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Humour

Humour can be difficult to pitch and some people find this easier to carry off than others. You would obviously want to choose something which wasn't too much of a clash with your usual personality - don't look as though you are trying too hard. Just try to fit in with your usual sense of humour and don't use anything which you are uncomfortable with. If you aren't much of a humourist, try Googling for 'your subject' and 'joke' or 'cartoon' - you might be surprised, and hopefully amused, at the choice, and it might be a useful device to try once or twice during the term to get the audience's attention. If nobody finds it funny, move on quickly!

It probably goes without saying, but jokes, cartoons, or anecdotes used for teaching purposes shouldn't be directed at individuals or groups of any kind. Even if you can reasonably assume you are in a group of like-minded people it isn't a good idea to poke fun at the opposite viewpoint in an educational setting. Try to find humour in situations instead.

There have been quite a few articles written on the topic of using humour in teaching. Compering and comparing: stand-up comedy and pedagogy is particularly useful for linking performance skills to academic life in some detail. You don't have to go the full standup route, although I hear that Kevin McCarron is well worth seeing: even the occasional light hearted moment can be justified simply on the grounds of providing variety and relief in a lecture.

Reference: McCarron, Kevin and Savin-Baden, Maggi (2008). "Compering and comparing: stand-up comedy and pedagogy." Innovations in Education and Teaching International 45(4): 355 - 363. (online) (Athens/Shibboleth login needed).

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