Soundings Soundings

Student feedback

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 01 July 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:59
  1. James Owen Drife, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology
  1. Leeds

    The medics' revue is a tradition that does not stand still. Compared with our own efforts as students, today's shows have more sophisticated backing tracks, more gender equality, and much more bumping and grinding (all of it from the male members of the cast). The comparison is memory based, however, not evidence based. Ours was a pre-video generation—something that causes me mingled regret and relief.

    Today's performers seem so confident, with their synchronised dance routines involving all four limbs and their benign responses to heckling colleagues. The targets hardly change but the satire can still be original. This year an offstage voice announced a preclinical lecture: a Chinese student stood gravely at a lectern and spoke in fluent Cantonese, with the occasional insertion of “immunology … T cell … cytokine …”

    As a senior member of staff you enjoy the obvious jokes, like the dean's face on the sun rising above the Meditubbies, but you sense that others are passing you by. Young teachers whom you regard as rather trendy are lampooned because their clothes are out of fashion. You smile uneasily.

    But it goes deeper than dress sense. The students are cool. The Ali G lookalike appeared last year but not this year. The humour is post-ironic and post-stereotyping: “Aren't you from Ethiopia?” “No, I'm from Sri Lanka. It's just that I've shaved my head.” What on earth must these knowing undergraduates think of our clumsy attempts to teach them correct attitudes?

    For the staff, the revue provides better feedback than a sackful of questionnaires. This comes less from the scripts than from audience reaction, as some remarks are greeted with a roar of the laughter of recognition. It tells you a lot about other people's teaching styles, though the most spectacular response is when female students name a would-be Don Juan.

    An annual jab of disrespect should be compulsory for everyone, particularly those of us whom overconfidence could otherwise lead into danger. The BMA would benefit—but who would put on the show?

    I left happy, and not just because I had been sung about by a bowtie-bedecked chorus. There is something life affirming about people putting heart and soul into doing a thing well. And about a virtuoso trumpeter. As Ali G might say, it gives you hope for da future and dat's good, man, innit?

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