20 June 2022

Medical lecturers should aim for the funny bone

The Back Page

Putting more humour into humoral theory can only be a good thing.


Today, The Back Page gives a huge shoutout to the medical students of Lebanon’s Beirut Arab University.  

They, along with the research team that studied them, have established that a laugh in the lecture room can sweeten the often challenging learning process. 

In the study, “The use of humour in medical education: students’ perspective”, published last week in the European Journal of Humour Research, senior lecturer Dr Rim Taleb and her team found students were definitely up for a giggle while boning up on anatomy. 

Teaching staff might also find the students were more likely to show up for lecturers and take more interest once there, the team suggested. 

Just over half the university’s medical students took part in the research survey. 

Just under two-thirds of participants owned up to being bored “often or sometimes” by the medical curriculum.  

On the best time for a belly laugh, well over two-thirds picked the arvo – presumably a healthier option than the three o’clock sugar hit. 

When it came to the kind of humour, the survey asked about cartoons and videos; questions and multiple-choice-questions; quotations and analogies; and skits and comedy sketches. 

Students in Lebanon’s pre-clerkship phase rated these forms a lot higher than their senior clerkship counterparts, suggesting the joke wears off as they grow up a bit. 

The Back Page was naturally eager to review the study’s findings on inappropriate humour. 

Three-quarters of the cohort considered mocking students was inappropriate; around half gave the thumbs down to sarcasm; and two-thirds felt that humour irrelevant to the course material should be avoided. 

Disappointingly, two out of five participants believed that the instructor appearing as a performer was inappropriate. We actually have no problem with the use of a gorilla suit in academic environments, but each to their own. 

Lebanon’s been doing it worse than tough in the past few years so (clown) hats off to the researchers and all who took part in this study.  

Got a great anatomy joke? penny@medicalrepublic.com.au is all ears.