Why did the professor cross the road? How and why college professors intentionally use humor in their classrooms



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College professors face many pressing challenges: staying current in their disciplines, becoming familiar with new technology, responding to national accountability issues, publishing scholarly research in their fields, and facilitating student learning in their classes. Teaching and learning are complex processes. Humor is a powerful instructional resource. The purpose of this study is to understand how and why college professors intentionally use humor in the classroom and what influence humor has on their teaching. This qualitative study focuses on ten college professors who have a reputation for using humor in their classrooms. I conducted semi-structured interviews with these faculty and made four classroom observations. The interview transcripts were coded and analyzed using the constant comparative method. Three major findings emerged from the research. First, humor, for these professors, is a constitutive part of their identities as teachers. The professors articulated the belief that their sense of humor and the ways they used humor in the classroom made them better teachers. Their teaching identities were created as they learned from their own teaching mentors, developed their personal teaching philosophies, and became confident enough to show their own personalities in their classrooms. The second finding was that these professors have constructed very student-centered, positive classroom climates. All of them recognized the benefits of humor for their students and were aware of the advantages of humor for the learning process and to foster bonds between students and teacher. They also said humor made their jobs as teachers more satisfying. They were also cognizant of appropriate and inappropriate uses of humor and were careful exactly how they used humor in their teaching. The final finding refers to how a professor may be viewed as a performer. These professors have constructed teaching identities that allow them to go into the classroom and present information often in a dramatic, striking manner. The teachers in this study have developed teaching methods that capture the students? attention, and the techniques often reflect theatrical styles or approaches that make them feel like performers.