According to Avern Ziv, an educational humor researcher at Tel Aviv University,
humor facilitates the expression of a particular mode of thinking not bound
to "right" and conventional answers...Traditional education has been criticized
often by many modern educators for its almost exclusive encouragement of the
use of convergent thinking...Divergent thinking can certainly be helpful in
the educational process in such instances as problem-solving and all types
of activities including self-expression.
Not only does humor generate divergent thinking, it can also spark student
recall long after the group session is over. Comedy writer, Gene Perret, says:
"If you as a speaker don't help your audience to remember your lessons,
then you're wasting everyone's time. Humor, even if used sparingly, can help
accomplish that needed retention... Comedy is largely graphic. A funny image
appears in the mind of the listener (learner). We may paint this picture with
words, but the real joke is in the image that each person sees...Most memory
systems convert abstract ideas to familiar images because they are impressed
upon the mind more easily and are retained longer. Since images are more easily
remembered than are abstract ideas, and since humor is largely visual, it
stands to reason that using comedy in an illustration will help people remember
the ideas you are conveying longer and better...Imagery is expressive, graphic
Learning can become more enjoyable and less stressful in a laughter-filled
group. The establishment of a group environment that encourages humor seems
to assist in learning the material by lifting social and academic barriers.
Humor helps to cultivate personal exploration, discovery, play, and risk-taking
because the shared group sense of humor allows for human error. Laughter following
an inevitable error is less traumatic and threatening than a punitive or judgmental
response. The willingness of students to be spontaneous and imperfect will
result in a dynamic learning environment. A healthy group is a humorous group.
Remember, as the group facilitator you will be setting the tone of the group.
If the environment is stuffy and dogmatic, little laughter and divergent thinking
will occur. However, if you can make the environment comfortable, flexible,
and supportive, the group will cultivate a sense of humor along with a positive
Is it necessary to go to comedy school? No, being relaxed, smiling and alert
to student needs are good starts to a better sense of humor. The integration
of humor into a group session can be a slow process that requires trial and
error. Try out jokes and stories ahead of time on family and peers to make
sure they are humorous and non-insulting. A "Don Rickles" approach to humor
would not be particularly productive for a group environment. Positive humor
is evident when groups develop their own identification through nicknames,
group history or on-going gags.
When students and teachers were asked what element makes learning effective
and exciting, a "sense of humor" was rated high on the list. Shared laughter
is a powerful way to reinforce learning.
Source: "Humor in the Classroom: Considerations and Strategies" by Debra Korobkin.
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