Humour as a Part of Pedagogy

Vanita Bhoola

Author: Vanita Bhoola

Date: Sun, 2016-09-04 17:59

Everyone works hard to engage audiences, drive learning and leave a lasting impression. There are several pedagogical approaches to holding attention, particularly over a longer stretch of time. How do you strike the right chord?

My experience over 20 years of engaging with audiences is to be authentic, passionate and witty. Fun and wit need to come spontaneously given a set of people and situations. I seem to be gifted with this spontaneity of humour and so far it has worked well for me.

Appreciate humour in you

Teaching is hard work, both for the trainer as well as the student; even if we are acclaimed experts in our field, our delivery may make it difficult for the student to grasp the concept. The student may also find the method absolutely boring. The engagement and connect might be missing.

What could be good technique to build this rapport and get the 'connect' ?

In my eagerness to build a bond, I found that some conventional means, including being high on volume and energy, only further reduced the connect.

It was then that I started exploring different ways to make this elusive 'connect'. Would a good sense of humour work? I realised that reducing stress was an important part of winning audience connect and what could be better than a generous dose of humour to keep students not only engaged but also awake!

A good sense of humour creates an improved level of learning and wins attention of the audience, at least in anticipation of more! There is also a realisation that if they do not pay attention, perhaps the next laugh could be on them.

Some of the techniques or ways in which I introduce contextual humour are through videos, movie clips, situational-based (most preferred), current events and news, behaviour of the audience as a whole, their profession, background, seniority, age group etc.

Recently, I had to present to a group of 200 on the topic of  innovation and project management. Apart from my usual preparation on various real time examples, having the fun factor and humour played an important role in holding attention.  Everyone likes to have fun, we become so serious because of our work or our supposed background or seniority that we forget to live. Also, a joke or situational humour coupled with learning is retained whereas a dull speech would be forgotten that instant. The human mind has this tendency for our neurons which fire together to wire together. I believe humour and learning really fire and wire well in our grey cells.

I remember the year when I joined this Institute. Students would fear talking to the professor but they could engage with me easily because of the fun and the air of informality I would bring in the class.

Avoid “bad” Humor

There is such a thing as “bad” humour. Anything that mocks, is unwarranted or gets too personal is to be avoided. It may be counterproductive at times as well. Using the right amount and contextually controlled humour at the right time effectively can ease a lot of tension in the class. In fact, I remember once mimicking a noted personality to communicate a point and got the participants to focus, and found it to be very effective.

Humour has the power to engage, help people learn and stay focussed and develop their creative ability. So bring out your sense of humour for effective engagement and every once in a while, let go -- do not hesitate to tickle the funny bone.

I would go the extent of saying 'tickle the funny bone' can be a part of your pedagogy.  


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<p>Mam very well written!! You are seriously&nbsp;<br /> unique and extraordinary in this aspect-bringing in good humor while teaching!! Keep writing...:)<br /> Happy Teacher's Day mam!! :)</p>

<p>Perfecto. Life funny honi chaiye. Serious to patients bhi hote hain.&nbsp;</p>

<p>I can so relate to your classes, ma'am. :)</p>

<p>Thank you guys :-)</p>

<p>Belated Teachers Day Mam</p>

<p>Thank you Anthony :-)</p>

<p>I have found situational humour which is contextual and impersonal very effective. For this the facilitator should&nbsp;be on high alert looking at opportunities and know at least some of the participants' interests. I appreciate your views and wish you all the best Humour:)</p>

<p>Yes Sir and a good teacher will always hone these skills and students remember them for years to come&nbsp;</p>

<p>Very nicely articulated maam. I can easily relate this to some of your classes during my SPJIMR days. In my organization I conduct training sessions for junior to mid-level managers and I have found that infusion of humor indeed helps me to connect easily with the class participants.<br /> Thank you for bringing such best practices in teaching to make the class more interesting.</p>

Dear Madam, I am on the same page with you on using humor as a mechanism to connect better with the audience. I believe it is one of the best stress-busters, which is very much required during an intensive curriculum as that of PGPM. According to Mayo Clinic, laughter increases the release of feel-good chemicals, which helps reducing tension and connect with others easily. Humor energizes and helps in increasing creativity, without any doubt. I feel the same could be extrapolated to the workplace, which will help reduce the stress of the employees and enhance the productivity and hence the performance. For this to be possible, the managers and the leaders have to play a vital role to maintain a compassionate relationship with the team members.

Dear Madam, I am on the same page with you on using humour as a mechanism to connect better with the audience. I believe it is one of the best stress-busters, which is very much required during an intensive curriculum as that of PGPM. According to Mayo Clinic, laughter increases the release of feel-good chemicals, which helps reducing tension and connect with others easily. Humor energizes and helps in increasing creativity, without any doubt. I personally enjoyed the learning experience during your classes, particularly the ones that we had after lunch breaks. Many other faculties of SPJIMR are also seen using humour in imparting knowledge, especially the likes of Statistics, Business Law and Decision Science as otherwise these subjects are considered “dreaded”. Using humour in imparting certain concepts helps the students later to connect to that concept in the future, because the human brain works fast on relating things to familiar and happy events. You have also very well pointed out the points of caution in using humour as a tool because it might have a devastating impact rather than an advantageous one. The teacher needs to consider his/her presentation skills as well as the audience for choosing the type of audience while selecting the humour that needs to be presented. For instance, if the background of the students is varied or they belong from a different culture, then a certain type of example used in humour might not make any sense to the class or at times, might be offensive towards them. So, its ultimately at the discretion of the course facilitator or the teacher to take the final call on which joke to crack and which one to keep for another set of audience. I also feel that this use of humour in pedagogy could be extrapolated to the workplace, which will help reduce the stress of the employees and enhance the productivity and hence the performance. However, for this to be possible, the managers and the leaders must play a vital role to maintain a compassionate relationship with the team members.

