Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Humor: Handle with Care

Humor is a very effective tool to teach. Who doesn't like to enjoy a humorous situation? Why is humor not used popularly across training programs? Because it is risky, you may end up:
  • Offending the learner
  • Not getting through to the learner as it my go over his/her head (no offense meant to the learner)
  • Not making the learner laugh as he/she doesn't think it is funny
Another reason is that stakeholders typically think humor will make take the seriousness away from learning. They are worried that humor will dilute the issue. My take on this is as long as learning happens any strategy that best suits the learner can be used.

How can humor be used? Humor can be displayed using characters with funny characteristics, funny situations or funny portrayals of situations, comic strips, and so on. You need to keep the following in mind when using humor.
  1. Know thy learners: First, understand your learners. Identify whether they would appreciate humor. Think about whether humor is the best strategy to get through to the learners.
  2. Culture issue: When using humor, ensure you know your learners well enough to avoid offending the learner by mocking a culturally sensitive issue. Do not use blonde jokes, sexist jokes, sarcasm, and so on.
  3. Personal values: Ensure that the humor does not offend the learner's personal values and belief systems.
  4. Generalizations: Avoid making generalizations about a particular group. You are most likely to alienate your learners. It make more sense to introduce a stereotype character than taint an entire group.
  5. Real life: Learner should be able to relate to it. The humor should be in sync with the work environment. It should reflect situations/characters around the learner.
What kind of humor can we use? Subtle humor, in-face-kind of humor (Mr. Bean), comic strips, situational humor, and so on. I have still not managed to design a course that has humor as the core strategy. Guess we have not come across the right audience. We have used humor as an introduction to a particular concept. More like a gain attention screen that displays humorous situations to capture the learner's interest. This works well too. It helps lighten the mood before taking the learner to some actual learning.

If you have come across courses with humor used well, do share!

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