Bristol Teaching Awards, BTA 2021 Shortlist, Inspiring and Innovative Teaching Award

Teaching delivery team for the Postgraduate Neuropsychology Programmes

Faculty of Life Science, School of Psychological Science

Team members: Martin Bunnage, Alexander Milton, Aida Moses, Kit Pleydell-Pearce, David Turk, Ingram Wright

“2021 marks the 10th anniversary for these ground-breaking programmes. As a result of them, Bristol is the leading centre in the UK for professional and academic training in Neuropsychology…”

“These programmes exemplify the value and opportunities of blended learning and partnership working.”

“This provides an opportunity for clinicians from across the country to come to Bristol, build a community based around professional development and share knowledge.”

“The programmes are only possible because they draw on an extremely successful academic partnership between UoB and North Bristol NHS Trust (NBT), working closely with University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust (UHBT) working with the British Psychological Society to set the agenda for training in this area.”

We asked the team about their background, the team background and how they felt about being shortlisted.

David Turk – I graduated from Bristol in 1997 with a BSc and in 2001 with a PhD. I returned to Bristol in 2012 and was made Deputy Academic Director for the Clinical Programmes and Director for the Dissertation Unit. We train qualified clinical psychologists and graduates who are not yet clinicians. My work tends to be with the latter group.
Over this period, I have overseen an expanding portfolio of research opportunities for students to work with clinical supervisors, providing them with valuable experience in patient-facing research and service evaluation. This initially involved our partners at North Bristol Trust, but has since expanded to a range of supervision providers across the health spectrum. The breadth of dissertation options on offer has been lauded by successive External Examiners and managing this can be challenging but also profoundly interesting.

The suite of clinical programmes offered at Bristol are the very best in the country and this is evidenced by our excellent post-graduation employment data and consistently high student satisfaction levels. Many past students highly valued their training with us and have begun to offer supervision opportunities for our current students. Our graduates are highly sought after. Around 75% of graduates report that they are employed in health care settings one year after graduating, with almost 50% employed as Assistant Psychologists, or who are training for or have qualified in a clinical doctorate enabling the right to practice as a clinical psychologist.

Alex Milton – I have been affiliated with the Neuropsychology courses since January 2018 and worked to ensure that the courses have continued to look outward and develop in ways that meet the educational and training needs of our students, both nationally and internationally.

Within the UK, our team innovated collaborations with 14 other UK universities to integrate and streamline the national neuropsychology training pathway. This pathway involves both undergraduate and doctoral courses that require 6 years minimum of study before a clinician would approach Bristol (or another UK provider) to specialise in neuropsychology. To facilitate faster access to specialisation in neuropsychology, we have collaborated with 14 doctoral training providers around the UK to align aspects of our taught content and allow relevant learning and clinical experience gained during doctoral training to be recognised within our programmes. As such, we now offer a streamlined and more cost-effective degree: PG Diploma in Theoretical and Practical Neuropsychology. In essence, we have created a route for interested trainees to specialise in neuropsychology earlier in the training pathway than was previously possible, and this means students can pursue postdoctoral qualifications in a more time-efficient manner. This is an excellent example of the ways in which the programme team innovates. This enable clinicians to specialise in neuropsychology more quickly and will improve the throughput with which specialised clinical neuropsychologists are able to enter the workforce.

Internationally, the team has been seeking to enrich understanding of neuropsychology and widen access to principles of clinical practice through the provision of dedicated distance learning programmes and establishing partnerships with international institutions. Neuropsychology remains an underrepresented profession in many countries and there can be a lack of dedicated training provision. As such, the programme team is looking to collaborate internationally in order to raise the profile of neuropsychology as well as working with partners to understand and cater for the cultural differences in neuropsychology around the world. To this end, we are in the final stages of approving a partnership with Amity university in India and have held provisional discussions with Mahidol University International College in Thailand.

The above examples show how the programme team have strived to improve access to neuropsychology and have considered student needs in doing so. This is also seen daily at the level of programme management. As a team we work closely with our professional services staff and meet twice weekly to review course management and student needs. This helps us maintain critical oversight of our students and their experience and to respond quickly to any issues that may arise. These staff meetings are coupled with fortnightly ‘Townhall’ meetings where our students can bring any concerns or issues to us. Fostering community amongst our cohort is incredibly important to us and all our distance learning students (both international distance learners and UK clinicians) are given a 1:1 inductions at the start of the course. This contact and community is something we strive to maintain throughout their study with us and beyond it.

Martin Bunnage – We, as a team, are honoured to have been nominated.