As a student from the PGPM batch, it had been more than 6 years since I attended a proper lecture. The mere thought of going back to college and attending lectures from morning to evening scared me. The reason for my fear was my short attention span. To stay attentive one way I choose was writing things down in a notebook. But at times this was tiring and painful. So it comes down to building a good rapport with the lecturer and making sure the session is interactive. As rightly pointed out in the above article, humor is one way to hold the attention of the student. It bridges the gap between students and professor in a way that a student feels comfortable sitting for the lecture. Humor reduces stress and lesser the stress on a student the better it is. Since in a lecture a student absorbs more when not under stress and the professor has to put in less of efforts. So it’s a two way advantage. Humor when used in the right amount at the right place will make even the most boring of subjects interesting.

Hi ma’am, Your article is spot on. In this age, where textual knowledge is available just a click away, students find it hard to concentrate for a longer duration unless they are actively engaged. So it becomes important for the teacher to structure the classroom session in some conversational approach mixed with witty humor. And fortunately, this practice is actively followed by almost every professor we have come across in pgpm program till now. This way learning becomes fun, engaging and the knowledge is retained even after the course is over. I especially liked this line “The human mind has this tendency for our neurons which fire together to wire together” If multiple nodes of our mind are engaged or involved simultaneously, the drive to learn gets amplified. Also as rightly pointed by you, before putting this approach in practice, one must have an understanding of differences between good and bad humor, else this extra effort could end up hurting someone’s feelings. But knowing the quality of teachers at SPJIMR, one can surely rest assured that every teacher is experienced enough in making the classroom sessions thoroughly interesting & engaging in their own style.

I absolutely second the opinion that humour and learning fire and wire well. This is a great way to get the audiences or the students to focus on what is happening in their surroundings. A two way communication is always better than one. The topic being discussed in this blog is often taken for granted, however it is the absence of humour, which makes the importance of its presence felt later. The blog has been crafted just in the right structure explaining to us how a small change in the pedagogy might lead to a learning that leaves a long lasting impact on us. As rightly mentioned in the blog and having experienced it myself as a student, we tend to retain a concept better when it is associated with a particular incident and humour just makes it better. Humour helps grab the audience’s attention even while the topic in discussion may not seem interesting to them. Apart from the academic point of view, an interactive and informal classroom session often leads to excellent student and teacher relationship. If the teacher is always following protocols and shows no flexibility, it is highly unlikely that the students may be willing to connect with him or her apart from the curriculum requirements. On the contrary, if a teacher seems to be open to opinions, often shares experience and a good laugh with the class, students will be comfortable discussing their career aspirations, and even personal concerns if required. It has been my personal experience that I tend to develop a preference or liking for a subject based on the manner it is taught. Often it happens that the easiest of the concepts took significant time to understand just because it was taught in a particular style. On the other hand, there have instances when the chapter was too tricky yet I liked it just because the teacher made it sound so easy.

As a PGPM student, when I look at my time table and see your class it brings a smile. The humour makes the air lighter and most students including me find it easier to communicate or ask questions. But I feel each one has to develop his/her own style be it a professor who is teaching or a priest who is offering Eucharist. I always felt that the method of teaching is what that matters the most. For an example a priest who can sing makes the celebration more vivid, but the poise and sermon matters the most. While I was preparing for the entrance exams, the coaching classes used to be from 8 in the morning to 6 in the evening. There was one professor who was very matter of fact and when he teaches time would fly. Humour cannot be forced into every situation, in which case it could only get worse. Involving everyone in the room is what that keeps the class alive. Though I agree that students pay attention so that the next laugh is not on them, the actual focus of the student could be on something other than the topic being discussed. Also, there could always be a few who, due to the fear of being made fun of would remain quiet and this could be counterproductive. I feel it’s the thought provoking mode of teaching that should be keeping everyone on their toes. Though humour can be a valuable addition to one’s repertoire, it can only add value if the interactive style and the methodology requires it.

Dear Ma'am, I completely agree with your view that we can strike the right chord with the students by having a right mix of humor while teaching. When teachers share a laugh or a smile with students, they help students feel more comfortable and can connect with the faculty quickly. Using humor brings enthusiasm, positive feelings, and optimism to the classroom. It has been found by a researcher in US that the humor in a classroom lights up more parts of the brain than just listening auditorily in a classroom. Students also understand the teachers efforts in bringing the playfulness and invoking the fun part in their lectures. Every teacher's ultimate goal is to make students learn in a more effective way by engaging and making them to understand the concepts. Humor is the best way to fuel the engagement. But as mentioned by you we have to avoid the bad humor which might be offensive to anyone. Hence it is better if the humor is not personal or politically oriented. In the end I want to say that you are one of the faculties in SPJIMR who could tickle the funny bone of anyone in the classroom. We had thoroughly enjoyed your classes in this semester and thanks for teaching the advanced excel concepts. Thanks

Hello Ma’am, it was great reading your article. The thought shared by you is very much relevant in current situation. We often hear news of students going into depression or taking the extreme steps when they can’t handle the pressure of academics and expectations. Humour as a part of Pedagogy certainly helps in relieving those pressures. Humour when mixed with teaching makes a magical combo which helps in learning even the hardest of the topics a child’s play. We are fortunate to found the same happy learning experience in your every class. It has been taught to us that studies are a serious affair and we have to deal with it by utmost sincerity and focus. This seriousness often kills the joy which one may feel while learning a new thing or understanding a new theory. This serious attitude also a two-way traffic running between teachers and students. Nowadays’ schools at a very basic level promote their staff to use different tactics to teach same old subjects which we read during our schooldays. The reason for the whole exercise is to make learning more enjoyable without feeling any pressure. These techniques are very much popular among schools but as we grow higher in studies these techniques are not there. In fact, the more we rise the more we need such kind of joyrides while learning new principles because after a level we are more inclined towards understanding the topics rather than mugging them up. Humour coupled with real time examples eases the process of understanding.

