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The Value of a Learner’s Laugh

Think back to the most influential educator you have had in your life. If you are anything like me, you remember laughing in that class or even outside of that class with said person. Of all the influential and funny professors I’ve had, I remember one in college who always told us a brief, relevant anecdote before our 8am class to start the day.

It often seemed like laughter was more effective than the double shots of espresso at waking up the class. I never tested how humor affected learning, but fortunately for both of us, the American Psychology Association did. Humor produces psychological and physiological benefits to learning. Learning doesn’t stop after you get your diploma, so let your learners laugh once in a while. Here’s our advice for integrating humor into your lessons:


Timing is everything. In order to integrate humor seamlessly into your lessons, choose the placement carefully. When jokes are made in context, it can further ingrain the lesson into the learner’s memory. So, don’t just Google jokes about passwords and shove it into the middle of your lesson while trying to explain the changing process.

In this case, make a joke at the beginning as to how frustrating remembering all of your passwords can be so now you use a single login system. A relatable joke at the beginning makes the learner genuinely interested because it offers a human touch and understanding.


Interspacing humor within a lesson can keep a learner engaged while they learn. If the humor outgrows the education of a lesson, it’s easy to get caught up in the jokes and just skim the content. It can be tough to find the balance, which is why questions and feedback are useful.

Just adding a funny question response every now and then can be enough to get a quiet, internalized laugh from people taking your lessons, while keeping them engaged. When your learners scores start slipping or their feedback is confusion about the lesson, you have crossed into the humor-excessive stage. As a fan of humor, it’s hard for me to admit that line, but I’m a bigger fan of learning and effective education.

Don’t lose focus

Most lessons are not focused on sharing jokes around the office; the point of assignments is to teach, not to try out your upcoming open-mic night routine. If you want someone to listen to it, I will take it upon myself. Your learners should be able to click “Finish,” with a smile on their face for two reasons: a sense of accomplishment from their new knowledge, and a laugh, in that order.

Next time you have a question about humor in learning, send me an email. I’ll be your humor-in-learning consultant.

The best teachers understand how their audience learns. Don’t be afraid to get feedback from your learners. Listen closely when they take lessons. If you hear a soft chuckle or a benevolent snicker, you nailed it.

Let’s start figuring out how to make your learning more engaging here.

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