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Wednesday, June 22 • 15:45 - 16:35
CON04.19 - Laughing Matters: Humour as a Teaching and Learning Value for Empowerment

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This interactive workshop will explore the significance of humour and pedagogy in a variety of post-secondary learning settings. These include large lectures and small group discussions in intramural classrooms, online learning, clinical settings, science labs, community colloquia including members of the public and studio instruction. These learning settings reflect the multidisciplinary specializations of our group, which includes ten faculty members from medicine and surgery, law, business and commerce, physical sciences, social sciences, humanities and music performance. Workshop participants will be encouraged to reflect on actual situations that they have encountered as teachers and learners involving humour. They will also share and consider their own experiences with humour in the classroom.

Student engagement includes empowering learners to be knowledgeable citizens in a variety of social contexts. Teacher-student, student-student connections and student engagement are indeed facilitated by the use of humour in class (Strean 2008, p. 75). Of course, humour is bounded to social, linguistic and cultural perceptions. Nevertheless, it can be used as an effective teaching tool (Berk 1996, p. 72). Humour is a useful pedagogical strategy for introducing and teaching controversial or “sensitive” subject matter. It has the potential to reduce feelings of anxiety and isolation in students and also in the instructor. Humour is also an effective way to bring individuals out of their shells. It helps in reducing classroom tension and actively promotes the retention of subject matter through memorable teaching moments.

The class as a learning community, which includes the teaching team and the students collectively, shares the responsibility for creating and maintaining a safe learning environment in which humour is not used to undermine or demean individuals or specific groups, but rather to strengthen and enrich their individual and collective experience. Humour during controversial discussions often underlies equity issues in the classroom.

Hands on techniques and insights for enhancing student learning and empowerment through the use of humour will be shared.

Topics for discussion will include:
  • Using humour as an icebreaker at the start of courses or to introduce new topics in a course.
  • Exploring cultural differences regarding the use of humour
  • Relatedly, how do we deal with situations of what some might consider to be “inappropriate” laughter which might occur in situations of tension and controversial discussion? Are we equipped as instructors to deal with “emotions” in the classroom including joy or bitter laughter?

Berk, Ronald A. (1996). “Student Ratings of 10 Strategies for Using Humor in College Teaching” in Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 7 (3), 71-92.

McGraw, Peter & Warner, Joel (2015). The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.Strean, William B. (2008). “Evolving Toward Laughter in Learning” in Collected Essays on Learning and Teaching, 1. 75-79.

avatar for Patrick Maher

Patrick Maher

Dr. Pat Maher is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Community Studies at Cape Breton University. He is a 3M National Teaching Fellow (2014), Editor of the Journal of Experiential Education and Associate Editor of the Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching... Read More →

Jacqueline Murray

Jacqueline Murray is Professor of History, a 3M National Teaching Fellow and Director of the First-Year Seminar Program at the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. She has pioneered and co-authored several publications regarding the use of enquiry-based learning pedagogy... Read More →
avatar for Rosemary Polegato

Rosemary Polegato

Professor, Mount Allison University, The Ron Joyce Centre for Business Studies
Rosemary PolegatoProfessor of Commerce3M National Teaching Fellow

Cameron Tsujita

Cameron Tsujita is Assistant Professor of Paleontology in the Dept of Earth Sciences at Western University.

Maureen Volk

Maureen Volk is Dean pro tempore and Professor of Piano at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Jonathan White

Jonathan White is Professor & Tom Williams Chair in Surgical Education, Department of Surgery Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, University of Alberta

Additional Authors

Carol B. Duncan

Carol B. Duncan is Professor of Religion and Culture at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Donna Marie Eansor

Donna Marie Eansor is Professor of Law at the University of Windsor's Faculty of Law.

Philippe Caignon

Philippe Caignon is Professor of Translation Studies, Director of the MA program in Translation Studies and the Director of the Centre for Teaching and Learning at Concordia University.

Pippa Lock

Pippa Lock is Assistant Professor of Chemistry at McMaster University.

Wednesday June 22, 2016 15:45 - 16:35 EDT
Mustang Lounge (UCC) Western University