The European Journal of Humour Research

Vol 3, No 4 (2015)

Teachers’ perceptions of humour as a classroom teaching, interaction, and management tool

Michael Lovorn,Calli Holaway


Although research into humour in education contexts has increased sharply over the past decade, there are still relatively few studies related to its impact on specific elements of classroom dynamics such as teaching, student/teacher interaction, and classroom management. Teachers’ perceptions of the use of humour as a teaching, interaction, and management tool likely shape the educational experiences for all stakeholders. This study used online discussions to explore perceptions among kindergarten through grade 12 (K–12) teachers of the use of humour as a teaching, interaction, and management strategy in the classroom. These discourses revealed participating teachers (n = 31) have some understanding of how humour impacts teaching and learning, students’ engagement and motivation, teachers’ confidence and interaction with students, and various challenges and resistances to the use of humour in the classroom. Findings indicated that while most participating teachers could demonstrate examples of their use of humour in the classroom, few appeared to perceive humour as a structured classroom strategy. Additionally, the study revealed that while participating teachers are open to the idea of using humour in the classroom, most do not deliberately or strategically include it in the planning or implementation of their lessons. Participants’ responses consistently showed that humour “just happened” in the classroom and that it was part of a teacher’s responsibility to ensure that humour did not distract from learning activities. Participating teachers identified many more negative than positive factors that influenced their decisions about using humour in the classroom.


Beard, C. & Wilson, J. P. (2013). The Power of Experiential Learning: A Handbook for Education, Training and Coaching (3rd ed.). London: Kogan Page.

Beavers, S. L. (2011). ‘Getting political science in on the joke: Using ‘The Daily Show’ and other comedy to teach politics’. Political Science and Politics 44 (2), pp. 415–419.

Berk, R. A. (2002). Humour as an Instructional Defibrillator: Evidence-based Techniques in Teaching and Assessment. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Chapman, A. J. & Foot, H. C. (eds.). (1976). Humour and Laughter: Theory, Research and Applications. London: John Wiley & Sons.

Copp, M. & Kleinman, S. (2008). ‘Practicing what we teach: Feminism strategies for teaching about sexism’. Feminist Teacher: A Journal of the Practices, Theories, and Scholarship of Feminist Teaching 18 (2), pp. 101–124.

Cornett, C. E. (2001). ‘Learning through laughter… again’. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation, pp. 1-45.

Erickson, S. J. & Feldstein, S. W. (2007). ‘Adolescent humour and its relationship to coping, defence strategies, psychological distress, and well-being’. Child Psychiatry and Human Development 37 (3), pp. 255-271.

Farber, J. (2007). ‘Toward a theoretical framework for the study of humour in literature and other arts’. Journal of Aesthetic Education 41 (4), pp. 67–86.

Forsyth, G. A., Altermatt, E. R. & Forsyth, P.D. (1997). ‘Humour, emotional empathy, creative and cognitive dissonance’. Paper presented at the 105th Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association. Chicago, IL, 18–20 August.

Frymier, A. B. & Wanzer, M. B. (1998). ‘Make ‘em laugh and they will learn: A closer look at the relationship between perceptions of instructors’ humour orientation and student learning’. Paper presented at the 84th Annual Meeting of the National Communication Association. New York, 23 November.

Frymier, A. B., Wanzer, M. B. & Wojtaszczyk, A. M. (2008). ‘Assessing students’ perceptions of inappropriate and appropriate teacher humour’. Communication Education 57 (2), pp. 266– 288.

Grow, G. (1995). ‘Using Humour to Help Students Respond to One Another’s Writing’. Available online: [Accessed on 28 October 2015].

Gurtler, L. (2002). ‘Humour in educational contexts’. Paper presented at the 110th Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association. Chicago, 23 August.

Harlin, R. P. (2008). ‘What do you really know about learning and development?’ Journal of Research in Childhood Education 23 (1), pp. 125–134.

Henry, M. (2000). ‘History and humour: A natural partnership’. OAH Magazine of History 14 (2), pp. 64–65.

Hickman, G. P. & Crossland, G. L. (2004-2005). ‘The predictive nature of humour, authoritative parenting style, and academic achievement on indices of initial adjustment and commitment to college among college freshmen’. Journal of College Student Retention Research Theory and Practice 6 (2), pp. 225–245.

James, D. L. (2001). Split a Gut and Learn: Theory and Research. Farmington Hills, MI: Oakland Community College, pp. 1–12.

Klein, A. J. (1985). ‘Children’s humour: A cognitive-developmental perspective’. Education Resources Information Centre Online submission (ED265937), pp. 1–45.

Latta, R. L. (1999). The Basic Humour Process: A Cognitive-shift Theory and the Case Against Incongruity. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Levine, J. (ed.). (2006). Motivation in Humour. Edison, NJ: Aldine Transaction.

Lovorn, M. (2008). ‘Humour in the home and in the classroom: The benefits of laughing while we learn’. The Journal of Education and Human Development 2 (1), pp. 1–12.

Lovorn, M. (2009). ‘Three easy ways to bring humour into the social studies classroom’. The Leader 23 (1), pp. 15–16, 20–21.

Mawhinney, L. (2008). ‘Laugh so you don’t cry: Teachers combating isolation in schools through humour and social support’. Ethnography and Education 3 (2), pp. 195–209.

Morrison, M. K. (2008). Using Humour to Maximize Learning: The Links between Positive Emotions and Education. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Neuendorf, K. A. (2002). The Content Analysis Guidebook. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Paterson, J. (2006). ‘Did you hear the one about…? Humour in the classroom’. Middle Ground 10 (2), pp. 43–45.

Payne Bennett, M. & Lengacher, C. (2008). ‘Humour and laughter may influence health: III. Laughter and health outcomes’. eCAM 5 (1), pp. 37–40.

Posnick-Goodwin, S. (2009). ‘Laughter makes you smarter’. California Educator 13 (4), pp. 16– 20.

Shiyab, S. M. (2008). ‘Humour as a teaching strategy’, in Mantero, M., Miller, P. C. & Wateke, J. L. (eds.), Reading in Language Studies: Language across Disciplinary Boundaries 1, pp. 613–626.

Steele, K. E. (1998). The Positive and Negative Effects of the Use of Humour in the Classroom Setting. Salem, WV: Salem-Teikyo University, Education Department, Salem, WV MA thesis (unpublished).

Tuncay, H. (2007). ‘Welcome to HELL: Humour in English language learning’. Education Resources Information Centre Online submission (ED499225), pp. 1–11.

Walker, R. J. (2008). ‘Twelve characteristics of an effective teacher: A longitudinal, qualitative, quasi-research study of in-service and pre-service teachers’ opinions’. Educational Horizons 87 (1), pp. 61–68.