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International Journal of English and Literature (IJEL) ISSN 2249-6912 Vol. 2 Issue 4 Dec - 2012 89-96 TJPRC Pvt.

. Ltd.,

DR. MUBASHER NADEEM Director,Division of Arts & Social Sciences, University of Education,Lower Mall Campus, Lahore,Pakista

Humor is an important part of human social life and when applied by the teacher in classroom affects students learning of English as a second language. Teaching is generally considered a serious profession by taking the meanings of the word serious in literal senses and same is transferred to prospective teachers who are to steer millions of public sector school students in right direction in their professional life. In teacher education programs the prospective teachers are injected this seriousness syndrome so far as English language teaching and learning are concerned. Keeping in view this significant factor the study was designed to know the opinions/reflections of University graduates, studying in different teacher education degree programs, about the use of humor as pedagogical techniques. The study was conducted on 100 University graduates through an opinionnair for data analysis, findings and conclusion. The results of the study manifest that the subjects are of the opinion that humor is one of the best ways to teach English language to prospective teachers who are taught about the seriousness of teaching as a profession. The respondents feel that dominating language instructors hardly set such an environment that could promote effective English language teaching/learning. Hence, it recommends that humor may be considered as one of the best ways of teaching English as a foreign language to prospective teachers and should also be taken as teaching aid like others. Further, there should be an effort on the part of language instructors to generate cordial relations with learners with the help of humor which can play vital role for effective language teaching and learning.

KEY WORDS: Tertiary Level, Teacher Education, Prospective Teachers, Humorous Teaching, Foreign Language,
Teaching Aid

Powell (1985) and Proctor (1994) reported that humor communicates issues related to classroom management without either lessening teachers authority or embarrassing the class. This appears to be very apt when it is applied to our classrooms especially at tertiary level where students are normally expected to be very serious and good listeners. It is generally believed that teachers expect high seriousness from the students of advanced level students on the plea that much is to be done as before joining a University they spent/wasted much of their time at colleges whereas degree programs at University level are tougher. Hence, teaching with pin drop silence becomes mode of teaching English language at tertiary level which leaves a lot for students to desire. High seriousness is undoubtedly not a bad element in the class but in language learning class humor could also play very effective role in the learning of a target language, like English, as previous research showed that humor can be beneficial to classroom learning (Cornett, 1986; Fisher, 1997). This study has been designed to probe into this important aspect of classroom situation after having seen a number of students talking about seriousness of some language instructors who rarely laugh or allow others to laugh in the class in


Dr. Mubasher Nadeem

teacher education programs. It may be true that all work and no play may make Jack a dull boy and intention of the study is dig out prospective teachers concern regarding use of humor or laughter at tertiary level whether it is benevolent in the learning of English language or not in teacher education as these prospective teachers are expected to be teaching a foreign language, English in our case, to school students who need this important language of the global world in their social and professional life. Design and procedure of the study The study is a survey research focused on the responses/reflections, of the prospective teachers of teacher education programs who study English language related content and pedagogy based courses in degree programs. The study was conducted on one hundred prospective teachers of B.ED and M.ED programs through an opinionnair to know their reflections/responses about the use of humor as a tool for effective teaching/learning of English language as well as for the creation of such an environment required for the smooth learning of English language content and pedagogy at tertiary level in teacher education degree programs. Related work Deiter (2000) says that unfortunately, students often see many of their classes as boring, difficult and stressful. But it may be due to some psychological reasons which create de-motivation or anxiety among language learners during the process of learning a foreign language. Foreign language anxiety or more precisely, foreign language classroom anxiety (FLCA) was considered to be a situational anxiety experienced in the well-defined situation of the foreign language classroom (MacIntyre & Gardner, 1991). Horwitz, Horwitz & Cope (1986) conceptualized foreign language anxiety as a distinct complex of self-perceptions, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors related to classroom language learning arising from the uniqueness of the language learning process. MacIntyre (1998) also stated that language anxiety is considered as a situation-specific anxiety, and research on language anxiety should employ measures of anxiety experienced in particular second/foreign language contexts. He described language anxiety as the worry and negative emotional reaction aroused when learning or using a second language (p. 27). The literature on humor in education reveals that humor affects students physically as it relaxes muscles, stimulates circulation, improves respiration, exercises the lungs and chest muscles, controls hormones that relieve stress on the body, increases immune system, increases the production of endorphins, and lowers pulse rate and blood pressure (Berk, 1996; Berk, 2002; Caron, 2002; Mahoney, 2000). The literature on humor in education reveals that humor also affects students psychologically as it decreases anxiety, stress, and tension; improves self-esteem and morale; and increases motivation, curiosity, comprehension, and perceived quality of life (Anderson & Arnoult, 1989; Bennett, 2003; Berk, 1996; Cornett, 1986; Garner, 2006; Philaretou, 2006; Stambor 2006). In relation to negative effect of such an effect in class, Oxford (1999) indicated that anxiety damages language learners achievement indirectly through worry and self doubt and directly by reducing participation and creating overt avoidance of the language. Similarly, Kondo and Yong (2004) argued that foreign language anxiety could have a negative effect on learners performance. Gregersen (2005) also argued that anxious learners often find it difficult to respond effectively to their own mistakes. These learners may find their study less enjoyable. In such situation humor could possibly be one of the ways to generate interest of the learners for foreign language learning on one hand and get better results in learning it on the other. Humor has been defined by Steven Leacock as the kindly contemplation of the incongruities of life and the artistic expression thereof (Berk, 1998). Humor means understanding not only the language and words but also their use, meaning,

