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The Ariana Institute offers an NCBTMB approved online CE course, Massage Therapy Instructors - Teaching Adult Learners, at http://www.arianainstitute.com/CE/mti.htm, designed for current and future massage therapy instructors. Here is some information on using humor in the classroom. What are some other examples of using humor in the classroom?

How to Use Humor In The Classroom

Many experts have espoused the use of humor for various physiological and psychological benefits that are believed to be associated with laughter and/or humor.
Some of the physiological benefits associated with laughter and/or humor include muscle relaxation, stimulated circulation, improved respiration, and exercise of the lungs and chest muscles, increased production of the body's natural pain killers called endorphins, as well as lowered pulse rate and blood pressure.
Positive psychological effects of laughter include reduced anxiety and stress, greater self esteem, and increased self motivation. Not coincidentally, perhaps, the use of humor has been recommended as a tool that promotes a productive learning environment, as an effective health care tool, and as a tool to improve interpersonal relationships.
One of the main reasons for using humor in the classroom is to improve student learning. The use of humor should be a teaching tool that, if effective, will increase the amount of "what" is taught that is actually learned by students. Using humor can have very definite positive effects for the following reasons.
(1) The use of humor in the classroom can help to create a more positive learning environment by breaking down barriers to communication between the instructor and the students. There are many differences between instructors and students such as position, title, age, and income that create natural barriers to communication and learning. Instructors must break down these barriers if they are to be effective educators. Humor is one method by which instructors can make their relationships with students closer. When instructors have a sense of humor and aren't afraid to use it, students relax and become listeners. Having a sense of humor is an indication that the instructor is human and can share with the group. Humor builds rapport between the students and the instructor. Students will be less intimidated and less inhibited about asking questions or making comments. An instructor who makes mistakes and is willing to admit it or laugh at himself/herself when this happens communicates to students that it is also okay for them to be creative, take chances, look at things in an offbeat way, and, perhaps, even make mistakes in the process. Humor and creativity are related, that there is a connection between "HaHa," and "Aha."
(2) Humor can help students retain subject matter, especially if the humor reinforces the class material. Students tend to agree that they are more likely to remember material if it is presented with humor. There are common sense reasons that the use of humor helps students learn. The main reason is that the use of humor helps to gain students' attention and humor helps hold their interest in the material being presented. It is physically impossible to laugh and snore at the same time.
(3) Students say they are more likely to attend classes in which humor is used and more likely to skip boring classes. Of course, there is a strong positive correlation between class attendance and student performance. While no substitute for substance, humor can create a more positive, fun, interesting environment that promotes class attendance and student learning.
(4) Other reported benefits of humor in the classroom include increased comprehension and cognitive retention (presumable due to less stress and anxiety), reduced student negativism or hostility regarding potentially confrontational issues (e.g., grading) in the classroom, as well as improved student attitudes toward the subject and the instructor.
A survey of students in the Iowa State Daily asked, "Who is your favorite professor?" Student comments on three of the six identified professors included "presents material with a good sense of humor," "makes the class interesting; not dull and boring," and "really funny and keeps my attention." Former New York governor, Alfred E. Smith is quoted as saying "If you can make people laugh, you can make them think, and make them like you and believe you."
(5) An instructor who effectively prepares and uses humor in the classroom will find that teaching is more fun and enjoyable. Trying to achieve excellence in how to teach, whether it be with humor or with something else, requires creativity and can bring some of the challenges back to teaching for those who may have lost it because they have mastered what to teach. Watching students who you know are enjoying listening to you (or at least staying awake) and hearing them laugh at your humor is very rewarding.
(Source: Ron Deiter)

Think about ways that you can effectively utilize humor in your massage therapy classes to hold the interest of your students, to create a sense of community, to create a positive learning environment, and to enhance your our enjoyment while teaching classes.

Register for your online Massage Therapy Instructor's class today at http://www.arianainstitute.com/CE/mti.htm

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Replies to This Discussion

It has been my experience that humor in the classroom can be tricky. Most humor is based on belittling a person, a pet, an idea, a belief, etc. Jeff Foxworthy’s jokes about Rednecks or The People of Walmart are examples. Hilarious, yes, but maybe not to everyone, right? Humor is sarcastic, humor is cynical, humor is about someone’s embarrassment. Falling down the stairs and landing in an awkward position, Dilbert and his pointy-haired boss, comparing someone to a monkey, are examples. Humor is pretty much always at someone’s expense.

 

Acceptable humor is different in different parts of the country (as well as in different countries). New Yorkers love sarcasm and sarcasm directed right at a New Yorker just rolls right off their back. They also find cussing amusing. Try this brand of humor out in the South or in the Midwest- you will instantly lose the respect of your class. Tread cautiously with humor. Never make fun of your students, and realize they may have beliefs, family, friends that they do not appreciate you making fun of.

 

There is of course one person you can always have fun with, and use as the subject of a joke or a humorous story- yourself! Tell a funny story about YOU, the teacher, and everyone in the class relaxes. You become more real, more approachable, and that can only enhance your teaching.

 

Check out my 4-day LIVE class, Teaching Skills for the Workshop Leader, and learn teaching skills for being a CE Provider. Raleigh, NC in October. See DynamicEquilibrium.com for details.

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