School of Education


Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction (EdD)


Kenneth Tierce


Humor, Incongruence Theory, Instruction, Phenomenology, Relationships




The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to understand perceptions of instructional classroom humor used to help students learn and master new material, among teachers at middle and high schools in rural Appalachia districts. Using humor in the classroom is generally defined as deliberate planning and utilization of subject relevant humor in an attempt to improve students’ learning outcomes. Rural Appalachia was defined as the area geographically located in or near the Appalachian Mountain range, and the dominant socioeconomic culture found there. The theories guiding this study were (a) Bandura’s social learning theory, as it describes the way students learn from observing others and through vicarious experiences, such as teachers’ use of humor, (b) Vygotsky’s social development theory as it relates to the idea of children learning first socially then individually, and (c) the incongruence theory of humor as supported by Kant, as it provides an explanation for humor as the act of understanding something unexpected. Data were collected through interviews, a focus group interview, and classroom observations conducted with 10 purposefully selected middle and high school teachers who used humor in the classroom. Data were analyzed using a modified version of Moustakas’ seven steps, as described by Creswell. Analysis revealed humor use fell into three major themes: relationships, instruction, and environment.

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