Teaching with Humor: A Benevolent Teaching Technique for Second Language Learners in Teacher Education(A Reflective Study)


subtle nuances, the underlying culture, implications and unwritten messages" (Tuncay, 2007). Garner (2005) stated the following: Humor has also been described as a sense, as in the term, sense of humor. As with any sense, howeversuch as taste or smellindividuals may have differing levels of receptivity; similarly, humor can be highly personal, contextual, and subjective. Humor that is of poor taste or is insulting can be stifling rather than enlightening. Simple joke-telling does not possess the attributes that well planned and content-specific humor adds to the learning environment. Regarding the humor in pedagogy, Kher, Molstad & Donahue (1999) stated that humor is often identified as a teaching technique for developing a positive learning environment. When an instructor establishes a supportive social climate, students are more likely to be receptive to learning. Humor is a catalyst for classroom magic, when all the educational elements converge and teacher and student are both positive and excited about learning. Instructors can foster classroom "magic" through improved communication with students by possessing a playful attitude and a willingness to use appropriate humor (Golchi & Jamali, 2011). Hativa (2001) provided a classification of humor in teaching. She classified humor in three main categories. The first category is verbal humor that consists of jokes, anecdotes, language play, etc. The second one is nonverbal humor such as cartoon, caricature, photon and visual pun. The last one is combined verbal and nonverbal humor that consists of impersonation, parody, satire, monologue and skit. Chee (2006) also classified humor in teaching into four major categories: 1. 2. 3. 4. Textual: stories, jokes Pictorial: cartoons, comics Action/Games: theatre, video, role play, simulation, contests Verbal: Puns, word games, acronym Research suggests that general comprehension and retention of classroom messages were significantly improved by the use of humor. Casper (1999) stated that learning induced by humor strengthens the learning memory. Ziv (1988) investigated the effects on student learning of teaching with humor and reported that students appreciate and enjoy learning with a teacher who uses humor. Similarly, Kaplan and Pascoe (1977) reported that lectures with more concept-related humor helped students do significantly better on recalling tests of learnt concepts. It is clear that in order to motivate and have more receptive students, humor is essential to teaching and learning. Kristmanson (2000) stressed the importance of the affective environment in second language teaching. It cannot be emphasized enough that students are more willing to participate and take risks in using their second language in a classroom that allows them to do so without fear of criticism and ridicule. It is important for the teacher to create a "positive atmosphere" for learning. Humor, by decreasing anxiety and stress can, contribute to this positive classroom, to class unity and learning. Deneire (1995) suggests that humor be integrated harmoniously into existing language teaching approaches. The advantage of humor is that it could be used with any language teaching approach or method. Humorous material can add variety to the class. Providing a change of pace, and can contribute to reducing tension that many learners feel during the learning process. But the use of humorous texts in classes should be planned by the teacher. It should give learners the impression of being spontaneous but yet be an integral part of the course instrumental in building language skills. Watson and Emerson (1988) state:


Dr. Mubasher Nadeem

When humor is planned as part of the teaching strategy, a caring environment is established, there is an attitude of flexibility, and communication between student and teacher is that of freedom and openness. The tone is set allowing for human error with freedom to explore alternatives in the learning situation. This reduces the authoritarian position of the teacher, allowing the teacher to be a facilitator of the learning process. Fear and anxiety, only natural in a new and unknown situation, becomes less of a threat, as a partnership between student and instructor develops (Watson & Emerson, 1988, p.89). Studies in foreign language acquisition and teaching have acknowledged the use of humor to raise students motivation in the world language classroom (e.g., Medgyes, 2002; Tosta, 2001) and to teach humor as an important tool in a foreign culture in order to reach higher social competence (e.g., Zajdman, 1995). Furthermore, humor has been shown to facilitate the development of listening comprehension and reading. Although numerous studies have shown positive effects of humor in the classroom (e.g. Berk, 2000; Berwald, 1992; Bryant & Zillmann, 1989; Clabby, 1979; Colwell, 1981; Gorham & Cristophel, 1990; Pollack & Freda 1997), Deneire (1995) reports that humor is still underused in the foreign language classroom.


