Students generally appreciate teachers who skilfully use humour in the classroom more than those who do not. Although it is difficult to assess the pedagogical effectiveness of this appendix to teaching, studies tell us that humour helps to create an atmosphere conducive to learning, attracts the attention of learners, stimulates their creativity and motivation, and may even promote their retention of information. That said, while humour can become a weapon of “mass seduction”, it is certainly a double-edged sword since a single misstep can have the opposite effect in the blink of an eye. Here are 8 tips for making good use of humour in the classroom.
Favour benevolent humour and avoid entering the spectre of mockery, sarcasm, irony or so-called malignant joy.
The act of humour should never be directed at a learner.
Use humour only to highlight key concepts. *
Avoid excess: limit yourself to 3 or 4 humorous examples per hour.*
Adjust the degree of humour deployed according to the situation.
Do not use humour before or during an exam, as this may disturb more anxious learners.*
Favour “neutral” humour, i.e. avoid humour on taboo or sensitive subjects that could create embarrassing situations or a sense of injustice in the classroom.
If you are not comfortable using humour, it is better to refrain from using it! After all, having a sense of humour is not the first skill you expect from a good teacher.*
* These specific recommendations are those of Avner Ziv.
Catherine Meilleur has over 15 years of experience in research and writing. Having worked as a journalist and educational designer, she is interested in everything related to learning: from educational psychology to neuroscience, and the latest innovations that can serve learners, such as virtual and augmented reality. She is also passionate about issues related to the future of education at a time when a real revolution is taking place, propelled by digital technology and artificial intelligence.