About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2020 Proceedings
Publication year: 2020
Pages: 8997-9004
ISBN: 978-84-09-24232-0
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2020.1997
Conference name: 13th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 9-10 November, 2020
Location: Online Conference
Several studies have shown the positive outcomes of using humor in the classroom on the learning atmosphere (e.g., References [1,2]) and on students’ learning results [3]. These findings are supported by Miller et al. [4], who point out that humorously designed teaching materials increase students’ understanding of the topic and by Matarazzo et al. [5], who show that the learning results of students can be increased by humorous teaching materials. Previous presentations at ICERI conferences provided insights into integrating humor into teaching practices (e.g., Reference [6]) and teaching materials (e.g., Reference [7]).

Our approach shifts the view from the teacher (trying to make students laugh) to the students (trying to make them being funny). We integrated humor into the course design and asked students to create comedy scripts inspired by late-night comedy instead of seminar papers. Each comedy script deals with a highly topical subject of sustainable development and discusses its grand challenges and appropriate solutions in a scientifically sound way, while making extensive use of humor. We empowered our students and helped them to discover their ‘funny bones’, by explaining the basics of humor and comedy writing, by analyzing leading late-night comedy shows (e.g., John Oliver, Hasan Minhaj) and by organizing a workshop with an improv actress. Based on the experiences and evaluations of three courses, we can say that:
(1) humor is craft (and not a talent) and needs practicing,
(2) by writing comedy scripts students gain a deeper understanding of a certain topic than by writing standard seminar papers,
(3) humor can be integrated into courses which are not genuinely funny.
Students reported that our course helped them to boost their creativity and imagination.

Our course was distinguished for its unique design with the "Best of Austria Award for Education for Sustainable Development" by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism. This award honors outstanding projects and initiatives that contribute to a societal change towards a sustainable future.

[1] J. A. Banas, N. Dunbar, D. Rodriguez, and S. J. Liu, “A Review of Humor in Educational Settings: Four Decades of Research,” in Communication Education, vol. 60, no. 1, pp. 115-144, 2011.
[2] H. Benjelloun, “An empirical investigation of the use of humor in university classrooms,” Education, Business and Society: Contemporary Middle Eastern Issues, vol. 2, no. 4, pp. 312-322, 2009.
[3] S. Bieg and M. Dresel, “Relevance of perceived teacher humor types for instruction and student learning,” Social Psychology of Education, vol. 21, pp. 805-825, 2018.
[4] J. L. Miller, K. Wilson, J. Miller, and K. Enomoto, “Humorous materials to enhance active learning,” Higher Education Research & Development, vol. 36, no. 4, pp. 791-806, 2017.
[5] K. Matarazzo, “The effect of humorous instructional materials on interest in a math task,” Motivation and Emotion, vol. 34, pp. 293-305, 2010.
[6] J.D Rich, “Humor: a multidisciplinary approach to teaching funny,” in: ICERI 2019 Proceedings, pp. 1136-1141, 2019.
[7] P. Ludovice and D. MacNair, “Using humor in the STEM classroom to enhance knowledge transfer,” in: EDULEARN 19 Proceedings, pp.9081-9098, 2019.
Humor, Teaching, Course Design, Sustainability, Comedy-Skripts.