasgow BABCP conference: 1st day - lecture rant, Anke Ehlers on PTSD, a workshop on the 'strong & curious therapist', and more.
Last updated on 29th July 2018
Yesterday was the first full day of the two & a half day (plus one day of pre-conference workshops) BABCP summer conference in Glasgow. It feels like I've been going to these annual BABCP get-togethers for a thousand years. In so many ways, I think they're great ... although, for a society that prides itself on being evidence-based (more on this later in this post), I do think that the way these conferences are delivered is pretty dusty & traditional. Basically we sit in large tiered lecture halls and listen to major plenary lectures or we sit in smaller rooms for workshops that are very largely just lectures in more extended formats.
I suspect that keeping a better eye on emerging research highlighting what teaching methods work best would help BABCP conferences function better and would also be relevant for improving presenters' teaching work in other environments, and this kind of information might even be relevant for therapists in improving their one-to-group and one-to-one therapy. How about a BABCP special interest group on teaching methods ... or a conference sub-committee? Some of the relevant literature includes last year's paper by Schneider & Preckel - "Variables associated with achievement in higher education: A systematic review of meta-analyses" - with its comment "In our systematic literature review, we included 38 meta-analyses investigating 105 correlates of achievement, based on 3,330 effect sizes from almost 2 million students. We provide a list of the 105 variables, ordered by the effect size, and summary statistics for central research topics. The results highlight the close relation between social interaction in courses and achievement ... Strong moderator effects are found for almost all instructional methods, indicating that how a method is implemented in detail strongly affects achievement. Teachers with high-achieving students invest time and effort in designing the microstructure of their courses, establish clear learning goals, and employ feedback practices. This emphasizes the importance of teacher training in higher education ... the variables associated with achievement in higher education are generally well investigated and well understood. By using these findings, teachers, university administrators, and policymakers can increase the effectivity of higher education."
A little more dated is this PDF of Freeman et al's 2014 meta-analysis of 225 studies comparing student outcomes with traditional lecturing or with more active teaching methods. The authors wrote "The effect sizes indicate that on average, student performance on examinations and concept inventories increased by 0.47 SDs under active learning (n = 158 studies), and that the odds ratio for failing was 1.95 under traditional lecturing (n = 67 studies) ... active learning appears effective across all class sizes - although the greatest effects are in small (n ≤ 50) classes ... The results raise questions about the continued use of traditional lecturing as a control in research studies, and support active learning as the preferred, empirically validated teaching practice in regular classrooms." Educational methods aren't my field (more just experiences I regularly have to endure!), but a couple of other papers I'll just mention are James Bennnett-Levy & Christine Padesky's "Use it or lose it: Post-workshop reflection enhances learning and utilization of CBT skills" and Wittich et al's "Improving participant feedback to continuing medical education presenters" with its useful description of an 8-item feedback questionnaire. There's plenty for me to learn here as a presenter myself ... and I have a strong suspicion that some of this educational research is relevant as well to improving therapeutic interactions. Who's for a BABCP special interest group or sub-committee ... any public-spirited saints out there?
So there's a brief rant about the organisation of these conferences. What did I actually go to on the first full day of this year's get-together? Well I started with Steve Hollon's clinical skills class on "Cognitive therapy: From action to insight and back again". This workshop was fascinating and frustrating in equal measures for me. Here was a hugely experienced, apparently very traditional cognitive therapist illustrating very practically how he has worked. There was virtually no discussion of any evidence-base for his clinical decisions and techniques. There was no doubt in my mind that Steve is very experienced and his practice seems to illustrate a pretty vanilla-flavoured approach to cognitive therapy very well. But the research data suggests that one well-practised form of therapy is pretty much as effective as another (e.g. CBT, BA, IPT, etc). I was frustrated both because there seemed very little reflection on why one approach or technique might be used rather than another ... and (back to my rant) the format was really just an extended lecture, not a workshop.
I then went on to a keynote talk by Anke Ehlers on "Treating posttraumatic stress disorder effectively and efficiently: A cognitive approach". OK, this was a very traditional lecture format too ... but that's what was 'advertised' on the tin, so less for me to complain about in terms of structure ... and I happen to find Anke's work stunning. Just fabulous her pains-taking, jigsaw puzzle building approach over many years to understand and better help those sufferering from PTSD. What wonderful, inspiring work. Here are few of her slides:
This was great ... and lovely to get an update on where her work has got to now.
Jim Lucas on "The strong & curious CBT therapist: Using the Self-Practice & Self-Reflection approach to develop loving-kindness and healthy self-doubt" and Christopher Eccleston on "The psychology of physical sensation".
More to follow ...