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Abstract

Used in literature, medicine and psychology, but also in leadership, humor has a special role in the classroom being considered an effective and appreciated tool for teaching. Studies on this issue (Herbert .P., Cornett, C. etc.) indicate the importance of using humor in the process of capturing and maintaining students’ attention, in creating a positive relationship between teachers and students, in reducing stress and tension in the classroom, facilitating learning and supporting a good retention, developing creativity and streamlining teaching in general.
Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 180 ( 2015 ) 828 – 833
Available online at www.sciencedirect.com
1877-0428 © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
Peer-review under responsibility of The Association “Education for tomorrow” / [Asociatia “Educatie pentru maine”].
doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.02.218
ScienceDirect
The 6th International Conference Edu World 2014 “Education Facing Contemporary World
Issues”, 7th - 9th November 2014
Implications of using humor in the classroom
Daniela Jeder
*
"Stefan cel Mare" University, Str. Universitatii nr. 13, Suceava, 720229, Romania
Abstract
Used in literature, medicine and psychology, but also in leadership, humor has a special role in the classroom being
considered an effective and appreciated tool for teaching. Studies on this issue (Herbert .P., Cornett, C. etc. ) indicate the
importance of using humor in the process of capturing and maintaining students’ attention, in creating a positive relationship
between teachers and students, in reducing stress and tension in the classroom, facilitating learning and supporting a good
retention, developing creativity and streamlining teaching in general.
The present study addresses the issue of using humor in the classroom, outlining an analysis of the ethical and unethical
implications of using humor in the educational act. The conclusions demonstrate the need to pay a greater attention to training
teachers in the ethical spirit to appeal to the humanizing strategies of teaching in general, using humor artfully at lessons being
one of the most representative ones.
© 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
Peer-review under responsibility of The Association “Education for tomorrow” / [Asociatia “Educatie pentru maine”].
Keywords: humor, sense of humor, ethical and unethical in the use of humor, strategies of initial / continuing teachers’ training.
Introduction
Used in literature, medicine and psychology, but also in leadership, advertising or media, humor has a special
role in the classroom being considered an effective and appreciated tool for teaching. Studies on this issue (Herbert
.P., Cornett, C. etc. ) indicate the importance of using humor in the process of capturing and maintaining students’
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +4 0748397923; fax: +4 0230520465
E-mail address: danielajeder@usv.ro
© 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
Peer-review under responsibility of The Association “Education for tomorrow” / [Asociatia “Educatie pentru maine”].
829
Daniela Jeder / Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 180 ( 2015 ) 828 – 833
attention, in creating a positive relationship between teachers and students, in reducing stress and tension in the
classroom, facilitating learning and supporting a good retention, developing creativity and streamlining teaching in
general.
1. The use of humor in the classroom
1.1 Resonances of using humor in relationships with students
The sense of humor is appreciated as one of the essential qualities of the teacher he/she transmits it to the
student (by calling to humor), trust, comfort, relaxation, benevolence but a positive view on life.
Essential in interpersonal relationships, able to make connections and create a warm atmosphere, with a
fantastic power to transmit energy to the learner (if used in a positive sense), humor should be part of the training of
trainers concerns - both of those who have a stronger orientation toward humor, and especially of others; those in the
first category are necessary parts to use humor in ethical limits, others - to first identify the resonances of humor in
the work with students and then to practice how to use it correctly / ethically in teaching.
The humor indicates the teacher’s ability to express intelligent and spiritual expression, being an effective
way to capture attention first by calling to emotion. If we call to the positive emotion, as is natural in an activity with
students, the implications can be distinguished: the association with positive experiences supports learning,
motivation for this activity and thus increases learning power, as well as academic achievement.
Studies conducted on the topic under discussion (Duffy & Jones, 1995, for example) indicate other benefits of
using humor in the classroom - retrieving information from previous lessons, retaining information more easily,
humor being a smart way to stimulate children for knowledge, as a catalyst between students and teacher and an
energizing of the intellect.
