Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine student lecture go down in a most delightful way.
More than ten years ago, when I started my present job, I "inherited" a medical-student-elective teaching assignment from a departing colleague. The topic was the selection of correct imaging studies based on several clinical scenarios (e.g. suspected acute pulmonary embolism) and variants of those scenarios (e.g. suspected acute pulmonary embolism in a pregnant female). The session was meant to be interactive. So I jumped right in and did my best to present the material exactly as it was provided to me, with gusto of course. But the following next few years, I found myself making small changes, and one year a bigger change, incorporating discussion of ACR Appropriateness Criteria. I believed that the changes had modernized and enhanced the material. But by last year, the material (and my presentation of it) seemed stale. I dreaded having to present it yet again.
So this year, the evening before I was scheduled to run the session, I had a sudden burst of creativity (despite not being in the shower where I normally get my most creative ideas). In fact, I was about to call into a two-hour teleconference, leaving me with little time to execute my plan. But with a small bribe — er, reward — in hand, my 11-year old son furiously gathered poster board, pencils, a ruler, a fistful of Legos, and a stack of last-minute computer printouts. Then Second Lieutenant Stephen reported to Captain Mom for his mission instructions. By the time I was done with the teleconference, with the newly-promoted First Lieutenant having successfully completed his mission, except for the "tidy up after yourself" part, I had only to add some text. And get some sleep.
The next morning, I worked in the reading room until noon, then gathered up everything to walk to the small auditorium where I would unleash my new creation on an unsuspecting-but-captive group of medical students. Would they like it? I wondered. More importantly, would they learn something?
"Hello, everyone. We're going to play Monopoly today." I think I had them at "play". Everyone was smiling and chattering, picking their Lego tokens, rolling dice, handling money, and...wait for it...animatedly discussing clinical scenarios using ACR Appropriateness Criteria and asking questions, really good questions and lots of them. Now I don't know if Monopoly is the board game that is best-suited for teaching ACR Appropriateness Criteria. I had also considered Snakes & Ladders. But ultimately, I don't think which game I picked mattered, as long as everyone was engaged with the material in a robust manner. They barely seemed to notice that they were learning because it was so much fun.
In every job that must be done
There is an element of fun
You find the fun and snap!
The job's a game
from "A Spoonful of Sugar" in Mary Poppins
Mary Poppins sang about the miraculous abilities of a spoonful of sugar to make even castor oil palatable. I'll take her word for it, having no intention to personally confirm her claim. But one thing I can profess from my recent experience: when teaching and learning get stale for both the teachers and the students, inject a healthy dose of fun. Now there's a prescription Mary Poppins would approve of.