Being part of Vanita mam’s class, I completely agree that humour plays a critical role in engaging students and creating an enjoyable learning environment. She has nicely structured her blog. To start with, she talks about how being a spontaneous humorous person has helped her in her 20 years of teaching career. She articulates the blog into 3 parts, in the first part she highlights the importance of appreciating the humour in you, in the second part she throws light on the techniques for establishing the “connect” with the students and then in the final part the importance of avoiding bad humour which could demoralise the students. When teachers share a laugh or a smile with students, it helps students feel more comfortable and open to learning. Using humour in lectures brings enthusiasm, positive feelings, and optimism to the classroom. As students, we do respond to their teacher’s playfulness and appreciate the effort he or she puts into making a lesson fun. Every faculty would want their students to be eager and engaged and I do believe humour in lectures has the power to fuel this engagement. Humour in lectures also serves other positive functions like building class cohesion. Students respond more positively to each other when humour is present, it brings them together and sometimes also help with the strenuous or the stressful schedule of a MBA life. As pointed by Vanita Mam in her blog, bad humour should be avoided. It should not be used as a means of control, like an instructor should not use it to target students by making fun of their ignorance or beliefs. To conclude, I would say humour positively affects the levels of attention and interest of students, creates a comfortable learning environment and it helps us to be engaged, activate learning and be involved with the course material.

Hi Ma’am, this is a wonderful article and precisely targets the challenges faced by the students in a classroom. I can easily relate this concept to some of your classes. On a lighter note, we are still continuing to address some of our batch mates with the witty names that you gave them. It was always fun to attend your sessions. As rightly pointed out, the objective of every instructor is to be effective in classroom and try engaging with students as deeply as possible to facilitate their learning process. Instructors generally try using some conventional methods such as voice modulation, asking spontaneous questions to audience, sharing real life examples, etc. but fail to engage the students beyond a certain point. Moreover, some well-known facts about human brain make this task even more daunting for the instructors. It is said that the average attention span of a human is approximately 8 seconds and even most healthy adults are able to retain attention beyond 20 minutes at a stretch. Though, the adults can re-focus on the same thing repeatedly. So, the relevance of engaging attention of students through the medium of humor becomes even more important. This pedagogy not only helps students to remain focused in class but also helps them to retain concepts for a longer duration. I still remember the witty example of “A Tea and a Sandwich” to explain complicated concept of ‘Start to Start and Finish to finish’ in your Project Management session. By sharing a laugh with the students, the instructors help students feel comfortable in classes and open to learning. Thus, humor brings enthusiasm, optimism and lot of positive energy to the classroom. It also reduces stress and tension and builds a positive rapport between the student and the teacher. While this tool can do wonders to the atmosphere of a classroom, its judicious use is of utmost importance as bad humor can ruin the sole purpose completely.

If today I have to recall the name of teachers who taught me in school, it would be a humongous task for me to list all the names, however there are a few teachers whom I can never forget in my life, and yes those were the ones who made me laugh till the time my stomach started to ache. They were the ones who made school a fun place, the concepts given by those teachers are still fresh in my head. And rightly said, humour surely plays a very important role as far as engaging your audience is concerned, with humor you strike an immediate rapport with them and listening to you becomes a joy for the audience rather than an obligation. Even various studies have pointed out a connection between humour and learning. They indicate that humour, if used in moderation, can help increase the interest and attention and can reinforce what is being taught. They also suggest that the best of the teachers of the world are the ones with great sense of humour. During my sales presentations I always used to start the session with a small joke which not only made my audience smile but my clients would remember my name even if I have not paid them a visit for a long time. So in the current day and age of stress and competition let’s not forget to smile and make others smile. As Langston Hughes said - Like a welcome summer rain, humor may suddenly cleanse and cool the earth, the air and you.

We as a country are not exactly known for being sport on jokes on sensitive issues. Other than the Parsis and the Sikhs there are not many other communities who can joke about themselves. I had a friend who would say that the atmosphere at his workplace was so tense and if he was seen laughing he would get a stare from his boss! I think the similar can be said by the class set ups as well across the country and across the level of education. Stress and fatigue could be easily the biggest productivity reducer. Humor has the power rejuvenate but it is important how exactly it is incorporated, a senseless/insensitive joke could just prove otherwise. Another very important aspect of humor is it breaks the ice and ideas flow without inhibitions. It is interesting to notice how this is not leverage in the corporate world once you come to think of it. Perhaps it is one of those more instinctive traits for people to have and not something that can be taught. It’s only a matter of time as we move towards flatter organizations and with each coming generation seemingly becoming more spontaneous, humor might aswell become a part of employee engagement.

Research has shown that the sustained attention of an individual is around 20 minutes and after losing attention from a topic, a person may restore it by taking rest by doing some other kind of activity or choosing to re-focus on the first topic. Minds of most of the students would wander after this span of 20 minutes to their own world making it difficult for them to concentrate in a lecture. Thus, the most challenging task of a professor taking long lecture is to keep the students engaged. The techniques of using humour works well both with the teacher and the student. It lightens the mood of the class and helps restore the attention of the students. Also, the students who would have drifted into their own world come back to the realms of the classroom! How does it work for the teacher? It ensures that the students are alert since the next joke cracked could be on any one of them. All these points have been explored effectively in the blog. I still remember the words of my Marathi teacher in school who told us to learn difficult concepts by way of relating them to some song. I can still recollect some of the points learned in that fashion! The same applies to humour too. If a tricky topic is associated with humour, I am sure that it would be very difficult to forget the same since one would always remember the context and hence relate it to the topic. Pedagogy of humour also helps to break the ice leading to more fruitful interaction between the student and the teacher. Hence, in today’s fast paced world where the attention span of individual is reducing innovative pedagogy such as an element of humour is the need of the hour!

Great read Ma’am. Every teacher’s goal is to be effective in the classroom and help students learn. Teachers want their students to be eager and engaged. Humour has the power to fuel that engagement. Good laugh eases tension, increases creativity. Humour doesn’t have to mean quick wit. Teachers can bake laughs into their lesson plans by incorporating funny materials like silly word problems, cartoons, games, parody, or comical voices. The best and effective method of using humour in learning I have found is when a teacher relates a series of connected events or the activities of a single incident as a tale. Thereafter, whenever we hear that term, we will be quickly able to recollect its relevance/meaning because of the story engraved in our mind. Beyond the fun factor, humor can be an effective way to engage students and activate learning. Teachers who share a laugh or a smile with students, help students feel more comfortable and open to learning. We feel more approachable to teachers who smile at or laugh with us. However if the humour if not used correctly can become offensive to some. Offensive humour sets a bad example for students, is not inclusive, may create barriers or upset students. Students will be uneasy about attending class, and some may even consider not attending or withdrawing.