Usually, the teacher calls to jokes, funny analogies, puns, allusions, comic or irony, and also teasing, even
sarcasm or ridicule. Unusual or unconventional associations, role-plays, gender stereotypes, appeal to fantasy /
imagination etc. are also ways of building humor in the classroom. Funny questions addressed even in the oral
examinations or tests may be used by the teacher to relax and alleviate the atmosphere.
It is important for the humor not to have humiliating, derogatory, caustic shades, not to affect in any way
those involved.
Relevant humor has so many cognitive and psychological benefits of which we summarize: maintains
attention and arouses curiosity of pupils / students, requests thinking, attention and develops critical thinking
(Herbert, P.1991), develops the skill of nuanced communication, replaces tension and anxiety during classes with a
relaxed atmosphere and promotes a positive environment, thus resulting a fun learning process , eliminates boredom,
routine, and encourages students to get out of patterns and try new approaches, has a role in socialization and
strengthening the group of students. We must not forget the therapeutic functions of humor - "it acting as a valve in
the classroom" (Herbert, P.1991).
Humor can create pleasant experiences to students if the teacher knows to use a quality humor.
1.2 Some theories about humor
Over time, the problem of humor caught the attention of many thinkers, outlining a series of ideas,
sometimes contrasting. In Antiquity, for instance, Plato despised humor mostly because it was directed against
others with malice and contempt. In turn, Hobbes believed that laughter takes offensive forms and usually occurs
when the competitive spirit is manifested between people, some showing their superiority over others.
The two thinkers analyze humor and scale it according to its moral dimensions, concluding that humor can
provide moral issues.
Specialty literature ( ) synthesizes three humor theories: the superiority theory (Gruner) the incongruity
theory (Koestler, Suls) and the aggressiveness theory from psychoanalytic perspective proposed by Freud.
The superiority theory synthesizes the idea that the pleasure to call to humor comes from the feeling of
superiority of the one who laughs. The incongruity theory outlines the idea of a discrepancy between what is
830 Daniela Jeder / Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 180 ( 2015 ) 828 – 833
expected and what is received the contrast (arisen, for example, in a joke) evokes laughter. Freud's theory
describes a psychoanalytic perspective of humor, believing that humor appears as a disguised form of
aggressiveness.
Authors Matthew Hurley, Daniel Dennett, and Reginald Adams in their work Inside Jokes: using humor to
reverse- engineer the mind- (2011, Massachusetts Institute of Technology) - remember: biological theories, play
theories, superiority theories, release theories, incongruity and incongruity-resolution theories, surprise theories
and Bergson's mechanical theories.
Starting from these theories underlying the understanding of humor with its many facets , teachers must
realize that humor can be used both positively and negatively in the classroom, the line is very easily passed and it is
important the way of making the choices.
2. How innocent is humor?
2.1 Unethical aspects of using humor in working with students
At questions as How innocent is humor? or How moral is humor ? specialty literature (Black, Forro, 1999)
points out that some forms of humor may have a number of negative influences and in these situations humor may
offend, can inhibit communication because of different styles to make jokes (which some do not understand), can
create tensions, can trigger even fear, stress and depression.
There are many variations of humor, among them being irony, sarcasm or ridicule that represent those
forms of humor that people call to with relative ease, considering them frequently innocent and clever forms to joke.
Most times, though, these forms of humor violate ethical boundaries and become risky, offensive, derogatory.
Unfortunately, negative facets of humor are common also in the classroom, being used by teachers (consciously or
not) and take the form of that subtle and painful violence affecting self image, confidence, that trigger and maintain
pupils’/students' frustration. These forms of humor are used to dominate, bully / hurt or manipulate students. In
school, "misuse of humor creates a hostile learning environment that stifles rapidly communication and self-
esteem." (Loomans, Kolberg, 1993).
So, humor is not always funny, especially when it is abusively used and it passes the ethical boundaries.
