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Teacher Use of Humor

Melissa Bekelja Wanzer

Subject Communication and Development » Instructional Communication

Key-Topics speech

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


When teachers use verbal and nonverbal messages to elicit laughter and smiling from students, they employ a teaching strategy labeled instructional humor . Classic and contemporary scholarship on this topic has shed light on the benefits of teacher humor, how teacher humor relates to student learning, challenges of studying the relationship between humor and learning, and different types of teacher humor. Instructional communication researchers recognize teacher humor as an important type of immediacy behavior often used to reduce psychological distance between students and teachers and facilitate student learning. There are a number of benefits connected to the use of humor in the classroom. For example, use of teacher humor can improve the student–teacher relationship by reducing student tension and anxiety and creating more favorable impressions of teachers. Not surprisingly, award-winning teachers use moderate as opposed to excessive amounts of humor in their lectures. Also, college students are more likely to engage in communication outside of the classroom setting with professors who use humor as part of their regular teaching style. The most extensively studied advantage of teacher humor has been its connection to student learning. One explanation for the relationship between humor and learning is the attention-gaining function of humor originally advanced by Ziv (1979) ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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