Gregory House in the Classroom

Over six seasons House has provided us with some of the most unorthodox medical diagnoses seen on television. The title character, Gregory House, has been called the Sherlock Holmes of the medical field. So what can this cynical, curmudgeonly, genius show us about how our classrooms work?

Questionable ethics and drug addiction aside, House’s diagnostic methods demonstrate interesting ways of teaching. House and his team begin by brainstorming possible causes of the patient of the week’s symptoms. House guides the whiteboard sessions, but allows his team to propose their own solutions. This gets the brains of the team flowing.

In a problem solving process, which can be molded to many subjects, the teacher can guide the students in diagnosing the problem. Why do you think the colonists wanted to break away from Britain? This plant is brown and dry. What causes that? The back and forth analyzing the question and possible causes can lead to a lot of unexpected discoveries by the students. They will also feel like that had a real hand in finding out solutions, rather than just being outright told.

House is not afraid to try any method to find the solution. Nor does he or his team fear being wrong. In the classroom, no student should be afraid to be wrong. Being wrong is one of the greatest learning experience one can have. It opens up so many possibilities. A student who has arrived at a wrong conclusion can now explore why they were wrong and how to achieve the correct answer. By trying various methods a student sees there is not always simply one way to solve a problem or always one solution.

House uses a holistic approach to diagnostics. While he does use medical tests, House does not rely on hard data alone. House and his team explore the patients lives, often searching their homes and jobs for clues. House never discounts what sort of psychological factors may be effecting the patient either. This past season, House and team were attempting to diagnose why a patient was suffering from locked-in syndrome after a bicycle accident, leaving the man conscious but completely paralyzed. Tests alone could not explain the syndrome. After consulting the man, through use of a computer interface, the team finds out he last his job and was moonlighting as a janitor where he received cadmium poisoning. Had House and his team fail to dig deeper into the man’s personal life they never would have been able to cure him.

Reformers and students alike can learn from this example. To get a true grasp of a problem it is best to view it from all sides, using hard data and soft. Only then can one get a true picture of the solution.

There you have it. Another life lessons provided by pop culture.

Anyone else have any lessons that can be applied to the classroom or ed reform from pop culture?