2.2.1 Hostile, offensive humor, potentially conflictual
Different forms of humor such as irony or sarcasm may become variations of hostile, offensive, potentially
conflictual humor. Both irony and sarcasm is met in the classroom also as a sanction directed towards the students.
Both have common elements: can arouse laughter (less among the victims). If irony is not always malicious,
sarcasm is associated with a particular harassment of the person and aims to cause pain.
Usually irony calls to humorous means to convey the opposite senses of the communicated, drawing the
contrast between expectations and what happens in reality. This difference between appearance and the insinuated
meanings makes it hard to establish rules for the construction and identification of irony. Irony depends on the
context, the power of transmission of the message and the receiver’s ability to interpret. We know the meaning of
the Socratic irony and self-irony and their role in discovery and knowledge.
It is stated that irony tries to remove faults (in school students’ faults); unfortunately, we often encounter
the senseless, cheap irony that manifests as the desire to dominate and exercise superiority; aimed for students in its
less nice form, often loaded by the teacher’s arrogance and sense of power, irony triggers shame that causes soul
suffering, especially among sensitive students, students in their teens, but also adult students or learners.
Understood as dry humor, sarcasm takes the form of a bitter (bitter irony) sharp, offending remark to the victim - in
this case the victim is the pupil or the student, usually.
Sarcasm expresses in a malicious and arrogant way disrespect, contempt and focuses on the othersfaults
and weaknesses. Putting on his note of humor, "it can reach up to rudeness that is seen as lack of civility
"(fr.incivilité) and as a form of violence that results from lack of courtesy, non-recognition or violating elementary
rules of social life, lack of courtesy , unladylike expression (...) " ( Cocorada, 2008)
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Daniela Jeder / Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 180 ( 2015 ) 828 – 833
Sarcasm strengthens, thus, the sense of power of the aggressor and the feeling of lack of respect of the
victims.
Irony, sarcasm, ridicule (by calling the nicknames given to students, for example), humiliating remarks or
insults dissimulated in fun, can be forms of inappropriate humor that intimidates, assaults, causes dramatic tension
among pupils / students.
The conclusion is that in school there are elements of indirect, psychological violence supported by unethical
use of humor.
In its harshest forms, humor is manifested through inhumanity, also used in excess, triggers physical and
emotional stress among students, fitting into the category of didactic-geniuses and / or abusive behaviours of
teachers leading to the so-called moral harassment. If didactic-genius is defined as a "pathological state of anxiety
and depression encountered in some students as a result of the didactic mistakes of educators" (DEX), moral
harassment involves destabilization, offense, results in the victim blame, loss of confidence, effacement of his/her
image. (. ...) If didactic-geniuses are most often the result of the teachers’ ignorance, moral harassment happens by
intentional and insincere actions.
In school we can identify them as forms of violence. We recall here the symbolic violence (suggested by French
sociologist P. Bourdieu ) that "after Godett (2006) (taken over from E. Cocorada, 2008) is necessary when the
student or the teacher is not regarded with respect, when the natural needs of participants in an activity are not
recognized and respected, when there are no connections between individuals, but a generalized indifference".
Unethical humor belongs to such a category of violence.
The experimental pseudo-violence can also comprise some negative forms of humor. Being a form of
aggression "that tests the limits, norms, rules by challenge, that not results from destructive intentions, but it is the
result of doing what is forbidden" (idem), this type of violence is seen, for example, in the case of excellent students
who adopt behaviors at the line of politeness and lack of common sense - who use acid, inappropriate, provocative,
even offensive jokes or ironies, in order to experience the violation of school rules and regulations.
In this context, the unethical dimensions of humor, represent either the right to action, or the right to defense,
constitute health risk for those involved - for students and teachers alike; we support this idea by appealing to the
statement of the authors of the paper Defense mechanisms - Jacquet Marie-Madeleine and Claude Lhote (2002)
which points out that "irony and self-irony are the negative facets of humor used to avoid painful or awkward
feelings."
