Funny Thing How Humor Enhances Learning
- April 11, 2018
- Posted by: Yorktown Education Team
- Category: Innovation in the Classroom
Where exactly is the ‘funny bone’ and what part of our brain does it control?
Of course, there is no physiological funny bone, and yet the reference to it reminds us of the fun and good humor of childhood playtime. Yet, research shows that humor cannot be dismissed when associated with how it affects learning.
Believe it or not, humor can induce a powerful effect on how we learn.
Our brain responds to a neurotransmitter called dopamine when stimulated by humor. This affects long-term memory and motivation, as well as enhancing the ability to retain what we learn.
Humor is a social element, bringing people together and decreasing the need to defend oneself. Humor relaxes almost any situation. Humor boosts our imagination and stimulates our sense of wonder. Educational studies even signify how appropriate humor can dramatically intervene to improve retention in students of all ages – from preschool to university. Humor can help to identify ‘what a student loves to do most’, contributing to their chosen educational path.
So how do you define ‘appropriate’?
Topic-related, instructional humor that avoids rude or unkind topics. Perceived humor can mean different things to different people. Sometimes ‘silly’ may get attention for the moment, but does not connect with improving retention.
Even among college age students, research shows that lectures with content-related humor is remembered more often than those simply presented as dry, factual data.
Adolescent age students respond well to storytelling with a dash of humor. Asking students to contribute humorous experiences with the class can stimulate imagination and create a relaxed learning.
Following are some tips for using humor to increase learning:
- Humor can add joy to the classroom and help develop a sense of community.
- Age-appropriate humor yields better outcomes
- Mixing humor with instruction adds increased retention
- Avoid sarcasm, cruel or negative humor
- Humor cannot be forced and should be used in good measure
Overall, humor can be a positive learning tool when used wisely. For educators, learning how to use humor and its triggering of the dopamine reward factor, helps them contribute to their students’ long-term learning.