February 27, 2006

Using Humor in class

Am just posting this for future reference. It touches on several themes I've been contemplating recently.
As institutions of higher education engage in organizational soul searching, the teaching activities of the faculty are receiving increased attention. Scholars in the field of higher education underscore the importance of effective teaching and facilitating student learning outcomes has become a primary concern of university faculty and administrators. Well respected scholars such as Ernest Boyer, Alexander Astin, and Sylvia Grider have highlighted the need for instructional improvement in higher education in recent years. The focus on the student is a fundamental theme in instructional effectiveness (Kher, 1996).

The role of the teacher in producing student-centered learning has been the subject of considerable discussion. Pollio and Humphreys (1996) found effective teaching revolved around the connection established between the instructor and the student. The behavior of the teacher influences the quality of instruction and the learning environment that is created (Lowman, 1994). It is the faculty members who primarily determine the quality of the experience in the classroom (Cross, 1993). Duffy and Jones (1995) describe the professor, content and student as interactive and interdependent, each shaped by the characteristics and requirements of the other two. Lowman found the most common descriptor of effective college teachers was "enthusiastic," and teachers are considered to be both performers and motivators. As Loomans and Kolberg (1993) remarked, enthusiasm and laughter are often infectious.

Teachers must be creative because of the critical role they play in creating an environment conducive to optimal student learning. Humor is often identified as a teaching technique for developing a positive learning environment (Ferguson Campinha-Bacote, 1989; Hill, 1988; Schwarz, 1989; Warnock, 1989; Walter, 1990). When an instructor establishes a supportive social climate, students are more likely to be receptive to learning. Humor is a catalyst for classroom "magic," when all the educational elements converge and teacher and student are both positive and excited about learning. Instructors can foster classroom "magic" through improved communication with students by possessing a playful attitude and a willingness to use appropriate humor (Duffy Jones, 1995).


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