Sr. No 1 2 3 Opinion item I like dominating English language teacher. I expect my language teacher be very serious in the classroom. My teacher should tell us every about English language learning items himself/herself without our participation. Independence of learning of English language at tertiary level in teacher education programs is harmful. I love to see my language instructor cooperative and smiling person. All work and no play in language class surely make Jack a dull boy. Language teaching with humor generates conducive environment to learn English language passionately. Smiling English language teachers are better instructors than those who remain serious in the class. Language learning activities conducted with a blend of humor and light tone are good ways to learn English language. Teacher teaching English at tertiary level especially in teacher education programs should create friendly and students liked learning environment. Humorous way of teaching English language is exciting and result oriented. Humor is a motivating factor in learning A great deal 3 2 4 Much 2 5 5 Some what 5 5 10 Little 5 10 5 Never 80 78 76


5 6 7

90 85 80

3 5 3

2 5 2

4 3 10

1 2 5





11 12

80 81

5 3

5 4

5 9

5 3

Teaching with Humor: A Benevolent Teaching Technique for Second Language Learners in Teacher Education(A Reflective Study)


English as a second language. 13 14 Friendly teachers leave good impressions on the prospective teachers. Friendly classroom environment is also a good social norm which enables prospective teachers to practice in their professional life. Harsh way of teaching English language gets me worried about my performance in and outside the class. 84 84 6 4 2 2 2 5 6 5



I love to see

100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 I like M te y ache r

90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 La ua ng ge La ua ng ge H orou w um s ay H rsh w of a ay Frie ly nd

A great deal Much Some what Little Never

The analyzed data reflect that a majority of the subjects appear to be having some sort of antagonistic type of attitude towards high seriousness which is observed during the teaching of English language in teacher education. It may be due the conservative concept about the teaching profession in the society that a teacher must look like a seer instead of a facilitator of learning. In Pakistan education is becoming industry and private sector is also shouldering academic responsibilities just like public sector but on the other hand if the prospective teachers are trained in a congested academic environment they may not be able to cope up with the growing demand of education in the global village so far as a living language English is concerned. The respondents are of the view that language teachers/instructors must adopt such an attitude that should generate a sense of liking for English language and it may be learnt as a living language is learnt instead of learning in a classical way. For instance, a living language is to be learnt in an active way through classroom variations, such as pair work, or group work activities which provide learners chance to talk, chat, converse, in a normal way. If the students come a across their language teachers with authoritarian conduct they may not be able to get themselves adjusted in the environment to learn English language effectively. Light jokes related to the subject matter are in fact a motivating factor to create a sense of ownership to the language learnt. It is useful not inside the classroom but also desirable outside the classroom as responded by the subjects because learning a language is a continuing process which need consistence not only the part of learner but the teacher as well. All types of humor such as stories, jokes, comics, theatre, video, role play, simulation, contests, puns, word games, acronym, etc., are necessary for prospective teachers who may take them as a piece of advice from their teachers to their professional life for better foreign language society.


Dr. Mubasher Nadeem

It definitely lessens the dominating position of the teacher at tertiary level but at the same time provides the instructors such graduates who may become his/her future reference in professional life. Further, as the results show humorous way teaching a foreign language brings the instructors closer to learners, especially at tertiary level in teacher education programs, and a solid relationship is established to ensure effective English language teaching and learning at tertiary level in teacher education programs.

In the light of the results of the study it is inferred that humorous way to teaching a foreign language such as English at tertiary level in teacher education programs is an effective way to ensure effective teaching and learning of English. It is not only a motivating factor but also appears to be an effective pedagogical language teaching technique to get the prospective teachers equipped with such a tool that could help them in the social and academic life.

Keeping in view the results and conclusion of the study the following recommendations are made: 1. Humor is an effective teaching technique for the teaching of English at tertiary level. Hence, it may be included as a part of pedagogy for the effective teaching of English and learning. 2. Humorous way of teaching English may be made a part of capacity building component of the teachers engaged in teacher education programs for the teaching/learning of English language. 3. Humorous stories, jokes, comics, theatre, video, role play, simulation, contests, puns, word games, acronym, may be included in different language teaching courses at tertiary level in the light of academic needs of prospective teachers. 4. It is recommended that language instructors should also adopt humorous teaching technique while teaching content based courses related to English language/literature. 5. Humorous teaching technique may be considered a paradigm shift as well as demand of the present day pedagogy required for the teaching and learning of English language at tertiary level in teacher education. 6. It may also be considered as a teaching aid for effective language teaching at tertiary level in teacher education programs.

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Teaching with Humor: A Benevolent Teaching Technique for Second Language Learners in Teacher Education(A Reflective Study)



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Dr. Mubasher Nadeem

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