I was a founder member of our degrees which offer training in Clinical Neuropsychology. From the outset, the ethos of the courses have emphasised a scientist-practitioner approach to clinical work and the crucial importance of clinicians being able to bridge the gap between the academic bedrock of practice and the real-world problems faced by people living with neurological damage or disease. Doing so in a manner that puts first the needs of the people we serve is of paramount importance to the team. The unique partnership that exists at Bristol between the University and the National Health Service personifies this ethos. It ensures a blend of academic and clinical education rooted in the principles of evidence-based practice and many years of clinical experience.

Our teaching is academically rigorous, and we seek to challenge clinicians to become informed consumers of research output and to contribute to research, in an effort to further lessen and bridge the gap between academic activity and real-world application. We seek to deliver training in clinical practice which is also rooted in basic neuroscience.

Our teaching focuses on delivering knowledge and skills to clinicians to allow them to develop all of the required competencies to meet the standards for competent practice. In addition, we also look to the future and try to predict what clinicians of the future will need to know and be able to do to meet the changing healthcare needs of the population we serve and embrace the changing ways practice is undertaken. This horizon scanning has allowed us to introduce a range of national innovations improving access to training. For example, we were the first UK University to introduce enhanced professionally accredited training in clinical neuropsychology practice. Overall, I would say Bristol is a national pioneer which has transformed training in clinical neuropsychology within the UK. We also wish to make changes at an international level and to provide a range of CPD opportunities to a range of specialist and non-specialist audiences.

A key component of our success is teamwork, with a dedicated and highly integrated set of individuals who meet monthly to review all elements of training provided across the 8 programmes we offer. This may be one of our greatest strengths, because we can assess the quality of our programmes holistically, rather than each team member taking sole responsibility for a single module. I like to think of the entire team as superbly ‘joined up’ and this cohesiveness also extends to our relationship with professional services support. I am proud the team have been praised by external examiners, School reviews and in partnership reviews conducted within UoB.

As a group our simple goal is to facilitate the development of more highly skilled Clinical Neuropsychologists in the work force because we strongly believe in the real-world benefit this brings to those affected by neurological damage and disease.

If I was asked to provide a summary of our ethos, I would say: “challenge norms, foster collaboration, and encourage curiosity.”

Kit Pleydell-Pearce – I was one of the three founder members of our degrees in clinical neuropsychology run in partnership with the NHS. We were highly motivated to build Bristol into a centre of excellence for clinical training and began teaching professional clinical neuropsychology in 2010. Thus, this year is our 10th anniversary. Until 2013, all our intake were qualified clinical psychologists wishing to specialise in neuropsychology.

Prior to our programmes, the School of Psychological Science did not have any track record in clinical training, and this was unlike most other Russell Group Universities. Moreover, it is well known that most psychology students are deeply interested in clinical aspects of the subject. Given such levels of interest, from 2013 onwards, we decided to offer identical training to graduates, who were not trained clinicians. We took quite a risk offering identical levels of training to non-clinicians, but we introduced a whole range of additional support to mitigate absence of clinical experience and clinical skills. This risk really paid off, because in 2021, we cleared the path to allow this graduate training to count in part towards official recognition as a qualified clinical neuropsychologist. Thus, the graduate pathway has real value to our students.

I am very proud of the fact that from the very start, in 2010, we pioneered distance learning and blended learning to support clinicians working across the UK who wanted to study with us. Since 2010, we broadcast all lectures live over the Internet and gave access to recordings. This was many years before the University began to even consider these options, which are now much more familiar due to Covid-19. Over the years we supplemented blended learning with full distance learning degree programmes for any student not resident in the UK. For international students this enables part time study (illegal when resident in UK), opportunities to spread costs over two years, reduced travel and accommodation costs, opportunities to continue working and remain with their families. Moreover, there is a pressing need to improve the quality of clinical neuropsychology across the globe and a new MSc introduced in 2021 provides enhanced clinical practice training. I see these developments as a form of international widening participation. One international student who applied to us said: “Pursuing neuropsychology will allow me to become a part of the health sector in an area that is much neglected. Research that is conducted in [my country] has yet to thoroughly encompass neuropsychology or cognitive neurosciences. Our mental health facilities are dilapidated in infrastructure and lack trained professionals.” This student wanted to return home and help develop clinical neuropsychology after studying with us.

Our ambitions have led to the creation of eight interlocked postgraduate programmes which amount to around 20% of all students studying in our School. The various degrees meet a variety of UK training requirements ultimately supporting entry to the UK Specialist Register of Clinical Neuropsychologists. As a team, we have pioneered a wide variety and innovations within UK training and are now the UK lead for clinical neuropsychology professional training. Our graduate programmes also provide opportunities for research and experiential learning in a range of NHS hospitals.

