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Should Teachers Tell Jokes In Class

Should teachers tell jokes in class?

3 min read
  • The science of learning

Have you ever wondered how humour can impact your students’ learning experience? Well, a recent study found that incorporating jokes and laughter into your lessons can not only make the classroom environment more enjoyable, but also enhance the learning process.

Read on to find out more about:   

  • The positive effects of humour in the classroom 
  • How to use humour in the classroom (and how not to use it)
  • Integrating humour in education content

Should teachers tell jokes in class?

The positive effects of using jokes in the classroom

Let’s first take a look at three ways in which humour can positively impact the learning experience of your students…

Humour increases students’ attention to study material 

Recent research investigating the use of teacher humour found that over 88% of students reported paying more attention in class when humour was present. A different study also discovered that students became more engaged with the material when teachers included light-hearted jokes in their feedback.

Researchers argue that this is because humour can act as a cognitive cue, helping students remember the key points of information they are taught. For example, a Literature teacher might make a playful remark about Romeo and Juliet, saying “They had such a ‘grave’ misunderstanding,” creating laughter but also serving as a cognitive cue to help students remember the tragic miscommunication in Shakespeare’s famous play. 

Humour improves teacher relatability 

Another benefit of humour is that it makes you more relatable to your students, which is crucial for effective learning. Students are more likely to listen and learn from a teacher they have a connection with, as they view the lesson’s content as valuable information worth learning. Indeed, a study discovered that students view teachers who use humour as more credible and approachable. 

Humour improves sense of belonging 

A sense of belonging is essential for student retention and academic success, particularly among struggling students. The study mentioned earlier found that 80% of students reported feeling an enhanced sense of belonging if teachers used humour in their lessons. This is because humour can reduce social distance, strengthen communication and decrease anxiety within the class. 

Help your staff understand and apply the latest and most important Cognitive Science research.

How (not) to use jokes in the classroom

So, now that we’ve established the benefits of humour, let’s explore some practical tips on your delivery – namely, some common pitfalls that may do more harm than good.

Don’t try too hard to be funny 

Humour often thrives in its most natural and spontaneous form. Forcing humour can lead to awkward situations and may not have the desired effect on student engagement. Humour doesn’t have to be forced; it can naturally emerge as an extension of your personality. That is when it becomes a powerful tool to boost student engagement. Let your personality shine and make learning fun!

Avoid negative or hostile humour 

It’s important to consider the impact of humour before using it in the classroom. Negative or hostile humour can isolate students, create fear, anxiety and even hostility in the classroom. Inappropriate humour can also reduce students’ attention to study material by increasing their cognitive load, meaning that students can store less of the relevant content they are learning about in long-term memory.  

Furthermore, teacher-student relationships may be harmed through inappropriate humour. It pays dividends to carefully consider both the context and nature of your jokes.  

Keep it appropriate to your audience 

It goes without saying that the humour you use should be age-appropriate for your audience. Younger students may struggle to understand irony, exaggerations or distortions (devices commonly used in humour). You may also want to be cautious not to overuse humour, as this may lead students to perceive you as less knowledgeable or credible. Teaching is not a popularity contest, and the learning material takes priority.

Final thoughts

Recent research has shown that the majority of students enjoy teachers using humour in the classroom. It has the power to facilitate student learning and enhance the relationship between you and your students. However, make sure you don’t go overboard as that can overshadow the educational content. 

Humour is one of the many strategies you can use to boost learning in your school. To learn more about how you can create a more engaging and effective learning environment for your students, book our CPD workshop on The Science of Learning.

About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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