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Humor and the classroom: Prof. Michael Suda explores their relationship

“There are humorless courses that can be very good and courses full of jokes that are bad. […] Humor is a way to interact with and connect people.” responds Prof. Dr. Michael Suda when asked about his views on using humor as a teaching method in universities on his recent interview for “Forschung und Lehre”.

Professor Suda has been using humor as a tool in his classes for a long time and believes that it can be a great way to reach usually young people or other groups that would otherwise. When asked about the importance of humor in order to convey information, Suda states that “Humor is like curry in Indian food, it can never replace good preparation and ingredients, but it can be used as the final kick that makes everything taste right”, this realization also has implications not only in the way that students see humor, but also in the responsibility borne by professors to carry information on to students. Learning to use humor and when not to use humor in the classroom can be the decisive factor in attracting the attention of those being taught.

While elaborating on the subject of humor in the classroom, and wether or not it really improves a lesson, Suda draws the deciding factor due to which students would consider a lesson “humorous” or not, not to the existence or not of jokes or a laid-back atmosphere, but to the lack of monotony. Intercalating humorous moments and more serious and concentrated moments during a lesson can allow for learners of all levels to adapt to the style of presentation used by the professor. In Suda’s words, “My classes are full of work and moments in which a student does things by themselves, and then a magic trick which has something to do with the subject”.

Professor Suda also believes that humorous elements can be planned into classes beforehand, but aside from aligning the jokes with the subject matter, various kinds of humor have to be considered and carefully chosen to appeal to the age, class and possibly emotional background of listeners. The entire point of purposely engaging in humorous activities during a class is to engage students and capture the most important element of the mix: their attention, this cannot be done if students can’t relate to the material or if they feel like the humor is being negatively directed at them.

Many professors look into adding humor into their classes and Professor Suda is trying to appeal to these professionals by offering classes designed to teach other professors how to include humorous elements and intermissions into their teaching methods.

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