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Tales from Real Life: Searching for Your Undergird

Thirty-two years ago, I began using humor in my teaching. Let’s be clear. I have never been a stand-up comedian, musician, singer, or Broadway performer. So how did I come up with theatrical techniques for my Johns Hopkins classes? I’ll explain. As it turns out, they also undergird the strategies for teaching the Net Geners. Ah ha. The plot thickens!

After a stint in the School of Education, I moved to the School of Nursing for a midlife jolt. Soon, it was close encounters of the jolt kind: my clinical skills were rated, on a scale of 0—10, a big fat goose egg. How was I supposed to develop statistics problems with clinical applications?

My solution: make them up. Drawing on my fertile imagination and twisted mind, I created humorous diseases, medications, body parts, and bizarre, but realistic clinical trials. The music, games, parodies, and dramatizations followed. Biostatistics met Broadway and the trajectory of my career changed forever.

My research that followed gave these methods a smidgen of legitimacy. The evidence reported in my articles and books established the links between students’ characteristics and multiple intelligences AND humor and multimedia as teaching tools.

I confess that my methods were created initially to cover up my incompetence in clinical knowledge. I’ve been totally ashamed of this for 19 years, but it’s amazing what can result serendipitously from incompetence and scrambling for ways to cover it up.

—Ronald A. Berk
The Johns Hopkins University

Published in:

Published In

15-Apr-08


Thriving in Academe

  • anc_dyn_linksHumor and the Net Generation
  • anc_dyn_linksTales from Real Life: Searching for Your Undergird
  • anc_dyn_linksTechniques that Connect with Net Geners
  • anc_dyn_linksBest Practices: Class Demonstrations Bring Broadway to Your Classroom
  • anc_dyn_linksIssues to Consider: Discovering Your “Undergird”
  • anc_dyn_linksReferences & Resources

More Issues of the Advocate

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  • anc_dyn_linksDecember 2009
  • anc_dyn_linksOctober 2009
  • anc_dyn_linksJune 2009
  • anc_dyn_linksApril 2009
  • anc_dyn_linksSpecial Salary Issue 2009
  • anc_dyn_linksFebruary 2009
  • anc_dyn_linksDecember 2008
  • anc_dyn_linksOctober 2008
  • anc_dyn_linksJune 2008
  • anc_dyn_linksSpecial Salary Issue 2008
  • anc_dyn_linksApril 2008
  • anc_dyn_linksFebruary 2008