It is important for the teachers to be trained to prevent these forms of school violence and to adopt a desirable,
balanced behavior. A detailed information on the dangers and negative effects of unethical use of humor in the
classroom, we believe, would help in creating a more complete and nuanced picture of what an educational activity
taken in accordance with the ethical standards of the teaching profession means.
2.2.2 About humor, persuasion and how to influence with integrity
Both the teacher's ability to persuade as well as the sense of humor proved to be especially valuable in working
with students. Understood as "the process of changing opinions, attitudes or behavior of some people aware that this
change is expected by exposure to the messages with this purpose" (Chelcea, 2004), persuasion may call to elements
of humor. If masterfully wields the elements of humor, the teacher will obtain an increase of trust and sympathy
from his students and thus a consistent support in persuasion.
Talking about education in general, we consider the positive dimensions of students’ transformations, changes of
behavior, attitude that occur after persuasive actions. (Eși, 2004) But often, the tools of persuasion are misused by
the teacher, and their action turns into manipulation.
The teacher’s aim is one worthy to the extent that we are dealing with a pedagogical purpose, which is built
according to the rules of the ethics of teaching. But there are cases when the appeal to humor lacks the required
moral integrity. "Sometimes teachers use humor to get the students’ confidence so that later to intervene to influence
them more easily. Or, it is known, trust is essential in creating a favorable climate for building good relationships.
Specialists say that to gain confidence, one who is interested in gaining the trust of others can reveal some less
pleasant aspects, or personal small flaws. Here's how humor, as self-irony or fun self-esteem can influence students’
attitude, creating a pleasant, relaxed and optimistic, even intimate atmosphere that can be sometimes used
832 Daniela Jeder / Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 180 ( 2015 ) 828 – 833
negatively, for example, in order to obtain students’ conformism."(Jeder, 2013, 2014)
So if there is a lack of professional conscience, the teacher first gains the students’ trust, appealing to humor,
and then seeks to manipulate them more easily. (Turturean, 2009)
But genuine education is defined also by moral integrity; therefore even from the initial training of educators /
teachers a particular concern for knowledge and internalization of these landmarks is needed.
3. Education and training for and through humor
The school and its teachers must prepare the students to face real life (Nagy, 2013). And in our opinion, the
appeal to the sense of humor, in many situations, can be an effective way to meet the challenges of life. In this
context, the intervention must be done in two ways:
- on the one hand the training of teachers should pay attention to the subject of initiation in using humor in teaching,
of course respecting the rules and rigors of ethics of education,
-and on the other hand, to encourage the pupils / students’ sense of humor, to cultivate quality, intelligent and
meaningful humor.
Regarding the first sense, the literature (Herbert 1991, Egan 2007) points out a number of issues that teachers
must take into consideration in teaching: humor is used in an appropriate way, in ethical limits; it must be relevant
and connected with the theme / content of the activity (it was proved that irrelevant humor is effective in working
with preschoolers, but it subsides with advancing in age); humor must be appropriate to age peculiarities, thus
rendered accessible and adapted to be understood and to have the desired impact; using humor in class shouldn’t
affect pupils / students, should not create situations that make one feel awkward or ridiculous (should not laugh at
the name of students, physical defects, no discriminatory-sexist, racist or others remarks).
Humor is a binder in creating the emotional relationships between students and teachers, and we believe that this
aspect should be given the due importance in the initial and continuous training of teachers.
In our opinion, the formation and use of humor practicing skills in working with students, can be used in the
training, sessions for creating humorous situations; they can focus on building humorous analogies in the contents to
teach, to create explanations that call to humorous metaphors, thinking of emphasis and associations that shock, and
amuse at the same time, finding puns or building anecdotal stories etc. All of them have a strong emotional charge
and a much more force to transmit than in classical teaching methods. Equally suitable would be the initiation in
some acting techniques- that focus on training gestural expressiveness, bodily expressiveness, in the end, the
expressiveness of all types of communication.
