CSU eliminated “Instructor has a sense of humor” from student evaluations several years ago, but here’s an interesting post from Maryellen Weimer’s Faculty Focus blog. Weimer summarizes the study this way:
…[T]he researchers begin by suggesting that teachers use humor that fits comfortably with who they are and how they teach. They point out that humor is not a necessary ingredient of effective instruction and that few things are worse than people trying to be funny when they aren’t. They suggest if an instructor doesn’t use humor but would like to accrue its benefits in class, the instructor should use the humor of others—by sharing cartoons, comics, or video clips.
Second, they reiterate the findings that humor is related to positive perceptions of the instructor and the learning environment and advise again against the use of humor that is negative or hostile. “Teachers should utilize humor that laughs with students rather than at them.” (p. 136)
Finally, if the goal is to use humor to increase learning and retention of course material, then use the humor to illustrate a concept just taught. This way, the humor helps students remember the material, and material can’t be learned unless it is remembered. And one thing about humor and learning is well-supported by the research: Humor positively affects levels of attention and interest. It’s a way to keep students engaged and involved with the course material.
Read the full post here: Humor in the Classroom: 40 Years of Research
What do you think about the uses of humor? Has your sense of humor helped or hurt your effectiveness in the classroom?