Dear Ma’am, I totally agree to your line of thoughts. Humour is indeed needed for the learning to stick. I really enjoyed attending your sessions which are always infused with knowledge and laughter. The creative and witty comments in between the lectures are extremely effective in holding our attention together and make studying the subject enjoyable. Through this method of learning, as a student, I am usually able to retain more, connect and associate with the topic easily, and stay focused in class. This two way teacher-student interaction with regular small bursts of laughter gives out vital and reassuring signs that the class is behaving in a cohesive manner. Also, a spirit of informality develops between you and us that makes it easy to approach you to clarify doubts or ask questions which I would generally be apprehensive of doing otherwise. You also smilingly encourage students to speak, and appreciate the efforts, being supportive even when we make mistakes. Not only these, with a lighter environment in the classroom, students also willingly participate in class discussions, express more ideas and their personal or professional experiences. This makes the learning ten times more interesting and the environment of the classroom alive. What stays with us as learners are these experiences in the classroom that leave a lasting impression in our minds. Therefore, I believe that humour definitely increases the strength of student-teacher and peer connections, and this non-aggressive, relevant, appropriate humour is a helpful learning tool to reinforce concepts. Professors can utilize humour's activation of the happy dopamine hormones to channelize the brain's pathways to new knowledge.

This is certainly an article that brings a smile on your face because it talks about a simple solution to a tricky problem. Research shows that a typical student’s attention span is 10-15 minutes and yet most universities have sessions that lasts for 60-90 minutes. Research also shows that the attention span reduces to 3-4 minutes at the end of a session. Therefore, often long theoretical sessions become boring and there is a lack of learning. I have particularly suffered from having a short attention span and always looked for new techniques to keep myself attentive. In my experience the best classes have been those where there is active engagement with the audience. There have been many techniques I have experienced in the past and good humour has certainly been one of the most effective. Everybody loves to laugh and everybody feels united during such moments. The most effective sessions are those that leave you with not only knowledge but also good memories. Humour is a very effective stress buster and something that can used not only in colleges but also in professional and personal lives.

A perfectly true article and so well written Ma'am!

Pedagogy as we all know is the method and practice of teaching, especially as an academic subject or theoretical concept. The significance of pedagogy is extremely vital when it comes to the primary education and gradually as we move up, the dependence on the pedagogy then becomes secondary & varies on different axis given the age of students and the complexity of the subject. Unfortunately in India a fifth of all elementary school teachers in the country do not have the requisite qualifications to teach young children. If this doesn't shock you, take a look at what's going on at the state level. In a wide swath starting from all eight states of the North-East (including Sikkim), through West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and up north in J&K, the share of qualified teachers is much lower, ranging between 29% in Arunachal Pradesh or 30% in Nagaland to 68% in MP and 70% in Jharkhand. It is through these untrained hands that the foundation of education is being laid in children. The simple thought which I want to share is that our majority of the teachers at the elementary school level are not trained enough to teach the kids and even if such a teacher tries to mix sufficient humor with his/her content it still might now help the cause. Humor in my opinion would be more suited for a more matured/grownup students. Using humor as a primary element of holding the attention of the audiences can have its own disadvantages as it can be taken as cheap trick to grab attention by many students and if the humor components are such that it only appeals to some, then also it will backfire. Some students may perceive it to be pun and other could take it as a negative sarcasm, taking the attention of the students away from the core activity. I strongly believe that the strength of the ‘hold-on-subject’ and practical illustrations is the thing that will be of utmost significance from an audience point of view rather than anything else. If a teacher delivers on these, it really will not matter whether it comes with or without an element of humor.

Agreed with the statement and the points completely. Being a profession is the Organization Learning fraternity, the mode of delivery is the key to any successful content to be delivered. If we look at Albert Mehrabian’s analysis of an effective communication chart - 55% of communication is focused on Body language, 38% on tone and only 7% on content. Hence, the method for delivery is far more important than the content itself while delivering any learning session. In fact, this is why we remember funny incidents and funny quotes better than the serious conversations that we have had in the past. It’s a human psychological need to be entertained and to have fun. Hence, consuming any content that is fun has always been more impactful than a mere information for information sake. Think of the time you sat for a meeting filled with charts, tables, excel sheets and numbers; you may not remember much! But think of a time you went for a comedy show (movie, stand-up etc), you will notice a stark differentiation in the information that you retained. This argument may be different considering intent and interest However, the universal need for a human mind to be creatively engaged is true irrespective of the situation and context. The point on ‘bad’ humor is a good point to note though. As humor that may be considered offensive will lead to a disengaged or angered audience. This is when there will be absolutely no transfer of learning. Very important for any training professional and learners alike. Thank you ma’am!


I absolutely stand firm by your opinion that humour as a part of pedagogical tools help in improving the teacher-student interaction and learning outcomes. Being a student, I can clearly distinguish the contrasting teaching styles of the teachers in engineering and B-schools. Humour as a part of teaching mechanism acts as a bridge between the teacher and students. It increases motivation, encourage new ideas, a sense of closeness among the teacher and students thereby creating an environment conducive for learning. Teaching is a noble profession, it aims to enlighten and contentment of the mind in human. Teaching requires great moral strength and courage to effectively guide individuals. But to be an effective teacher, one must know the art to communicate the idea to the students. Successful teaching techniques lie in successful pitching of knowledge through the use of innovation and creativeness in communication. Addition of humour in concurrence to teaching attracts enthusiasms, optimism and positive feelings to the learning environment. Studies reveal that use of humour as pedagogical tool lights up certain parts of brain thereby reducing stress, increases learning and positive emotions. However, humour must be used in context to the service of the core message. Many of us fail to mark the distinction between the healthy humour and sarcasm and tend to divulge out from the topic to be taught. There are many cases where students find the teacher funny which is in pure contrast to the subject being taught. Humour is a great pedagogical tool to have if used intelligently as too much of humour can also undermine the credibility of the teacher. It may also result in the loss of focus of the instructional objective. While this tool can do wonders to the atmosphere of a classroom, its judicious use is of utmost importance as bad humour can ruin the sole purpose completely.

