When does humor help to get your point across?
Photo by Dan McGarry “Shy Guy” CC BY-SA 3.0
Imagine two different college classes: in one the instructors is always logical and serious; and in the other the instructor throws in frequent jokes only tangentially related the subject. In which class do students learn more? According to research it depends the students. In one study, Melissa Bekelja Wanzer found that humor found offensive or directed at students interfered with learning. In another study, Mark Shatz, and Frank LoSchiavo discovered that when a professor made self-deprecating jokes and included subject-related cartoons in on-line classes, students said that they enjoyed the class more.
But that research doesn’t tell us in which class the students learned more. The problem is that most studies on how humor affects learning end up with mixed results. Wasner found that when professors use a dry sense of humor when instructing, the students perceived them as better communicators…
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