Professor Steven Burr
Professor in Medical Education
Peninsula Medical School (Faculty of Health)
Deputy Director of Assessment for Peninsula Medical School
Co-Lead for Physiology teaching to medicine
Quality Lead for Peninsula Medical School
University Chair for Quality and Standards
Roles on external bodies
General Medical Council - Education Associate (2016-24); Panel member for GMC’s National Review of Scotland (2017-18); Panel member for GMC's accreditation of Aston Medical School (2018-23)
University of Nottingham School of Medicine - External Examiner for year 3 of BMBS (2021-25)
University of Buckingham School of Medicine - External Examiner for year 2 of MBChB (2018-23)
National University of Ireland (Dublin, Cork, Galway, & Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland) - Extern Examiner for Physiology (2017-2019)
University of Manchester School of Medicine - External Examiner for year 3 of MBChB (2016-20)
University of Liverpool School of Medicine - External Examiner for year 1 of MBChB (2015-19)Medical Schools Council - Member of Assessment Alliance Reference Group (2010-22), Member of Equality Implementation Working Group (2017-19), Lead for assessment adjustments and mitigating circumstances survey (2018-19)
Ministry of Justice, Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee: Member for Avon & Somerset (2017-19); Member for Avon, Somerset & Gloucestershire (2019-26); Chair of South West Regional Conduct Committee (2019-26)
European Board of Medical Assessors - Online Adaptive International Progress Test; Erasmus project - Partner member (2018-22)
I have developed expertise in several areas, primarily revolving around either medical education or neurotoxicology. My neurotoxicology research has used electrophysiological methods to help elucidate mechanisms of action. My interests in medical education include promoting the progressive integration and improvement of Computer Aided Learning and Assessment. I am also a passionate advocate of clinical relevance. My aims are to do all I can to help students fulfil their ambitions to become competent professionals, and to help institutions improve the quality of their assessments.
Other interests include the philosophy of physiology and the limits of human physiology in extreme environments. See Burr SA (2006) The body in balance: A physio-philosophical view of life (ISBN 978-0-9554151-0-4).
Key publications are highlightedJournals
While working for the Home Office as a forensic scientist in 1995 I was a member of the team that first introduced the UK’s National DNA Database (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_National_DNA_Database).
For my MSc I discovered that it was possible to protect regions of the brain from chemical damage by keeping them active processing sensory input (Holton et al., 1997).
I began teaching medical students in 1996, and I have worked for three medical schools in a very wide variety of academic roles. My aim is to empower students to fulfil their potential and multiply their positive impact on society.
For my PhD I worked with people who had cystic fibrosis at several hospitals to optimise antibiotic drug dosage, to maximise treatment of their lung infections while minimising irreversible side effects to improve the quality of life and life expectancy of all people with cystic fibrosis (Mulheran et al., 2001).
As a postdoctoral lab researcher I overturned the dogma that the mechanistic difference between type I and type II pyrethroids was attributed to chloride ion channel effects (Burr & Ray, 2004).
I have mentored various academic staff, and also initiated and led an interprofessional day conference focussed on assessment every year for 10 years. These were themed around feedback in 2010, standards in 2011, transition in 2012, psychometrics in 2013, e-assessment in 2014, professionalism in 2015, equality in 2016, student perceptions in 2017, modified assessment provision in 2018, and teamwork in 2019.
Since 2015, I have been an external examiner to six other medical schools; and since 2016 I have worked as an Associate for the General Medical Council, where I have been involved in the review of quality and standards in medical education at four further medical schools. My aim is to help institutions to improve the quality of their assessments.
I am the inaugural chair of the Quality and Standards committee at the University of Plymouth. As such I had responsibility throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for safeguarding the policies and regulations affecting all students (approximately 18,000 including enrolments at partner institutions) and for the quality and standard of their awards.
Since 2019, I have been working pro bono as the inaugural chair of the southwest Regional Conduct Advisory Committee for the Ministry of Justice, overseeing conduct matters for all magistrates for 11 benches within 7 counties of England (approximately 1200 magistrates). I led the structural reorganisation of processes, created our first Terms of Reference, and initiated delegation of authority to establish the committee as an empowered and sustainable team. I am responsible for overseeing decisions about all complaints related to the conduct of magistrates across the region, and thereby maintaining public confidence in justice.
I initiated in 2019, and subsequently led, the publication of a comprehensive textbook dedicated to supporting candidates to pass the GMC’s Medical Licensing Assessment Applied Knowledge Test. The examination is a pre-requisite for registering to practice as a doctor in the UK from 2024, and must be passed by all final year medical students in the UK (approximately 10,000/year) and all international doctors (approximately another 10,000/year) who wish to practice in the UK. The book also created development opportunities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for significant numbers of doctors to maintain their scholarship; mostly practicing clinicians from all specialties, including 2 co-editors, 23 section editors, and 300 topic authors. All royalties from Cambridge University Press are pledged to be used charitably to support medical scholarships.
In 2020, when reimagining all of the knowledge assessments for the medicine programme at the University of Plymouth, I had the idea for progress testing that adapts by content (Content Adaptive Progress Testing). I led the development of the concept over 2021-22, to start implementation in 2023. Content Adaptive Progress Testing has the potential for profound and widespread impact on current approaches to examining performance, to ensure ability in all aspects required when determining whether a standard has been achieved.