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Program 3: Learning through Laughter
The Value of Humor in Teaching and Training

Although traditional schools squelched humor, research has shown that humor can have many benefits in education and training. As a professor and former school teacher, Dr. Morreall knows firsthand how humor can create an open atmosphere for learning, get and hold students' attention, increase retention of what is learned, foster a constructive attitude towards mistakes, and stimulate both creative and critical thinking. While most teaching and training is based on convergent thinking -- getting The Right Answer -- humor is based on divergent thinking -- thinking in which many answers are possible. We need to teach convergent thinking -- facts from science, for example, and math skills. But in real life, our students face countless problems which are not like multiple-choice questions, and which call for creative and even playful thinking.

With funny examples and exercises, we'll learn techniques for bringing humor into the classroom, to improve students' divergent thinking and their convergent thinking. A simple one is bringing items in from newspapers, such as "Woman Divorces Siamese Twin to Wed His Brother."

The premier role model for humor and learning is John Cleese, veteran of the Monty Python acting troupe, now on the faculty of Cornell University and the world's largest producer of video training programs. In most of Cleese's programs, we learn how to do something well by seeing what totally screwing it up looks like. As we laugh at the guy who completely botches the meeting, for example, we realize what we have been doing wrong in our own meetings, and so we improve. In laughing at mistakes, we are less defensive and more open to learning.


© 2017 John Morreall