Preparing for Instruction 2: Using humour to create a positive learning environment

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I tend to already use some humour when instructing and have had positive student feedback so far. I found an interesting article that outlines good and bad use of humour in education, and thought it would be helpful to validate and strengthen my use of humour in the classroom.

Refer to: Use of humor to enhance learning: Bull’s eye or off the mark. Poirier, T. and Wilhelm, M. (2014)

Today’s students expect an enjoyable learning environment. As I suspected, research shows that humour in the classroom can be incorporated positively. Humour can create greater interest of a subject, make learning fun, help deal with sensitive subject matter, reduce anxiety or can even be used as an icebreaker. Humour can provide a relaxed environment to facilitate learning. But with this teaching teaching strategy, the type of humour and timing must be appropriate.

The article speaks about the use of effective humour. This could include facial expressions (smiling, laughter), using appropriate comments or jokes, linking content to puns or riddles and using relevant comic strips in visual teaching material. Even though there are positive uses of humour in the classroom, there are also negative uses of humour. An instructor should NOT use: sarcasm, degrading remarks towards students, offensive humour (sexual, disability, ethnic content) or excessive humour. Harmful humour can be distracting and actually prevent learning.

Effective humour tends to be more natural and spontaneous, but some humour takes planning, such as developing an icebreaker for a class or including relevant comics or riddles in teaching materials. The students must continue to perceive the instructor as a caring and respectful individual. These are some ways to enhance the effectiveness of humour as an educator: be yourself, use appropriate timing, be politically correct, know your audience, acknowledge other’s humour, and be open to feedback.

Based on the information I researched, I plan to continue using humor in my teaching process. One strategy I intend to incorporate more often is the use of icebreakers or opening comical comments. I hope this will gain the students’ attention and set the tone for a fun, engaging lesson. I also intend to closely monitor feedback from my students to ensure humor is not hindering their learning. I believe feedback and grading assignments needs to be more professional, straight forward and concise. I would be concerned that humor during these evaluation processes could be confusing or down play the importance of the evaluation.

Overall, I believe humour has a positive effect on the teaching environment. Also, our students can always use a little “encourage mint”…

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