Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy and Leadership

First Advisor

Pink, William

Second Advisor

Schweizer, Heidi

Third Advisor

Jessup-Anger, Jody




Stephen Paul Halula

Marquette University. 2013

Everyone has had college instructors who they thought were excellent and those who were not. In pondering what attributes might have made the difference between these groups, the idea of "humor" came to mind, setting the researcher on course to study the research question "What role does humor in the higher education classroom play in student-perceived instructor effectiveness?"

A qualitative approach to acquiring data was chosen. An entry-level history class led by a college instructor at a major Midwestern university known for his sense of humor was selected. Nine students were given a survey on instructor effectiveness; five of the survey respondents were chosen for a series of three, 30-45 minute interviews to discuss the research question topic, i.e., the role humor plays in the higher education classroom. The goal was to hear what students actually had to say about the importance of humor in their classrooms.

In reviewing the extant literature, it was found that many books and dissertations wrote about humor and education but were typically anecdotal and prescriptive in nature with little or no research backing. While studies about humor and education could be found, a large number of them were concerned with primary and secondary school settings. Of all the studies a very small number of these listened to the voice of the student. As a majority of the extant literature focused on a lecture-based, teacher-centric, large-classroom educational paradigm, this study chose that model as well as a basis for analysis to be able to be able to compare and contrast findings and data points with this literature.

A number of studies showed affirmatively the link between humor and education, pointing out that that humor helps create a learning-conducive environment helping students retain classroom subject matter, i.e., learn better.

The results of the survey and interviews aligned with a majority of the extant literature that humor did indeed play an important role in the efficacy of their instructors by creating this learning-conducive environment, where the atmosphere was less stressful, where questions could be asked without fear, and information would be better and longer retained.