These are just a few examples in which a teacher can be formed for the essential things that helps him in
teaching, expressed in the following exhortation: "Never be boring. Always be clear and try to be funny from time to
time. Say to yourself that you address people who expect three things from you: to learn something new, something
exciting and fun details . "(Ferréol, Flageul, 1998)
On the other hand, it is indicated for students to be taught to feel and taste the warm, lucid, inspiring humor,
and not the opponent that causes suffering. Moreover, children (and also adults) find funny the jokes that are based
on a misunderstanding of the meaning of a word (Egan, 2007) and this way they learn to use language with more
skill and develop their attachment to school and study.
Of course, the teacher must adapt humor to the students’ age, the educational context and the content to study,
to train students for humor means forming the free spirit, making them think outside the patterns, encourage them to
try with more courageous new things, perceived from different points of view, not to standardize them but to
develop their creativity.
Humor has the fundamental effect of humanizing; on the one hand, humanization of teaching (which we often
find thwarted and patterned, without inspiration) and, through it, humanizing the educational actors who respond
with admiration to this fruitful challenge.
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Daniela Jeder / Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 180 ( 2015 ) 828 – 833
Conclusions
Developing the sense of humor and nurturing a quality humor both among students and teachers, are ways
in which school would get more value, in the sense that it would provide the necessary tools to create and maintain
wellness, to stimulate thought, imagination, positive emotions etc. as goals or targets of an authentic education.
The idea for the need to pay greater attention to training of teachers in the spirit of ethics of appeal to
humanizing strategies of teaching in general, using artfully humor in teaching is one of the most representative.
It should focus on exploring the moral limits of humor in the classroom, of possible blockages and slip
hazards, but also to build and to propose some strategies of teacher training (best practices) on the one hand, in order
to initiate them into the art of using humor in teaching, and on the other hand, to form / foster students' sense of
humor essential for a meaningful and balanced life.
Pedagogy, psychology, communication, methodology or acting courses can sustain this formative
intercession to practice the ability to use humor in the activity with students and would sustain therefore a more
touches, expressive and probably more valuable educational act.
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Tujuan penelitian ini adalah untuk mengetahui jenis pendekatan dalam pengelolaan kelas, menemukan kekuatan humor dalam mengatasi kejenuhan belajar, dan memahami jenis humor yang dapat digunakan dalam pengelolaan kelas dan pembelajaran. Penelitian ini merupakan researching from home dengan mengoleksi data-data mengenai pengelolaan kelas, humor, kejenuhan belajar, dan pembelajaran melalui eksplorasi buku-buku elektronik bersumber dari Google Books dan artikel-artikel ilmiah bersumber dari Google Scholar. Terdapat empat tahap pengumpulan data, yaitu mencatat temuan terkait variabel, memadukan temuan, menganalisis temuan dan mengkritisi untuk menghadirkan temuan baru. Teknik dokumentasi dengan instrument kartu data digunakan untuk mengumpulkan data. Hasil penelitian menunjukkan bahwa terdapat sembilan pendekatan pengelolaan kelas. Humor terkaji memiliki sebelas kekuatan, yakni memiliki efek positif bagi kesehatan, membuka peluang perkenalan, mencairkan suasana, meningkatkan motivasi anak didik dalam pembelajaran, meningkatkan aktivitas dan kreativitas, penanda tingkat kecerdasan, mengurangi rasa bosan dan lelah, mengurangi tekanan atau stress, menghilangkan kejenuhan belajar, mengajarkan kebenaran, dan menambah popularitas. Jenis humor yang digunakan dalam pembelajaran adalah humor verbal yang direncanakan dan humor verbal yang tidak direncanakan.
... In this same sense, some research indicates that, before using memes, the professor should make an analysis exercise about their own ability to design these resources, to illustrate difficult concepts through them and to propose activities to students based on them [57]. Other authors emphasize the difficulty of satisfying certain learning objectives with humorous resources, especially memes [59], or the ethical lines that could be crossed if this type of resource is misused (e.g., the risk of offending people or social groups) [60]. In addition, there is an obvious risk of turning humorous resources, such as memes, into mere objects for students' amusement, without effectively aiding learning [61]. ...
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