We are a close-knit team who care passionately about the student experience with a track record in studying student educational experience, widening participation and diversity issues. Since 2010, the programme is overseen by monthly full-team committee meetings, with course representatives in attendance, and weekly meetings between the team and professional services.

I am very grateful for the nomination of our team for a teaching award and thank those who nominated and supported us in this process.

Ingram Wright – Alongside Professor Kit Pleydell-Pearce and Professor Martin Bunnage. I was a founder member of the Bristol training programmes in Clinical Neuropsychology. Our endeavour to support training in Clinical Neuropsychology has been about working as a strong and unified team from the start. In this respect, it has remained a privilege to work with such a capable and dedicated team in delivering course of such a well established reputation for excellence and innovation.

Over the last 3 years we have made substantial progress in becoming the first UK University to offer comprehensive professional training in clinical neuropsychology by adding a practice course to our programmes for which we were accredited 2 years ago. We are now seeing our first graduates compete these courses and our programmes have become increasingly popular as a result. Not only have we responded actively to changes in the professional training landscape but, within out professional body, we have initiated and pursued developments which are in the best interest of our profession and wider society in receipt of NHS services.

We have tackled issues around equity of access in our work with the British Psychological Society, modifying the accreditation standards and competency framework to support access for those from distinct branches of applied psychology. More generally, we have promoted access to CPD by continuing to run free to access events for our graduates including new webinars (remote access to psychology services, issues of diversity and inclusion in psychology) and podcasts delivered throughout the pandemic constraints. CPD activities have reached an audience of over 1000 individuals during the pandemic including those at undergraduate level potentially interested in clinical careers. We have particularly focussed on fostering the career aspirations of those from underprivileged and underrepresented backgrounds into clinical careers. Our engagement included a reverse mentoring scheme for BAME students with UHBW NHS Trust and provision for early career support with NHS trust / HEE appointments for candidates hitherto significantly underrepresented in our workforce.

Finally, and in recognition of the popularity of our applied neuropsychology courses for non-clinically trained candidates, we have sought professional recognition for these courses should candidates subsequently take up clinical training. Such innovation has transformed the landscape of clinical neuropsychology training in the UK, significantly increasing diversity and accessibility of our courses and positioning Bristol as an internationally recognised center of excellence and innovation.

Aida Moses- My first contact with the Bristol clinical neuropsychology programmes was as a student in the very first intake! The programme was designed for clinical psychologists like me employed in the NHS who wanted to pursue clinical neuropsychology. Now, ten years on, I have continued this journey in a different capacity as Deputy Clinical Director of our Postgraduate Programmes in Clinical and Applied Neuropsychology – whilst continuing to practise as a clinical neuropsychologist in the NHS. I wanted to maintain my connection with the course as it is a place of constant innovation, development, and opportunity for lifelong learning. Our Programmes continue to thrive and develop in fresh and innovative ways (frequently informed by feedback from current and past students). We always seek opportunities to enhance our digital provision and increase flexibility of content delivery and assessment whilst maintaining our strong academic standards (which have become a byword for ‘the Bristol course’). Our offerings are enthusiastically taken up by students eligible for the accredited and the non-accredited programmes alike, from all over the globe. Teaching and supporting them has been a privilege; watching them grow in confidence and further their careers gives us tremendous satisfaction. This is particularly pertinent in relation to students from countries where clinical neuropsychology is a relatively new discipline.

Delivering an identical curriculum to clinical and non-clinical students is not without its challenges. We worked hard to bridge the differences in the amount of clinical experience a student possesses and to ‘level the playing field’ across our programmes as much as possible. Most critically we introduced weekly small-group clinical tutorials, which offer our non-clinical students the opportunity to explore in depth various clinical and organisational aspects of a patient’s journey through neuropsychological NHS pathways. These tutorials are run by practising NHS clinicians, who carefully consider the topics and design the tasks, vignettes and exercises, and who invite experienced speakers and former patients. The clinical tutorials are offered in a face-to-face or live online format. In addition, we also offer our non-clinical students the opportunity to learn first-hand about neuropsychological tests in a variety of workshops. Our students benefit immensely from these experiences and it is so rewarding to watch their competencies grow as they study with us. And we have great nights out! (image attached).

Another innovation was blended learning, a mix of online delivery and study at Bristol. This involved both conventional lectures and discussions of patient cases and peer reviewed literature evaluating evidence-based practice. I run two units which involve student-led presentations and group discussion of patient cases and evaluation of evidence0based practice. This is such a rewarding part of the teaching for me and the students. We also invite experienced clinicians (many with distinguished parallel research careers) to supplement our taught content. International speakers allow greater cultural diversity to our content. All our taught content, across the years, is archived and remains available to our students, and this includes taught content, discussions, student presentations, career advice and training in academic and clinical skills.

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