Very well said Ma’am. I completely second your thoughts and specially agree with the point regarding humorous learning getting retained longer than a dull speech. Humor if used properly helps in defusing any anxious situation in life. It helps in building a strong community and reduce conflict. This is the underlying concept of laughter therapy. Humor as an instructional strategy is not just restricted to jokes but encapsulates other attributes like optimism, joy and laughter. Humor that both enquires and inspires is complex but can be crucial for ice-breaking and at times building a strong connect with a crowd used to conventional speeches. At the same time, I also believe that quick sense of humor is something that comes naturally and becomes a part of the personality over the years. For such teachers looking forward to building a good rapport with students, videos, memes and comic strips are great modern-day supplements to lighten up the mood and cheer the students. Another element that usually works is switching perspectives. A teacher talks about his/her experiences as a student and how life was back then. Teachers can alternately improvise what works for them and use the safe and proven methods and accordingly tweak them now and then to keep the class motivated. Also, teachers who are perceived to be humorous are the ones who are perceived to be more humane, approachable and friendly by the student community. Quite opposite, teachers who are serious are perceived to be strict disciplinarians, authoritative and leading an uninteresting life with family fights and dramas. In a culturally diverse classroom, students are different due to differences in culture and upbringing. They maybe extroverts or introverts and thus having a humour element in teaching can throw up opportunities to engage with everyone equally. Through humour, learning becomes fun and an everlasting process and strengthens memory. It improves learning attitude towards a subject, increases comprehension and satisfaction with learning. I personally recall a visiting faculty in my coaching classes where every subject being taught was quantitative in nature. Before he began his session, he would share funny anecdotes from his life and laugh at himself to hold the attention of his batch of 60+ students right from the beginning. He tried matching his personal wavelength with that of the students and that really helped. Humor is a tricky thing and it can backfire if cracked in an offensive manner. Also, impact of humor should be such that objective of teaching is not lost in the process and student does not begin taking the subject lightly. The culture in classroom should continue to be learning rather than laughter. It is important to translate the joke into some sort of learning. Bad Jokes about religion and race can rebound and adversely affect the mood in the classroom. To help teachers for bringing cultural and ethnic humor into their pedagogy, many universities are putting pioneering efforts and conducting workshops. Teachers must also ensure that their comments do not humiliate or have a derogatory impact on any student.

Laughter is the best medicine and humor is the best medium to give this medicine. This article advocates the usage of humor as a part of pedagogy in order to make the classes interesting and retain the attention of the students. Now as a student I feel obliged to share my opinion on the significance of humor in the pedagogy. As rightly said in the article, humor creates an improved level of learning while holding the attention of the audience. I find the contextual humor to be very effective when it comes to learning a concept and retaining it in mind. The motive of teaching is fulfilled if the learner has got the active knowledge of the subject irrespective of the means. And to get this active knowledge we as learners have different learning styles: Auditory or the natural listening, Visual or seeing and visualizing, and kinesthetic or doing and solving real-life problems. Different methods of learning appeal to different type of learner but one thing that appeals to all and works wonder is humor. As a student, I for one, find it difficult if the session goes on at one pace in a monotonous way. To connect to the session and pay attention I would like to see the mood of the session oscillating between a serious and funny mode where I can be a part of the class but not in a boring Q & A way. Also, since the humor makes the concept more understandable by connecting it to the real life incidents or the things that I can relate to, it persists in my mind for a longer time compared to any concept that is taught in any traditional way. And this is how a passive learning gets converted to active learning. There is no doubt that humor enhances the effectiveness of learning but until the time it is used as an auxiliary method. The later part of the article talks of the bad humor. Humor in pedagogy shouldn’t reach to a level where it takes the form of mocking. I would never want to see myself or as a matter of fact, anyone else, being mocked by others just because he/she asked some question that others deemed to be silly. While a healthy laugh can make the whole atmosphere friendly, mocking can create an environment of hostility. Teaching aims for a cumulative growth of the whole class but in such an environment the very intent of pedagogy will be defeated which I am sure no teacher would ever aspire for. With the times changing around me, I can see extensive use of technology in the whole process of learning and many predictions saying that teachers will soon be replaced by the robots in the near future. While I concur to the fact that technology can be of great help to the teachers but I believe that teachers are far better than technological bots any day due to the understanding and concern they have for their students and the personal touch they give to their teaching methodology using different styles one being the widely discussed humor.

Thank you, Ma’am for this thought provoking blog. As a student, I couldn’t agree more that infusing humour as a part of pedagogy helps retain the interest in the class and drives learning. I still remember some jokes which my teachers cracked during the lectures pertaining to certain concepts. What surprises me is the fact that I still remember those concepts well. I have seen faculty effectively use it as a tool to control the class and maintain discipline. This blog made me reflect on my experiences. I would like to share two which are fit perfectly in this context. I was in standard 6th when I shifted to Bangalore. Unlike my school in Delhi, English was the primary language used by the teachers in my new school. Scared by the thought of being laughed at for my weak English, I never answered a question or asked a doubt in class. It took me two years to finally muster the courage to talk about my fright of public speaking. The teacher I trusted most was the one who maintained a very friendly environment in the class. Humour was a weapon she used very efficiently. I somehow felt at ease talking to her about my problem and in her, I found a mentor who helped me transform into a completely different person. I presented the farewell speech when I left school in 12th standard and my teacher was sitting in the front row, applauding me. Humour is just one of the many ways of engaging with the students. Another faculty I had the privilege of learning from was vastly experienced treasurer and taught in the field of capital market. Extremely soft spoken and humble, humour wasn’t really his cup of tea. He found another way to keep the students attentive. He would start the class by giving us all a puzzle to solve and in between the lectures, he would use movie clips to help us understand a topic and often to just keep us awake. Sometimes these simple things leave a lasting impact on the students. I am not disregarding the esteemed faculty who focus purely on the academics but as a student, who found it a challenge to cope up with the demanding concepts in academics, it was easier to understand when the class was fun filled and lively. This is also a reason why I wanted to do an MBA. I like that the faculty engage with the students and use humour to keep the environment conducive for a two-way interaction. We interact, discuss, debate, laugh and in the process - learn. Humour is an integral part even when we are working in teams on projects and assignments. It binds the group together even in crunch deadline scenarios and makes working together fun and an enriching experience for all. I feel this habit will help future leaders like myself to use humour as a stress buster in tough situations and connect well with the team.

