In preparation for Laughter Day at Tintern Grammar this coming Friday 23 August, Brenton Killeen CEO of Jerry’s House is here to share why humour is important. Jerry’s House was co-founded by Year 10 Tintern student Lochie Graham, and Laughter Day is an awareness and fundraising initiative for this cause. The inaugural Laughter Day, this coming Friday, will see students participate in a series of fun and humorous activities, including a free-dress day for Years 7 – 12 students and a lunchtime BBQ, cakes and ice-cream stalls and jumping castle. See the Laughter Day poster further below.
Why humour is an important tool for learning?
“Laughter isn’t just the best medicine for the soul; it’s a valuable teaching tool as well. It can encourage an atmosphere of openness, develop students’ divergent thinking, improve their retention of the presented materials, and garner respect for the teacher” Times Reporter 2017.
Laughter is such a genuine and authentic human reaction to feeling enlivened and excited. Feeling excited is an important part of curiosity, and curiosity is one of the most significant aspects of learning. Humour keeps us engaged and interested.
Sarah Henderson from The Johns Hopkins University, School of Education’s, Mind, Brain and Teaching reflects on the well documented and researched science of laughter. “Humour activates the brain’s dopamine reward system, stimulating goal-oriented motivation and long-term memory, which means that humour can improve retention in students of all ages.
The funny bone is connected to the sense of wonder. Humour is inherently social. The contagious nature of humour naturally builds a sense of community by lowering defences and bringing individuals together. If the brain is faced with inconsistency, then laughter is the response when it is resolved in an unexpected way. This sentence, “Memorisation is what we resort to when what we are learning makes no sense,” may make us smile as our brains resolve its inconsistency.
Essentially, humour activates our sense of wonder, which is where learning begins, so it seems logical that humour could enhance retention. A Pew Research poll showed that viewers of humorous news shows such as The Daily Show and The Colbert Report exhibited higher retention of news facts than those who got their news from newspapers, CNN, Fox News, or network stations. When Stephen Colbert demands, “If we don’t cut expensive things like Head Start, child nutrition programs, and teachers, what sort of future are we leaving for our children?”, viewers laugh and also retain the knowledge of that specific budget issue.
A substantial body of research explains why we remember things that make us laugh, such as our favourite, hilarious high school moment or the details of that funny movie we saw last weekend. Neuroscience research reveals that humour systematically activates the brain’s dopamine reward system, and cognitive studies show that dopamine is important for both goal-oriented motivation and long-term memory, while educational research indicates that correctly-used humour can be an effective intervention to improve retention in students from early learning through to university.
by Brenton Killeen, Jerry’s House CEO