The ELEPHANT criteria in medical education: can medical education be fun?

Med Teach. 2010;32(3):195-7. doi: 10.3109/01421591003614866.


'Hilarity and a good nature [and] a breezy cheerfulness help enormously in the study and in the practice of medicine,' said Sir William Osler, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford, pioneering medical educationalist, and arguably one of the greatest physicians of all time (Osler W. 1905 ). We present evidence that (1) Encouraging Learning, (2) Entertaining People, and (3) Having a Nice Time are dangerously powerful adjuncts to medical education. These are, by acronym, the ELEPHANT criteria. Encouraging is the motivating heart of the matter. Entertainment engages the mind and has been shown to enhance working memory and recall. Enjoyment is associated with deep learning, which comes with a whole host of benefits. However, learning in fear and misery can be an effective tool--but for other reasons--and the pessimistic personality type may respond badly to 'fun learning.' Even so, medical education that fulfills the ELEPHANT criteria can be an effective tool in training young doctors.

MeSH terms

  • Education, Medical*
  • Happiness*
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Students, Medical*
  • Teaching*