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Humor in the philosophy classroom: When is it pedagogically useful and when is it destructive? 2010 AAPT Workshop-Conference Coastal Carolina University.

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Presentation on theme: "Humor in the philosophy classroom: When is it pedagogically useful and when is it destructive? 2010 AAPT Workshop-Conference Coastal Carolina University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Humor in the philosophy classroom: When is it pedagogically useful and when is it destructive? 2010 AAPT Workshop-Conference Coastal Carolina University July 31, 2010 Dennis Earl Nils Rauhut

2 Our plan here Presentation (15-20 min.) Why are we interested in humor and teaching? The use of humor in Plato (Rauhut) Review of empirical studies of the use of humor in the classroom (Earl) Group work (30-35 min.) What types or examples of humor have “worked” for you in philosophy classes? Why was that? What hasn’t? Why was that? Debriefing/conclusions (5-10 min.) What maxims can we take away from this, if any?

3 The function of humor in Plato In Plato there seems to be a strong connection between philosophy and humor Helping the interlocutor: the example of Hippias Major: “Beauty is a beautiful girl” Socrates response: “That’s a brilliant answer!” Showing multiple levels of complexity: the example of the Myth of Er in Republic X Humanizing Philosophy: The example of Alcibiades in the Symposium.

4 Review of empirical studies of the use of humor in the classroom What kind of experiments and research are we talking about here? Is humor connected with student learning? Possible benefits of using humor Kinds of humor to consider Appropriate vs. inappropriate uses of humor

5 Possible benefits of using humor in the classroom 1 reduced anxiety, tension, and stress reduced boredom increased comprehension increased interest increased motivation increased/better communication increased satisfaction with learning promotion of cognitive activity better performance on tests/exams 1. Berk 1996; 71, 73; also Garner 2006; Wanzer et al. 2006

6 How can humor undermine student learning? One answer: By being perceived as inappropriate What is perceived as appropriate and what’s not? (Wanzer et al. 2006; categories generated from student responses): Categories of appropriate humor: humor related to course material humor unrelated to course material self-disparaging humor unintentional humor Categories of inappropriate humor: disparaging humor: targeting students (as a group or individually) disparaging humor: targeting others offensive humor self-disparaging humor

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9 Discussion What counts as success in using humor in (philosophy) teaching? What types or examples of humor have been successful for you in philosophy classes? Why was that? What hasn’t? Why was that? What maxims about using humor can we take away from all of this?

10 Discussion What counts as success in using humor in (philosophy) teaching? What types or examples of humor have been successful for you in philosophy classes? Why was that? What hasn’t? Why was that? What maxims about using humor can we take away from all of this?

11 Two principles for using humor effectively If a humorous device is likely to improve student learning, consider using it. If a humorous device is likely to undermine student learning, don’t use it. Question: How does (or might) humor improve student learning?

12 “Debriefing”--What maxims can we take away from all of this? Two suggestions (which are sort of obvious by now) If a humorous device is likely to improve student learning, consider using it. If a humorous device is likely to undermine student learning, don’t use it.


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