Pimping in Education

Journal Club Article: Kost, A., & Chen, F. M. (2015). Socrates was not a pimp: changing the paradigm of questioning in medical educationAcademic Medicine90(1), 20-24.

Socratic Method

Is a dialogue between teacher and students, instigated by the continual probing questions of the teacher, in a concerted effort to explore the underlying beliefs that shape the students views and opinions. Repeated questions: examining a claim, questioning that claim, and finding true knowledge.


The history and definition of Pimping (note: we are just discussing the educational terminology only in this post) and it’s all written in jest, however with some powerful undertones that can still probably be related to.

As the bedside nurse, do you see during medical rounds the very tricky question posed to junior doctors and the endless silence, and just being glad its not you?

“Pimp questions” – “should come in rapid succession and be essentially unanswerable”

Brancati (1989).

“The Art of Pimping” by Detsky in 2009 further described how pimping cements the attending-resident-student hierarchy. In describing pimping etiquette for attending physicians, he states: “Respect educational order. Never ask a medical student to respond to a question after a resident has answered incorrectly”

This alludes to the historical approach of medicine and healthcare for that matter in all things hierachical in the approach to learning. And “they legitimize the place of pimping in medical education, while disregarding its negative effects, such as those relating to language and pedagogy.”

The Art in Medicine

The approach to questionning learners and my own reflections on reading this article of being on the end of tricky questions, and I probably have put others in this very position trying to challenge and bring out knowledge and understanding (Note: with well meaning intentions). Similarities in the learning of ‘the art of medicine’, is the same as the ‘the art of nursing’, and utilising all that theoretical knowledge into the clinical environment, gaining exposure and buidling experience.

Pimping as Learning

“Students divided pimping into ‘good’ and ‘malignant’ categories. ‘Good pimping’ actions included questioning that advanced or enhanced the learning process and also encouraged students to be proactive about their learning. For example, students would read about relevant anatomy the night before a surgery because they knew they would be asked about it the next day. ‘Malignant pimping’ frequently employed techniques designed to humiliate the learner.”

Changes to Questionning for the Educator

  1. Puposeful questionning with deliberate consideration of the goal for the learner.
  2. Utilisise Socratic method to encourage critical thinking skills (learner collaboration, interpretive questioning, and reflecting).
  3. Application of adult learning theory, consideration of formative and summative strategy, safe learning environment and learning is a lifelong event.