Dear Madam, It was interesting to read about your thoughts on how humour can play a big role in engaging audience, driving learning and leaving a lasting impression. The majority of the comments to this blog are from your students who give first-hand testimony to your claim that 20 years of incorporation of humour in your pedagogy style has been efficient. You also mention that there are several pedagogical approaches to engage audiences for a large period of time. One such method that I have quite frequently experienced is that of the instructor creating an environment of fear among his students. While fear drives students to be attentive and could lead to an effective transfer of information, it could also lead to a lack of engagement in the class where the students are scared to ask questions thereby limiting his/her learning. In my experience, it is hard to imagine how this method of using fear to control an audience can ever lead to a connect between students and the teacher. With the same level of expertise of the subject manner, I believe an instructor can be more effective using humour than fear in his pedagogical approach. In any group situation, humour plays a major role in breaking barriers between people. In a classroom setup use of humour by the instructor can lead to higher eagerness of students to attend classes. It is also rewarding for the instructor to see students enjoy his/her class. I particularly remember my 10th-grade Mathematics teacher who had this unique way of using popular television ads in between his lessons to lighten the mood and bring about a smile in the class. While his jokes helped keep the classroom mood light, it was equally important that he had a firm understanding of his subject and was able to explain it to the students in a clear manner. The overall performance in Mathematics of our batch was slightly better than our previous batches. It is quite possible that this extra interest generated by his humour was the reason for it. One thing, in particular, I like about your post is the structure you have maintained. While you use your experience to state the positive effects of humour, you also state the pitfalls if it is used incorrectly. You mention that bad humour should be avoided by the instructor. Instances of mockery and slamming down of wrong answers etc. can have a detrimental effect on the student who is at the receiving end. In conclusion, I would say that humour has multi-faceted effects and is a tool that the instructor should use with sensitivity, complementing it with good explanatory skills.

In today’s world of fast growing technological advancements, our lives have become so mechanical and target oriented that we have all knowingly or unknowingly become a part of this mad race of performing in a set pattern as running a marathon on an established track. We have become so engulfed with this arrangement that our mind is constantly functioning, like a machine with no off switch. This has resulted in increased levels of stress conditions, depression tendencies and heart problems amongst youth in present time. While running against time, we have somehow forgotten what it is like to have a good laugh. Laughter reduces stress level hormones and eases the anxiety that impacts the health of a person. Thus, I believe that humor is an excellent tool to be included in pedagogy for a positive bearing on physical as well as psychological well-being of the students, hence resulting in better results. With growing addiction to social media, it wouldn’t be wrong to generalize that we all have considerably reduced out attention span. This makes the practice of using humor to gain attention of the students an important one. It not only helps attract attention but also has better retention of the subject in the minds of the students. Another important aspect about humor as part of classroom teaching is that most of the post-graduate classes are a mix of students from varied backgrounds, cultures, language, etc. There may or may not be common interests, and it may become taxing for those who find themselves in a difficult spot in interacting with others around them. In this case, humor may play a role in helping the students open up and be more comfortable with each other. I totally agree with Vanita Bhoola ma’am, when she points out the importance of ‘avoiding bad humor’, because all the positives of humor shall be in vain and in fact act in the opposite way, in case humor rubs the wrong side. It needs to be taken care that the class shall have a positive environment while dwelling into a particular topic and this may be achieved with the use of positive humor. The use of wit is in fact, a crucial key to creating humor. This not only helps in making the topic interesting but also provides food to the thinking hats for utilizing the grey cells. As Mrs. Vanita Bhoola shared that she looked up at various ways to make the class engaging for the students and to hold their attention, this shows how the use of humor as a technique in class gives rise to innovative methods and thought processes. It may go on to further develop creative thinking amongst the students. At last, I would only like to say that we as students are currently at a learning stage in life. What we practice now may go a long way in developing the individual traits and capabilities within us. Humor, shall have a positive impact on our personal growth and development.

Dear Ma’am, Thank you for putting forth your views so beautifully on this topic. The idea of appreciating humour inside oneself is extremely important as it serves to be the fuel to engage others better. It influenced me to understand that the flavours like wit and humour are essential to cooking the perfect recipe of learning. After all if one doesn’t develop the right connect with his/her audience, all the hard work goes futile. Personally, being a movie buff I have found myself to be bonding better with those who too share the same affinity and use movie references to elicit humour. The need for contextual humour has always existed but it’s wasn’t realized until recently. As a student, I can tell that the sooner a teacher engages the students in the class the better are his/her chances of having something productive. Taking a more common example, I have found Dr. Suranjan Das to be quite popular among the PGP-17 batch. His wit and humour during lectures definitely got me more enthusiastic to study an otherwise mundane course. The fact that he extends this to the term papers while devising hypothetical yet funny situations inside questions is something I, as a student, would retain later and utilize it better rather than having an uninteresting teaching pedagogy that includes boring assignments and lectures. Quoting movie dialogues and giving references is another interesting way to improve the level of learning and audience participation. I remember how the famous dressing room speech by ‘SRK’ from the movie ‘Chak de India’ was once used by my professor in college to explain a certain phenomenon in electrical engineering. Right up till today, I utilize a similar rationale to find that hypothesis. The only issue sometimes as a faculty one can experience is that not everyone shares a comparative taste with regards to the silver screen. Thus, adopting universally recognized content is extremely important. For starters, I can suggest you involve ‘Game of Thrones’ references while delivering a lecture. Though I am sure you might already be doing it. Likewise, I welcome you for featuring the purpose of staying away from "awful" funniness. Infrequently trying to accumulate enthusiasm of students, the staff escapes by either articulating a terrible joke/remark or embarrassing somebody, anticipating that others should think of it to be funny. Caution needs to be exercised while delivering an impromptu punch for one slight blunder can demolish the whole show in this manner nullifying the entire point. In the long run, this pedagogy is certainly needed to be adopted and humour should be developed further in classrooms to serve as a stress buster and a social lubricant. It fills in as a basic answer for a generally complex issue. Building up the craft of influencing others to chuckle is, in reality, troublesome yet not impossible. Despite the fact that I haven't gotten the benefit of going to any of your addresses, I would truly anticipate attending them in future.

