Cartoon Humor Helps Learning

How can a college instructor improve students’ attitudes and make them eager to attend class? One tactic is to use humor. More importantly, research indicates that humor helps people learn.

Research on Humor and Teaching

Much has been written about humor and learning. Kher, Molstad and Donahue (1999) referenced some of the literature in their article entitled “Using humor in the college classroom to enhance teaching effectiveness in ‘dread courses”. With reference to an earlier work by Wandersee (1982), they indicated that cartoons are one form of humor that promotes facilitates learning.

The Cartoon Guide to Statistics

I learned about “Cartoon Guides” more than 10 years ago. I was teaching Managerial Statistics and Quality at Keller Graduate School of Management. Their “lead” statistics teacher whose name I have long forgotten, mentioned that he used The Cartoon Guide to Statistics. But why would a graduate school instructor want such a reference?

Keller, which has since merged with DeVry University, ran new instructors through their Educator in Training (EIT) program. No matter how much prior teaching experience you had, you were required to complete this multi-class training program. There were two things that I carried away from my training. (Note:  I expect they wanted me to carry away a lot more.) First, Keller expected that you prepared lesson plans that “chunked” your lecturing into no more than 20-minute segments. The second, was encouragement to use cartoons. From that day forward, every class I taught at Keller or anywhere else began with a cartoon. When students arrived at my classroom they would always find a cartoon that I had projected.

Humorous Books for College Teachers and Their Students

The title of Kher, Molstad and Donahue’s article ended with “enhance teaching effectiveness in ‘dread courses’.” Some of those dread courses are chemistry and physics. If you are a chemistry or physics instructor you may be interested in these cartoon guides.

More Cartoon Guides

There are several other CARTOON GUIDES. Click on “Cartoon Guides” on the right and check them out!

© 2011 Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.

December 3, 2011


About Dr. Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.

My name is Paul Hummel, and I often introduce myself to others as a recovering engineer. If you are familiar with the Dilbert cartoons, let me simply say that I lived all of that. I started my college saga at Illinois Institute of Technology. Eventually, I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management. I worked for many years in industry, and during this time I did some college adjunct teaching. During my career I held several managerial positions in industry, the last as Director of Technology of a division of a Fortune 500 corporation. Then, in 1996, with minimal planning or forethought, I found myself working as a manufacturing consultant on behalf of Elgin Community College (ECC). My career in higher education began to take shape. I fell in love with ECC and with the mission of community colleges in general. I worked fulltime and occasionally taught college courses for my institution and two other colleges. After a couple years I set a goal to move over to the “credit side of the college” and eventually become a college administrator. In 2006, having earned my doctorate in education, I achieved that goal. I was hired by Waubonsee Community College as Dean for Technology, Mathematics and Physical Sciences. I have had the great fortune of working at two excellent colleges. The insights I want to share are drawn from the various college positions I have held. At ECC, in addition to my consulting role, I coordinated non-credit professional development training programs for three years and spent four years advising students in the TRiO Student Support Services program. That position helped me understand college education from the perspective of today’s college students. After seven years at Waubonsee, I retired April 30, 2013. I now devote my knowledge and skills to upgrading and expanding the websites I created beginning with Adjunct Assistance. I have three other websites: College Teaching Tips, Keys for College Success and Lighthouse for Learning. A lot of work lies ahead for me in terms of upgrading and expanding each of these websites, but I could not be more excited about fulfilling the vision I have for helping college instructors and their students succeed.

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