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Humor as an Instructional Defibrillator: Evidence-Based Techniques in Teaching and Assessment Paperback – September 25, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-1579220631 ISBN-10: 1579220630 Edition: 1st

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Humor as an Instructional Defibrillator: Evidence-Based Techniques in Teaching and Assessment + Professors Are from Mars®, Students Are from Snickers®: How to Write and Deliver Humor in the Classroom and in Professional Presentations + If They're Laughing, They Just Might be Listening: Ideas for Using Humor Effectively in the Classroom - Even if You're Not Funny Yourself
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Stylus Publishing; 1 edition (September 25, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1579220630
  • ISBN-13: 978-1579220631
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,352,262 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"The presentation of background support for humor as an educational tool is also impressive...In fact, in this era of PowerPoint presentations his suggestions of music and graphics as arousing stimuli (complete with internet sources) could be a helpful addition to the right material."

"This book could be required reading for any teacher who wants to pick up powerful, evidence-based humor techniques for in-class delivery, course hand-out materials, web sites, distance learning, and even course exams ( to minimize test anxiety and maximize retention). We love Ron's sense of humor that pervades the practical ideas thoughout the book - he truly practices what he teaches. You will learn terrific techniques that are applicable to any instructional level ( even.. and most especially the most "serious" of subjects)."

"He continues to inform and amuse readers about how he has used numerous strategies to help students enjoy various courses while learning the contents. The book's eight chapters are presented in two parts that focus on teaching and assessment. Recommended."

"Ronald Berk, a recognized authority in measurement and biostatistics, has written two books on the use of humor in teaching and professional presentations. While "humorous biostatistician" is an oxymoron at face value, it is an accurate descriptor for Berk. Both books incorporate his humorous style and are easy and enjoyable to read while also being useful as guides to the use of humor. In writing this review, the temptation is to model, or even parody, Berk's style, trying to out-Berk Berk with witty aphorisms, clever language, double entendre, or other devices. Prudence (perhaps even good taste) suggests a more conservative approach.

Professors Are from Mars, originally published in 1998, provides a rationale, evidence, and helpful hints for those who are interested in using humor in their presentations or materials. Humor as an Instructional Defibrillator provides much of the same information, but extends the review of scholarship dealing with the effects of humor, provides more examples, and contains a larger treatment of assessment issues, including test item construction. For those interested in simply exploring the use of humor, Professors Are from Mars is probably the better choice.

These books are not for everyone. As Berk acknowledges, there will be some who "…have the sense of humor of tile grout…" and who will look upon any attempt to use humor as disrespectful to teaching, the discipline, and all things holy. He rightly cautions that there is some danger, especially for untenured faculty who may have to reply on the opinions of colleagues at promotion and tenure time. Berk also is realistic about the dangers of "bombing" caused by bad material, poor delivery, insensitivity to the audience, etc., especially for those just beginning to incorporate humor into their courses and presentations. Not only does the humor fail, but the teacher risks negative consequences with respect to self-concept, reputation among students and peers, and career aspirations. To help readers avoid such disasters, Berk stresses several useful techniques, including analysis of what makes oneself and one's audience laugh, selecting and adapting material to fit one's situation, testing material in advance, and making constant revisions.

To a certain extent, what Berk recommends requires that the reader be willing to exercise some suspension of disbelief. One may read a considerable number of examples without bursting out in uncontrollable laughter, and thus question the extent to which anyone else would find the material funny. Likewise, when attempting to deliver material (and as with any kind of performance), confidence in one's material and ability are important. In effect, if you don't think the material is funny, it won't be, and if you don't think you can deliver it well, you probably won't. There is an old distinction between being a comic and a comedian: one says funny things, the other says things funny. A terse description of Berk's books is that, in the case of classroom humor, the safest advice is to try to do both.
Berk's contributions in this are, for all purposes, unique. Anyone interested in incorporating humor into the classroom should refer to these books often. Berk himself notes that he is constantly involved in looking for, creating, or adapting material and that this repertoire changes as a result of context, his audiences, or simply the passage of time. References to a 1960s TV show, for example, may not work with contemporary students, and an academic audience may have little knowledge of the pop culture that provides the basis for much of today's humor. In any case, the lesson to be learned from Berk's books is that humor requires thought, preparation, and consideration of context.

Now let me tell you about a funny thing that happened on my way to this book review. This guy came up to me and said he hadn't had a bite in weeks. So I bit him. Alternatively, he said he hadn't had a byte in weeks. So I gave him a chip. Either way, you get Berk's point about the risks."

About the Author

Ronald A. Berk is Professor Emeritus of Biostatistics and Measurement and former Assistant Dean for Teaching, The Johns Hopkins University. He received the University’s Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award in 1993 and Caroline Pennington Award for Teaching Excellence in 1997 and was inducted as a Fellow in the Oxford Society of Scholars in 1998.He has published 11 books and 130 journal articles / chapters. These publications reflect his unwavering commitment to mediocrity and his motto: “Go for the Bronze!” He is a popular speaker on teaching and assessment throughout the U.S. and Europe.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Radek on March 13, 2006
Format: Paperback
This guy is really lost. Perhaps he is funny in person, but his book leaves quite a bit to be desired. He has delusions of mediocrity. Nothing in the book is ground breaking or even original. Some of his great ideas come from things like "keep them interested with a hook." This idea he keeps repeating over and over...ad naseum. Don't waste you time or energy on this. Honestly, I can't think of anyone who would be able to use anything in here.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on December 28, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has a few good ideas for helping you to be more interesting to students, but I found that the jokes get old quickly and most of the ideas are pretty lame. Better advice might be to find your own sense of humor and be yourself! If you truly enjoy teaching and love your students, it will come through in your classroom demeaneor. This book is for those teachers and professors who are so seriously humor-deficient as to be terminally boring anyway, so it might not even help. Give the book a try, but I wouldn't recommend paying full price for it; get it used or borrow it from a colleague or library.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was inspired by this book and used it as a starting point for my dissertation. When I contacted Dr. Berk he was encouraging and helpful to me.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Fisher on November 4, 2006
Format: Paperback
Useful tips for catching the attention of students by way of humor and surprise factors
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