RONALD A. BERK, PhD
CEO & President, Ronald A. Berk, LLC
Professor Emeritus, The Johns Hopkins University
Speaking & Writing
In July 2006, after retiring from The Johns Hopkins University, Ron incorporated as Ronald A. Berk, LLC, and became CEO and President of his own speaking business. He speaks to university administrators, faculty, and students; corporate HR directors, managers, trainers, and employees; and physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals on topics such as humor and multimedia, teaching strategies for the Net Generation, teaching in the multigenerational classroom, faculty evaluation, stress management, time management, a "fun" work environment, career direction, rating scale construction, and test-taking skills (click Presentations). He has published articles and books on most of those topics and continues to write in between his speaking and on the road. Ron has delivered hundreds of presentations (keynotes and workshops) at professional conferences and institutions in 42 states and 13 countries, including Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Serbia, Sweden, Taiwan, UK (Scotland), and United Arab Emirates (see Venues/Clients). See list of Testimonials on the most recent presentations and Why Hire Ron?
Ron served as Assistant Dean for Teaching (1997-2003). As Professor, he taught for 30 years at Johns Hopkins (1976-2006), 11 years in the School of Education and 19 in the School of Nursing, where he mentored numerous faculty and hundreds of students, all of whom unfortunately are still in prison or on probation. Here are the "statistics" (Aren't you excited?): he taught 170 courses in biostatistics, measurement, and research design, inflicting statistical pain on nearly 6000 students at the undergraduate, master's, and doctoral levels. He also served as the chair or a member of 96 doctoral dissertation committees in education, psychology, nursing, public health, and religion. Since retiring in 2006, he received the title Professor Emeritus.
Ron was co-investigator and statistician for more than 30 research grants in medicine, nursing, public health, and education. He destroyed scores of trees and shrubbery by publishing more than 150 journal articles (in more than 80 different journals) and chapters (see Articles) in educational, psychological, and healthcare measurement, and humor, plus 13 books (see Books). His most recent books are Top Secret Tips for Successful Humor in the Workplace (Coventry, 2009), The Five-Minute Time Manager for College Students (Coventry, 2009), and Thirteen Strategies to Measure College Teaching (Stylus, 2006). He wrote the textbook, Screening and Diagnosis of Children with Learning Disabilities, and has edited five "serious" books on criterion-referenced measurement, performance assessment, item and test bias, and program evaluation. His other books on humor include Humor as an Instructional Defibrillator (Stylus, 2002), and the prequel Professors Are from Mars, Students Are from Snickers (Stylus, 2003). During 2000, he wrote a monthly humor column, "Ask Mister Humor Person," for health professionals in the newsletter MedWorldNEWS.
He has given several hundred conference presentations, including more than 350 keynote/plenary sessions, workshops, and research presentations. Some of these on humor in college teaching and assessment have been presented at national/ international conferences, such as the Erma Bombeck Conference on Popular American Humor, International Society for Humor Studies Conference, International Humor Project Conference on the Positive Power of Humor and Creativity, Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor Conference, Lilly Conference on College Teaching, Canadian Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, and Association for Medical Education in Europe Conference (see Venues/Clients). The quality of Ron's publications above and these presentations reflects his life-long commitment to mediocrity and his professional motto: "Go for the Bronze!"
Awards and Honors
In 2009, Ron was appointed to the Editorial Board of MedEdWorld, a global online medical education network. He was given the Distinguished Reviewer Award (2005) by the Buros Institute of Mental Measurements in recognition of his scholarly contributions. He received the University's Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award (1993) and Caroline Pennington Award for Teaching Excellence (1997). Ron was inducted as a Fellow in the Oxford Society of Scholars (1998). He is a Lilly Conference Contributing Teacher-Scholar (Silver Distinction). He has also served on several editorial boards and as a reviewer for 16 journals and 8 publishing companies. Since 2000, he has been in the Federal Witness Protection Program twice, but is still living in Maryland under the name Puffy Snoop M & M.
Ron served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor (2003-2005). He is a past president of the National Council on Measurement in Education and served on the Council's Board of Directors for six years (1988-1994). Ron was recently excommunicated from the Council for "not being serious." He is now being required to complete 100 days of community service at a local comedy club before review for reinstatement. His associations include American Educational Research Association (AERA), National Council on Measurement in Education (NCME), POD Network in Higher Education, Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE-Canada), Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor (AATH), International Society for Humor Studies (ISHS), and League for Innovation Speakers Bureau.
Ron's Untold Story, Until Now!
Ron has NOT been a stand-up comedian, musician, singer, or Broadway performer. However, as the son of a Radio City Rockette and dance teacher, he began dancing on stage at age 4. He planned a career as a dancer and choreographer in the tradition of Bob Fosse and Michael Bennett on Broadway until the Vietnam War erupted. There were no dancing deferments. While at Johns Hopkins, he even auditioned for the national touring company of A Chorus Line, which was a truly humbling experience (Triple pirouettes in both directions? Are you kidding me? Nureyev I'm not!). It was back to teaching statistics.
Prior to his long teaching stint at Hopkins, Ron taught elementary and junior high school for 4 years in the Washington DC School System and served as an assessment specialist for 3 years in the Montgomery County (MD) School System.
He has always used humor spontaneously in teaching and in life situations. So how were all of the systematic humor teaching techniques created? After teaching for 11 years in the School of Education, he moved to the medical institutions at Hopkins for a midlife jolt. As the only non-nurse and male in the School of Nursing, Ron taught all of the undergraduate and graduate statistics courses. Unfortunately, as he began teaching, he soon realized his limitations in the clinical area. On a scale of 0-10, his clinical skills, rounded to six decimal points, were rated a big goose egg 0. The challenge was developing in-class and homework statistics problems with applications in clinical practice and research.
Ron's solution (Bet you can't wait to hear this. Are you on the edge of your recliner?) was to: Make them up. Yup, that's it. Drawing on his extremely fertile imagination and twisted mind, he created humorous diseases, medications, body parts, and strange clinical trials to test the students' abilities to apply the statistics. As a daily change of pace from the super-serious courses in pharmacology, pathophysiology, psychopathology, and every other clinicalology, the students loved those problems. The students kept laughing and Ron kept adding more and more humor into his teaching. Soon he included humor in the syllabus, handouts, examples, reviews, and test items. And the trajectory of his career changed forever. Clearly, Ron admits that the humor was created to cover up his incompetence in clinical knowledge. This cover-up was successful for 19 years, until his retirement. Not bad!!
Media articles on Ron's teaching, presentations, and research:
"Did You Hear the One about the Professor?" The Chronicle of Higher Education [cover story and lead article]
"Who Says Statistics Can't Keep You in Stitches?" Johns Hopkins Magazine
Ronald A. Berk, PhD
Biostatistics and Measurement
The Johns Hopkins University
10326 Hickory Ridge Rd., Apt. 618
Columbia, Maryland 21044
Office: (410) 940-7118
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