Adding humor to instruction is like adding salt to a meal – a little goes a long way.
Oversalting a course with humor is understandable. Laughter is a powerful and immediate reinforcer that encourages teachers to be funny. It’s not until instructors read course evaluations that they realized they overused humor because the students viewed the class as a joke.
My sense of humor is one of my strongest teaching attributes. Yet, being funny is also a liability – it fuels a chronic narcissistic desire for approval. As a result, if I get needy, bored, or tired during in-person instruction, I slip into standup comic mode. That’s a horrible mindset for a teacher because the goal becomes laughter rather than learning.
When I’m writing or performing humor, I have one and only one concern. Is this funny?
The structured nature of remote learning allows me to predetermine when and how to salt instruction with humor. Instead of using humor to entertain, I’m able to keep the focus on education.
Before I add humor to my instruction, I ask an entirely different question. “Will this promote learning?”
When selecting or preparing funny for an online course, the educational purpose of the humor is the most crucial consideration. As a pedagogical device, humor can promote various objectives, such as:
- increase student interest and attention
- facilitate the student-teacher relationship
- provide students with a “mental break”
- advance the understanding and retention of a concept
If Covid-19 has taught educators anything, it’s that most students believe that online learning sucks. So, it’s understandable that teachers instinctually grabbed the humor saltshaker to make remote learning feel less distant and impersonal.
Yet, salting online instruction with humor must directly enhance learning. Otherwise, students will view the material as frivolous and the teacher as a jokester.
Instructional humor is an excellent remedy for the blandness of online learning. When used sparely and carefully, humor makes online education more palatable and gets students to want another virtual serving.