Dear Ma’am, Thank you for putting up such a great article. I strongly conform to your views that humour can play an important role in effective pedagogy. Your article also took me to the time of my group interview (GI-1)for SPJIMR wherein you made all of us feel at ease with some humorous questions that enabled us to be more confident in expressing ourselves . Humour has the ability to break the ice in any situation be it a classroom, interview panel, important presentation or any difficult real life situation. It also has the ability to make the subject interesting if not easier. As a student I have experienced that I have the tendency to explore the subjects, we find intriguing irrespective of the level of complexity in its concept. Your article reminded me of quote from Shashi Tharoor which says “In this world of technology, we don’t need an informed mind but a formed mind”. Technology has enabled us to have the access to knowledge, but it is imperative to understand the theories and apply them in the practical world. So, the students and teacher share the responsibility to ensure that application based learning takes place which can provide solutions to complicated problems. This put an onus on the teachers to make pedagogy more interesting and engaging so that the students stay focused in the class and also retain the learning for extended period of time. You have rightly mentioned in your blog that students feel the fear in asking questions from professors but humour enables the students to come out of the shell and ask questions freely which are usually left unanswered. On the hind sight humour also provide respite from the chaotic and extremely demanding life of a MBA student. A teacher who could tickle the bones of his or her students amidst the rat race will always be admired and respected by the students .I also support the very point of caution that you have so explicitly mentioned about avoiding bad humour .The humour is often being made at the situation or at some person .We usually have a mix of people coming from all walks of life with different culture in institutions like college, office or any other large organisation. Therefore, before cracking a joke or passing a humorous comment on any person or situation in the organisation, one should make sure that no sentiments are being hurt while trying to be humorous. This can have adverse affect and can be detrimental to the purpose i.e. “of better engagement of the receiver”. Sometimes sarcasm is also used as mode of humour to make the message more impactful, quotes of Mark Twain always have huge impact on the reader as it show the realistic picture with sarcasm while using words which are compact and simple. At last I would like to add that humour has the ability to give laughter and reduce the anxiety even in the crunch situations. Hence, Henry Ward Beecher has rightly said that “A person without a sense of humour is like a wagon without springs. It’s jolted by every pebble on the road”.

Hello Ma’am, I liked your blog very much and I have quite strong views on this which are in line with your blog. Keeping attention of the listeners or audience for a long time is pretty tricky task and given much time I am sure every speaker finds a way of doing it (some do it better than others). The difference lies in “connect” that you mentioned, that is the most important factor according to me. If the connect is made just for the sake of making it, it always fails, but once the connect is made in a proper manner in the purest sense of connecting and getting to know the audience better, it always acts as cherry on the cake. I was myself a teacher for some time and faced a similar issue in my first classes. I had good content, the students paid high fees for coming to classes but still I felt something missing. After analysing the scenario for some time I understood that the personal touch and the humour was missing which was there in my life but not there in my class. So, I took an informal doubt session, to which I was not a teacher, I became a friend with my students who were hardly 4 years younger than me. After that, I got 4.8 rating on a scale of 5 at the end of the session in the same class. I cracked the same situational jokes which were natural to me and hence it was easier after that to practice it. Losing touch with the classes for 2 years, I forgot that this is an art and after reading your blog, I can very well understand that why some teachers are more effective than others. Also, this art gets sharper and better if you love interacting with new people. Speakers who are introvert are usually rich in ideas, because they tend to think more and with time, they get into the good humour space. But if people push themselves too hard trying their hand at situational humour, there is a good chance; they fall into the pit of “BAD” humour, which is too impulsive in nature. Speakers are often called ineffective by everyone because of one or two sad mistakes on humour. In this world of digital media, adding correct amount of masala in a class or speech can do wonders for a speaker. I have a very strong belief that if you add up some form humour (or anything else that grabs attention), your job is half done. It is better to deliver around 70% content effectively as compared with delivering 100% content without “connecting” with your audience because Humour coupled with real time examples eases the process of understanding which helps expanding the horizons of a teacher-student relationship.

They say with a good sense of humour, an average guy can get any beautiful girl he wants. The reason behind that is that humour acts as a fantastic catalyst to break the ice, especially when it’s a nerd chasing a beautiful girl. :) The ability to make someone smile or laugh is a very rare and unique quality which one can use in a very constructive way. As Jim Carrey says, “I got the privilege of doing something that made people present their best selves to me wherever I went. The effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is!”. People may forget what you would’ve said, what you would’ve done or what you would’ve given; but they will never forget the way you made them feel. And this is exactly why people easily remember the times when they were laughing and not the ones when it was the other way round. This is very apt for academic situations as well. While the class would’ve had to endure long, painful sessions of Operations Management; there came in Prof. Boman Moradian who not only captivated the class with his humour but drilled the point home right to the nail by combining his teaching with a sense of humour. Students were willing to sit as long as 7 straight sessions of 70 minutes each just to attend his lectures and developed a keen interest in the subject. Why? Because he coupled his in-depth knowledge in an area as heavy as Operations Management, with a delivery method based on a great sense of humour. As effortless as it seemed, he would’ve surely prepared to first engage his audience, build a small rapport with them and then go on to deliver his sessions. Although humour in class can sometimes turn ugly, in the form of mocking students for physical appearances or asking lame questions, it also opens space for a lecturer to catch inattentive minds and engage them through a bit of healthy sarcasm. Ms. Vanita has aptly captured an excellent point which could be a game-changer in pedagogy and if practiced by faculty could help attain effective teacher-student bonds, and even more effective learning. :)

Dear Mam, I completely agree with your blog that Humour should be a Part of Pedagogy and being a part of your and Suresh Lalwani Sir Class has deepened my belief in this theory. As you have rightly mentioned above, there has to be connect between the student and the teacher otherwise the session can result into a mundane one with the student really not grasping much due to lack of interest. Remembering one Saturday when we had four continuous sessions of the same subject but the teaching of our professor had so much infusion of humour and energy which made him end all the sessions effortlessly without the students feeling disconnected even once. Also humour sometimes helps students recall to the concepts discussed in the class because the student can then actually relate to that concept because of the humour that was attached with it. I would also like to mention that a positive and goal directed humour creates an environment conducive to teaching and learning thereby helping students gain more confidence and eagerness to learn and on the contrary, bad humor could be disruptive and may create a divide among the learners. From my personal experience, I would never forget the dialogues that our professor, Mr. Suresh Lalwani used during the entire duration of financial accounting course. One of them was that “Zindagi Main Sandarbh (Context) Bahut Maiyne Raktha Hai”. This was just one of the plentiful that sir had in his book but the point is that these all instances during the class really helped us relate to the main concepts and enhanced our learning as a class. Finally to conclude, teaching with the integration of creative, well directed humour can result in effective learning for a group which will help in fulfilling the goals of both the teachers and the learners.

