Friday, November 12, 2010



Do you teach with whimsy? or is your teaching always serious and to the point.  I’ve been doing a little research on teaching and humor, and I find it seems to be more common in subject areas where the content may be challenging or disturbing.  Its major use seems to be to relieve tension or to discus difficult subjects.  In this sense it seems more commonly used when training doctors or nurses, although this may be an artifact of the existence of therapeutic humor.
There are some very serious people considering humor, for instance, here “Educated Insolence”, or closer to home this paper on IHPT. As I’m sure you are aware IHPT is instructional humor processing theory.  This paper seems to indicate that telling bad off topic jokes does not aid student learning, but telling on topic good jokes can help. My thinking would be that humor can break down the barrier between the teacher and the class, and particularly with adult learners, overcome their feelings of insecurity  about being back in a learning situation. I also feel it can make your examples more memorable, and humorous examples can push your learning more towards a narrative form which can aid memory, but can also distract students from the true point of the exercise.
All thoughts on a postcard please...


  1. Larry, thank you for commenting on my own recent blog post about stop-animation.

    I've read your post, above, with great interest as I truly believe that you cannot separate good teaching/training from humour. I used to teach chefs and without humour, it was difficult to drive home important aspects of the course. I now teach teachers about the use of technology to support learning and find humour still to be the oil that eases the way towards full understanding.

    An example of humour with chefs was the use of Lenny Henry's clip to open a lesson on customer care and food service.



  2. Thanks for the comment, and thats a great clip!
    Humor, drama, and story telling, they're all part of effective teaching. The key trick is not to let the class fall asleep.

    all the best