Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Leadership PhD

First Advisor

Shirley A. Freed

Second Advisor

Timothy E. Spruill

Third Advisor

Rilla Taylor


Problem. The purpose of this study was to examine the perceived connections between the intentional use of humor in the nursing classroom and student learning in the cognitive and affective domains while seeking to understand student and teacher perceptions and responses to humor.

Method. This study used a case study approach and the end result is a multiple case study of three associate degree nursing instructors in the Midwest. The data collection methods included observations, interviews, and surveys. Data from the different sources were examined within and across cases for commonality or difference of experience. Connections were made between humor and cognitive and affective learning.

Results. This study portrayed the successful use of intentional humor in three nursing classrooms. Teachers and the students at all stages of their education expressed benefits they believed were received from humor. The students of all three classes observed were remarkably homogeneous and there were no obvious differences among the student responses to classroom humor that could be attributed to demographic factors. Nursing faculty members incorporated relevant humor to support educational points. All three teachers in the study used cartoons and spontaneous humor, inserting a humorous event about every 10 to 15 minutes. They included other humor forms; each teacher favored certain forms. The teacher in Illinois used song and dance routines, role-playing was preferred by the teacher of freshmen in Ohio, and the Indiana teacher specialized in puns and funny stories.

Conclusions. Humor can be an effective, multi-purpose teaching tool for nursing educators to convey course content, hold students’ attention, relieve anxiety, establish rapport with their students, and make learning fun. Guidelines are included to help faculty learn to incorporate humor in their classrooms.

Subject Area

Nursing--Study and teaching, Teaching--Humor.


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