I completely agree with Vanita maam’s article on using humor in teaching can do wonders in class. Humor has long been an indispensable part of human life. It has existed and developed since the very first day of human history as the famous saying goes “After God created the world, He made man and woman. Then, to keep the whole thing from collapsing, He invented humor.” Education is certainly no exception as inculcating humor in the class makes the class environment pleasant, students more relaxed and they feel at ease to participate in the classroom discussions. Also inculcating humor makes the professor much more approachable to their students. In fact, one of my favorite teacher in school used humor so efficiently to connect to the student which not only made learning super fun and enjoyable but also extremely effective. Naturally, students are anxious when they start a new course or subject and humor helps to create a no-tension atmosphere when needed having a relaxing atmosphere where the students can be in their natural habitat to be comfortable to share their thoughts in the class. Humor helps to break the glass ceiling between the educator and the students as any barriers between the two are detrimental for learning. Teachers who use humor are less imposing which encourage and motivates students to be more active leaners demonstrating positive motivation to contribute and be present in the class to encompass what all is taught. As I have been a student as well as a teacher for a couple of years, I strongly believe that humor relieves monotony and boredom which helps students to stay tuned in, keeping their attention so that they can learn. If they know something funny might happen at any moment, they listen which can be an effective strategy that can be capitalized by the educator.

Dear Ma’am, I have always been inspired by the way you teach and carry yourself as a faculty and now that you have penned down your thoughts on this matter, you have made a mark with your words. I have taught children for some time in my life and I completely understand when you talk about creating the connect. For any teacher, being able to connect to the class and keeping the entire class on toes for the session is half the battle already won. When we all walk into a Bschool from all walks of life, we all are so serious that learning gets replaced with studies. Here, you have very correctly pointed out that humour and learning is a great combination. This definitely helps in making the connect and getting everyone’s attention in the class. I remember our entire batch’s reaction after attending your class. We had fun and learnt well. I believe the challenge for a teacher at this level lies in getting the students hooked on to the topic. Everyone being so grown up, judges easily and interest once lost is very difficult to engage again because the childhood fear of marks is somewhere less significant. We are easily distracted with more worries outside the walls of the classroom. Keeping all the worries aside, we burn the midnight oil so often that engaging a bunch of sleepy heads becomes the biggest challenge for all the teachers. We drift off easily. As you have very correctly pointed out, humour in the right amount hits the sweet spot of attention and learning curve of the students. A connect established by using humour provides students a comfort zone with the faculty which brings in a fearless and no judgement environment for learning. You have very efficiently used humour as a tool to become an amazing teacher. I believe every teacher has his/her own world of expertise in students’ engagement which inspires us to go to class after every sleepless night.

It’s true that it is important to use some pedagogical approaches to hold the attention of the audience, particularly over a longer stretch of time. Some conventional means to hold peoples’ attention in an educational setting are being high on volume and energy and using humour as a tool to keep students engaged and interested. Humour in a classroom serves a variety of positive functions beyond simply making people laugh. Humour helps in building class cohesion. Students respond more positively to each other when there is humour present in the classroom. Humour brings people together. Research has suggested that humour helps people cope with stress and anxiety. Humour builds a learning relationship through the joyful union of heart and head. It helps in improving the retention of information and promotes creative understanding. But sometimes the functions of humour are not positive for example, if it is used disruptively or to ridicule someone, it weakens the classroom cohesion. Even when humour is used as a means of control it has negative effects on the class. It is not advisable for the instructor to make fun of someone’s beliefs or ignorance. The human mind is a fascinating thing. Researchers suggest that our mind doesn’t store any information just as it is but it rather stores the information with some other reference such as a place, object, smell, sound or something that stands out so that we can easily recall that information when needed with the help of that reference. That is why it is important for the instructor to make sure that there are enough memorable jokes and instances in their classroom sessions that students can easily remember the information passed onto them by the instructor. In the end, I believe that I cannot agree with you more, Dr Bhoola when you advise instructors to bring out their sense of humour for effective engagement and every once in a while, let go and not to hesitate to tickle the funny bone.

Very well written and to the point, Ma’am… There is no second thought that education plays the most critical role in all our lives. It becomes even more difficult for teachers to keep students engaged as the standard goes upward e.g. school / college / management students / executive participants. The most difficult part as rightly pointed out by you is to keep students awake and attentive. I am currently pursuing PGEMP course from SPJIMR and can certainly vouch that keeping humour in your class certainly keeps the discussions lively. In fact to concentrate in class and ‘study’ after gap of almost 12-13 years is the biggest task for working professionals like us. And at this point, we can experience that professors who are keeping classroom environment light and funny, it works pretty well not only for professor but also for students. It conveys the content to students in best possible manner. It certainly helps students to connect with teachers and create much required bonding. I have also observed that as compared to dull / boring classes, those with humour tend to be more interactive. Once teacher creates that sort of background, students actually do look forward to your next lecture too. This automatically creates interest for those subjects as well. This principle in fact is more applicable to subjects like economics / management skills or other theoretical subjects. These subjects which seem to be boring become interesting if teacher is able to strike a right cord and this can be achieved through good humour. I would like to congratulate you for such a beautiful and crisp piece of writing. I certainly would look forward to attend your class whenever such opportunity comes or listen you in some kind of address. Thanks once again and wish you all the best for all your future blogs.

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